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Creator, Creation, and the Cross (Part 2)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

          Last week’s study, Part 1, focused on the Creator. Today we will take a closer look at the Creation.

Part 2, The Creation

The first verse of Genesis encapsulates the creation of the universe. The universe, as vast and complex as it is, is composed of three elements, anyone of which being absent render the universe non-existent. “In the beginning” is Time. “God created the heavens” (Space) “and the earth” (matter/energy). These three elements: time, space, and matter, make up the universe.

          Secular scientists who strive to explain the origin of the universe though natural causes, hypothesize that all existing matter at one time was densely compressed into a “singularity” that rapidly expanded to create the universe 14.7 billion years ago. This is a relatively recent hypothesis based on the notion rising out of the “enlightenment,” (17th and 18th centuries) proposing that the earth is much older than indicated in Scripture. Since “scientists” had “proven” that the earth was older than stated in the Bible, many theologians attempted to accommodate billions of years into the biblical record by proposing a “gap” of billions of years between Verse 1 and Verse 2 of Genesis 1.

          There is no “Gap”[1]  between verses 1 & 2. When simply read, Verse 1 flows smoothly into Verse 2. The Gap Theory is highly speculative and based on conjecture. The Gap Theory presupposes a prior creation which “became” void and formless due to Satan’s fall. Satan caused a race of pre-Adamic man to sin forcing God to destroy His first creation. This theory introduces sin and death before the fall of Adam and Eve and effectively nullifies the curse of death for sin. Although theologians who still hold to the Gap Theory try to support it with Scripture, it has no biblical support.

          With all the elements of the universe created, the Creator began the task of organizing the formless blob. The raw materials required energy. “And the Spirit of God [the Third Person of the Trinity] moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3). The creation of light only required the verbal command from the Word. The Hebrew word for light is ‘ôr (אוֹר), and I will point out something interesting about that word later on (in Part 3).

God declared His first day’s work “good.” “And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). The word “day” used here and throughout the creation account is important because many find it hard to believe that God created all there is in six 24-hour days.[2] The Hebrew word for “day” is yom. In the Old Testament, it almost always refers to a normal 24-hour day. It always refers to a normal 24-hour day when preceded by an ordinal number – first, second, third, etc. Furthermore, in order to remove any doubt, God further defines yom by “evening and morning,” which constitutes a normal 24-hour day. Some have attempted to stretch the length of each day by thousands and even millions of years.[3] To support their position they cite Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8, but these verses use simile (“like,” “as”) to refer to God’s “timelessness”[4] not to how He counts days.[5] To God, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day. God is not bound by time as we are. He created time; therefore He exists outside of the constraints of time.

On the second day, Genesis 1:6-8, God organizes the elements by separating the waters from Earth from the waters in space. The word “Firmament” means a “stretched-out thinness.” It is like a thin membrane separating the earth’s atmosphere from the coldness of space. Remember, at this point there are no other heavenly bodies. The day ended without God’s affirmation that it was “good.” There was work yet to be done.

On Day Three, Genesis 1:9-13, God separated the dry land from the water and called it “good.” The vegetation was created fully mature having its seed in itself and ready to reproduce “after its kind” – no evolution. God created plants with the genetic capability to vary within its own kind, but not to “evolve” from one kind into another. We can verify that is still true today.

On the fourth day, Genesis 1:14-19, God created the remaining celestial bodies. Unlike the evolutionary story, God’s account of creation begins with the planet Earth and all the other stars and planets come thereafter. That makes perfect sense when we consider that God made Earth with mankind in mind. “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18).

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). The “lights” (Hebrew mâ’ôr) are “lesser lights” or “luminaries.” They are “lesser” only compared to the original light He created on the first day. We also understand that many of these stars are hundreds of times larger than our own sun, but because of their great distance from the earth, they appear to be lesser. The mâ’ôr were created for signs and seasons, days and years. The word “signs” – ‘ôth means signal, banner, remembrance, omen, warning, and “seasons” – mô‛êd means an appointed time/place/meeting; a sacred season, set feast, appointed season. God used theses “signals” to announce the time of His Feasts.[6] The constellations were placed in the night sky for our benefit. God speaking to Job says, “Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth [i.e., the Zodiac] in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (Job 38:32). God made the sun and moon first and then, almost as an afterthought, he made the stars also – God called it “good”

On the fifth day, Genesis 1:20-23, God made marine and flying creatures. God spoke all of these creatures into existence. The “great whales” – the Hebrew word tannı̂yn means “a sea monster, serpent, or dragon” – not only included whales as we know them, but also the giant marine reptiles. God made them to bring “forth abundantly,” i.e., fully mature with the ability to reproduce “after their kind.” They cannot cross with others of another kind, however, they can vary within their own “kind.” And “God saw that it was good.”

On Day Six of creation, Genesis 1:24-25, the Creator spoke the land-dwelling creatures into existence. Like the marine animals and flying things, they are created fully mature and ready to reproduce “after their kind”

The pinnacle of God’s creation was man (mankind), Genesis 1:26-28. Man was created in God’s “image” – Hebrew tselem “resemblance” – like a mirror image or a photograph – that looks like but is not. Man was created in God’s “likeness” – Hebrew demûth “similitude” – having similar characteristics. We could make a long list of God’s attributes that humans also possess, but these are some of the most prominent. Man, like God is triune in nature – mind, body, and spirit as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Humans are moral beings (although in a fallen state) and God is a moral being. God is Creator; humans are creative. God is love; humans have the capacity to love. And many other comparisons could be made; the list is long.

God made humans “male and female” (He only made two – one pair).There is a procreative reason for the two genders and anything other than that violates God’s design. Jesus confirms only two sexes/genders. Matthew 19:4 “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female.” Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” God gave dominion of His creation to humans.

With the creation of man, God completed His creative work (Genesis 1:29-31). Herbs and fruits were “meat” for humans and animals. All were vegetarian, even the animals with big teeth. God declared His completed creation “very good” me’ôd ṭôb – exceedingly good! In God’s completed creation, there was no sin, no death, no sickness, no curse, etc. After sin entered the creation, all of that changed. However, one day, perhaps in the near future, all of that will be restored. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea … And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4).

On the seventh day, Genesis 2:1-3, God “rested.” The Hebrew word for “seventh” is shebı̂y‛ı̂y. The Hebrew word for “rested” is shâbath from which with get “Sabbath.” “Sabbath” means “rest” not “Saturday” or “seventh.” God was not tired nor did He need a break. He ceased His creative work because it was “ended (kâlâh)” or “completed.” There was nothing left to do – 1st Law of Thermodynamics – matter (except for the initial creation on Day One) can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed.

He blessed the 7th Day, and He set it as an example for us, Exodus 20:9-11 “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Six days of creation with one day of rest was for our example to work six days and rest and honor God on the seventh. 

That was a good ending for the first week of creation, but that did not last long as we will see next week in Part 3.

If you are not sure of your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “No Gap” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

[2]  “A Day Is A Day” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/25/a-day-is-a-day/

[3]  “A Thousand-Year Day” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/02/09/a-thousand-year-day/

[4]  “The Eternality of God” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/06/04/the-eternality-of-god/

[5]  “Time Confusion” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/07/31/time-confusion/

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

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Creator, Creation, and the Cross (Part 1)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

          Upon entering any form of discourse, the best place to start is at the beginning. For one seeking God or desiring to know more about God, the Bible presents God and His relationship with His creation very succinctly in the first three chapters of the first book of the Bible. The Bible presents the matter so clearly and so simply that one must either accept it or reject it. There is no other choice.

Part 1, The Creator

          The opening verse makes a matter-of-fact statement: “In the beginning God created…” We need to stop right there for a moment and consider the significance of that phrase. “God” – Hebrew ‘ĕlôhı̂ym – is a plural noun followed by the singular verb “created” – Hebrew bârâ’. Combining a plural noun with a singular verb makes bad grammar in Hebrew as well as in English. The Author (God Himself) did not make a grammatical blunder here, but rather presented the first indication of the triune nature of God. God is three persons in a singular Godhead. Also important to note is that the word bârâ’ is only used of God in the Old Testament; only God can bârâ’.

          Later on in the New Testament we learn that the Creator is the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. John in his Gospel identifies Jesus, the Creator, as “The Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). A few verses later he clarifies who the Word is. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) referring to Jesus. The Apostle Paul confirms, “For by him [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible …  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” i.e., “hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Not only is Jesus the Creator of all things, He is also the sustainer of all things.

          We see, then, that the agent of the creation was the Word, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. In the second verse, we see the Third Person of the Trinity involved in creation as He moves upon “the waters” to energize the created matter.

          See Part 2, The Creation next week for the continuation of this study.

If you are not sure of your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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The Barley Harvest

Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. (John 6:13)

On the eve of this posting, May 16, 2021, Jews begin the observance of Shavu’ot, the Feast of Pentecost. The Christian calendar, which does not follow the Jewish calendar, observes Pentecost next Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Pentecost interests me, because of the possible prophetic implications associated with it. I wrote about this topic before, and I believe I gave explanation of its significance in an article titled “Pentecost,”[1] so I will not rehash that material here. Briefly, there are seven Feasts of the Lord,[2] three in the spring (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits), three feasts in the fall (Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles) with Pentecost in the middle, separated by a space of time between the others. Pentecost was one of three convocations where all males over the age of 20 were required to attend. The other two times were for the spring and fall feasts.

Pentecost celebrates the barley harvest. Some Bible teachers have mistakenly associated the Feast of First Fruits with the barley harvest, but barley, according to the sources I have checked say that barley does not ripen until around mid May – too late for First Fruits. Again, I explain this in the articles I have cited in the notes below.

Barley is often associated with gentile nations, probably because it is more coarse and less desirable than wheat. Wheat, on the other hand, because it is finer and more desirable represents Israel.

On Pentecost, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, The Holy Spirit fell upon the 120 disciples gathered in the upper room.[3] There were in Jerusalem on that day “Jews and proselytes” from many nations present for the required convocation, and they heard the disciples preaching in their own languages. That day, about three thousand souls were saved[4] giving birth to the Church. For this reason, Pentecost is associated with the Church, and because it is separated from the other Jewish feasts, many have seen this as the Feasts of the Lord specifically meant for the Church.

Looking at this prophetically, Jesus fulfilled the first three spring feasts by His death (Passover), His burial (Unleavened Bread – He was sinless), and His resurrection (First Fruits). He then ascended to heaven with the promise to send His Holy Spirit and physically return at some later time. So, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and gave birth to the Church. Then there is a long period of time before the fall feasts, which Jesus has yet to fulfill. The long period of time can be likened to the Church Age in which we have lived for the last 1,991 years. At a time known only to God, Jesus will return to earth, possibly on the Feast of Trumpets, fulfill the Atonement, and set up His Tabernacle here on earth. We know this as the “Second Coming.”

Prior to Jesus’ return, the world will experience the full wrath of God for seven years. This is known as the Tribulation. Now (just musing here), there is much support for the crucifixion occurring in 30 A.D. According to the Bible, Creation is about 6000 years old and biblical chronology can be roughly divided into three segments of 2000 years each. We can add the final 2000 years to 30 A.D. and come up with the year 2030. Subtract seven years from that and we arrive at the year 2023 to start the Tribulation.

However, the “wrath” of God is for the “world” not for His Church. The Church will be taken out of the world prior to the start of the Tribulation. “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 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).

We have many “signs” to prepare us for the Second Coming, but we have no signs to prepare the Church for the “catching up,” a.k.a. the “Rapture.” “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The event will be sudden, but it should not be unexpected for the Christian. The “signs” of His Second Coming are everywhere and becoming more pronounced and more frequent. Therefore, we know that His Second Coming is close, and if His Second Coming is close, the Rapture is closer. Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows … Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:8, 42)

Just musing again, if we, the Church, are the barley, and the barley harvest is ready, could this be the day that the Lord harvests us into His barn? Just so you know, the start of the Tribulation does not depend on the Rapture of the Church. The Church could get taken out today and the Tribulation will not begin in earnest until the year 2023. Consider this; our world economy is in freefall. The globalists already have detailed plans for implementing a “one-world” government.[5] Consider the impact of millions of people, especially here in the US, disappearing instantly, all at once, from the face of the earth. Consider the added chaos that would bring to a world already reeling with social, economic and geopolitical trouble. In that event, the one-world system will be put in place and a great one-world leader will arise to bring “peace” to the earth, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [seven years]” (Daniel 9:27). That will kick off the Tribulation.

The barley harvest is ready. I hope this will be the day, but if not, we must occupy until He comes.[6] Are you ready? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


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

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

[3]  Acts 2:1-13

[4]  Acts 2:41

[5]  World Economic Forum — https://www.weforum.org/

[6]  Luke 19:13

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Trumpets

… for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  (1 Corinthians 15:52)

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, 2020, celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Jewish civil year 5781. Rosh Hashanah is the fifth of the seven Feasts of the Lord prescribed in Leviticus 23, and is also known as the Feast of Trumpets for the sounding of trumpets proclaiming the new year. Feast of Trumpets is also known as the “feast where no man knows the day or the hour.”

The Feasts of the Lord are based on a lunar calendar, and the official declaration of the new year depends on the first sighting of the new moon. Since that cannot be determined precisely, Rosh Hashanah is observed over two days to ensure the sighting of the new moon for the sounding of the trumpets. Hence, no one knows the day or the hour.

Trumpets appear throughout Scripture. The first occurrence of a trumpet in the Bible comes after the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. God brought the Children of Israel to Mount Sinai where He introduced Himself to them in person.[1] God instructed Moses that He would appear in the form of a cloud around the mountain and that no one could come near the mountain under penalty of death. “There shall not an hand touch it [the mountain], but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount” (Exodus 19:13, emphasis mine). The sounding of the trumpet summoned the people to come up to the mountain unto the presence of the Lord. “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16, emphasis mine). So Moses brought the people to the smoke-covered mountain before the Lord “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice” (Exodus 19:19, emphasis mine). Following this, God gave the Ten Commandments to the people, and they all heard the commandments of God directly from God.[2] “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:18-19, emphasis mine). From then on, God spoke to the people through His prophets, beginning with Moses.

Trumpets call the people to solemn assemblies. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:23-24, emphasis mine) . “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps” (Numbers 10:2, emphasis mine). I could give more examples, but basically, the function of a trumpet serves to alert people to an event and to call for a gathering or assembly.

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to a trumpet in the negative sense of calling attention to yourself when performing acts of benevolence. “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:2, emphasis mine).

The second occurrence appears in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus teaches His disciples about end-time events. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days … shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven … And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31, emphasis mine).  The “tribulation of those days” to which Jesus referred is the 70th “week” of the Prophet Daniel’s prophecy.[3] Jesus called it a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21, emphasis mine)” At that time God will send His angels to gather His elect, i.e., Israel, from all over the world. These are NOT Christians, and I will explain that later on.

In the next reference to a trumpet, Paul points out the importance of a trumpet giving a distinct sound. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8, emphasis mine). He stresses the importance of giving a clear gospel message so that the hearer is not confused. Later he talks about the last days when “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, emphasis mine). Here he refers to the “dead in Christ” and “we” are the Christians who are alive when the trumpet sounds.

Most biblical scholars believe that Paul’s letters to the Church in Thessaloniki were his first “epistles.” To the Thessalonians he writes, “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 [“precede”] them which are asleep [dead]. 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).  For those who claim that “rapture” in not taught in the Bible, the word translated “caught up” is the Greek ἁρπάζω (harpazō) which means to seize; catch away, catch up, pluck, pull, or take by force. The Latin Vulgate translates harpazō as “raptus” from which we get the word “rapture.”

The Beloved Apostle John saw the risen Lord while “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).[4] After Jesus finished dictating seven letters to seven churches,[5] John records, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis mine). After this point, the Church is no longer mentioned in Revelation until Chapter 19 when she is described as “The Bride” at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and she returns with Jesus to end the Great Tribulation and initiate the 1000-year reign of Christ. This is the trumpet Jesus described in Matthew 24:29-31 above. For this reason, and I am convinced, many end-times teachers believe the church will be taken up before the seven-year Tribulation begins and will not experience the horrors of those times.

Because of the significance of trumpets throughout Scripture and especially in end-time prophecy, many have looked at the Feast of Trumpets as reasonable time for that to take place. Of course, many rear up and point out that Jesus said that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36). That is true. Jesus’ coming is imminent;[6] it could happen at any minute. By studying the events recorded in Revelation and reckoning the division of the seven years, anyone living at that time, if they are paying attention, can determine when Jesus will return to earth. It is a set time – seven years. Once Antichrist affirms a treaty with Israel,[7] it is just a matter of counting the days – 2520. It is not rocket science.

However, the Rapture of the Church has no signs. We cannot guess what year it will take place, but we see the stage being set for the seven-year Tribulation, and Antichrist has not made his appearance, so we know the time is close.

So why single out Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, for the Rapture taking place? We can take a hint from Jesus who said that no man knows the day or the hour. The Feast of Trumpets is the feast that no man knows the day or the hour, so that has some association. Then, there is the idea that Jesus fulfilled the first four of the Feasts of the Lord: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. Pentecost was fulfilled when He sent the Holy Spirit to empower the Church.[8] He has yet to fulfill the last three feasts: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles). The next feast on the Calendar is Rosh Hashanah. So, it makes sense that the Rapture may take place on Rosh Hashanah because the sounding of the trumpet is the calling of the congregation together.

If not this year then perhaps it could happen next year, or the next. However, His coming is imminent – any minute! It doesn’t have to happen at Rosh Hashanah. So, we must always be ready. Jesus said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).

If you read this and hear of millions of disappearances all over the world, you should know what happened. If not, thank God that He has given you more time, but don’t delay. He could come at any minute – imminent! If you do not know Jesus, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Exodus 19

[2]  Exodus 20

[3]  Daniel 9:24-27

[4]  Revelation 1:10

[5]  Revelation 2-3

[6]  “Imminent” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/01/12/imminent/

[7]  Daniel 9:27

[8]  “Tongues of Fire” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/09/13/tongues-of-fire/

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Tongues Of Fire

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (Acts 2:3)

My youngest brother, Eli (there are three of us of which I am the oldest), enjoys Bible study as much as, if not more than, I do. He has a gift of looking deeper into Scripture than your average Bible reader, and he is always eager to share his insights with me. It makes for wonderful and enlightening conversations.

Recently Eli shared his thoughts on Pentecost and the “coming” of the Holy Spirit. Conventional thought maintains that the Holy Spirit did not descend upon the disciples until the Day of Pentecost when 120 of them were gathered in the Upper Room as instructed by the Lord Jesus. “And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis mine).

This “promise of the Father,” most agree, is the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost in the KJV) which Jesus promised would come after He was gone.[1] “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7, emphasis mine). Luke, who also authored the Book of Acts, wrote more about the Holy Spirit in his Gospel (and Acts) than the other Gospel writers, including John. He records these words of Jesus before His ascension. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis mine). Both Luke and John indicate that the coming of the Holy Spirit would come at a later time, and Luke’s account of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 seems to confirm Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit coming at a later time – ten days after His ascension.

However, John seems to throw a wrench into conventional thinking, as Eli points out. After His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples, not just “the twelve,” on several occasions. In fact, Paul records that He was seen by as many as 500 at one time.[2] On the evening of His resurrection (it was Sunday evening), John records that, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week [Sunday], when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19, emphasis mine). They were startled as one might imagine, and Jesus proved His identity by showing His wounds.[3] Then at this point, His ascension is still 39 days away, Jesus gives His Great Commission for the first time.[4] “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21-22, emphasis mine).

Well, that raises the question. When did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit, on the Resurrection Sunday, or at Pentecost? Something so dramatic definitely happened at Pentecost that Luke records that 3000 souls were saved![5] Contrary to Luke, John records the giving of the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost in spite of his own record that the “Comforter” would not come until after Jesus was gone. It is very difficult to build a case on just one verse (John 20:22) when so many other verses seem to contradict, and Scripture never contradicts itself, even when we do not understand it clearly. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). So what is the answer?

Eli suggests that the miraculous event at Pentecost was a “manifestation” of the “power” of the Holy Spirit. Take our own experience for example. We come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit on our spirit to convince us of the truth of God’s Word, convict us of our sin, and convey our need for the Savior.[6] When that takes place and we trust in Jesus for our salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and instantly the “light comes on,” and we know that the transaction took place. For most of us, that moment comes quietly and without a lot of fanfare – certainly nothing like what happened at Pentecost. We do not immediately start speaking foreign languages previously unknown to us or performing miracles. We do not suddenly possess a deeper understanding of Scripture. That comes along through study and prayer, but it is the Holy Spirit within us that guides us into greater understanding. That comes with time and with the degree to which we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

My point is that receiving the Holy Spirit is generally not some kind of dramatic experience. That often disappoints some who are expecting some sort of “rush” from the experience. That expectation often causes them to doubt that their salvation experience really “took.” Trust me. If you “believe,” it took.

So, when Jesus breathed on the disciples that evening in the Upper Room, nothing out of the ordinary took place, yet John records that they received the Holy Spirit. So what was it that took place at Pentecost?

Eli makes a distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit, which happens when we believe, and being “empowered” by the Holy Spirit to perform acts of which we were heretofore incapable, like speaking in languages we had not previously learned, or performing miracles of healing or raising of the dead – all of which the disciples did in the early church.

(At this point it is incumbent on me to stress that the “powers” granted by the Holy Spirit in the early church were for the purpose of giving evidence to the truth of the Gospel and for the purpose of edifying – building up – the church. It was not for the purpose of the personal aggrandizement of the individual.

All of these “gifts” still exist today, but they are always for the purpose of spreading the Gospel, and they are given only as the Holy Spirit determines, not the individual. There is not much need of that here in America because we all speak the same language, we have ready access to God’s Word – the Bible is freely available to everyone – and the Word of God is clearly preached on radio, TV, and the internet. If anything, we have such a glut of the Gospel that many just turn a deaf ear to it.

There is no excuse for anyone here in America not to respond to the Gospel. That was not the case at Pentecost. Jesus had just risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Most people were unaware of that fact and the Gospel was brand new. In addition, at Pentecost, visitors came to Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire. The Gospel message needed a special “kick-start” from the Holy Spirit!

By the way, all born-again believers are endowed with certain gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not as sensational as performing miracles or speaking in previously unknown languages.[7] The ability to understand Spiritual truths being, I think, the most useful. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis)).

So, as Eli points out, the disciples were already indwelt by the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them (John 20:22), but what they received at Pentecost was “power from on high.”[8] This was a special “unction” – an “anointing” by the Holy Spirit. Luke records Jesus saying, “For John [the Baptist] truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5, emphasis mine). That word “baptized” is the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizō) which means “to make whelmed;” “to submerge; engulf; overcome utterly;” “to immerse, to overwhelm.”

Again, this event was yet future which goes back to Jesus saying that “the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).  Could it be that Jesus referred to His departure at the cross when He died? Jesus also said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine). So, according to Jesus, the disciples (the twelve at this instance) were already indwelt with the Holy Spirit. This was before the crucifixion, before His resurrection, before His ascension, and before Pentecost. This further indicates that the event at Pentecost was a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power for the purpose of “kick-starting” the Church, and not necessarily the first time the Holy Spirit came to reside in believers.

The Old Testament records many examples of the Holy Spirit empowering individuals to do God’s work. David experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and prays, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11, emphasis mine). David’s request further emphasizes the temporary nature of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling individuals in the Old Testament. That changed with Jesus’ advent.

Eli then draws a parallel to the creation account in Genesis when God created Adam – Man. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “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” (emphasis mine). That “breath” was God’s Spirit distinct from the nephesh of the other creatures God created from the dust of the ground.[9] That “breath,” to a certain extent, was lost at the Fall[10] so that man died spiritually.[11] Jesus restores that life once more when He once again breathes out the breath of life into His disciples, “and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22, emphasis mine).

Another interesting insight Eli has concerns the appearance of the “cloven tongues like as of fire” that appeared over the heads of the disciples at Pentecost.[12] The description, first of all, is a simile – “like as of fire,” not actually fire. That they were “tongues” denotes the shape, and “cloven” indicates that they were divided either as a flame sometimes splits, or as candle-like flames distributed among the 120 present. Eli harkens back to the Tabernacle in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. God manifested His presence with the Children of Israel by way of a column/pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night over the Tabernacle. Today, God dwells within His children, born-again believers, by way of the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that ye are the temple [i.e. “tabernacle”] of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, emphasis mine). So, like the pillar of fire over the tabernacle in the wilderness, the “tongues of fire” over the heads of the disciples signified the new dwelling place of God within the lives of believers. I found that to be pretty insightful! I really enjoy plunging the wonderful depths of God’s Word with my little brother, Eli!

If you are reading this, and it makes little or no sense, it could be that the Spirit of God does not reside in you, so that it is all foolishness to you. That will change when you trust in Jesus and receive His Spirit who will help your understanding. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:1-16

[2]  1 Corinthians 15:6

[3]  John 20:20

[4]  I say the “first time” because Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8 record the Great Commission given immediately before Jesus’ ascension which was 40 days following His resurrection. John has Jesus giving His Great Commission on the same day (at evening) of His resurrection. Is this a contradiction? I do not think so. During His 40 days, I feel certain He reminded them often of what He expected of them and the final reminder was at His ascension.

[5]  Acts 2:41

[6]  John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:8, 13

[7]  1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Galatians 5:22-23 (“fruits” of the Spirit)

[8]  Luke 24:49

[9]  Genesis 1:24-25

[10]  Genesis 3

[11]  Romans 5:15,17

[12]  Acts 2:3

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