Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Light of the World

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5)

Jesus, God incarnate, “came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5, emphasis mine). However, Jesus “… died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, emphasis mine). Furthermore, “…he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight … [and was] taken up from you into heaven” (Acts 1:9, 11, emphasis mine). So then, what has become of  “the light of the world”?

Jesus said He was the light of the world as long as He was in the world, but He is no longer here – in the world. Does that mean the light is gone? Indeed not! Before He left this world He said, “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). Jesus’ replacement on earth is the Holy Spirit who resides in the heart of every believer. Through the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, the “light of the world” remains in the world. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18, emphasis mine).

Therefore, although Jesus assumes His place at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3), His light remains “in the world” by way of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the lives of believers. Therefore, Jesus reminds us, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14); so, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Do not hide your light under a basket (Matthew 5:15) – let it shine, Let it Shine, LET IT SHINE!

The time is near when the light will be taken out of this world. Speaking of the end times and the revealing of the Antichrist Paul writes, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, emphasis mine). The One that “withholds” or “restrains” is the Holy Spirit who resides within the heart of every believer, the Church. When “his time” – i.e. the Antichrist – is up, the Holy Spirit will “be taken out of the way.” Where the Holy Spirit goes, the Church goes. The light will be removed and the world will be plunged into darkness. Until then, we, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, are the light of the world, so we must let our light shine while we are still in the world!

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Is the Bible Allegory?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

A young woman wrote me and claimed that God told her that the Bible is allegory. She claimed that people misinterpret the Bible when they take it literally. “The Lord” told her that the creation account recorded in Genesis represents later events in the Bible. I suppose, if she received a word from God, then it must be true. However, is she right, and did she really receive this instruction from God?

Volumes have been written and reams of paper spent defending the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. The problem of misinterpretation comes when people think they know what the Bible says, without really knowing what it says. The Bible is very clear and easily understood on its own without any kind of special interpretation. The problem is that people often do not like what it has to say, so they interpret it to say what they want it to say. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

That said, the Bible does employ allegory sometimes. For example, Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), and God told Ezekiel to preach to the dry bones. When he did, the bones came together, and flesh and skin came on the bones. However, there was no breath in them (Ezekiel 37:8). God instructed Ezekiel to preach to them once more and breath came on them and they rose up “and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). Then God explained what Ezekiel saw (vv. 11-14). The bones represent the nation of Israel, which God will gather from all over the world and restore to their land, but when they come, the Spirit of God will not be in them. God will then put His Spirit in them “that they may live” again. This prophecy is an allegory of Israel in the last days. That prophecy was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when Israel was reborn as a nation. However, God’s Spirit is not yet in them – they are still spiritually dead. Many Jews in Israel are atheists. Those who are not, still look for the coming of their Messiah. My point, however, is that this is one good example of allegory in the Bible.

Not all of the Bible is allegory. When an allegory is presented, it is very clear that it is an allegory, and it usually comes with an explanation. When you understand that, and compare an allegory, as in the example above, to the creation narrative in Genesis, it should be obvious that the creation account is not an allegory, nor is it Hebrew poetry. Genesis records a matter-of-fact account of creation. It is a historical narrative. Now, what you do with that is up to you; you can choose to accept it, or you may choose to reject it, but you cannot call it an allegory.

This young woman said, “The Lord told me it represents later events in the Bible.” I cautioned her that it may not be “the Lord” speaking because He will not lead us to doubt any of His Word. The Bible says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It cannot be “profitable” for doctrine, correction, or instruction if it is all allegorical. One can make of an allegory whatever one imagines, and not everybody imagines the same thing. In the example of Ezekiel’s dry bones above, it should be noted that God Himself explains the allegory. In the same way, Jesus always explained His parables to His disciples; He did not leave it up to them to determine the meaning of the allegory.

God’s Word is precise, not allegorical. Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The “jot” (Hebrew letter yod – י) is the smallest letter in the letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” is the smallest marking on a Hebrew letter that distinguishes it from another similar looking letter, for example, the difference between the resh (ר) and the dalet (ד). Jesus was not speaking in allegory. He spoke matter-of-factly and authoritatively. Again He said, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). Such emphatic statements cannot be true of allegories because allegories by themselves are up for interpretation.

God would not make His Word ambiguous through allegory if He means for it to be fulfilled to the smallest mark of the text. However, I know who would – Satan. From the very beginning, his tactics remain the same. Consider carefully at the account of the Fall (Genesis 3:1-5). “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1), This is not written as an allegory; it is written as a matter-of-fact. Note that the first thing Satan does is to introduce doubt in God’s Word – “Yea, hath God said…?” To paraphrase: “Did God really say that or was it just allegorical?” His next step is to call God’s Word a lie. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God told Adam he would die (Genesis 2:17), if he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and here Satan says that is not true. Again, to paraphrase: “You are not going to die. That was just an allegory. God did not really mean you were going to die.” That set the stage for Satan’s third tactic – to charge God with dishonest and dishonorable motives. “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). To paraphrase once more: “God wants to keep something good from you. He knows that if you eat of the fruit, you will be like gods, and you will know as much as He does, and He does not want that for you.” King Solomon said, “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). Satan has not changed from the beginning of time, and he still uses the same tactics to cast doubt on God’s Word.

No, the LORD God is not going to tell you that His Word is just an allegory and that you can interpret any way you think. God says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:7-9).

The Bible is not allegory. God makes His Word abundantly clear. The Bible does “contain” allegory, but where allegory is given, the interpretation follows close behind. Certainly, there are some things that are difficult to understand, as Mark Twain noted, however, most of it is plain enough. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). “Those things which are revealed” are plain enough for us to understand. They are not allegories that we must puzzle out. God reveals His Word to us clearly so that we can know Him intimately. He will not veil His Word in allegory so that every individual gets a different “insight” into what it says. God’s Word is precise. It is matter-of-fact. Our task is to accept God’s Word for what it says, not for what we think it says.

 

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Pentecost

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

God gave the Feast of Weeks, a.k.a. Shavu’ot, (Leviticus 23:15-22) as the fourth of the Feasts of the Lord and the last of the spring feasts. God gave seven feasts to be observed as holy (i.e., set apart, consecrated, dedicated) convocations where all males over the age of 20 were required to attend. Later in their history, the Jews added Purim to celebrate their divine preservation in Babylon/Persia (Esther 9:20-32) and Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, to celebrate the rededication of the Temple after Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated it in 165 B.C. These last two are rabbinical festivals and do not bear the same significance as the Feasts of the Lord. The Lord’s feasts not only have religious significance, but they are prophetic of the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfilled the four spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost) at His first coming; the fall feasts (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles) He will fulfill at His second coming.

Pentecost, a.k.a. Feast of Weeks, a.k.a. Shavu’ot, came 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:16). At First Fruits, the devotee would bring some of the sprouts of the barley crop to the priest as a thank (wave) offering to God for the promise of bountiful harvest. Jesus fulfilled this feast when He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Forty days later (Acts 1:3), Jesus ascended to heaven, but before He did, He instructed His disciples (not just the apostles), “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 [the Baptist] truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis mine). Pentecost came ten days later. This was the barley harvest celebration. Prophetically, this feast looked forward to the birth of the Church.

On Pentecost, Luke records that the disciples, about 120 in number (Acts 1:15), were gathered together “with one accord” (Acts 2:1), “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2-3, emphasis mine). This occasion reminds us of a similar manifestation in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel erected the tabernacle in the wilderness, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34, emphasis mine). Similarly, at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. (2 Chronicles 7:1-2, emphasis mine).

The tongues of fire resting upon each of the disciples at Pentecost proclaimed that no longer would the Spirit of God be confined to a manmade structure, but in a temple created by God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, emphasis mine). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit took up residence in the heart of every believer, and thus the Church of God (not the denomination that takes that name) was born.

This year, Pentecost falls on May 31, 2017. The year 2017 is significant to many who study end-times prophecy for a number of reasons, which I cannot go into detail at this time. One of these is that 2017 is a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13). Briefly, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration returned the land of Israel back to the Jews. Fifty years later, 1967, the Israelis recaptured their ancient capitol of Jerusalem. Since Jubilee is the time when all property reverts to its original owner, perhaps this year the Temple Mount will be returned to its rightful owners, the Jews.  This is the hope among many faithful Jews. All the instruments for the Temple are ready and even the priests are ready to take up their duties. The only thing missing is the Temple and the land on which the Temple is to be built. Perhaps this Jubilee will be the year that takes place.

There is also much talk about the Revelation 12 sign. Supposedly, on September 23, 2017 the constellation Virgo will appear “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). That Virgo appears clothed with the sun and the moon at its feet is an annual occurrence.  However, this year the constellation Leo will be accompanied by a conjunction of three planets, Mercury, Mars and Venus. Together with the nine major stars in Leo’s constellation, this grouping will form a crown of 12 stars above Virgo’s head. Supposedly, this particular configuration of heavenly objects has never before been observed, and it would only come about once every 7,000 years. In addition, Jupiter, the King Planet, entered Virgo’s “womb” on December 16, 2016, and will remain there 40 weeks, the normal length of human gestation. Then on September 23, 2017 (Feast of Trumpets), it is due to exit Virgo from between her feet (Revelation 12:5). Many prophecy teachers, while maintaining that they are not “date setting,” see this as a “possible” time for the Rapture of the Church. Other prophecy teachers see the Revelation 12 sign as merely analogous to Israel (the woman) giving birth to Jesus and His being taken up unto heaven.  Those that argue for the Rapture sign rightly point out that prophecies in the Bible often carry more than one meaning. Therefore, they suggest that the birth of this “man child” is the “body” of Christ, i.e. the Church, which is “caught up” (Greek: harpazō) or raptured up to heaven.

However, some suggest that Pentecost 2017 is also a good candidate for the Rapture. They conclude that since Jesus ascended ten days before Pentecost, He did not truly fulfill that feast, and that the “harvest” is yet ahead. Maybe so. Whether the Rapture takes place this year on May 31 (Pentecost), September 23 (Feast of Trumpets), or some other time, Jesus admonished us, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:14). The Apostle Paul informs us of a special reward that awaits those who anxiously look for Jesus’ return. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8, emphasis mine). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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The King Is Coming!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Around 1,987 years ago on a Sunday afternoon (Mark 11:11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. The Gospel writer, Matthew, quotes Zachariah in part, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5, emphasis mine). Matthew conspicuously omits Zachariah’s description of the coming King as “just, and having salvation.” Why the omission? Matthew Henry comments on Zachariah 9:9:

“He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps Matthew’s omission (as directed by the Holy Spirit) was purposeful. Granted, Matthew wrote after the fact from a vantage point of hindsight, yet the omission retained the prophetic formula of immediate and future fulfillment. Jesus did something similar when He applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). He deliberately omitted the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy at His first coming; “the day of vengeance of our God” will be fulfilled at His second coming when He will set up His millennial kingdom and “comfort all that mourn.”

In the same way, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the coming King, “lowly [meek], and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). In a matter of days, the adoring crowd crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) would turn into a raging mob shouting, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him … We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They took the King and nailed Him to a cross.

Three days later, He conquered death and once again walked on earth. After forty days (Acts 1:3), He ascended to His throne having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). However, He is not done. There remains prophecy yet unfulfilled. Many still mourn. Injustice still reigns. The Lord has not executed His vengeance and His creation still needs salvation. There is yet more to come.

The prophets spoke of God reigning on the earth. His Messiah will rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus promised to return. “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 same Gospel writer was granted the great privilege of seeing things to come. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God … And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:1, 11-13, 15-16, emphasis mine).

He will once again enter the gates of Jerusalem, this time on a white horse as a conquering king. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). What an awesome sight to behold!

Lately, I have been hearing many modern prophets suggesting that this year, 2017, will be the year that Christ will return to rescue His people from “the wrath of God” that is to come upon the earth. Their reasoning, from a biblical standpoint, is sound. All the ones I listen to are quick to issue the disclaimer that they are not setting dates. Jesus clearly stated, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36); so I respect that note of caution by these prognosticators. However, I sense, because of what I observe happening all around the world, that what they are predicting may be true. For the Church, the return of Christ has always been imminent, but it is truer today than ever before in the history of the Church. The King is coming! Jesus is coming very soon. Personally, I am looking for and anxiously awaiting His return.

Reader, you will meet Jesus very soon. The best way to meet Him is to be one of His own. Very soon, Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, the collective body of all who have placed their trust in Him. When that day comes, all the powers of hell will be unleashed upon the world. No place will escape or be immune. You will still have the opportunity to repent when that time comes, but you will suffer tremendously for it. Why not give your life to Jesus now and avoid the horrors that are to come. All you need to do is confess your sin and recognize your need for Him. Ask Him to save you. Invite Him into your heart. Give Him first place in your life; make Him the Lord (the “Boss”) of your life, and trust that He will keep His promise. The King is coming, but this time He will not be meek and lowly. Are you ready to meet Him?

Notes:


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Zechariah 9:9.

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The Trinity

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, much less explain cogently. Explaining the Trinity becomes even more challenging when the inquisitor is ignorant of Christian tenets. I experienced such a challenge this week when I received an email from a Jew who was curious about the topic. His email follows:

I just visited in your site. I’m a 40yo Jew from Israel. I understand that you guys [ICR] are Christians. When I ran into this:

“The Creator of the universe is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one eternal and transcendent God, the source of all being and meaning, and He exists in three Persons, each of whom participated in the work of creation.”

I wanted to ask you a religious question. What is the meaning of triune God? Since for me there is only “one eternal God”

What follows is my response to him. It makes sense to me, but more importantly, I hope it made sense to him. Here goes …

Wow! That is a tough one! “Triune” is really a compound word: “Tri” meaning “three” and “une” meaning “union” or “one.” It refers to the Christian doctrine of the “Trinity.” As a Christian, I understand the doctrine, and I believe that it is taught in the Bible – both Old and New Testaments. It is a difficult concept to explain even for a Christian, and it is one that must be accepted by “faith” just as our belief in an Almighty, invisible God must be accepted by faith.

For me to continue, you may need to lay your kippah aside and let go of any presuppositions you may have. Try to listen to what I have to say objectively.

First of all, the word “Trinity” is found nowhere in the Bible; however, the concept is clearly taught in both Old and New Testaments. It is most clearly taught in the New Testament from which Christians developed the doctrine. You might want to keep in mind that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and He was faithful to all of the Mosaic Law (Torah). All the writers of the New Testament, except for perhaps Luke, were also Jews. The Gospel writer, Luke, author of the “Gospel of Luke” and the “Acts of the Apostles,” was a Greek, but because of his familiarity with the Jewish religion, he may have been a Jewish proselyte; however, we have no solid evidence for that one way or another. All of these, including Jesus, put forth the doctrine of the Trinity.

So just what is the Trinity? It is the concept of a triune God. We believe in One God, not three, as we have wrongly been accused by Jews, Muslims, and several neo-Christian cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). There is only One God revealed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To help you better understand this idea, think of yourself as a “triune” being. You have a mind, body and soul/spirit. All three are required for you to live. If your mind dies, your body will eventually cease to function, your spirit will depart, and your body will die. If your body dies, your spirit departs and your mind ceases to function, and if your spirit departs, your body and mind will cease to function. You are “three persons,” yet, you are one. People see your body and recognize who you are, but they cannot discern what goes on in your mind. People know you, but they do not really “know” who you are entirely because the “real” you is that invisible mind and spirit. The mind plans, the spirit motivates and the body carries out the directions of the mind. Your mind is you, your physical body is you, and your spirit is you, yet you are one, indivisible person.

The Bible teaches us that God created man in His own image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27), There are many aspects of God’s nature inherent in man (i.e. human beings), but the triune nature of man demonstrates the triune nature of God. As acknowledged before, God is One revealed in three persons. In trying to relate the triune nature of God with that of man, the Father could be compared to the “mind” that plans and controls all activity of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is the energizing, motivating element that puts the Father’s plans in action, and Jesus is the body that does the physical work to carry out the Father’s plans. Of course, God is infinitely greater than His creation, but in this, at least in part, we can see a “family resemblance.”

We find the first “hint” of the triune nature of God in the very first verse of the Bible. בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ׃ (Genesis 1:1) God, Elohim, is a plural, masculine noun; however, bara is a singular, masculine verb. On face value, this would be incorrect grammar, however, it shows the plurality of the One God. Some would argue that God was using the royal “We.” Others say that this is just a way of expressing the limitless nature of God. Both of those are reasonable and plausible arguments, however the verse that follows introduces a second element. והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשׁך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים׃  (Genesis 1:2) In this verse, the Spirit (rûach) is presented as separate from God (Elohim). Why the distinction? The writer (Who I believe is God) could have simply said, “and God moved upon the face of the waters” and left off the “Spirit.” Why confuse the issue? God is not a God of confusion, so the distinction is intentional. Add to that the “self-talk” in vv. 26-27 – “Let us make … in our image, after our likeness” – speaking in the plural, and then in the next verse we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” – speaking in the singular.

That is just for starters. You find many places (which I cannot cover here) in the Old Testament (Torah) where the LORD (HaShem) puts His Spirit in men to accomplish some special task. You also find many instances of God appearing to men in physical form as “the Angel of the LORD.” The way you can see that this is God and no ordinary angel, is because “the Angel of the LORD” takes personal responsibility for His actions, or for what He promises to do, and He accepts the worship of humans. We know that seeing God in His full glory would bring death to a man, yet Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson’s parents, and others saw God in physical form and did not die. These were all examples of Jesus in His pre-incarnate form. So we see that in the Old Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all represented, but all are One God working together in unison. The prophet Isaiah reveals the Trinity this way: “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16). In this verse, the Son is speaking, and He claims that He has spoken from the beginning, i.e., Creation (Genesis 1:1). The Son asserts that He is being sent by the Lord God (Father) and His Spirit (Holy Spirit). Here we see the Trinity represented in one Old Testament verse.

The writers of the New Testament constantly referred to the Old Testament in their teachings. This is why Christians should not discard the study of the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament makes no sense. Anyway, John the Apostle was Jesus’ cousin and also related to Caiaphas, the high priest at the crucifixion of Jesus. John begins his Gospel this way: “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 anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3), “Word” in the Greek is logos, which is a very complex word that includes reason, wisdom, logic. All the wisdom of God is contained in that one word. John affirms that the Word existed in the “beginning” and he identifies the Word as God. In fact, “the Word was God” literally appears in the Greek as “God was the Word.” And even though the Word was God, the Word was “with God.” Isn’t that strange? However, it is the Word that created “all things,” and from Genesis 1:1 we know that God (Elohim) created all things. A few verses later, John clearly identifies “the Word:” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Genesis 1, we learn that God (the Word) made man in His image. In John 1, we learn that the Word (God) made himself in the image of man – God in human form. Jesus Himself said, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:30-31). Their reaction was understandable given their perspective.

This is your Messiah (and mine), who came to live as a man without sin, so that He could offer Himself up on the cross to make atonement for the sins of all men. You may well ask, if Jesus is God, then how could He die? Remember earlier when I described the triune nature of man? Do you recall that I never referred to the spirit as dying? Rather, I referred to the spirit as “departing.” The flesh dies, but the spirit lives on. When Jesus died, His body was offered as the perfect sinless sacrifice that only could atone for all the sins of man, but the Father and the Holy Spirit (Elohim) did not die. However, three days later, the Spirit returned to Jesus’ lifeless body, He rose again, ascended back to His throne on high, and one day, very soon, your Messiah (and mine) will return again to establish His royal throne – the throne of David – in His Holy Temple in Jerusalem. I can hardly wait!

I know this was a lot of information. If nothing else, I hope I helped you to understand the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is all through the Torah, but as I said to start, you may need to set aside your kippah (i.e. traditions) to see it. If you would like to read more on this, here are a couple of articles that may be helpful to you:

http://www.icr.org/article/wonderful-truth-trinity

http://www.icr.org/article/20941

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (5)

47642620 - cascade on small mountain stream. cold crystal water is falling over mossy boulders into small pool.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)

Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and taught in the temple throughout the weeklong festivities (John 7:14, 37). Knowing His devotion to observing the Mosaic Law, the “Jews” looked for Him (John 7:11) hoping to find some excuse to kill Him (John 7:1). Regardless of the threat, Jesus went up to the feast anyway, albeit incognito (John 7:10).

Jesus must not have posed a particularly striking appearance. He probably looked like a common, uneducated Galilean, but His speech bewildered the Jews. “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:15). To be sure, Jesus, the Word, knew the Scriptures better than they did. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17, emphasis mine). The Greek noun translated “doctrine” is didachē and it means “instruction” or “teaching.” This teaching comes from God, therefore, because they were not doing God’s will, they did not understand the instruction, nor recognize the One delivering the message. The same problem exists today. One can understand the “unchurched” not doing God’s will, but sadly, many so-called “churches” preach a “gospel” contrary to the will of God, and are as fundamentally ignorant of the “doctrine of God” as are the unchurched.

Jesus demonstrated kindness and compassion, but when it came to the false teaching of the Jews of that time, He pulled no punches. “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 7:19, emphasis mine.). Jesus revealed Himself here, but the Jews failed to recognize Him. They searched for Jesus to have Him killed, but standing before them, they did not recognize Him. “Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (John 7:21, emphasis mine).  Some commentators believe Jesus referred to the healing of the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda,[1] but that was six months before during Purim. That healing took place on a Sabbath, and for that, the Jews sought to kill Him! Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. “If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man [completely] whole on the sabbath day?” (John 7:23). It seems reasonable that if a circumcision can be performed on a Sabbath, a healing should be just as valid, if not more so. Therefore Jesus admonished them, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

At this point the Jews started to realize that this was Jesus, whom they sought, and Jesus no longer hid the fact. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me” (John 7:28-29,emphasis mine). More than Jesus healing on the Sabbath, they hated His claim of being from Him more than anything. Jesus claimed equality with God, and it irked the Jews. “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30, emphasis mine).

Jesus caused quite a stir. Many of His hearers believed in Him, but the Pharisees and other religious rulers sought the more to take Him into custody. Jesus then alluded to His crucifixion and resurrection. “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:33-34, emphasis mine). Jesus previously pointed out that these religious leaders were estranged to God; therefore, like anyone estranged from God, they cannot be with Him in the presence of God. Of course, they did not understand what He was saying as anyone in this same condition remains blind to the things of God.

Finally, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus offered the invitation to soften that hardened condition. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38, emphasis mine). The “belly” is a metaphor for ones innermost being. John further explains Jesus’ meaning. “But this spake he of the [Holy]Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, emphasis). When one places his trust in Jesus for salvation, Jesus’ promises to come and reside within him.“…if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Of course, Jesus cannot do this physically (after all, He does have a physical body), so He accomplishes this through the Holy Spirit Who inhabits every believer.

The remedy for ignorance of God and His will, is the Living Water that Jesus freely offers. Jesus promises, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, emphasis mine). “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26, emphasis mine). “And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8, emphasis mine). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13, emphasis mine). Ignorance of God and of the things of God dissipates by drinking in the Living Water that Jesus so freely offers.

Reader, are you thirsty to know God? If so, why not take Jesus up on His invitation. Come and drink of the Living Water He offers. It is free for the asking.

Notes:


[1]Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (3), https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/.

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