… and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (Luke 19:13)
As I wrote last week, “For many years now, I come to this time of year with a heightened sense of expectation.” More than ten years ago, I learned about the Feasts of the Lord. By His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled first three spring feasts, and Pentecost fulfilled the fourth feast. The last three fall feasts remain unfulfilled, and the Feast of Trumpets comes first in that series. The Feast of Trumpets is significant because it heralds the new year. It is also a holy convocation announced by the blowing of trumpets that summons the people to the Temple.
The connection with the Feast of Trumpets and the Rapture of the Church comes by way of deduction derived from 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; and Revelation 4:1. These passages speak of the sound of a trumpet preceding the Rapture of the Church, so it seems logical that the call could come at the first fall feast that remains unfulfilled.
Although it might seem like a reasonable conclusion, the fact remains that nothing in Scripture tells us when the Rapture will take place. The Bible gives no signs to signal the Rapture. Instead, the Bible (the New Testament) teaches that the Rapture is imminent; it can happen at any time without warning. Jesus said, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matthew 24:44-46, emphasis mine).
In a different place, Jesus relayed a parable of a “A certain nobleman [representing Himself] went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:12-13, emphasis mine). Our “nobleman,” Jesus Christ, has gone to receive His kingdom and He has promised to return (John 14:1-3). We do not know when. In the meantime, He has commanded, “Occupy till I come.”
Another Rosh HaShanah, the Feast of Trumpets, came and went again, and the trumpet did not sound to call us home, but Jesus did not tell us when He would return. He just told us to watch, wait, and occupy until He comes. When He does come for us, He expects to find us taking care of His business. What will He find us doing?
The Rapture is imminent. It comes without warning and without signs. However, the Second Coming does have signs, and we see many of the signs falling into place. The greatest of these signs is the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel. As the signs of the last days increase in number and intensity, we know the time is near, and if the Second Coming of Christ is near, the Rapture is closer. Are you ready? Are you occupied in the task He has given you or are you distracted by the cares of the world? He did not come last Tuesday, or Wednesday, but He may come today. How will He find you?
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Ephesians 6:17)
Earlier this past week, my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group met to study Matthew 4, where the Gospel writer recounts Jesus’ temptation by Satan after He spent 40 days and 40 nights without food in the wilderness. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews states that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In his first general epistle, the Apostle John lists three points whereby we are tempted: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We have evidence of this from the very beginning. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…” (Genesis 3:6).
Matthew records that Satan tempted Jesus by the same means, albeit not in the same order. The order of the temptations is not as relevant as the fact that the temptations are the same as those to which we succumb. Satan first came at Him with the lust of the flesh, “command that these stones be made bread.”  Next he tried tempting Him with the pride of life, “cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” It behooves us to take note that Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus, although it was misapplied. (We must take that as a lesson; knowledge of Scripture is not the path to salvation.) Finally, Satan went for the lust of the eyes. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9). Satan is the “prince and god of this world;” therefore, he had a legitimate right to make that claim.
Jesus did not take the bait. Jesus answered each temptation with a passage from Scripture. The Bible reminds us that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis mine). And do not think that because Jesus is God that He held a higher advantage. Satan attacked Jesus’ humanity, and He is every bit as human as you and I.
If Jesus had an advantage, it was His perfect knowledge of the Word of God, which brings me to the reason for the title of this article. Scripture often refers to the Word of God as a “sword.” Our leading verse (above) refers to the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit.” “For the word of God is quick [i.e., alive/living], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12). In Revelation, the Word proceeding from Jesus’ mouth is described as a sword.
The “sword” is the final piece of the Christian soldier’s armor. All the pieces of the soldier’s armor are defensive in nature. They are designed to protect the wearer, but the sword is both a defensive and offensive weapon. As a Christian you have surely experienced opposition when you made an argument based on the Word of God. Of course! It hurts. It cuts, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Naturally, the lost hearer will recoil at the message of the Bible.
However, as a Christian, if you have not experienced such reactions, perhaps your sword is dull. Maybe you have hidden your sword away somewhere, and it has become pitted and rusted. Then, when you attempt to use it only bruises but does not cut, and the bruises quickly heal and are forgotten. If that is the case, you need to sharpen your sword! You cannot sharpen your sword with a 30-minute sermon or a 45-minute Sunday school lesson every Sunday. You need to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, emphasis mine). “Study” does not mean to sit down and casually read a few chapters as one would a dime-store novel. The Greek word, spoudazō, means to “to use speed, that is, to make effort, be prompt or earnest: – do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavour, labour, study.” If you will take just one or two chapters daily, read slowly and carefully, question the text, seek out the meaning of difficult words, etc. you will gain a deeper understanding of the Word of God. And, because you dug it out for yourself, it will stick better in your mind than what you can get out of casually reading it or listening to what the preacher may have to say about it. This is how you sharpen your sword and prepare yourself for the spiritual battle you face every day
And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11)
These days I find it difficult to find topics about which to write. I want to write about encouraging topics, but politics and the social condition of our times occupy much of my thinking, and the only encouraging thing that comes to mind is the proximity of our Lord’s return to call His Bride home. As I look forward and look up, I am excited with anticipation, and I am encouraged. However, when I, like Peter, look at the raging storm around me, my mood changes to desperation.
So, like Peter, I cried out “Lord, save me!” I took my Bible, and without looking, opened it at random, zigzagged my finger down the page and stopped at the verse above (Luke 6:11). This is not my usual method of Bible study, nor do I recommend it as an acceptable practice for searching the Scriptures, but on this occasion the Lord was merciful and gave me a thought.
It is never good to take one verse out of context and build a lesson on it, so I went to the top of the chapter and read the full context of the verse. At the beginning of Chapter 6, we find Jesus and His disciples walking through a grain field (barely or wheat, we are not told). Luke points out that it was “on the second sabbath after the first” (Luke 6:1). One commentator suggests that it is “an obscure expression, occurring here only, generally understood to mean, the first sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread. The reasons cannot be stated here, nor is the opinion itself quite free from difficulty.”
Whatever Luke meant by including this detail, the issue remains that the act took place on a Sabbath. As usual, the Pharisees hovered around Jesus like vultures to see what infractions they could find for which to accuse Him. As Jesus and His disciples walked through the grain field, they plucked off heads of grain, rubbed them together between their hands to remove the chaff, and ate the grain. Ah ha! They were harvesting and winnowing on the Sabbath. That was work, and a clear violation of the fourth commandment! The Pharisees wasted no time in accusing Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law. Jesus responded by citing Scripture of the time when David ate the “show bread” from the Tabernacle that was reserved for the priests alone. Then He made the audacious statement “That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5). Well, it may have been an audacious statement to the Pharisees but Jesus made a truth claim, and it did not go unnoticed by the Pharisees.
Luke then goes on to recount another Sabbath in which Jesus was teaching in a local synagogue. Again, the Pharisees were present taking notes. In attendance was a man with a withered right hand. He may have been there as a “plant” by the Pharisees as the verse seems to suggest. “And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him” (Luke 6:7). A well respected Bible teacher suggested that the man’s condition may have been a birth defect where the right arm never developed properly. Therefore, the miracle Jesus performed in healing the man gave evidence of Jesus’ divine power of creation.
However, that detail escaped the Pharisees who were more concerned about their legalities than in the welfare of the disabled man. Luke records that “they were filled with madness” (Luke 6:11). The Greek word translated “madness” is anoia. It sounds like it may be the root of our English word “annoy,” but it means more than that. It means to be “without understanding,” i.e. “foolish.” It is a “madness expressing itself in rage.” These men were so outraged at Jesus’ supposed infraction of their standards on top of Jesus’ claim to be “Lord of the Sabbath” that they failed to comprehend the significance of the miracle before their eyes. Crazy!
As I considered this, my mind drifted back to our current condition. Without getting into specifics, we see a mounting intolerance toward Bible-believing Christians. Regardless of the good acts performed by Christian organizations, just the fact that Christians believe that there is only one way to salvation makes Christians akin to “haters” and “terrorists.” Well, we can take courage knowing that the trend only brings us closer to the soon return of Christ. As for “crazy,” you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Reader, if you are not sure of your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” There really is only One Way.
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:18)
The final verses of Mark’s Gospel instigate controversy among Bible “scholars,” and many modern translations preface the passage with a warning that “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” The NIV Study Bible further notes that “Serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark. His Gospel probably ended at 16:8, or its original ending has been lost.”
“Scholars” are the reason we have so many different translations and so much disagreement on which translation is best. I am not averse to higher education. Personally, I enjoy learning and research, especially on matters of the Bible. However, it seems to me that many that achieve the higher degrees lose their grip on reality and rely on the wisdom of man more than the wisdom of God.
When I consider Mark 16:9-20, after having ready Mark’s entire Gospel, I do find the ending somewhat abrupt. It is almost as if Mark completed his Gospel and needed to “wrap it up” in order to get if off to print. (I know. I know! There were no printers in those days.) Most scholars believe that Mark’s was the first Gospel in circulation. The church at the time of the writing was probably no more than 15-30 years old, growing and spreading throughout the Middle East, Asia Minor, and Europe, and there was no written record of the ministry of Christ. As we read Mark’s Gospel, we get the sense that he is moving from one event to the next in the ministry of Jesus. Mark’s is also the shortest of the four Gospels, so the abrupt ending does not surprise me.
The fact that the last 12 verses appear in the text tell me that “The Author,” the Holy Spirit, wanted them there – something the scholars seem to forget. When God says, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Similarly, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). And to answer those who might say that perhaps these were not God’s or Jesus’ words but added later by some human editor, consider the following: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2, emphasis mine). Also, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32) In addition we find, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19, emphasis mine).
Considering God’s solemn charge not to tamper with His word, I find it difficult to conceive that a human editor, who reverences the Word of God, would take it upon himself to “enhance” it of his own volition. As for those “more reliable early manuscripts,” they come from texts that were rejected by the early church due to their Gnostic origins. They were found in “very good” condition because they were not used.
I have a point to make in defending Mark 16:9-20 and specifically as it relates to verse 18, our opening verse. Concerning “them that believe in me” (v. 17) Jesus says (according to Mark), that “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” (emphasis mine). Paul proved this after his shipwreck on the island of Melita. In gathering wood for a fire, a viper, attracted to the heat of the fire, attached itself to Paul’s hand. Paul shook the snake into the fire and suffered no harm from the snakebite to the astonishment of the inhabitants of Melita.
Based on Mark 16:18, I believe God protects His children from harm due to no act of their own. Even when we knowingly place ourselves in harmful positions, God will sometimes intervene to protect us, but all according to His purpose for our lives. I strongly advise against acting stupidly just to test God; He may just let you suffer the consequences.
Lately, for obvious reasons, I have been thinking about the hype surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines. I refuse to take the vaccine for several reasons. First of all, I believe God designed our bodies to fight of dangerous pathogens. I also believe that God has our days numbered, and we cannot die until our time comes for God to call us home. There are hundreds of ways to die that do not involve COVID-19, and it is up to God to choose which method He wants to use to take us home.
Those are the foremost reasons I have for not taking the vaccine. Another reason that rates highly is the fact that they are derived from a cell line that came from aborted human fetuses. Most Christians claim to be “pro-life” and are against abortion, and I believe that if they really understood the source of the vaccines, they would not take them. However, I can excuse them due to ignorance. Yet another reason that I will not take the vaccine is that it modifies the recipient’s DNA – God’s programming code that makes you who you are. I do not believe man has arrived at the level of intelligence required to modify God’s programming code.
The reader can investigate these things for himself, but many doctors, virologists, warn that the mRNA vaccine will “disable” a human’s natural immune system rendering them vulnerable to other diseases for which we were once immune. So, in effect, the vaccine is a poison. (Again, I realize my explanation is rather simplistic, but I do not have the space nor the desire to cover it in this article. The information is out there, if you want to look.) Many Christians are happily taking this poison through the ignorance induced by the propaganda put out by our government and the media. I believe, based on Mark 16:18, that Christians taking this poison through ignorance will not be harmed by it. However, those who take it with full knowledge of what it is may suffer the consequences later. Time will tell.
The NIV Study Bible, (Zondervan Corporation, 1985), p. 1530.
He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, (Luke 24:6)
Christmas and Easter (I prefer “Resurrection Day”) are the two most important days on the Christian calendar with Resurrection Day being, arguably, the most important of the two. One might argue that we could not have the Resurrection without the Birth, but the Birth without the Resurrection would render both insignificant.
Jesus’ birth came like the birth of any other baby. The Gospel writer Luke records the event taking place in a humble animal shelter visited only by lowly shepherds. However, Luke points out an important fact that is summarily overlooked by most readers. Luke says that, “while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). So, apparently, Joseph and Mary had been in Bethlehem a few days before the time of her delivery. Luke does not say, but it seems reasonable that in Bethlehem there were ladies who, seeing a young woman ready to give birth, would have offered their services as midwives. That is the way they did it in those days. Regardless, the birth was no different than any other. The conception nine months prior was the “miracle.” At that time, God planted His seed in Mary’s womb without human aid.
So Jesus came into the world and “dwelt among us” and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He grew up like any other Jewish boy and probably learned carpentry from His earthly father, Joseph. At the age of 30, the age at which priests enter service, Jesus started His three-year earthly ministry. We know from the four Gospel accounts that His ministry ended with His death on the cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and rose on the third day.
But what if the resurrection never happened? Paul put it quite succinctly when he said, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). If Jesus did not rise from the grave, His death for our sins is of no avail. We have no hope of eternal life, and, worse, our destiny is in hell. That explains why unbelievers live for this life alone because, for them, this life is all there is. They reject the concept of hell and prefer the idea that death ends it all, or that it begins a new cycle through reincarnation.
Many arguments against the resurrection of Jesus exist that have a long history from the very beginning. Some say that Jesus did not die on the cross but only “swooned” and revived in the cool dampness of the tomb, rolled the two-ton stone away and walked out. That is a silly theory when one considers the beating, torture, and flogging Jesus received before being nailed to the cross. Also the Roman soldiers who crucified Him were expert executioners and were familiar with death. Had they suspected that He “swooned,” they would have broken His legs like they did with the other two victims. These were professionals; they knew death. Then, to ensure His death, one of the soldiers ran his spear into his side and punctured the pericardium.
Let us say, for argument’s sake, that this one they failed to recognize and Jesus did indeed pass out. Even if He did revive in the cool tomb, the loss of blood from the beatings and flogging, not to mention the puncturing of his heart sac, would have left Him too weak roll away the heavy stone – one that took several men to move – by Himself.
Another argument suggests that Jesus’ disciples overpowered the Roman guard posted at the tomb. This too is a silly argument. All four Gospels record how the disciples went into hiding at Jesus’ arrest. They feared for their lives. It seems unlikely that these frightened men, most of them fishermen and at least one un-calloused tax collector, would dare to take on battle-hardened professional Roman soldiers. However, this fabrication spread from the very beginning. Matthew records that an angel came to roll back the stone and the soldiers on watch were scared stiff. The soldiers, knowing the consequence (death) for failing in their responsibility to keep the tomb secure, went to the chief priests, rather than their leaders, hoping to get a sympathetic hearing about the empty tomb. They made a good choice as the Jewish religious leaders paid them off and covered for them as long as they would spread the lie that the disciples had stolen the body.
Still another argument insists that the women that went to the tomb on Sunday morning were so grief-stricken that they failed to recognize Jesus’ tomb and went to the wrong sepulcher which was empty. This argument simply rejects what Scripture clearly reports. Three of the four Gospels record that the women witnessed the tomb where Jesus was laid. John, who was present at the crucifixion along with Jesus’ mother and the other women, does not say, but it stands to reason that he would have accompanied them to the tomb.
Jesus rose from the dead. If that were not true, the Jews, because of their hatred for Him, only needed to exhume the body and present it to the world, but they had no body. Men have tried and failed to show Jesus’ remains, but they cannot.
Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death, and because He conquered death, we have the assurance that our sins are covered and we have eternal life with him. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [died]. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22, emphasis mine). “For if by one man’s [Adam] offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s [Adam] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus] shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:17-19, emphasis mine).
Because Jesus conquered death, we can have the assurance of eternal life with Him. That is why the resurrection matters. If you are not sure where you stand before Jesus, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”