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What’s The Rush!

Typical “Las Posadas” Celebration

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (Luke 2:6)

Many Christmas traditions come from a fundamental misunderstanding or outright ignorance of Scripture. Such is the case of Joseph and Mary finding nowhere to stay in Bethlehem.

One of my favorite recent movies this time of year is The Nativity Story because it portrays a very realistic account of the birth of Christ, but even it resorts to unfounded tradition in its representation of the account. One of the most flagrant is the final tableau depicting the nativity scene complete with shepherds and wise men together on the night of the birth. It makes a pretty scene, but it is scripturally inaccurate.

Another error I discovered just recently is the scene when the Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem. They arrive just when it starts to get dark. Suddenly, Mary starts having contractions and she pleads with Joseph to quickly find a place because the baby is coming. Frantically, Joseph runs from house to house banging on doors and pleading for someone to give them refuge in their desperate hour of need. No one has room to offer. Finally, one man offers a grotto where he shelters his animals. As the saying goes, “any port in a storm.” They take the offer and Mary gives birth to baby Jesus.

This tradition has been played out through the centuries. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, they observe Las Posadas (“the inns”) where a young girl and boy are selected to play the part of Mary and Joseph. They go from house to house in town followed by all the town’s people seeking refuge. Finally, they get to the last house where they are given posada, and the whole town enjoys a time of celebration.

Such traditions are neither good nor bad in themselves except that they have no basis in Scripture. Dr. Luke gives no indication that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem on the very night that Jesus was born. He does record that “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), but he gives a reasonable explanation for this.  Caesar Augustus had issued a census requiring everyone to go to his ancestral home of origin to be counted (Luke 2:1-3). Joseph and Mary both were descendants of King David whose birthplace was Bethlehem. Therefore, they were required to travel from Nazareth, their home, to Bethlehem in order to comply with Caesar’s decree. They arrived in Bethlehem. Visitors from all over Judea and Samaria overran the place so that every house in town was full. Joseph and Mary took the only place available – a shelter for animals.

They made the best of their accommodations. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). Luke gives no indication that they were in panic mode as tradition has taught. “Silent Night” makes more sense in a setting of peace rather than desperation. Yes, it was a stable, and yes, baby Jesus’ crib was a feeding trough for animals, but God, not desperation was in control.

After the crowd departed and returned to their homes, Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem for some time. With the excess population gone, they were able to find suitable lodging in a house. Matthew records that “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2:1) came in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11, emphasis mine). By this time, Jesus was no longer a “babe” (Luke 2:12) but a “young child” under two years of age (Matthew 2:16).

We often attach too much sentimentality to this event that may obscure of the real wonder of God’s entrance into the world of His creation. God became man, to live as a man – from conception to death – so that He could redeem His fallen creation from the curse of death by His own death, burial, and resurrection. Remove all the fluff from Christmas traditions, and what remains is staggeringly awesome!

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Happy Chanukah!

Hanukkah

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)

Today, December 12, 2017 (at sundown), begins the Jewish Festival of Lights otherwise known as Chanukah (pronounced (with a guttural “H”) hah-noo-kah). The festival is observed for eight days, and while it is not one of the “Feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23) nor is it recorded anywhere in the Old Testament, it is nonetheless an important commemoration of God’s provision. Most Gentiles are vaguely aware of the celebration in that it takes place around Christmastime, but besides that, they really do not know much about it.

Chanukah originated in the second century B.C. during the “silent” period of the Bible – between the Old and New Testaments. It came about as a result of a Jewish rebellion against the Greek (Syrian) ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes for his desecration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 168 B.C. This act was prehistorically recorded by the prophet Daniel: “Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land … And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” (Daniel 11:28, 31, emphasis mine). Antiochus IV defiled the temple by erecting a statue of Zeus in the sanctuary and sacrificing a pig on the altar. This incited the Maccabean Revolt, and, as prophesied by Daniel: “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days” (Daniel 11:32-33, emphasis mine).  Two years later, 164 B.C. the Jews managed to expel the Syrians out of Jerusalem and take back their temple.

With the Greeks out of the way, the Temple had to be cleansed and rededicated. Part of the consecration required that the menorah, the “candlestick” or “lampstand,” that stood on the south wall of the Holy Place (Exodus 26:35), remain constantly lighted (Exodus 27:20). The problem was that there was only enough pure oil, i.e. oil that was undefiled, to last for only one day. So, they lit the menorah, and miraculously, the lamp continued to burn for eight days until sufficient oil was produced to replenish the supply from then on. And so, the Temple was dedicated. “Chanukah” means “dedication.”

Jesus celebrated Chanukah. We see in John’s Gospel “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch” (John 10:22-23, emphasis mine). Just before this, He made the claim “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). This He said after forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Not long after, He healed a man who was blind from birth (John 9) saying, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5, emphasis mine). That light would soon be extinguished, but not for long. In the spring following that Chanukah, Jesus would be nailed to a cross, and for three long days the world would be without the Light. The Sunday before His crucifixion, Jesus prepared His disciples (and us), “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light” (John 12:35-36).

The menorah in the Temple was permanently extinguished in 70 A.D. when the Romans razed Jerusalem. Now it is only remembered on Chanukah. The Light of the World was temporarily extinguished, but He rose again, and His glory fills the heavenly Temple. Yet on Earth, His light still shines in those who are “the children of light.” “[Y]e are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, emphasis mine). Since you are “sanctified,” that means you are “dedicated,” and Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16, emphasis mine). So, shine!

Happy Chanukah!

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What A Thing!

Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

… Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:5-7)

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and once more, I sense the dilemma of mixing the commercialization of the season by the world with the celebration of the First Advent. Any Christian well taught in Scripture recognizes that Jesus was not born on December 25, but thanks to the Catholics, we are stuck with that date. Regardless of how one feels about that, it is appropriate to set aside a special time to contemplate the magnitude of the miracle that is the Incarnation[1] – God becoming a man.

Consider our leading verse. No other religion[2] in the world makes the claim that their gods willingly depose themselves of all divine powers to assume the life of a human. Then, to top it off, offer themselves as a blood sacrifice in order to save the lowly human race. However, contemplate seriously the significance of these words of Scripture.

“Christ Jesus” – the anointed Savior (meaning of the name) – “who being in the form of God.” The Greek word translated “form” is morphē, and it means “shape” or “nature.” The Apostle John calls Jesus “the Word.” He wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: (John 1:1, emphasis mine). In the Greek, the phrase “the Word was God” literally reads, “God was the Word” — θεος ην ο λογος. What a thing!

Though He was in every way, in very nature, God, He “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Verse 8 clarifies this phrase when it explains that Jesus “humbled Himself.” He did not regard it robbery to lay aside His Divine nature and assume human form in order to redeem fallen humanity. What a Thing!

“He made Himself of no reputation.” This entire phrase is summed up in one Greek word, εκενωσεν (hekenoōsen), which means, “He emptied Himself” without any sense of deprivation. In exchange, “He took upon Himself the morphē (see above) of a servant” – doulos – a “slave.” He “was made in the likeness of men.” The Greek word translated “likeness” is homoiōma meaning “resemblance.” So, not only did He take on the “nature” of man, He “looked” like any other man. There was no halo around Him to distinguish Him from any other man. Of Him Isaiah the prophet said, “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “comeliness” is hâdâr meaning “magnificence,” and “beauty” is the Hebrew word mar-eh’ meaning a “handsome appearance.” So much for those soft-faced images of Jesus, we are so used to seeing! It was not enough that He condescended from His Divine nature to assume the nature of an ordinary, common-looking man, but He took the form of the lowliest kind of man – a slave. Not only did He come as a slave, but He chose a peasant girl for a mother and a stable for His birthplace.[3] What a THING!

The passage goes on to say, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8, emphasis mine). “Fashion” is the Greek word, schēma and it means the “mode, circumstance, or external condition.” The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Man must die eternally to pay the penalty for sin. Unless some sinless one can be found to serve as a suitable sacrifice for all of mankind, every one of us must pay “the wages of sin.”[4] Who could qualify as a suitable sacrifice? “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Therefore, God clad Himself in human flesh and took the penalty for universal sin upon Himself. However, His death was not enough. He conquered death when He rose from the grave on the third day. He paid the sin debt that we owe and broke the curse of death[5] with His resurrection. WHAT A THING!

This Christmas, regardless of the commercialization of the season and regardless of the fact that Jesus was not born on December 25, God’s gift of salvation freely offered to all who will accept it, is worthy of commemoration and celebration. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15, emphasis mine). WHAT A THING!!

Merry Christmas!

Notes:


[1] “Miracle of the Incarnation” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/12/24/miracle-of-the-incarnation/

[2]  “False Religion” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/27/false-religion/

[3]  “Extreme Measures” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/12/11/extreme-measures/

[4]  “Eternal Sacrifice” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/09/30/eternal-sacrifice/

[5]  “Why Jesus?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/12/13/why-jesus/

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The Good Muslim

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  (45)  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. ( Matthew 5:44-45)

At the time of this writing (November 1, 2017), the news is all abuzz over the latest act of jihad by another Muslim terrorist. On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, Halloween, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, drove his rented Home Depot truck onto a bike lane along Manhattan’s West Side Highway killing at least eight and injuring half a dozen others. Saipov, a recent Muslim import, hails from Uzbekistan and entered by way of the “green card lottery” in 2010. The odious piece of legislation that opened the door for Saipov sprang from the frothing cesspool of Demoncrat minds known as the “Diversity Visa Program” – it sounds nice. Demoncrat Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer pushed the legislation through in 1990, as if our nation is not “diverse” enough!

Several people interviewed reported that Saipov was a “nice guy.” No one that knew him suspected that he was capable of such a heinous act. They all thought he was one of the “good Muslims.” I found an interview of one of Saipov’s “Mosque-ovites” (one who worships at the same mosque) less than amusing. The FOX street reporter prompted the “Mosque-ovite” by asking, “How do ‘good Muslims’ respond to these acts of terror?” (or something to that effect). Of course, the “Mosque-ovite” denounced the act in the strongest terms even calling the culprit “an animal.” Apparently, “good Muslims” harbor no tolerance for Muslims who perform acts of terror. But, how do we know that they really believe what they proclaim? Where is the outcry from the Muslim community calling for these acts to stop!

Allow me to say at the onset that I do not believe all Muslims are out to wage war on the “infidels” and convert or kill us all. Surely many Muslims want to live in peace and have a “normal” life; but how can we distinguish “the good Muslim” from the one that seeks to convert infidels through force or otherwise eliminate the infidel from the earth? Good and “bad” Muslims are indistinguishable until one of them receives the inspiration to wage jihad and kill a bunch of innocent people. Then we know—that was one of the bad ones.

From what I have learned about the Muslim religion, “the good Muslim” – “good” by American standards – can be likened to the nominal Christian. The nominal Christian claims the name of Christ. They may or may not attend church services on a regular basis. They probably own a Bible, but rarely open it. If they carry their Bible to church, they will read what is put on the big screen, but they will not open their Bible to see if the preacher quoted the Scripture correctly. A nominal Christian might say, “the Bible says” and then quote some pious platitude that has no basis in Scripture. A nominal Christian believes that all people are basically good and that anyone can go to heaven as long as they exercise good moral behavior and follow the “golden rule.” They conduct themselves by the motto, “live and let live.”

Likewise, “good Muslims” acknowledge Allah as their god.[1] They go to the mosque every Friday and pray five times a day. They may own a Qur’an but not really read it. The Qu’ran is written in Arabic, although there are some parallel versions that have the English translation on one side. I would venture to say that a good majority of American Muslims can neither read nor speak Arabic, so that must rely on the teachings of their Imams. Good Muslims believe that Islam is a religion of peace and that “jihad” is an “inner struggle” to please Allah. While they may believe that infidels are going to hell, they are happy enough to let them go there. They share the same motto with nominal Christians: “Just live and let live.”

From an American perspective, “good Muslims” are just like us. Americans believe that Muslims share the same values, and that “good Muslims” just want to live their lives in peace. However, Americans view the world through a skewed westernized lens that, like it or not, originates from a biblical foundation. Ideas like “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) are basic to the American psyche. “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13) and “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12) are all principles taught in the Bible. Americans, whether they know the Bible or not, pretty much live by these principles; and because they do not know the source, they assume the rest of the world lives by these principles too. Consequently, Americans believe “good Muslims” live by the same principles.

The Bible instructs us to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate you, and to pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you. It teaches that we should treat others as we would have them treat us. We are told not to murder or to lie (Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 14:5). We are instructed to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans. How does the Qur’an[2] compare with what the Bible teaches?

Infidels – anyone who does not adhere to Islam – are enemies according to the Qur’an (2:98; 4:101).[3] The Qur’an teaches that Allah does not love the infidels (3:32, 140), unlike the Bible that teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, since Allah does not love infidels, they must be persecuted (4:104-105; 2:217). Unlike the Bible’s teaching that Christians are to witness for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), the Qur’an teaches that Muslims should “not take the infidels for friends … whoever does this has nothing to do with Allah” (3:28: 4:144; 5:51; 60:1-2). That is pretty harsh! Is it any wonder that Muslims do not assimilate into the American culture? To be sure, Allah encourages emigration for the sake of jihad (2:218), which explains their invasion of Europe, Canada, the U.S., and others. Moreover, Allah encourages the killing of infidels (4:89), and if the Muslim dies in the process of jihad, they automatically gain entry into heaven (3:169; 4:95). Sadly, even this effort carries with it no guarantee: “O you who have believed [i.e. the Muslim], fear Allah and desire the way to him. And perform jihad for his sake, perhaps you may prosper: (5:35, emphasis mine).

More could be said concerning the contrast between the Bible and Qur’an, but from this brief review, Americans should hope that “good Muslims” do not take seriously the Qur’an. When they do take it seriously the contents of this satanic book and convert to “good Muslims” (according to the standards of the Qur’an), it only spells danger for us poor infidels. The problem is further exacerbated when one realizes that Muslims are not obligated to deal honestly with infidels (2:225; 3:28, 54; 9:3; 16:106; 40:28; 66:2). Unlike the Bible that exhorts truthfulness and honesty (Exodus 20:16; Psalm 101:7; Proverbs 12:22; Colossians 3:9-10; et al), the Qur’an encourages Muslims to lie[4] to infidels if it is to their advantage. The practice is known as taqiyya.[5] Knowing this, how can one discern one “good Muslim” from another? One cannot know if a Muslim is nominal, moderate, or a full-fledged jihadist, because their “holy” book discourages them from befriending an infidel unless it is for the dishonest purpose of gaining some advantage. Can the distrust of Muslims honestly be labeled “Islamophobia” when the Muslim “holy” book instructs “good Muslims” to lie to infidels? The Qur’an itself claims that Allah is the greatest liar of all (3:54; 4:142; 8:30). Compare that to the Bible’s teaching that God does not lie (Numbers 23:19). Additionally, the Bible identifies the “father of lies” as Satan (John 8:44).

What are we to do? Surely, there are Muslims that hold their religion in name only and they truly want to live in peace with their neighbors, but the tenets of that religion are incompatible with the American way of life. I desire that they would all convert to Christianity, but barring that, I would be happy if they would just renounce that satanic religion, embrace the law of this land, the United States Constitution, and assimilate into the American culture.

Notes:


[1]  “God Is Not Allah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2013/09/29/god-is-not-allah/

[2]  A English/Arabic paperback copy of the Qur’an can be obtained at Amazon.com. I would recommend the one translated by Abdulla Yusuf, which is the copy I have. For my study, however, I use The Generous Qur’an: An accurate, Modern English Translation of the Qur’an, Islam’s Holiest Book, translated and annotated by Usama K. Dadok. It too is available from Amazon.com.

[3]  Citations from the Qur’an follow the format of Chapter:Verse, e.g. (2:98). The Qur’an does not have “books” like the Bible.

[4]  “Islam Permits Lying to Deceive Unbelievers and Bring World Domination!” – http://muslimfact.com/bm/terror-in-the-name-of-islam/islam-permits-lying-to-deceive-unbelievers-and-bri.shtml

[5]  “Deception, Lying and Taqiyya” – https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/taqiyya.aspx

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Jerusalem

Modern Jerusalem viewed from the Mount of Olives

And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. (1 Kings 11:36)

Emerging from the tunnel cut through the mountain from Jericho, I caught my first glimpse of the “Eternal City,” Jerusalem. I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming emotional “rush” I would get upon my first view of the city – God’s city. Although Jerusalem is in every way a modern city – nothing like it was in Jesus’ day – building codes imposed on new construction maintain the “old” appearance of the city. That probably contributed to my emotional response.

There are cities in the Middle East more ancient than Jerusalem. Damascus, Syria, for example, is first mentioned in Genesis 14:15.  In this account, a confederation of four kings from the area around Damascus came against the kings of the south, in the area around the Dead Sea. One of those cities was Sodom where Abram’s nephew Lot was living. The invading kings sacked the five cities including Sodom and carried off captives of which Lot was one. Abram mustered up a small army of his own servants, pursued the four kings, rescued Lot, and the other captives, and took back the booty taken by the marauding kings. On his return, he encountered Melchizedek, king of Salem (Genesis 14:17-20). Some have supposed that Salem was the same as Jerusalem, but I disagree for several reasons.[1]

Jerusalem[2] is built on the mountains in the land of Moriah. It was “upon one of the mountains” (Genesis 22:2) there that God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. It is noteworthy that God did not instruct Abraham to go to Salem, Jerusalem, or Jebus (Judges 19:10-11; 1 Chronicles 11:4-5). Jebus was the “city of the Jebusites” and the Jebusites were in the land when Abram first arrived (Genesis 15:21), and it seems it would have been an excellent landmark if it existed at the time of Abraham. Instead, God instructed Abraham to go the “land of Moriah” and sacrifice Isaac on one of the mountains there. A normal reading of the text leads one to see this place as isolated and uninhabited. However, this would later become the site of Jerusalem, and the particular mountain on which Isaac was offered would become the site of the Temple “in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (2 Chronicles 3:1). Eventually, God would sacrifice His own Son, on the mountains of Moriah.

This alone makes Jerusalem a special place. Geographically, Jerusalem is located near the center of earth’s total landmass.[3] More than this, God stamped His name on Jerusalem.[4] Jews associate the Hebrew letter “Shin” (ש) with the name of God. They derive this from the “Shama” (meaning “hear”) in Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” Jerusalem – the “Old City” is situated on the mountains of Moriah, which are flanked by two valleys – the Kidron, and Tyropean – with a third, the Hinnom (Gehenna), that runs down the center to join the other two. The topography forms the letter “Shin” the symbol of God’s name. The land of Israel has a similar stamp where the three headwaters of the Jordon River join together to form the letter “Shin.”

The mountains of Moriah are made up of three mountain heads: Ophel, Moriah, and Zion. “Ophel” means “My Fortress” and represents God the Father. “Moriah” means “to see God” or “to be seen of God” and represents God the Son. “Zion” means “the Mark” and represents God the Holy Spirit who is the “seal” or the “mark” of all believers. One mountain range with three heads representing one God in three persons.

Jerusalem, as stated earlier, is the “Eternal City.” When Jesus returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He will come to Jerusalem. “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). Jesus will physically reign from His Temple in Jerusalem. A river will flow from his throne here and will run to the east and into the Dead Sea, which will be healed (Ezekiel 47:8-9).

At the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, God will create a “new heaven and a new earth,” and a “New Jerusalem” will descend from heaven to a recreated earth (Revelation 21:1-2) where those of us who are His children will reign forever with Him. As beautiful as Jerusalem is today, it will not compare to the New Jerusalem where not just God’s name will dwell, but God Himself will dwell with us!

Reader, if you are unsure where you will spend eternity, read my page on Heaven.

Notes:


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

[2]  “Hebrew Word Study – Jerusalem – Part I” – http://livingwordin3d.com/discovery/2016/12/18/hebrew-word-study-jerusalem-part-i/

[3]  “The Center of the Earth” – http://www.icr.org/article/50

[4]  “Jerusalem – I Will Put My Name There – Amazing Revelations” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZO_eRmR2ho

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Pressed Three Times

First-century olive press in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. (Matthew 26:36)

We recently returned from our first “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land. If I never check off another item on my “bucket list,” this is enough. To walk in the land where God stamped His name defies description, so I will not even try. God assumed human form and traversed this land from Jerusalem to the Galilee; we also set foot on many of the same places.

On one of those stops, we visited the ruins of the city of Capernaum. Jesus made this city His “headquarters” as He ministered around the Sea of Galilee. Peter made his home here as did Andrew, his brother, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Here He called Levi (Matthew) away from the customs table to follow Him (Mark 2:1, 14). Capernaum was the site of many of Jesus’ miracles, yet the people did not believe (John 6:26-29); therefore Jesus cursed the city (Matthew 11:23-24). The city came to ruin from an earthquake the leveled it in 749 A.D.

In 1838, American explorer Edward Robinson discovered the ruins of ancient Capernaum,[1] and excavations at the site continue to the present. One of the more interesting finds uncovered at the site is an ancient olive press dating back to the first century. This olive press would have been used in Capernaum when Jesus lived there.

Olives growing on an olive tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel

Olives, besides being good to eat, produce oil useful for many purposes. Extracting the oil from the olives required three pressings.[2] The first pressing extracted the purest “virgin” olive oil used for lighting the menorah and other lamps in the Temple. It was also for ceremonial anointing of special servants of God such as priests (Exodus 28:41; 29:4-7), kings (1 Samuel 15:1; 16:12-13), and also for the implements used in the Temple (Exodus 40:9). After extracting the virgin olive oil, the crushed olives were placed into burlap sacks, which were placed in the mortar table for a second pressing. A heavy weight was then added to the pestle wheel. The second pressing produced less pure oil suitable for common use such as cooking, medicine, and fuel for lamps. More weight was then added to the wheel for the third and final pressing, which extracted lye for making soap. At this point, the olives had nothing left to give.

In Jerusalem to the east of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley, rises a hill that has large olive groves aptly named the Mount of Olives or Olivet.

The Dome of the Rock stands where the Temple used to be in Jesus’ day. Across the Kidron Valley is the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.

In Jesus’ day, amongst the olive trees, there was a garden that had an olive press. The name of the garden was Gethsemane, which means oil press. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus went there to pray with His disciples. He left eight of His disciples further down the hill, but His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, He took up to the place of pressing. “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38, emphasis mine). He knew way lay ahead for Him. The physical pain and agony He knew awaited Him would make any man seek to escape, but that was not what pressed on Him. He was God in the flesh. He was sinless. Soon, the sin of all mankind would fall on Him. Soon that sin would sever His relationship with the Father. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis mine). He returned to His closest disciples only to find them sleeping (Matthew 26:40-41). The first press was done. “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42, emphasis mine.). “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). “And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy” (Matthew 26:43). The second press was complete. “And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44, emphasis mine). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, emphasis mine). “Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). He gave all He had to give. With the final press completed, He said, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:46, emphasis mine). He did not wait for His accusers to find Him. He went out to meet them!

There in the Garden of the Olive Press, He was pressed three times, and He gave His all. He gave up His anointing as King. He gave up His human body – the only suitable sacrifice for sin. He gave the last dregs of His being to cleanse us from our sins, and open the way to eternal life with Him, if we will only accept His sacrifice.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus who gave His all for you, do not delay any longer. Soon He will return, or you may otherwise meet your end. Either way, it will be too late. “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, …” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Read my page on Heaven.

Notes:


[1]  “Capernaum” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capernaum

[2]  “Oil Presses in the Holy Land” – http://www.biblewalks.com/Info/OilPresses.html

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Filed under Christianity, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Theology

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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Filed under Christianity, End Times, Religion