Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

The First Sight

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

 

The book of Revelation puzzles many who read it. It seems strange and sometimes bizarre. Many avoid the book because the contents elicit fear about the predictions of things to come. However, the book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to those who read, hear, and apply its contents. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).

Revelation opens with the last remaining apostle of Jesus, the Apostle John, “in the Spirit the Lord’s Day.”[1] The Roman government arrested and exiled John to the prison island of Patmos for preaching the disruptive Gospel of Jesus Christ.[2]

The initial recipients of the book were seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.[3] To these, the risen Christ addresses individual letters.[4] These churches existed in John’s day, but because of the commendations and reproofs Jesus gives to these churches, some have seen in them patterns of each throughout church history.

John then describes his first glimpse of Jesus as though in a vision. This is not the Jesus John remembers during His earthly ministry. This Jesus is awesome to behold. John says, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:12-16). The dazzling sight caused John to fall at His feet in awestruck fear, but that tender, familiar voice reassured him of the One he loved. “… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).

John saw Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands holding seven stars in His right hand. Jesus explained to him that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches and the seven stars represented the seven angels, i.e., messengers or pastors, of the seven churches.[5] The image reminds us that Jesus dwells among His churches and that He keeps and protects the pastors of His churches in His right hand (a position of power). This should also serve as a warning to pastors. Just as Jesus’ right hand protects His messengers, He also has the power to crush the pastor that fails in his responsibility to Jesus’ Bride, the Church.

As noted earlier, Jesus dictates direct messages to each of the seven churches. Immediately following the last word to the church of Laodicea, John looks up and sees an open door in heaven and hears a sound (Greek: phōnē) like that of a trumpet that said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2, emphasis mine).

Many see the Rapture of the Church in these verses. John is commanded to “come up here” and “immediately” he sees the throne of God for the first time. From this point forward, the Church no longer appears on earth until Christ returns with His saints in Chapter 19.

There are many who teach that the Rapture is not taught in the Bible. They correctly argue that the word “rapture” appears nowhere in the Bible. However, neither do the words bible or trinity, yet no one will argue that these concepts are not taught in the Bible. “Rapture” translates the Greek word harpazō into the Latin raptus meaning “to seize; to catch away or up; to pluck, pull, or take by force”. This is what happened to John. He was on the earth and “immediately” he was caught away into the throne room of God.

Jesus gave us the first promise of the Rapture before going to the cross. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). Paul teaches of the time when the trumpet shall sound and our corrupt bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves, and we who are alive will join them to meet Jesus in the air.[6]

John enters the presence of God and his first sight is the throne of God. The person seated on the throne appears not as a human or any other creature, but rather as a glorious splendor. Of Him, John says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The Bible teaches that God has no human form, except in the form of Jesus. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, emphasis mine). John was given a privilege that even Moses (or anyone else for that matter) was denied. Moses, who spoke with God face-to-face as with a friend,[7] wanted to see God in His glory, but God denied his request, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20, emphasis mine). Yet, somehow John saw God in all of His glory and did not die. In our corrupt human bodies, we cannot withstand the glory of God’s presence. However, at the Rapture, our bodies will be transformed in such a way that we can be in the presence of God in His full glory and not be harmed, just like John.

The scene overwhelmed John. There were lightnings, thunders, and voices. Around the throne of God, John saw 24 thrones upon which seven elders sat wearing white robes and crowns of gold.[8] Some suppose these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Others suggest that they merely represent believers of all the ages. In either case, the white robes represent the righteousness of Christ conferred on them. The golden crowns are stephanos, which are “victors crowns” awarded to them for conquering sin, not through their own righteousness, but through the blood of Christ.

John then sees seven lampstands around the throne defined as the “seven spirits of God” Some suggest that these seven lampstands represent seven attributes of the Holy Spirit as described by the prophet Isaiah. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him [i.e., Jesus], the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2, emphasis mine). We know that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and thereby indwells the Church. In the first chapter, John sees Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands, which represent the churches. Now, these same lampstands (i.e., churches) are seen around the throne of God. I see the lampstands representing both the Holy Spirit and the churches wherein the Holy Spirit resides. The attributes described by Isaiah certainly apply as well.

Around the throne is a crystal sea. It is difficult to know what John saw in this. It is all strange and wonderful and beyond words to describe. John could only relate what he saw by his limited earthly vocabulary. But then he sees four strange creatures full of eyes and with six wings each. One “beast” had the head of a lion, the second the head of a calf, the third the head of a man, and the fourth the head of an eagle.[9] The eyes represent the omniscience of God and the four different heads represent all of God’s creatures: wild animals, domestic animals, human beings, and avian life. All of God’s creation never ceasing to praise Him day or night “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

John then observed that when these praised God, the 24 elders prostrate themselves and cast their victor’s crowns before the throne saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

With the focus on the throne, John spots something new. “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, emphasis mine). By its description, we know that this “book” is actually a scroll – perhaps parchment – with writing on both sides, rolled up and secured with seven seals. Many suggest that this scroll represents the title dead to the earth and the kingdoms thereof. When God created the earth, He gave dominion over the earth to man whom He created in His image on the sixth day of creation.[10] However, man lost that dominion when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.[11] The dominion of earth transferred to Satan. Paul calls him the “god of this world.”[12] When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would only bow down and worship him. “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 4:6, emphasis mine). However, his ownership is only temporary.

Then John saw and heard a strong angel proclaim, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (Revelation 5:2). And no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth was found worthy to take the scroll and break the seals. The situation was dire indeed. All of God’s creation hung in the balance and there was no one to come to the rescue. John says, “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4).

John’s tears were soon assuaged. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof,” John says, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:5-6). John the Baptist saw this Lamb come to him to be baptized in the Jordan and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was slain on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose again on the third day.[13] Horns represent kingdoms and the Lamb has seven representing completion. All the kingdoms belong to Him. He is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Seven eyes suggest omniscience with all the attributes of the seven Spirits of God.

Only the Lamb, by virtue of His sacrifice, is worthy to take and open the scroll. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Revelation 5:7). When the Lamb took the scroll, a great celebration broke out in heaven. The four living creatures and the 24 elders prostrate themselves before the Lamb. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then the rest of heaven breaks out in praise, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).

Worthy indeed! I cannot imagine how John must have felt at the first sight of heaven and the throne of God. I cannot wait to see it for myself!

The 14 chapters that follow bring us back to earth and the events that will transpire during the seven-year Tribulation. The scenes are horrific. However, the Church, the Bride of Christ, will not experience the horrors of the Tribulation. The Church, as we saw will be around the throne of God and not on earth. Will you be there or will you experience the horrors that are coming upon the earth? Your ticket out of here was purchased by Jesus more than 2000 years ago. All you have to do is accept it. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 1:10

[2]  Revelation 1:9

[3]  Revelation 1:11

[4]  Revelation 2-3

[5]  Revelation 1:20

[6]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[7]  Exodus 33:11

[8]  Revelation 4:4

[9]  Revelation 4:6-8

[10]  Genesis 1:26-28

[11]  Genesis 3

[12]  2 Corinthians 4:4

[13]  1 Corinthians 15:3-4

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, End Times, Eschatology, Gospel, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Origins, Rapture, Resurrection, Satan, Second Coming of Christ, Theology, Worship

The LORD Is With Thee

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Gideon], and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. (Judges 6:12)

 The Midianites and the Amalekites had been harassing the Israelites for over seven years. These ancient-day terrorists waited until their crops were harvested, and they would swoop down like locusts and strip the land clean of all that the Israelites had worked for, including their livestock. “[Because] of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds” (Judges 6:2).

Their affliction resulted from the vicious cycle of disobedience to God, God’s punishment for their disobedience, a cry to God for deliverance, God’s mercy and forgiveness at the hand of a deliverer, followed by a time of peace, and then the cycle started over again. They never learned! So, here they were again. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Judges 6:1).

Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh, feared the Midianites like the rest of Israel did. He devised a plan to hide his wheat harvest from the raiders by threshing it under a tree near a winepress.[1] Normally, this would have been done in the open on a hard threshing floor.  An animal – an ox, donkey, mule, etc. – walked on the wheat to break the husk surrounding the kernel. Once that was done, the wheat was tossed in the air allowing the wind to carry away the chaff (the husk) leaving the kernel to fall to the ground to be gathered. Gideon’s method involved a lot of extra work, but it would not raise any suspicion from the Midianites.

In this cowering position, “the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). This was no ordinary angel. Without exception, “the Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament is the “preincarnate” Christ known as a “theophany” or “Christophany” in theological terms. We know this because the “angel” takes full credit for what God is going to do and accepts sacrifices offered to Him. No ordinary angel does that; instead, they say, “Thus saith the LORD” and give full credit to God.

I can imagine Gideon’s reaction to the Angel addressing him as “thou mighty man of valor.” Here he was hiding in fear of the Midianites. I can see him looking around to see if there was anyone else nearby. Seeing no one else around, I hear him say, “Who? Me? Are you talking to Me?” Gideon must have been incredulous!

Gideon felt, and rightly so, that God had forsaken Israel. He recalled how God had delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the Promised Land by many miracles, but now they were handed over to the Midianites.[2] “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14). First God calls him a “mighty man of valor,” and now he is told that he – the cowering wheat farmer – will save Israel from the Midianites. Note how the Angel gives the command directly. “Have I not sent thee?” He does not say, “Thus saith the LORD;” He is the LORD.

Like Moses, Gideon offered up excuses as to why he was not the right man for the job. “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). But Jesus assured him that He was the right man. “And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). Gideon would not be alone in this effort.

Gideon still needed more proof. So, he brought an offering of a kid (young goat), unleavened bread, and flour and laid it on a rock. The Angel put out His staff and touched the offering, and it was instantly consumed in fire showing that God accepted the offering.[3] At this point, Gideon realized that he was face-to-face with God giving him another reason for fear. He remembered what God said to Moses: “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Jesus understood Gideon’s fear. “And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6:23).

Gideon’s first assignment was to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and replace it with an altar to God. Gideon still had reservations, so he performed the task at night. The following day, the men of the town came looking for Gideon to kill him for destroying the Baal altar. His father, obviously repentant, defended him. “And Joash [Gideon’s father] said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar” (Judges 6:31). This gave Gideon confirmation that God was with him.

“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel” (Judges 6:33). Gideon’s next assignment was to get rid of Israel’s enemies. Gideon still had reservations and needed further proof. So, he put God to the test. First, he challenged God by laying out a fleece on the ground and asking God to send dew on the fleece only, but leave the ground dry. God answered his request. The next night he did the same but wanted the ground to be wet with dew and the fleece to remain dry. God again answered his request. Gideon was convinced.[4]

Gideon rallied an army of 32,000 men from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.[5] The opposing army boasted at least 135,000 men.[6] Gideon’s army faced four-to-one odds. God wanted all the credit for the victory, so He told Gideon to send all the fearful home. Twenty-two thousand (22,000) left leaving Gideon with only 10,000 men. The odds now were about 14 to 1. God said that was still too many.

There was spring near Gideon’s camp, and God gave a test. Any man who stooped down on hands and knees to drink from the spring was to be sent home. Those who cupped water in their hand and lapped up the water from their hands – showing that they remained vigilant – were kept. Gideon’s army was now down to just 300 men. The odds were now 450 to 1 – better odds for God![7]

Understandably, Gideon had doubts. To assuage his fear, God told Gideon to take his aid, Phurah, and sneak into the Midianite camp at night to spy it out. When he came near one of the tents, he overheard one man tell his companion of his dream. His companion interpreted the dream as an omen that Gideon would attack the camp and destroy them all. Hearing this gave Gideon courage.[8]

Gideon took his 300 men that same night and divided them into three companies surrounding the enemy camp. With rams’ horns, torches, and clay jars, Gideon’s army stood and made a lot of noise. They surprised and startled the enemy to the point of panic, and they turned their swords each against the other.[9] Gideon’s army did nothing to win the battle except make a lot of noise. God won the battle for them.

We often face obstacles, problems, and troubles that seem insurmountable for us. We fear because we know full well that we cannot overcome our trials. They are too big and too difficult for us to conquer. When we do try to fix them ourselves, we usually end up making things worse for ourselves. It is at these times that we need to hear God say, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour … Surely I will be with thee.” He does not need our strength to fight our battles. He just needs our faith and trust in Him. “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).

Often, we fear the unknown – all the “what-ifs” of life. God is already in our tomorrows, and He has it all under control.[10] Jesus said that He knows His own, and His own know Him.[11] And those who belong to Him have the assurance that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The LORD is with thee.

Do you live in fear of what the future holds for you? Do you feel helpless to face all the troubles in your life? Why not let God take control of your life? You will not regret it and retirement is out of this world. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Judges 6:11

[2]  Judges 6:13

[3]  Judges 6:17-21

[4]  Judges 6:36-40

[5]  Judges 6:35; 7:3

[6]  Judges 8:10

[7]  Judges 7:1-8

[8]  Judges 7:9-15

[9]  Judges 7:19-25

[10]  Isaiah 46:9-10

[11]  John 10:14

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Theology

Psalm 23

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

The LORD. This is the personal name of God, YHWH, revealed to Moses at Mount Horeb[1] in response to Moses’ question “[when] they shall say to me, What is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14). To the Jews, His name is so holy, so sacred, that they will not attempt to pronounce the name. Instead, they substitute “Adoni” (LORD) or “Ha Shem” (the name). The LORD is the Creator who made heaven and earth.[2] The opening statement of the Bible asserts, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). John’s Gospel opens with a similar statement attributed to Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3, emphasis mine). All things came into existence with only the power of His spoken Word, which testifies to His omnipotence. The LORD is possessor, and master of all He has created.[3]

Is my Shepherd. A good shepherd cares for his flock and will risk his life to protect his sheep. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The Good Shepherd knows his sheep individually. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). He knows His own so well that He will seek out the one out of 100 that gets lost.[4]

I shall not want. Because the LORD, the Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth, is my Shepherd who willingly gave His life for me, all my needs will be met. I will want for nothing.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. To lie down implies rest. Green pastures are peaceful. Because the pastures are green, they provide rich nourishment. Again, the LORD provides abundantly.

He leads me beside the still waters. Sheep fear moving water. If they fall into rushing water, their wool gets saturated with water and they drown. They know this, so they will not go near it. However, still water is no threat. My Shepherd not only leads me to still waters, but He gives “living water”[5] that leads to eternal life.

He restores my soul. That is, He brings my soul back to life. “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, emphasis mine). My Shepherd is the One who gives true life. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He leads me by His Word through His Spirit in the right way, and He does this for His reputation. In another place, the psalmist writes, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). He also says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Concerning the Word of God, Paul writes, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. When I go through dark and troubled times, even where death lurks nearby, I have no fear because I know my Shepherd is near to protect me in every circumstance. I can rest in His promise “[That] we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I am His, and I have been “called according to His purpose” I know my Shepherd and He knows me by name.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The rod is used for discipline. Wise King Solomon advised, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24). I know that my Shepherd loves me and He will punish me when I sin, but He will never disown me. Paul reminds us of the words of Job[6] when he writes, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5). The shepherd’s staff has a crook or “hook” at one end which is used to pull back a sheep that wanders away from the flock. My Shepherd’s staff is the Holy Spirit which constantly works to pull me back when I tend to wander away into sin. His rod and staff comfort me knowing that His desire is to keep me near His side.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. His “table” is a feast that awaits me in His presence. Even now, I enjoy His rich blessings which come in countless forms. Ultimately, my enemies are the demonic forces that would destroy my life, but they cannot. They can only stand by and witness God’s grace on me, and they hate it.

Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup overflows. In the Old Testament, anointing the head with oil consecrated, or set apart, an individual as king or priest. The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on a person. The Apostle John reminds us that Jesus loved us and washed us from our sin with His own blood, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6, emphasis mine). Paul explains it this way, “Now he which [established] us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). His anointing is more than sufficient; it overflows my life.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. It is a sure thing. His goodness – all of His rich blessings – and mercy – sparing me the punishment I deserve for my sins – will go with me through all my days of this earthly life.

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. We sometimes think of our church buildings as “the house of God.” That is true in a sense. However, God does not live or dwell in a building. In the Old Testament, God’s presence, manifested by His shekinah glory, resided in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. However, when Judah sinned through idolatry and desecrated the Temple through pagan worship, God’s glory departed the Temple and never returned.[7] When Jesus died on the cross, Matthew records that the veil of the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn from top to bottom[8] opening the way into the presence of God. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended and rested as a “tongue of fire” over the heads of the disciples gathered in the upper room.[9] The flame represented the shekinah glory of God that had departed the Temple, now indwelling the believers by way of the Holy Spirit. The dwelling of God was now truly with man. Indeed, Paul reminds us of this truth when he writes, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). But more than that, we have the promise that we have a place with Him in His eternal home. Before the cross, Jesus assured us of this fact. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). So, I am certain that “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Notes:


[1]  Exodus 3:1

[2]  Exodus 20:11; 31:17; 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chronicles 2:12; Psalm 115:15, et. al

[3]  Genesis 14:19, 22

[4]  Luke 15:1-7

[5]  John 4:10; 7:38

[6]  Job 5:17

[7]  Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-23

[8]  Matthew 27:51

[9]  Acts 2:2-4

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Heaven, Theology

All New Things

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

 We have entered the new year, 2023. How does the future look? Do you think this year will be better than last?

Let us take a sober look at conditions worldwide. North Korea is testing nuclear ballistic missiles and threatening South Korea. China continues to build up its military and threatening the tiny island nation of Taiwan. Iran is within weeks of enriching weapons-grade uranium and continues to threaten Israel and the United States. Russia relentlessly batters the sovereign nation of Ukraine without regard for millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens. Russia, Turkey, and Iran along with their allies are amassing armies and military equipment in Syria and setting the stage for the Gog of Magog war against Israel described in Ezekiel 38-39. The wars and rumors of wars Jesus predicted are all over the world.

Violence permeates the entire world. There are riots in China, Iran, Russia, France, Brazil, and many other nations. Here in the United States, violent crimes go unanswered. Jesus said the last days would be as in the days of Noah,[1] which were days filled with violence.[2] Jesus also said that the last days would be as the days of Lot.[3] Those days were characterized by rampant sexual deviancy.[4] Consider what goes on today with the LGBTQ+ movement and their agenda to pervert innocent children with their drag queen shows that they conduct with children. What are the parents thinking! Children are being trafficked for sexual purposes to deviants and perverts, and if that is not bad enough, abortion continues to rise even with the reversal of Roe v Wade.

On top of all of that, economies are failing all over the world. When that happens, evil leaders become desperate and look to war in order to distract their people from their sufferings. Vladimir Putin has openly made threats of nuclear attacks on any nation that opposes his advances on Ukraine. North Korea, China, and Iran echo their own threats. Meanwhile, the Globalists, many of whom are powerful people in our own government, lick their chops like buzzards circling a dying corpse, eagerly waiting on the demise of the nations so they can come in, “build back better” and install a New World Order.

Our world is sick and getting sicker by the day; 2023 offers no hope for improvement.

What follows, I wrote two years ago with a few changes to bring it up to date.

I am not a pessimist, but I do read what the Bible has to say about the end times. If the Bible is true (and it is), things will get worse before the Lord returns. Jesus said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8, emphasis mine).

Does that not sound familiar these days? So, do not expect 2023 to get better; it will only get worse. Now, what do we do in light of this dismal outlook; crawl under a rock and hide away? NO! We face the future with the assurance that God has all things in His control.

 What Does God Have to Say About It?

As Moses prepared Israel to enter the Promised Land, a new land filled with giants, dangers, and unknowns, he encouraged them not to fear because God was with them. “Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21, emphasis mine). As Israel prepared for battle against their enemies, the priests were to encourage the people, “And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4, emphasis mine). The unknown is frightening, but God promises to go with us and even to fight our battles,

So, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6, emphasis mine). When we attempt to face challenges on our own, WE WILL FAIL, but God will never fail us or leave us alone.

God has unlimited resources. When Syria harassed Israel, their efforts were constantly thwarted because God, through Elisha, warned the king of Israel before every attack. The king of Syria suspected that he had a spy within his ranks, but one of his servants told him about Elisha the prophet who warned the king of Israel ahead of every attack. Therefore, the king of Syria sent an army and surrounded Elisha’s house. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17, emphasis mine).

“And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:20, emphasis mine). David referred to the Temple Solomon would build. Solomon had the promise that God would not abandon him until the work was complete. Today, believers are the “living temples” of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). As long as God lends us breath, we have work to do “for the service of the house of the LORD.”

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness … For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13, emphasis mine). When we trust God, He is our strength and our help, He sustains us and holds our right hand.

 Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7, emphasis mine). God cares for all of His creation, even those we would count as insignificant. He knows us intimately, even to the most minute detail – the number of hairs on our heads. Since God cares so much for common sparrows, how much more does He care for those created in His image?

What Can We Do?

When Babylon conquered Judah, Nebuchadnezzar carried away the Jews in three deportations. Nebuchadnezzar set Gedaliah as governor over Judah after the third deportation to Babylon. They were going into captivity. In that circumstance, the people are encouraged to “fear not,” accept the situation, and it would be well with them. “And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you” (Jeremiah 40:9; 2 Kings 25:24, emphasis mine). God promises to be with us even in difficult situations.

Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “fear” (used twice in this verse) is phobeō, from which we get the English word “phobia.” Strong’s defines it this way: “to frighten, that is, (passively) to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, that is, revere: – be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence” (emphasis mine). With that in mind, Jesus says not to fear or be frightened of those that can kill the body – that would include COVID-19. Rather, we should “revere” the One who ultimately determines our eternal destiny.

When Jesus selected His disciples, Luke records the account this way: “And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10, emphasis mine). The world may be falling down all around us, but we are not to “shelter in place.” Jesus gave us the “good news” for us to share with those around us.

Jesus also said, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:29-34, emphasis mine). We are not to be overly concerned with our material needs. Jesus promises that God will provide what we need.

 “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation [i.e., behavior/conduct] in Christ” (1 Peter 3:12-16, emphasis mine). When we are secure in the Lord’s care, we can be confident to face whatever the future may bring. When others see our confidence, they will want to know the reason for it, and we need to be prepared to give an answer.

 Conclusion:

We cannot stop 2023 from coming. We cannot alter the circumstances that 2023 will bring. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). However, we can control our own outlook when we place our trust in God knowing that all things are under His control and that He cares for His own. Again, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, emphasis mine). Ultimately, we have the promise of eternal life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-5).

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 24:37-38

[2]  Genesis 6:13

[3]  Luke 17:28

[4]  Genesis 19:5

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Eschatology, Gospel, Holidays, New Year's Day, Theology

The Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:6)

In Sunday School, our pastor is leading us through a study from John Owen’s book, Rules for Walking in Fellowship.

Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683. —J. I. Packer[1]

In our pastor’s absence, I was asked to bring this Sunday’s lesson from the book. It is indeed a very good lesson entitled “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” which is the 15th chapter in Owens’ book. At the end of the lesson, Owens gives directions on how to apply the principles in the lesson. For the first direction, Owens says, “A proper valuing, strong desire, and high esteem of the church’s prosperity, in every member of it (Ps. 122:6)” – (emphasis mine).

I do not know a lot about John Owens other than he was and is a highly regarded reformed theologian and Puritan preacher. I do not know what his views were on eschatology (the study of end times), however, in the quote above, his use of Psalm 122:6 in connection to the church is misapplied.

I do not want to disparage such a great man of God as John Owen, but the verse, when taken literally as it should be, is speaking of Jerusalem not the Church. A parallel between Jerusalem and the church can certainly be drawn here in the form of allegory, but to make a direct connection cannot be supported if one takes the words of Scripture literally. Jerusalem/Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Jerusalem/Israel.

In Owens’ defense, he was living at a time when Israel did not exist and had not existed for over 1500 years. Many theologians of that time believed that God had rejected Israel for their rejection of their Messiah and that the Church had replaced Israel. However, not all theologians took that position. Those that did not hold to that “replacement theology” believed that God would restore Israel in the end times. They came to this conclusion from the clear, literal teaching of the Old Testament prophets. I do not know to which camp Owens belonged, so I will withhold judgement.

I will, however, attempt to point out the error in “replacement theology” as concisely as possible. When one studies the Old Testament prophets, one quickly finds God’s repeated promises to (1) scatter Israel to the four corners of the earth, (2) to draw them back into their own land, (3) to restore the nation of Israel once again, and (4) to save the remanent of Israel in the “latter days.” The following is just a small sample of God’s promises to Israel.

And the LORD shall scatter you [Israel] among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. (Deuteronomy 4:27)

And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you [Israel] to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (Deuteronomy 28:63-67)

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4)

The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Isaiah 10:21-22)

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:5-7)

Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:12-16)

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:4-6)

Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: (Isaiah 66:8-10)

At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:17-18)

I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them. (Jeremiah 9:16)

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD … Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jeremiah 23:3-4; 7-8)

There are more. Ezekiel 36 speaks of the scattering and regathering of Israel to and from the nations. Ezekiel 37 presents Israel as a valley of dry bones that God brings together and raises up into a mighty army. In that chapter, God also promises that the “two sticks” (Judah and Israel, the divided kingdoms) will reunite as one.

All of these prophecies deal with the nation of Israel, not the Church. Why is this important? It is important because the integrity of God is at stake. If God can break His covenant with Israel, what guarantee is there that He will keep His promises to the Church? Face it, the “Church” these days these days is not a pristine virgin!

Therefore, because God is faithful, He will keep His promises to Israel and to the Church as well. Israel and the Church are two separate entities, but salvation is the same for both. When the psalmist, David, says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” there is only One Peace that can effectively apply and that is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.[2]

So, in a way, Owens was correct in applying the psalm to the Church by way of allegory, but not in a literal sense. We are to pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem” because only He can bring true peace to the world. When we pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem,” we pray that the Lord will soon come and set up His kingdom on earth. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As for the Church, the kingdom, in part, has already come and dwells within the heart of every believer and the Church as a whole by way of the Holy Spirit who gives us peace. Then, one day, perhaps very soon, we will enjoy His physical kingdom here on earth along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I can hardly wait!

Dear reader, do you know the Prince of Peace? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  About | John Owen

[2]  Isaiah 9:6

Comments Off on The Peace of Jerusalem

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, End Times, Eschatology, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology