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Missed One!

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; (Genesis 19:1)

Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible has experienced reading a familiar passage and all of a sudden, something new appears in the text. Well, it is not really new; it has been there all along, but for the first time, the Spirit gives new insight into that familiar passage.

Recently I started reading the Book of Genesis for the nth time and came to Chapter 19 where two angels come to drag Lot out of Sodom before God destroyed it. Lot ranks at the bottom of my list of Bible characters. Lot was the son of Abram’s brother, Haran,[1] making him Abram’s (Abraham) nephew. Haran died, and when God called Abram to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1), Lot followed his uncle.[2] Later on, as their wealth increased, Abram’s and Lot’s shepherds started quarreling over grazing land for their sheep.[3] So Abram decided that they should split up in order to avoid further conflict. Abram gave Lot the choice of grazing land,[4] and Lot chose what he thought was the best grazing land.[5] The Bible describes the land Lot chose as “well watered every where … as the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10). The land he selected lies in a valley on the east shore of the Dead Sea, so it strikes me odd that the Bible says that “Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan” (v. 10). Why would one “lift up his eyes” to see a valley that is below. That makes no sense to me unless his eyes were “lifted up” in pride. After all, he chose the best for himself leaving the least desirable land for his uncle.

Then Lot moved near the “cities of the plain,” two of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, but he “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”[6] “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). Scripture clearly indicates the direction Lot was headed, and it was not a good place. Later we learn that Lot left his tent and moved into Sodom[7] and even became a city leader sitting “in the gate of Sodom”[8] – the place of judgment.

Lot does not make it into the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11), but the Apostle Peter calls Lot “just.” “[God] turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation [i.e., lifestyle] of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:6-7, emphasis mine). Except for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I fail to see how Peter arrives at that conclusion. However, the Greek word translated “just” is dikaios and it means “equitable,” so perhaps as a judge, Lot dealt fairly with all.

Yet, had he faced his tent a different direction and stayed out there with his sheep, he may have averted the troubles that came with living in Sodom. He was kidnapped by marauding kings and his uncle had to rescue him,[9] and then God sent fire and brimstone to destroy all the cities of the plain for their wickedness.

I may be wrong (it would not be the first time), but it seems to me that Lot got sucked into the “city life,” perhaps not all the way, but just on the edge – at the gate. We do that too. We want Jesus, but we want to have a little of what the world offers too. I see Lot this way. Peter says that Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation” of the city, but when the men of the city came to his house demanding that Lot give over his two male guests so they could have sex with them, Lot offered them his virgin daughters to do with them as they pleased.[10] What kind of “righteous” man does that! Later, as the angels tried to get Lot to leave the city before they destroyed it, “he lingered” and “the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city” (Genesis 19:16). Lot had to be dragged out of the city for his own good!

We might think this story ends happily. No, it gets worse. After being saved from destruction, Lot’s daughters, who had been raised in the “conversation” of Sodom, became concerned that they had no man to get them pregnant, so they get their father drunk and have sex with him and have sons that become enemy nations of Israel – Moab (the Moabites) and Ammon (the Ammonites).[11]

Perhaps you can see why Lot is at the bottom of my Bible hero list, and I am disgusted every time I read this account. However, here is what I have missed all these times I’ve read this passage. It really begins in Chapter 18 when three angels come and speak to Abraham. After the angels finish the meal Abraham prepared for them, they get up to leave in the direction of Sodom, but one stays behind to inform Abraham of what He is going to do. We learn throughout the passage that this “angel” is actually the LORD. Theologically, this is known as a “theophany,” or better yet, a “Christophany” because these are appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Abraham intercedes on behalf of Sodom with the LORD. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). What if there are 50 righteous in the city? What if there are 45, 40, 30, 20, 10? The LORD agrees that for 10 righteous, He will spare the city. Then in Chapter 19, we see two angels enter the city. I always assumed these where the two angels that went ahead while the LORD stayed behind to speak with Abraham, but I saw something different this time.

Eight years ago, I wrote a thesis entitled Images of Christ in Genesis where I discuss ways in which Christ appears in the Book of Genesis. These include typology and theophany, but the one I missed was the one that appears in this encounter with Lot. One way to recognize a theophany is when the angel is referred to as “the angel of the LORD.” However, the best way to recognize that the angel is actually “the LORD” is that He takes credit for what the LORD does or will do. Rather than say, “the LORD will …” the angel says, “I will …”

So we have two angels enter the city (we know the account), and they try to evacuate Lot, his wife, and two daughters. The first hint that this is “the LORD” appears in Verse 16 where it says that the angels took them by the hands to drag them out of the city, and it makes this comment: “the LORD being merciful unto them.” Then, once they are out of the city one of the angels commands Lot to escape for his life and not look back. Lot protests and addresses Him as “my Lord” (‘ădônây) and pleads, “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (Genesis 19:19). Lot pleads to be allowed to go to Zoar, and the angel says, “See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken” (Genesis 19:21).

Zoar was one of the cities of the plain, and the angel unilaterally granted Lot’s request and spared the city. Matters of life and death belong to God alone. Angels cannot act in opposition to God’s directive. Even Satan is subject to God’s authority. Because this angel acted in response to Lot’s request, we know that either he acted against God’s wishes (to destroy Zoar) or He indeed is God and within His rights to grant the request. “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven … And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt” (Genesis 19:24, 29).

All the times I read this passage and I missed it. However, it shows how God cares for His own, and that He will protect them even when they are not living according to His will. I know it to be true in my life. But just because God protects His children when they are outside His will, there are often consequences to pay. Consider Lot’s incestuous daughters. Life is so much better if we stick close to Him. I speak from experience.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 11:27

[2]  Genesis 12:4

[3]  Genesis 13:7

[4]  Genesis 13:8-9

[5]  Genesis 13:10-11

[6]  Genesis 13:12

[7]  Genesis 14:12

[8]  Genesis 19:1

[9]  Genesis 14:12, 14-16

[10]  Genesis 19:4-8

[11]  Genesis 19:30-38

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Same Old Tricks

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)

We think we are so smart! We carry around in our pockets devices with more computing power than the computers that sent the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space. With it, we talk or send text messages to friends and loved ones instantly. We stay in touch with current events, check the weather, watch video programs (even live TV), find answers to all of our questions with a few clicks of the tiny keyboard, just entertain ourselves with mind-numbing games. We fly across the country in a matter of hours, send probes to distant planets, or view the ends of the universe with our powerful satellite telescopes. We have developed medical devices that look inside our bodies to produce images of injured or diseased tissues. According to a 2013 report, knowledge doubled every 12 months, and the report predicted that it would soon double every 12 hours.[1] God told the Prophet Daniel that this would happen. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4, emphasis mine).

However, for all our smarts, we still fall for the same old tricks[2] Satan has used since the beginning of time. Look at what transpired in the Garden of Eden. God had given man absolute freedom and dominion over the entire planet[3] and placed them in a perfect environment[4] with only one stipulation. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, emphasis mine).

Satan’s goal is to separate God’s supreme creation, humankind, from their Creator and he continues to employ the same strategy and tactics that he used in the Garden to cause man to fall.[5] His strategy is to cause man to doubt God and to turn to him to meet their perceived needs. His tactics are threefold. First, he instills doubt in God’s Word – “Is that really what the Bible says?”[6] Second, he declares God’s Word as untrue – “You can’t believe the Bible. It was written by man, and it is full of myths and factual errors. You can’t trust the Bible!”[7] Finally, he slanders God by accusing Him of withholding total autonomy from you – “God knows you will be like gods, and He doesn’t want competition!”[8]

Man does not need Satan to cause him to sin. Man succeeds at sinning very well on his own, and Satan uses man’s own natural bent to sin against him. The Apostle John warns us against loving the world system[9] which is really man’s system. John characterizes it in three ways: (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life. Look at how Satan used man’s own nature against Eve. He first executed his strategy to cause doubt in God, and then he stood back and allowed Eve’s own human nature go to work. “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, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

It seems we are not so smart after all. In almost 6000 years, Satan has not changed his methods one bit, and man’s nature has not improved through countless unlearned lessons. As the Preacher said, “there is no new thing under the sun.”

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5). The Son of God and Son of Man accomplished what no other man could; He did not succumb to the wiles of Satan. “For 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, emphasis mine).

After He was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days in preparation for His earthly ministry. Satan took advantage of His weakened condition to make his attack. Satan knew who he was facing. Jesus is the Word of God and very God indeed,[10] so there was no point in trying to cause Him to doubt God’s Word. Instead, Satan attacked His human nature. First, he went for the lust of the flesh. “And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread” (Luke 4:3). Then he attacked through the lust of the eyes. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:5-6). Finally, he used the pride of life to make Jesus fall into sin. “And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Luke 4:9-11).

There is nothing that you or I face that Jesus did not experience fully. Satan uses the same old tricks and we have all the same weaknesses of all who have come before us. However, as the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Christians, if they will take advantage of it, have the power to defend against Satan’s assaults and to combat the weaknesses of the flesh because, as the Apostle John reminds us, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Jesus defeated the devil, and now His power is available to us, if we will only take advantage of it. We do not have to fall for the same old tricks Satan uses. The way to defeat Satan is to pray daily and often, meditate on God’s Word daily,[11] and “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25), i.e., get involved in a good church and fellowship with other believers.

Reader, if you lack the power to withstand the devil, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


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

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

[3]  Genesis 1:26

[4]  Genesis 2:8

[5]  “Why Satan?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[6]  Genesis 3:1

[7]  Genesis 3:4

[8]  Genesis 3:5

[9]  1 John 2:15

[10]  John 1:1

[11]  Reading the Bible is good practice, however, meditating on God’s Word requires a little more effort than just reading. One has to read and think (meditate) on what God is saying. Paul said to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). That requires diligent effort.

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Watch!

Photo by Giovanni Triggiani

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)

Situated in the middle of John’s description of the “bowl” or “vile” judgments and the final battle of Armageddon, this parenthetical verse commends those who watch and keep, i.e., “guard,” their garments. Garments cover our nakedness and offer protection against the elements. The picture here reminds us of the clothing with which Christians must be clothed. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

The Lord Jesus Christ offers this word of encouragement to the “Tribulation Saints” that, due to their prior unbelief, missed the Rapture[1] and now must endure the horrors of the Tribulation. That Jesus will come “as a thief” is not a warning for these saints who by now should know the “game plan” as laid out in Scripture. Rather, He will come suddenly and unexpectedly for those who reject Christ and “upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (Revelation 16:2). Jesus promises that the “Tribulation Saints” who watch, for His return will be blessed. At this point in the Tribulation, according to the Revelation account, the wait will not be long.

What about Christians today? Often pastors, Bible teachers, and other Christians discourage us from watching. They remind us that, “ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). They omit the imperative phrase that precedes that statement. In context, Jesus made this statement as “the moral” to the parable of the Ten Virgins[2] who fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to come for them. The virgins represent the Church and the bridegroom represents the Lord Jesus Christ, who has left to prepare a place[3] for His Bride, but whose return for His Bride depends on the Father’s approval of the bride chamber. At midnight, when the virgins least expected, a trumpet sounds to announce the Bridegroom is coming. Five of the virgins have prepared extra oil (representative of the Holy Spirit) for their lamps and are ready to be taken by the Bridegroom. The remaining five imprudent virgins get left behind. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (emphasis mine).

While it is true that we cannot know the day nor the hour when the Lord will return for His Bride, the Church, we are still instructed to WATCH! For what are we to watch? Jesus gave the signs for which to watch prior to His return.[4] The admonition advises us to look for these signs coming together to let us know that the time is near.

Waiting is hard. Watching is tiring. Many have become discouraged and “leave their posts” choosing rather to invest their time on the things of this world – sports, entertainment, and all sorts of distractions and diversions. Some even become critical of those who are watching. Such scoffing and criticism should not surprise us. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). Sadly, these scoffers are “Christians.”

Sometimes these scoffers will compare the “watchers” to the “boy who cried wolf.” What they forget is that in the story, when the villagers stopped responding to the boy’s cries, the wolf did indeed come.

Jesus’ second coming is near. His return to “snatch up” His Bride is even nearer. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, emphasis mine). “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7, emphasis mine). “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Revelation 3:3, emphasis mine). “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36, emphasis mine).

WATCH!

Notes:


[1]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

[2]  Matthew 25:1-13

[3]  John 14:3

[4]  Matthew 24:4-44; Mark 13:5-37; Luke 21:8-38

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Homesick

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:40)

“Better to be seen than viewed” someone responds when greeted with, “Good to see you!” Sometimes the salutation of “How’re you doing” gets the retort, “Any day above ground is a good day!” Someone else might say, “Better than the alternative!”

Those are funny ways to say that it is good to be alive, but those who make such remarks have not given the “alternative” a lot of thought. In their mind they see death something to delay or avoid altogether. The truth is that no one gets out of this world alive.[1] “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The Christian should welcome death “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Having circled the sun 69.33 times, the miles have taken their toll, and I feel the aches and pains that accompany the second law of thermodynamics. I have no fear of death, however, the process of dying does not appeal to me. When someone suggests that this life is better than the alternative, I quickly reply, “Oh no it’s not.”

I am homesick for my eternal home. My mother and father and many of my relatives wait for me there. I look forward to seeing friends that have gone ahead of me. I often wonder if I will recognize them. They will all be young – no wrinkles, no gray hair, no bald heads (yay!). “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I have arthritic knees that prevent me from doing things I used to do; I do not bend as well as I used to. I have carpal tunnel syndrome that makes my hands tingle all the time, and I get these horrible leg cramps that wake me up in the middle of the night. I really look forward to “no more pain.”

Before going to the cross, Jesus promised, “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” (John 14:2, emphasis mine). From this translation, we get the crazy idea that Jesus will build us all palatial mansions in heaven. Reading this verse brings the words of the old gospel song to mind: “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.” However, that minimizes what Jesus has in store for us. The word “mansion” is a poor translation for the Greek word monē which simply means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” Heaven will be our dwelling place, and from the description I read in the Bible, we will have no need for “shelter” there.

The dwelling place Jesus has prepared for us is the New Jerusalem.[2] The place is illuminated by the presence of God so that “the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it” (Revelation 21:23). The river of life and the tree of life are there; all our physical needs will be met. “And there shall be no more curse…” (Revelation 22:3). “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). What need is there for any mansion!

No pain. No tears. No sorrow. No death. No curse. No hunger or thirst. No night. No need for shelter in the perfect climate. The best part about heaven, the New Jerusalem, will be to dwell in the presence of our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

An old friend from my distant past used to say, “Heaven is my home, but I’m not homesick for it yet.” Tommy was at least 15 years older than me when he said this. I have not heard from him in years. It is very possible that Tommy is experiencing heaven now and may be saying, “I am not homesick for heaven anymore.”

The longer I live in this fallen world that grows more wicked every day, the more homesick I get for my forever home. As I see the moral decline and the violence plaguing our land, the more I desire to go home. The signs of the times indicate that Jesus’ return is very near, but whether I cross the veil or meet Him in the air, I long to be home with my Lord. In the meantime, I will occupy until He comes.[3]

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Oh lord you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Just over in gloryland we’ll live eternally

The saints on every hand are shouting victory

Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore

Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home Then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me From heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore[4]

Notes:


[1]  Actually, some will get out of this world alive (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

[2]  Revelation 21:2, 10-25

[3]  Luke 19:13

[4]  “This World Is Not My Home” – Jim Reeves

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The Church

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Today is Sunday, and June and I just got out of “church.” We enjoyed a wonderful time of worshiping God our Savior, Jesus Christ, and listening to the Word of God exposited by our “under shepherd,” our pastor. Then we gathered in our Sunday school classroom to enjoy family time by fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters and enjoying a time of deeper study into the Word of God. Currently, we are studying the book of Isaiah. We have been in the book of Isaiah for nearly a year, and we are only halfway through the book. I really appreciate our Bible teacher and his dedication to the careful study of God’s Word.

I have said this before, and it is still true. I love church! But what is church? Some people think of a building where people meet on Sundays for some unknown reason. Others have a vague notion that people gather there to sing and listen to some preacher talk. Many Christians consider church attendance as some kind of obligation. It’s just something one does.

Before going into what “church” is, perhaps we should understand what it is not.

“Church” is not a building. The first definition of “church” found at Dictionary.Com says that it is “a building for public Christian worship.”[1] While that may be the modern, accepted understanding of the word, it is nonetheless in error. The second definition says that a church is a “public worship of God or a religious service in such a building.” That comes closer to a correct understanding; however, it is still false.

Some people who attend church services select their place of “worship” based on the style of music that is played. They want to hear stirring music that stimulates the emotions and elevates their spirits to euphoric heights. Many church leaders are keenly aware of this “need” and they go to great expense and effort to tailor music that attracts the most number of attendees. Many “worship” services employ loud, screaming guitars, jungle-beating percussion sets, laser-light shows, and even smoke machines to stimulate the emotions. After 45 minutes or so of ear-splitting, pulse-raising “music,” the speaker comes up to give a 15-minute motivational speech specifically intended to maintain the hearer in a happy state – no talk of sin and the need for the Savior, or the prospect of hell; only talk about God’s love and how He loves you just the way you are (a partial truth originating from the “father of lies”).[2]

No, the church is not a place to be entertained, emotionally elevated, or encouraged in your sin. Even churches that still sing the “tired old hymns” can degenerate into places where we can go to just feel good about ourselves. That is not what church is. Neither is the church intended to attract unbelievers, which the modern “church growth” movement emphasizes.

The word translated “church” in the Bible is the Greek word ekklēsia, and it could be translated the “called out ones.” Immediately we notice that the definition precludes a building of any kind. So, the “church” is not a building. The church is people, and not just people, they are people that have been “called out.” The question that immediately comes to mind is, “called out of what?” Simply put, the church is an assembly of people who have been “called out” of the world. To use a “churchy” term, the church is a body of those who have been “saved” out of the world, out of sin, and out of an eternity in hell.

Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain …” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “ordained” means “to place” or “to set.” In other words, Jesus has “chosen,” i.e. “called out,” His church and set it in a place to do His work on earth – to “bring forth fruit.” “Bringing forth fruit” does not necessarily mean increasing the number of attendees in a particular church body. Indeed, Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The “call” goes out to all, but only a few will respond. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine).

Jesus said these things before the church was established at Pentecost.[3] The church, therefore, consists of individuals who are “called out” by Christ through the Holy Spirit, regardless of man-made “branding” – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc. The unifying theme of the Church is a belief in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross in payment for our sin, His resurrection from the grave (after three days), His ascension into heaven and His soon return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, emphasis mine). If one trusts simply in that, that one is included in “the Church.” If, on the other hand, one is trusting in the practices observed by their church, they are probably not included in “the Church.”[4]

The Bible refers to the body of all true believers, the “called out ones,” i.e. “the Church,” as “the Bride of Christ.”[5] This is the Church – not a building or a particular “Christian” denomination. The Church is a body of “called out” individuals who join together to worship God, to “feed” on His Word, to grow and mature in the Spirit, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, to fellowship and encourage one another, and to work together to “bring forth fruit,” i.e., bring others to Christ.

The purpose of the local church is to build up the body – the Church – for the work of the kingdom. It is not to entertain, nor is it to gain numbers for the sake of numbers. The Church is not confined to a single building; however, the smaller gathering that meets in a “church” building plays a major role as part of the “greater” Church. Therefore, “… let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

One day soon the Church will gather together from all parts of the earth in one great assembly forever to be united with our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. I so yearn for that day! In the meantime, I enjoy the little piece of Heaven God has provided here on earth in my local church with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notes:


[1]  Church – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/church?s=t

[2]  John 8:44

[3]  Acts 2

[4]  See my articles on “False Religion”

[5]  Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 19:7-9

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The Days of Noah

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

Last weekend was a sad time in American history. First, a mass murder took place at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas followed by another in Dayton, Ohio. The nation reels in the aftermath of such senseless violence groping for elusive answers to a problem with no apparent solution. The left blames the President claiming that his rhetoric is divisive and that it fans the flames of hatred. Others on the left blame the guns, and they want to ban all scary-looking rifles. Others want to legislate stricter gun laws. Even the President now calls for better background checks for gun purchases. Mr. President, we already have background checks for gun purchases. I had an FBI background check for every firearm I possess. Background checks will not stop wackos from getting their hands on firearms or from committing mass slaughter.

Several have accurately identified the problem as a problem of the heart, however, they fall short of coming up with a solution. As a Christian, I know the solution to the problem in every case. The answer is Jesus indwelling every individual heart, or at the very least, a clear understanding of who God is and every person’s accountability to Him. But that is out of the question. God is off-limits in our schools, our institutions of higher learning, in the public square and in our government. As long as that remains true, there is no solution to the growing violence in our nation.

This is a sign of our times. Jesus said that the days nearing His return would be like the days of Noah. What were the days of Noah like? Genesis Chapter Six suggests that fallen angels (sons of God) were somehow “breeding” with human women and producing demigod-like creatures known as the Nephilim (“giants”).[1] Today transhumanists[2] seek to evolve humans to a higher level through gene manipulation. These people, undoubtedly guided by the same “sons of God,” are unwittingly doing the same thing that was going on in Noah’s day.

However, that is not all that took place in Noah’s day. The Bible tells us that people had become exceedingly wicked and violent.[3] Our world grows increasingly evil and violent. The LGBT… movement has forced its way into our society demanding not only tolerance but that we accept their deviance as “normal.” However, that is not enough, they want our children trained at a very early age that such behavior is normal and acceptable. Not only that, but children are encouraged to follow their examples. If this were not bad enough, we have those in our government that promote and encourage this perverse movement, and if we protest, we are the “haters.”

The violence continues. Not only do we have mass shootings, but we are seeing more “peaceful protests” against our elected (Republican) officials that are anything but peaceful. We are living in the “days of Noah,” and Jesus said, “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39). I have heard many sermons preached on these verses and they all minimize the significance of the text. Yes, Jesus said that the people during this time would be conducting their lives as normal, clueless of the impending doom. What these preachers omit is that in the days of Noah, the world was filled with wickedness and violence with much demonic activity taking place.

We should not be surprised or amazed when we see these things taking place, nor should we think that we can solve the problem through any human measure. The only remedy for our sick world is for Jesus to return to set things right. He is the only answer. He is our only hope. Our days are as the days of Noah. That should alert us to Jesus’ imminent return. The time is right. Are you ready? If not, find out how to get ready by reading my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 6:1-4

[2]  Transhumanism – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

[3]  Genesis 6:5, 11

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

The Gap – Not the Store

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

For almost 200 years, well-meaning theologians have attempted to defend the veracity of the Bible against the current scientific discoveries that cast doubt on the truth of God’s word. Rather than taking a firm stand for what the Bible plainly teaches, they try to find ways to reconcile what the Bible says with what scientists say by way of compromises. One such popular compromise is known as the Gap Theory.

Because many theologians have been duped into believing that scientists have proven that the earth is billions of years old (4.5 billion to be precise), they need to find a place in Scripture to account for that vast amount of time. They recognize that biblical chronology only accounts for approximately 6000 years of earth history. They face a dilemma. How do they remain faithful to a literal interpretation of biblical creation and still maintain good rapport with the scientific community? They solve the problem by placing a gap of unknown time between verses one and two of Genesis 1.

However, with what does one fill a gap of billions of years while maintaining some credible ties to Scripture? According to Hugh Ross (who has his own issues with a young earth), “A few Bible scholars of the seventeenth century, wishing to establish the timing of Satan’s fall and the angels’ rebellion, had proposed a narrative gap (hence, a time gap of unspecified duration) between the creation of the universe (“the heavens and the earth” of Genesis 1:1) and the events of the creation week (Genesis 1:3-27) … Eighteenth century advocates of this view placed the gap precisely between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, suggesting that Earth began, perhaps eons ago, as the abode of angels who ravaged and ruined it when they fell.”[1]

Genesis 1:1 refers to God’s initial perfect creation. Everything that God made was beautiful, there was no sin anywhere. Verse two, on the other hand, assumes that a great catastrophe occurred that caused the earth to become in a chaotic state through the judgment of God. According to the Gap Theory, the formless and void state, as recorded in Genesis 1:2, is in direct contrast to the perfect initial creation. Something happened between the first two verses of Genesis to cause the earth to become desolate and uninhabitable after having been made perfect. Those holding the Gap Theory contend that this state of ruin could have possibly lasted millions of years … The judgment is usually spoken of as a flood because of the statement of Genesis 1:2 – the earth was covered by water. This judgment is also known as the Luciferic flood named after the angel who became the devil. The cause for the judgment is usually given as the rebellion of Satan or some pre-Adamic race that sinned. All of the inhabitants of the earth were judged by God, leaving behind fossil remains.”[2]

When one reads the text of Genesis 1:1-2 and following verses giving the words their normal meaning in their normal context, it becomes obvious that much imaginative speculation must take place to insert millions or billions of years between verses one and two. From where did these ideas originate?

According to Dr. John D. Morris, “This particular compromise didn’t just appear; it’s been around at least since the early 1800s when old-Earth ideas were floated by James Hutton and Charles Lyell. Many theologians, under the mistaken impression that scientists had proved it, rushed to incorporate an old Earth into Scripture, hoping to maintain credibility with secular scientists”[3]

Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1876) “was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of existing natural causes in explaining Earth history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology (1830-33 and later editions), which presented for a wide public audience the idea that the Earth was shaped by the same natural processes still in operation today, operating at similar intensities … The combination of evidence and eloquence in Principles convinced a wide range of readers of the significance of ‘deep time’ for understanding the Earth and environment … Building on the innovative work of James Hutton and his follower John Playfair, Lyell favoured an indefinitely long age for the Earth, despite evidence suggesting an old but finite age.”[4]

Confronted with such “evidence,” theologians quickly came to the Bible’s rescue. “Gap creationism became increasingly attractive near the end of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, because the newly established science of geology had determined that the Earth was far older than common interpretations of Genesis and the Bible-based flood geology would allow. Gap creation allowed religious geologists (who composed the majority of the geological community at the time) to reconcile their faith in the Bible with the new authority of science … From 1814, gap creationism was popularized by Thomas Chalmers, who attributed the concept to the 17th-century Dutch Arminian theologian Simon Episcopius.”[5] Chalmers’ “view was popularized by the Plymouth Brethren writer G. H. Pember in his book Earth’s Earliest Ages in 1876.”[6] “It gained widespread attention when a ‘second creative act’ was discussed prominently in the reference notes for Genesis in the influential 1917 Scofield Reference Bible.”[7]

Others came along later like Harry Rimmer (1890-1952). Rimmer “was an American evangelist and creationist. He is most prominent as a defender of creationism in the United States, a fundamentalist leader and writer of anti-evolution publications. He was the founder and President of the Science Research Bureau, Incorporated, a corporation set in Los Angeles, California, whose purpose he established as to prove the veracity of the Bible through studies of biology, paleontology and anthropology.”[8]

Surprisingly, many who profess to defend the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible still hold to the Gap Theory and an old earth. One that I closely follow for his teachings on end-times prophecy is Gary Stearman of “Prophecy Watchers” based in Norman, Oklahoma.[9] In all other respects, Stearman is an excellent Bible teacher, but in this one area, he stumbles. He is not the only one. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum founder of Ariel Ministrires[10] and excellent O.T. scholar says,

I do believe there is a gap of time between verses 1 and 2, but we must be very careful not to ascribe a gap there for the wrong reasons as people have done so often. They have also used it as a convenient place to fit in such things as the geological ages, the fossil record, dinosaur space, and the like. I do not believe the gap allows for dinosaur space because the Bible teaches that there was not any kind of physical death until Adam’s Fall. Rather, the gap is there for only one reason, the fall of Satan that will, in turn, account for the chaos described in verse 2. Hence, the gap need not be very long at all.[11]

Since so many respected theologians defend the Gap Theory, is there any biblical support for their position? As stated before, those who hold to the Gap Theory have been convinced by secular geologists that the earth is billions of years old based on their interpretation of the geologic column, the fossil record, and radiometric dating. Another factor that often comes into play is the distant starlight problem. Faced with these challenges, their inability to respond intellectually, and their strong conviction of the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word, they try to accommodate God’s Word to fit what the secular scientists are saying. In a word, they compromise.

Genesis 1 records creation in six 24-hour days and Gap theorists defend this position. However, biblical chronology, beginning with Genesis 5, limits the age of the earth to only about 6000 years. So how does one account for the 4.5 billion year age of the earth that secular scientists claim? Gap theorists found a way to squeeze billions of years between verse one and verse two of Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:2 says, “And the earth was without form, and void…” The Hebrew word translated “was” is hâyâh. Strong’s defines hâyâh as to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary). Gap theorists interpret hâyâh as “became;” therefore, “And the earth became formless and void.” Furthermore, the Hebrew words translated “without form and void” are tôhû (to lie waste; a desolation, formlessness, confusion, unreality) and bôhû (emptiness, void, waste, or ruin). According to the Gap Theory, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), for an unspecified length of time and then the earth became tôhû and bôhû. God created a perfect world, and then the earth became tôhû and bôhû. What happened?

Rather than to simply admit they do not know what happened, they look to Scripture to fill the Gap. Ken Ham quotes, Weston W. Fields in his book, Unformed and Unfilled (page 7), “In the far distant, dateless past God created a perfect heaven and perfect earth. Satan was ruler of the earth, which was peopled by a race of ‘men’ without any souls. Eventually, Satan, who dwelled in a Garden of Eden composed of minerals (Ezekiel 28), rebelled by desiring to become like God (Isaiah 14). Because of Satan’s fall, sin entered the universe and brought on the earth God’s judgment in the form of a flood (indicated by the wafer of 1:2), and then a global ice age when the light and heat from the sun were somehow removed. All the plant, animal, and human fossils upon the earth today date from this ‘Lucifer’s Flood’ and do not bear any genetic relationship with the plants, animals and fossils living upon the earth today.”[12]

They had to fill the gap with something, but all their attempts to reconcile Scripture to science amount to nothing more than conjecture and speculation.  For example, the idea of “soulless men” is inconsistent with God’s character and the notion of “Lucifer’s Flood” finds no biblical support. Their appeal to Scripture with regard to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 does have some merit as they do speak of Satan’s fall. However, neither of these passages gives any hint of time, other than to imply that Satan’s fall occurred early on after Creation. “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God…” (Ezekiel 28:13) According to Genesis 2:8, God planted the Garden of Eden on Day Six for Adam’s habitation; therefore this cannot refer to some unknown past.

One major hermeneutical problem with the Gap Theory is with the translation of the Hebrew verb hâyâh. “When this word [be] is printed in italics in the common English version, there is no corresponding word in the original text; when it occurs in common type [i.e., not italicized], it is generally the representative of hayah, havah, hava, “to be” in Hebrew.”[13] Sometimes hâyâh is translated “become or became” for ease of reading more than anything else. For example, Genesis 2:7 “And 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” (Genesis 2:7). In this case, “became” could just as easily be translated “was” and it would still make perfect sense. As soon as God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, the man was a living soul. So the Gap theorists do not have a Hebraic leg to stand on in translating hâyâh as “became.”

Another problem with the theory is that the conjunction at the beginning of the sentence (Hebrew vav or waw) is an indication of the continuation of what came before. Had the Author (God) desired to show a break in events, He could have used the conjunction ‘âz (“then”) as in Genesis 4:26, “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” The grammar in Genesis 1:2 gives no indication of a break in thought. There is no grammatical “gap.”[14]

Then comes the matter of the earth being “without form and void” – tôhû and bôhû. We have seen that the earth did not “become” tôhû and bôhû, but rather that it “was” tôhû and bôhû. In Verse 1, God created the universe with all its elements: time (the beginning), space (the heavens), and matter/energy (the earth). At this point, the “earth” (matter/energy) was formless and empty. God had not shaped it into anything yet. The second half of Verse 2 informs us that God at this point started shaping the raw materials. We find no hint of destruction and reconstruction in these verses.

In spite of their well-intentioned effort to reconcile the Genesis creation account with modern science, Gap theorists unwittingly create some serious theological problems. First of all, the Gap Theory calls God’s integrity into question. God’s assessment of His finished work would have to be found faulty. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). Sin, death, and destruction in some unknown past do not qualify as a good creation, much less a “very good” creation.

Secondly, sin did not enter the world through Adam as the Bible claims (Romans 5:12) because it was present at Satan’s fall. Furthermore, death could not be the result of sin if death was already in the world.

Thirdly, the death penalty for (Romans 6:23) sin makes no sense when death preceded Adam’s sin.

Fourthly, if sin and death preceded Adam, then Jesus dying to pay the wages of sin for man seems pointless.

I grew up as a poor preacher’s kid. The greatest lesson my dad ever taught me was that the Bible was true and faithful even when it is difficult to understand. Whether we understand it completely or not, we can trust it to be true. God’s Word does not need to be reconciled to man’s way of thinking. Man’s thinking needs to be reconciled to God’s Word. “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 55:8-9). Later on, the Apostle Paul says something very similar. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Gap theorists forget this principle; they sway to the “strength” of fallen men rather than hold fast to the “foolishness” of the pure Word of God.

Notes:


[1]  Hugh Ross, “Closing the Gap: A Scientist’s Response to the Gap Theory” – https://www.reasons.org/explore/publications/facts-for-faith/read/facts-for-faith/2001/01/01/closing-the-gap-a-scientist-s-response-to-the-gap-theory

[2]  Don Stewart, “What Is the Gap Theory? (The Ruin and Reconstruction Theory?)” – https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_654.cfm

[3]  John D. Morris, Ph.D., “How Does Old Earth Thinking Affect One’s View of Scripture’s Reliability?” – https://www.icr.org/article/how-does-old-earth-thinking-affect-ones-view-scrip

[4]  “Charles Lyell” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell

[5]  “Gap Creationism” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_creationism

[6]  Hank Hanegraaff, “The Gap Theory of Genesis 1:2 by Lee Irons” – https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/bible-answer-man/read/articles/the-gap-theory-of-genesis-12-by-lee-irons-16836.html

[7]  “Gap Creationism” – Wikipedia

[8]  “Harry Rimmer” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Rimmer

[9]  Gary Stearman, Prophecy Wathers – https://prophecywatchers.com/gary-stearman/

[10]  http://www.Ariel.org/

[11]  Arnold Fructenbaum, “THE SEVEN DAYS OF CREATION: GENESIS 1:1 – 2:3”, p.10, article available in PDF format from the Ariel Ministries website.

[12]  Kenneth Ham, “Closing the Gap” – https://www.icr.org/article/closing-gap

[13]  Robert Young,  Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1970), 73.

[14]  Ernesto E. Carrasco, “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Origins, Religion, Satan, Science, Theology