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Being Gods

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?       (John 10:34)

When Satan met Eve in the Garden of Eden, he charged that by His prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God denied Adam and Eve of something good. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, emphasis mine).

Being gods remains mankind’s greatest desire. We all want to have complete, unfettered control of our lives with no one telling us what to do; and we want, as much as possible, to exert influence and control over others. The latter becomes more apparent daily as we witness the radical left’s efforts to alter the course of our nation. The strong desire to force upon our society their radical agenda manifests itself in unprecedented violence across our land. They want to be the gods that dictate what we all should do.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. History records the rise and fall of numerous demagogues. Bringing it closer to home, we might be tempted to deflect the guilt to them and deny that we harbor the same desire to make our own rules and impose them on others. We all like being gods to one extent or another.

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders wanted to be gods, although they would never admit to that. They were the keepers of God’s law, and from their self-perceived superior position, they sought to impose their perception of God’s law on others. They enjoyed their position of control. They were being gods without knowing it. However, they met their match with Jesus. Him they could not control, so they sought to destroy Him.

It was the winter before His crucifixion around the time of Hanukkah (John 10:22). The Jewish religious leaders surrounded Jesus with the hope of finding something with which to accuse Him of a capital offense. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus referred to His countless miracles, of which no doubt they were familiar, in His defense. Nevertheless, the clear evidence escaped these “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24). Their incapacity to perceive the truth centered on the question of ownership. They were not Jesus’ sheep (John 10:26-27); they were their own “gods;” therefore they could not recognize His authority or submit to His direction.

Since the clear evidence eluded them, Jesus plainly told them what they wanted to hear, “I and [the][1] Father are one” (John 10:30). That was plain enough. Jesus made it clear that not only is He equal to God (the Father), He is the same as the Father. The message came through loud and clear. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:31). They got what they were after. He deserved to be stoned “for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33).

Jesus then quoted from Psalm 82, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34). The psalm begins with this declaration: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1). Considering the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, “the mighty” and “the gods” are the same.[2] To “the mighty” and “the gods” God challenges, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2). Then He charges, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). These mighty gods are none other than the leaders of the people – ordinary men in extraordinary positions of power and authority. Yet, according to the psalm, they are ignorant of God’s laws and supplant them with laws of their own devices, so that “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5). To these demigods, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 8:6-7). God confers the appellation of “gods” on these rulers in that they are “children” of God. As such, they are God’s representatives on the earth, “princes” to carry out God’s will on earth. However, they are not more special than other men. They will die just like every other man.

The psalm ends with a cry for God to, “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations” (Psalm 82:8). In the end, the One true God will reign over all the earth, and here He was standing before the Jewish leaders. God accused of blasphemy by the little gods.

Solomon rightly lamented, “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, emphasis mine). We still try to be our own gods – set our own rules and impose our will on others. Since the Garden of Eden, we continue being gods, even if only in our minds. The sooner we learn to let God be God, the sooner we can enjoy the peace and rest that only God can give. To all who are tired of being gods, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour [at being gods] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Notes:


[1]  The KJV inserts “my” in italics where the Greek text (Textus Receptus) used the definite article “the” before “Father.”  εγω και ο πατηρ εν εσμεν

[2]  Michael S. Heiser, in his book The Unseen Realm, suggests that the elohim (gods) in this psalm refers to the “congregation” of the bene elohim (sons of God) that make up the council of God.  These include both God’s angels and Satan’s angels as seen in Job 1. That idea is not implausible, however, based on Jesus’ reference to it, it can also apply to mankind.

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Only Eight Saved

Noah, a Preacher of Righteousness

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

One of the many attributes of God is that He is longsuffering. The English word first appears in Exodus. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation (Exodus 34:6-7). The word “longsuffering” translates two Hebrew words: ‘ârêk meaning long or patient and ‘aph meaning nose or nostril, hence the face. Together they picture the face of God as He patiently looks on His wayward children. The word appears three other times in the Old Testament: Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15.

In the New Testament, “longsuffering” appears 13 times. It appears first in Romans 2:4, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” In the New Testament, “longsuffering” translates the Greek compound word, makrothumiamakrós meaning “long” and thymós meaning “passion, anger.” Together they render “long-passion,” i.e., waiting a long time before expressing anger.

God’s longsuffering can be misconstrued as indulgence, leniency, or indifference. On the extreme side, some interpret God’s apparent laxness in punishing evil to mean that God does not exist. However, that is not what the Bible teaches. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God patiently waits a long time giving sinners sufficient opportunity to repent. He does this for individuals and for mankind in general.

Not long after God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, the couple disobeyed God’s only command, which brought death – separation between God, the Creator, and man, the creature – to all their posterity (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). Cain was born first (Genesis 4:1), and Abel came sometime after (Genesis 4:2). As the narrative unfolds, we learn that Cain rebelled in his offering to God, while Abel sacrificed according to God’s prescription. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s, and this incited Cain to jealousy and anger. Eventually, Cain murdered his brother, and God banished him from the rest of the family. [1] Cain’s progeny followed their father’s rebellious attitude to the point that murder was a bragging right. “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23-24).

God’s longsuffering produced in Adam and Eve a son in the place of godly Abel. “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Genesis 4:25). Over the next 1500 years or so, the human population of earth exploded and became perverse. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). Even God’s longsuffering has its limits.

Seth’s line, however, remained pure to the end. “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:7-8). God instructed Noah to build a massive barge, 450’ x 75’ x 45’,[2] large enough to carry all who would be saved. It took Noah less than 100 years to complete his task.[3] In that time, Noah did all that he could to warn the people of the coming Flood. Peter describes Noah as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) demonstrating God’s longsuffering in providing a warning to an ungodly world.

The Ark had sufficient space to save many besides Noah and his family. The “kinds”[4] of animals onboard probably took up less than half of the available space. At one time, I calculated that the Ark could have carried more than 2400 human passengers,[5] yet only eight were saved. I wonder whether God would have sent the Flood if 2400 had listened to Noah’s preaching and repented. It reminds me of Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:23-33). He pleaded for 50, then 45, then 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. God, “not willing that any should perish,” would spare the cities for ten righteous people. Alas, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters were the only ones saved, and even they were dragged out by the angels (Genesis 19:16).

The Old Testament is a history of God’s longsuffering. The book of Judges, in particular, ends with the sad refrain, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, emphasis mine). Two thousand years from Abraham, Messiah came as promised and His own rejected Him (John 1:11). Jesus died on a Roman cross to pay our sin debt. They buried Him in a borrowed tomb, and He rose again on the third day. Forty days later, He ascended to His throne in heaven of which He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

It has been more than 2000 years – six millennia since the Creation. God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but the time of the Sabbath rest is drawing near. There is a limit to God’s longsuffering. The voices of the prophets sound from every corner of the world. God is not willing that any should perish. The old hymn says, “There’s room at the cross for you,” but just as only eight were saved in the Ark, and only four saved from Sodom and Gomorrah, only a few will be saved from the wrath that is coming. Jesus said, “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). Don’t miss the boat. Jesus will come very soon. Don’t get left behind. If you have not given your life to Him, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 4:1-16

[2]  Genesis 6:15 – 300 cubits x 50 cubits x 30 cubits. The dimensions are calculated based on an 18” cubit.

[3]  Noah’s sons were born when he was 500 years old (Genesis 5:32), and they entered the completed Ark when Noah was 600 years old (Genesis 7:11). We are not given Noah’s age at the time God gave him the task to build the Ark, but we can infer that it was after his sons were old enough to help.

[4]  The biblical “kinds” equates to taxonomical “families” in modern terms. The Ark did not carry every species of air-breathing land animals. It only carried the basic families from which all other variations would derive.

[5]  The Ark’s passenger capacity is based on 2/3 of the total available square footage (96,750 sq. ft.) of the Ark or 64,500 sq. ft.  Taking 25% of the remaining space for stores leaves 48,375 sq. ft. for passengers.  Allowing 80 sq. ft. per a family of four, or 20 sq. ft. per person (the average size of an 8×10 2-man prison cell), and dividing 48,375 by 80 yields about 605 living spaces.  At 4 people per space, that comes to 2420 total passengers.  More could have been accommodated if needed.

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Three Fingers Back

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

I often hear the charge, “that’s not very Christian” coming from non-Christians when a Christian acts or speaks in a manner which the non-Christian deems inappropriate for a Christian (as if they would know what is or is not appropriate for a Christian). I get that. They make those judgments based on their humanistic worldview that determines right or wrong according to their contrived values. It is a relativistic worldview that authorizes the individual to make value judgments as he sees fit. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Everyone has his/her own value system. Everyone has his/her own “truth.” One can say or do whatever one wishes as long as it is legal and “it does not hurt anyone else.” That rule applies to everyone – except for Christians. Christians are judged by a different measure. That measure is the subjective preconception of how a Christian ought to behave.

While I understand the source of the non-Christian’s warped perspective of how a Christian should behave, I am really taken aback when I hear the exact criticism coming from another Christian. What is up with that! One would think that all Christians should present a united front. That was Jesus’ desire for us. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word [that be us]; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21, emphasis mine).

Now when the Mormons come knocking on your door, this is one fault they like to point out. “Why are there so many religions when Jesus wanted us all to be one?” When someone asks me that question, I quickly agree and say, “I think we should all be Baptists!” I am joking, of course. I understand most of the denominational differences, but as Christians, we should all have one thing in common that unifies us. Salvation is through Grace alone, through Faith in Christ alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can discuss our differences on how we view baptism, communion, predestination vs. free will, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), eschatology (end times), creation, etc. We can even debate over those issues – in love. However, we must keep those discussions based on Scripture, not on personal opinion or the opinions of others. What does the Bible – God’s Word – have to say about it? There is nothing wrong with that, and there is much right about that. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

However, questioning the Christianity of another Christian – especially in a public forum like Facebook – is wholly inappropriate. That very act is “un-Christian.” The familiar axiom – “When you point the finger at someone else, you have three fingers point back at you” – is true. Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). However, in saying that, He was not prohibiting value judgments. In context (Matthew 7:1-6), Jesus referred to making a condemning judgment against someone else. The Greek word translated “judge” is krinō, which means to condemn. Only Jesus can properly judge an individual because only He knows the heart and the motives of the person. We do not possess that ability. We can, however, judge actions – what can actually be seen – and determine whether those actions are right or wrong from the rubric of God’s Word. We can determine if a brother’s actions are not in keeping with God’s Word, but we have no right to accuse him of not being a Christian. We know neither his heart nor his motives.

Jesus makes it clear that we must make judgments. In the same passage, He said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). Determining who the “dogs” and “swine” are demands a judgment. “That which is holy” and “your pearls” is the Gospel message we have to offer. Some people will reject the message and treat it as a dog treats a rag toy. The message will offend others to the point that they will attack you – either verbally or physically. Either way, their actions determine whether you continue to share the Gospel with them or not. When that happens, Jesus said to “shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). You have made a judgment.

Jesus later offers another example. He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16). How does one recognize a false prophet without making a judgment? One must judge! By what standard do we make that judgment? We make that judgment based on the Word of God. When the prophet speaks, do his words match up with the Word of God? You have to make a judgment! Jesus further points to the actions – fruit – of the false prophet. If that prophet talks like a Christian but behaves like the devil, then perhaps you are right to point at the “bad fruit.” If the prophet’s message is inconsistent with the Word of God, then he should be called out for his false teaching but be sure you are standing on firm, biblical ground. Also, be prepared to take on fire.

Again, we cannot judge the heart or the motives of another believer, or anyone for that matter. It is possible, though doubtful, that the false prophet is a Christian. I have known false prophets who spoke the truth, right out of God’s Word, but their lives told a different story. The truth of God’s Word remains, though the messenger may be faulty. Here is where we must be careful in making judgments. The false prophet may or may not be a true believer. I have heard testimonies of pastors that preached behind pulpits for many years before realizing their own lost condition and turning to Christ for salvation. It can happen! Jesus cautioned, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? … Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3, 5).

Before accusing a fellow believer of not being Christian, we must examine ourselves – critically – to make sure we are not at fault. Moreover, I cannot emphasize it strongly enough; our judgment – even our self-examination – must be based on Scripture, not personal (or “expert”) opinion. We should be willing to judge ourselves more strictly than we do the errant brother. Then, with our conscience cleared by the Holy Spirit, we can judge the “actions” of that brother – never, never the heart or motives. When we find a brother in err, Jesus said, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15). What if he will not listen? Read the rest of the passage.

There is another danger in Christians accusing Christians of non-Christian behavior. If you do this, you are playing for the wrong team. There is one who constantly brings charges against Christians before God. He is known as “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Scripture first introduces him to us in that role in the account Job’s life (Job 1:6-7). His name is Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), but his title is Satan – accuser. Of this one, Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). When we wrongly judge another Christian – especially in a public way – we are guilty of slander. Another word for slander is character assassination, i.e., murder. When you do that, you are doing the devil’s work for him. Do you really want to go there?

Judge, but judge with righteous judgment. Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The only way to carry out righteous judgment is by the standard of God’s Word – not your feelings, not your opinions, not the opinions of “experts,” and especially not by the ever-changing standards of the world. God’s Word is the only measure by which to judge righteously. When you feel tempted to judge a fellow believer, take a very close look at yourself and “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.” You may find that you are the one in the wrong, not your brother. If your brother is in the wrong, take him aside and lovingly help him see his error from Scripture. Don’t point out his error on Facebook or some other public forum; that is what Satan would have you do because Satan’s goal is to destroy the Christian witness however he can. Don’t help him; he does a good job of that on his own. Remember, when you point the finger, three are pointing back at you.

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O Beautiful!

Mayflower Compact, Signed November 11, 1620

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

President Obama insulted American Christians when he proclaimed to the world that America was not a Christian nation. He went on to announce that America was just as much of a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or any other religion of your choice nation. Christians rightly protested (without violence or destruction of public and private property) that America was indeed a Christian nation as enshrined in our founding documents.

Before setting foot on their “promised land” on November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims covenanted together “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” to “combine” themselves “together into a civil body politic.” The Mayflower Compact later influenced the freedom pact declaring our nation’s independence on July 4, 1776, assuming “among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The declaration went on to assert, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” After a long list of grievances, they made their appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the World” declaring their “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,” i.e., God.

The reliance on Divine Providence prompted the founders to include in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, the First Amendment protecting freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The amendment also guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of the press and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This First Amendment (and the Second that secures it) is under assault on many fronts. A plain reading of the text makes it clear that the government cannot impose one religion over another. At the same time, the government cannot prohibit the free practice of a citizen’s religion. Conspicuously, no restrictions exist on the exercise of religious practice – no restriction for the free practice in public, public schools, public buildings, public events, or any other such restrictions. However, put up a Nativity Scene in the public square, or the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse or on the wall of a public school, or offer a prayer at the start of a high school sports activity, and the ACLU will be out in full force looking for someone to sue. On what grounds? The ACLU will argue that such religious activity violates the “separation of church and state,” a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution. With the aid of unscrupulous judges, the ACLU intimidates victims without the resources to fight the litigation so that they give up without a fight. Slowly, the ACLU has eroded away the concept of religious liberty.

Now, legislation in various states, California in particular, slowly chips away at what remains of the First Amendment by declaring that any denunciation of sodomites is “hate speech” and therefore illegal. That destroys free speech. It destroys freedom of the press, which might even make the Bible illegal because it has much to say about deviant sex acts. It could follow that the freedom to peaceably assemble in a church that teaches against sodomy will be declared illegal, and forget about petitioning the government over such a grievance. There goes the First Amendment. Without the Second Amendment, which is systematically being picked apart, how can the First Amendment be defended?

Barack Obama was right. Whatever America used to be, it is no longer a Christian nation. I hear many Christians express optimism that we can turn around this nation. Many hope for national revival (2 Chronicles 7:14 – taken way out of context). I must admit, I do not share that optimism. That ship has sailed. America is no longer a Christian nation, and it will never again be a Christian nation. Christians – genuine, born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians – in America are rapidly becoming the “remnant.” We can voice our complaints until our tonsils bleed, and nothing will change, except perhaps for the worst.

I do not mean to be a Gloomy Gus, nor do I want to be a Pollyanna. I want to be realistic, and I want to be biblical. While the Bible teaches that we are to submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-8) and that we should pray our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), we must recognize that our primary citizenship is not of this world, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ. “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus affirmed, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). While America is not “the beautiful,” innocent virgin she once was, we who have placed our trust in Christ, are children of the King, (John 1:12) and citizens of His realm. While we remain and while He delays His return, we must turn our focus and our efforts to His Kingdom. The things of this earth, including America the Beautiful, are passing away (1 John 2:17), but His Kingdom will last forever (Luke 1:33). “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors” (Mark 13:29).

O, Beautiful! I lament your demise, but I rejoice knowing that the Lord will soon return, and He will truly make America great again – better than ever! Not only America, but His reign on earth will make the whole earth better than before. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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Conversation

Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:23)

We engage in conversation on a daily basis. If there is no one around with whom to converse, we sometimes hold a conversation with ourselves or with the dog or cat. Conversation can be completely mindless or profound.

The modern dictionary defines “conversation” as: “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.” In addition, noted as “obsolete,” conversation can mean “behavior or manner of living.”[1] That “obsolete” definition is what we find throughout the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible; therefore, we must grasp this meaning of the word. Otherwise, Scripture, like the passage above, becomes confusing, and the deeper meaning of the text is lost.

Before considering the biblical application of the word, let us consider its etymology.

Conversation (n.) mid-14c., “place where one lives or dwells,” also “general course of actions or habits, manner of conducting oneself in the world,” both senses now obsolete; from Old French conversacion “behavior, life, way of life, monastic life,” and directly from Latin conversationem (nominative conversatio) “frequent use, frequent abode in a place, intercourse, conversation,” noun of action from past-participle stem of conversari “to live, dwell, live with, keep company with,” passive voice of conversare “to turn about, turn about with,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see con-) + versare, frequentative of vertere “to turn” (from PIE root *wer- (2) “to turn, bend”).[2]

Considering that the KJV was first published in 1611, the original meaning of the word should be applied in the reading. Basically, the word “conversation” in the Bible (and here I mean the KJV Bible) refers to the way one conducts one’s life. Our “conversation” is how we live, conduct, or carry on our lives. Each person’s conversation will differ and will reflect either who he/she really is or who he/she pretends to be. With that in mind, let us look at some passages from Scripture that provide instruction for our “conversation.”

The English word “conversation” appears 20 times in the KJV Bible, twice in the O.T. and 18 times in the N.T. In some instances, “conversation” may translate different Hebrew or Greek words and may obscure a deeper meaning. We shall see.

Both O.T. occurrences of the word appear in Psalms and translate the same Hebrew word, derek, which literally means a “road” or a “path.” By implication, it is the course of one’s life. Psalm 37:14 says that “the wicked” target those who live an “upright” or “righteous” life. “The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.” That is not much incentive for living a godly life, however, Psalm 50:23 offers great encouragement from God. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (By the way, taking the “whole counsel” of God’s Word into account, simply living a “good life” will not earn anyone salvation. Ordering your “conversation aright” begins with trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.)[3]

As previously stated, “conversation” appears 18 times in the N.T., but it translates different Greek words. The most frequent Greek word translated is anastrophē, which means “behavior.” We find this first in Galatians 1:13. Here, Paul describes how he behaved before meeting the Lord Jesus. “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” Paul’s life changed radically after meeting Jesus face-to-face. He went from being a zealous persecutor of the Church to being persecuted for preaching the Gospel – equally as zealously. Thus he encourages believers to follow his example: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). A “Christian” that continues in the sin of his/her former life does not carry on a new “conversation” indicating that no change has transpired in his/her life.

As followers of Christ, our lives should be examples to others as Paul encouraged Timothy. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). James says that our good behavior demonstrates “wisdom” and “knowledge.” “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Peter uses anastrophē eight times in his letters. Our behavior must be “holy,” i.e., “set apart” (for God’s use). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). What God has done for us deserves our very best. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Relate to anastrophē is anastrepho, the verb form, which means “to overturn; also to return; by implication to busy oneself.” In other words, these are the “actions” one takes. This Greek verb is used twice in the N.T. by Paul. In 1 Corinthians 1:12, he refers to his “conversation in the world,” that is, the “work” he is doing. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul refers to the sinful activities in which we once participated. “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

In the Epistle to the Philippians, “conversation” translates both the noun and verb form of politeuma (n.) meaning “a community” and abstractly referring to “citizenship.” “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The verb form, politeuomai, means to “behave as a citizen.” When we come to Christ, we are no longer citizens of this world; we are “citizens” of heaven. Therefore, we ought to act the part.

Finally, “conversation” translates the Greek noun tropos meaning “a turn, that is, (by implication) mode or style. It is synonymous with anastrophē, and it refers to “deportment or character,” i.e., the way we conduct ourselves. We find this one-time use in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation [deportment] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Jesus paid a high price to give us eternal life. We who have placed our faith in Him are now “children of God” (John 1:12) and citizens of heaven; we are not of this world (John 17:16). Therefore, our “conversation” should reflect our status, not pridefully, but with humility and meekness, as children of the King and citizens of His Kingdom!

 Notes:


[1]  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/conversation?s=t

[2]  https://www.etymonline.com/word/conversation

[3]  “Securing Eternal Life” – https://erniecarrasco.com/securing-eternal-life/

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End-Times 102

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

In last week’s article, “End-Times 101,” I attempted to present a “high level” perspective of end-times prophecy because, for many Christians, end-times prophecy mystifies and confuses them. Much of this confusion comes from conflating the events of the seven-year Tribulation culminating in Jesus’ physical return to earth and the Rapture of the Church, which takes place before the Tribulation. As I pointed out in “End-Times 101,” end-times prophecy can be divided into four basic parts: (1) the Rapture of the Church, (2) the seven-year Tribulation, (3) the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, and (4) the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity. However, most of the confusion centers around the events leading to and including the seven-year Tribulation before Jesus returns to earth to reign.

The time of Tribulation is a complex subject drawing information from several Old Testament prophets, none of which were given a complete picture of this time in future history. Furthermore, none of them, with perhaps the exception of Daniel, was given a complete sequence of events. Modern prophecy scholars must rely on “the whole counsel” of God’s Word to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, so it is unwise to take one teacher’s perspective and call it “Gospel.” We need to remember that we all “see in a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are flawed human beings and prone to error. No one has it ALL right; however, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we can have a good idea of what will take place during the Tribulation and the events that will lead to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

All end-times prophecy centers on Israel. The prophet Daniel was told. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). “Seventy weeks” literally means “seventy sevens (of years),” or 490 years. This time was to begin at the time that Cyrus the Great gave the command that the Jews could return from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:25). Notice that the prophecy applies to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). The specificity of this prophecy applies to all end-times prophecy. The purpose of God’s plan is to “make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e., make things right], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy [i.e., conclude history as we know it], and to anoint the most Holy [i.e., establish Jesus’ reign on earth]. There is nothing here about “the Church.” To the Old Testament prophets, the Church was a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

Daniel’s seventy weeks is divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and one week (seven years). Opinions differ on the significance of first 49 years (seven weeks), and I do not want to add to the confusion. However, the seven weeks and 62 weeks add up to 69 weeks (one short of 70) or 483 years. At the end of this time, Daniel predicts the coming of Messiah (Daniel 9:26) at which time Messiah will be “cut off,” i.e., killed. Scholars have calculated and determined that from the time Cyrus decreed that the Jews were to return to their land (c. 445 BC[1]) unto the day Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In that same week, Jesus was “cut off.”

Daniel’s prophecy then predicts a “prince” that will destroy the city and the temple and bring an end to the sacrifices. He will come with an army (“a flood”) and at the end of war bring “desolation” (Daniel 9:26). This prophecy has been fulfilled twice: the first time by Antiochus IV Epiphanes around 164 BC, and the second time by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. It was this second destruction that left Jerusalem (and all of Palestine) desolate for almost 2000 years. However, the prophecy reveals a third “prince” that will come. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis mine). That “week” is the last of the 70 weeks of years determined for Israel. The difference between this “prince” and those that come before is that he “confirms” (not “makes”) a covenant (or “treaty”) with “many” for seven years (one week).

This seven-year period is the Tribulation, and it is not intended for the Church. Remember, it is a time determined for Daniel’s people and Daniel’s holy city (Daniel 9:24). The “prince,” aka, Antichrist, will be revealed when he enforces (“confirms”) a peace treaty with “many.” In context, this would be Israel and all her “many” enemies that would see her destroyed. For years, many tried to predict who Antichrist might be, but in reality, this is wasted effort for the church, since the church will not be on the scene when the Antichrist arrives. In speaking of the appearance of this “man of sin,” the Apostle Paul says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [or “restrains”] will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7, emphasis mine). “He who now restrains” is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of believers. When that Restrainer is “taken out of the way,” then “then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and the Tribulation begins.

The Rapture of the Church comes “as a thief in the night,” but it will precede the Tribulation. We cannot predict with certainty the time of the Rapture, but the events during the Tribulation are predictable according to Scripture. Knowing the events that will take place during the Tribulation helps us to forecast the proximity of the Rapture.

Daniel characterized the end as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). By land, we can traverse the US from coast to coast in a matter of three or four days. By air, the journey takes a matter of hours. A little more than a century ago, the same trip took about a year and four months.[2] According to “industry tap,” knowledge currently doubles every 12 months, and they predict it will soon double every 12 hours.[3]

The prophet Ezekiel tells of a coming invasion of Israel by a confederacy of nations from the north (Ezekiel 38-39). The prophet identifies these nations as Magog (Russia), Meshech (Georgia) and Tubal (Turkey). God says to Gog, the leader of Magog (V. Putin), “I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army” (Ezekiel 38:4, emphasis mine). Along with this, the prophet also names Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya. With the exception of Ethiopia, these nations are majority Muslim, and their hatred for Israel is well known. Today we see the amassing of Russian and Iranian troops near Syria’s southern border with Israel. Russia (Magog) has aligned itself with Turkey, Syria, and Iran. While Russia is not openly hostile toward Israel, it does have interest in Israel’s newfound gas and oil reserves. Israel’s newfound treasure threatens Russia’s energy market with Europe as Israel builds a gas pipeline to deliver cheaper gas to Europe. This competition has the potential to incite Russia to attack Israel. When this takes place, Israel’s allies will be unable to help other than to protest the invasion. “Sheba, and Dedan [Saudi Arabia], and the merchants of Tarshish [Spain/Europe], with all the young lions thereof [some think this refers to Britain and the US], shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13). Israel’s allies will be helpless to do anything more than complain. Considering the Christian population of the US and, to a less extent, Britain and Europe, the Rapture will deal such a blow to these nations that their governments, military, and their economies will be in such shambles that they will be unable to help. Israel will be completely on her own except for God. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezekiel 38:18). This is yet a future event, but we can see the stage being set for the unfolding of this drama.

Of the Tribulation, Jesus said “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Critics might be quick to point out that “wars and rumors of wars” have existed since time began. However, scoffers too are a sign of the end-times. “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). These scoffers forget that end-times prophecy centers on Israel and Jerusalem and not the world in general even though these events will affect the whole world. From 70 AD to 1948, Israel vanished from the earth as a nation. The Jews were scattered to the four corners of the globe (yes, I know a globe does not have corners!). Therefore, all those other wars are irrelevant to end-times prophecy. For these events to fulfill Bible prophecy, Israel must be a nation, Jerusalem must be the capital, and the Temple must be rebuilt. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Despite being scattered all over the world, the Jewish people retained their “Jewishness.” Even the Hebrew language, once thought to be a dead language, is restored and in use as the official language of Israel. On May 14, 2018, 70 years after Israel’s rebirth, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Temple is not built, but all the implements of the Temple are ready. The priests are in training to carry out the ministry of the temple. The plans and the materials for the Temple are ready for the building. The only thing that remains is for the order to be given to build. Scoffers may scoff, but the stage is being set.

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 21 record Jesus’ words about the end times – the time of Tribulation. Revelation 4-19 goes into great detail about the events that will take place during that terrible seven-year period. Those who belong to the Church, the Bride, of Christ, need not worry about going through that awful time. However, we must be alert and watch. Jesus said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28, emphasis mine). We see these things “beginning” to come to pass. We see the stage being set. The time is near. Look up! Lift up your heads! Your redemption is drawing near!

Notes:


[1]  The time is calculated based on a biblical year of 360 days.

[2]  http://www.answers.com/Q/How_long_did_it_take_to_cross_the_US_in_covered_wagon

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

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End-Times 101

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

I am constantly amazed at how many Evangelical Christians, much less the rest of the world, have no interest in current events as related to end-times prophecy. One reason may be related to Jesus’ prediction of attitudes at the end times. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 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 24:37-39). In context, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles, and His prevision referred to His physical return to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. More on that later.

Many things took place prior to the flood which the Bible does not detail (Genesis 6:1-4). There are some who believe that some of that is taking place again, but that is a can of worms I choose not to open at this time. Jesus probably had those activities in mind, but the main point is that they carried on life as normal “until the flood came, and took them all away.” They were clueless just like the world today.

Even with all the signs God is clearly providing, the world (including many Christians) carries on with business as usual. Part of the problem is “the cares of this world” that “choke the word” of God so that “it becometh unfruitful” in the life of the individual (Mark 4:19). Perhaps another part of the problem is the glut of information out about end-times prophecy that confuses the casual student. Many opinions and contradictions may discourage the pursuit of this truth. Rather than getting excited about the Lord’s soon return, many take the attitude of “que será, será.”

However, the prospect of Jesus’ soon return (and I mean REALLY SOON), should be, for the believer, a source of excitement and anticipation. What greater hope can we have than to be in the presence of our Savior forever! Of course, for the non-believer, this information can be a source of dread, but there is a remedy. So I want to make this as simple as possible, by omitting “the weeds” where people often get lost.

First, Jesus promised He would return for His followers. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This event is known as the Rapture of the Church. Jesus’ second coming is in two phases. First, Jesus comes to receive the Church (the body of believers) to be with Him forever. He does not come to earth at this time, and the rest of the world does not see Him. Only believers will be involved, but the “disappearances” will certainly create havoc around the world.

The Apostle Paul describes the Rapture in our leading verse. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, emphasis mine). To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [i.e., “go before”] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, which means “to seize, carry off by force” or “to snatch out or away.” That word is further translated into Latin as rapturo from which we get our word “rapture.”

Second, after the Church (also known as “the Bride”) is taken out of the world, there is a period of seven years that is known as “the Tribulation.” The prophet Daniel predicts this time (Daniel 9:27; 12:1-3). Jesus spoke of this time also, (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-28). Almost the entire book of Revelation offers explicit details of what will take place at this time (Revelation 4-19). The Tribulation will be an awful time for the inhabitants of the earth. So terrible will be those days that Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Those believers belonging to the Bride of Christ need not be concerned about going through the Tribulation. Our present concern should be for those who are lost and will go through the Tribulation. We who are “saved” will have to give an accounting of neglected opportunities to witness for Christ.

Third, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus will return with His saints, His Bride, to set up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Messiah’s reign on earth. This is the reason the Jews missed Jesus’ first coming. They expected a king to rule over all the earth. They were not expecting a suffering Savior to come meekly and humbly only to die on a Roman cross. His earthly kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Eden-like conditions during Jesus’ reign (Isaiah 11).

Finally, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released from his prison for a very short time. He incites a rebellion against the King, which is short-lived for Satan and those who were foolish enough to follow him. Those that rebel are sent to “the lake of fire” for eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). After that, history ends, and God creates a “new heaven and a new earth” where His children will live with Him forever. Who knows what that will be like, but it has to be multiple millions of times better than what we know here on earth. “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). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 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 22:3-5).

That is it! Time is short. There are many detailed “signs” taking place right now indicating Jesus’ soon return is very close at hand. Jesus said, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, emphasis mine). We are seeing “these things.” Do what you need to do to get ready. If you know Jesus, tell others. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him; read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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