Tag Archives: Sin

The Millennial Kingdom

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

The return of Christ looms ever nearer. We have seen “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” (Luke 21:25) – blood moons[1] on significant Jewish feast days, the Great American Solar Eclipse,[2] and the “Revelation 12 Sign”[3] that will appear over Israel on September 23, 2017.  All over the earth, we have “distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:25). North Korea flexes its nuclear muscle while Iran builds up its arsenal of short-range missiles near Syria’s southern border with Israel,[4] and Russia continues to build up its forces in the area while aiding Iran in its weapons development. The US and other western nations distress and are perplexed over this not, knowing what to do short of starting another world war.

The solar eclipse experienced on August 21, 2017, some suggest, is an omen against the United States of America. Some prophecy scholars say that lunar eclipses are signs for Israel, while solar eclipses are signs for the gentile nations. It may be coincidental, but worth noting that only four days after the Great American Eclipse (August 25, 2017), Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas and Louisiana coasts dumping over 9-Trillion gallons water on the Texas coastline. The unprecedented deluge shut down over 22 percent of the US oil refining capacity.[5] As of this writing, hundreds of gas stations all over North Texas are running out of gasoline (due to media incited panic), and those that still have gas have raised their prices from 20-40 cents per gallon. Refineries on the Texas coast will remain closed for two to three weeks until assessments can be made to bring them back online. It may be months! The economic impact of this storm will be felt for months, and that does not include the impact to human lives. Added to that is the looming threat of Hurricane Irma building up strength in the Atlantic. This is only a small sample of “the sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25).

Things are just warming up “as travail upon a woman with child” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Soon – hopefully very soon – Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, to take her home with Him.[6] Not long after that “… shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). Most end-times prophets seem to focus on the events leading up to and into the 7-year Tribulation, which follows the Rapture of the Church. Such conversation tends to overshadow the happy ending that lies beyond the seven years with a cloud of gloom and dread. However, the story does have a happy ending that is lost in the details of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the mark of the beast, the coming Antichrist, famine, plagues, death, etc. Why walk into a dark tunnel with no light at its end! The good news is that the Utopia for which everyone yearns is what lies just beyond those dreadful seven years.

At the end of the book of Revelation, “The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13; John 1:1), mounted on a white horse (Revelation 19:11) leads a mounted army of His saints, all on white horses (Revelation 19:14). His appearance is awesome, and He descends to crush the nations of earth “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15). The world looks for a leader to rule all the nations of the earth and to usher in an era of universal peace. However, they seek for such a leader in a man. That will never happen! Instead, the leader they will follow will lead them to certain destruction. “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (Revelation 19:19). It is a misnomer to call it a war or even a battle because it will end as soon as it begins. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:20-21).

Not all who remain on earth will die at that “battle.” Certainly, not every person on earth will be enlisted in the “armies” of the “kings of the earth.” There will be survivors that will require governance. The army of saints (“set apart ones,” i.e., the Bride that was taken at the Rapture) that returns with Christ will be “priests” (“intercessors” between the people and Christ), and they will rule with Him for 1000 years (a millennium).

Some say there is no millennium. What one believes about that is not a salvation issue. However, Revelation 20 affirms a 1000-year period no less than six times (Revelation 20:2-7).  If the 1000 years was stated once or even twice, one might say it is allegorical,[7] but when it is repeated six times, we can take it as literal and certain. Interestingly, the first book of the Bible, Genesis, records creation in six (literal) 24-hour days with God resting (cessation of work) on the seventh day. I believe the Bible teaches a young earth of about 6000 years with a 1000-year rest during the millennial reign of Christ on earth as recorded in Revelation 20. Perhaps the six-fold repetition of 1000 years is not accidental. The Apostle Peter wrote, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8, emphasis mine). Please note that the Apostle employs simile here. He is not saying that “a day is a thousand years” or that “a thousand years is a day.” The Apostle merely points out that God is timeless, i.e., eternal. Likewise, the psalmist proclaims, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). Therefore, I find it interesting that six times the 1000-year timeframe is repeated here. Creation was completed in six days, and God rested on the seventh day; the earth has existed for six millennia and now one millennium remains to “rest” and culminate creation.

What will take place during this final millennium? For one thing, evil will be removed from the earth. Satan is incarcerated in the “bottomless pit” so that he can no longer “deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:3). Missing from John’s report is what happened to “the beast” (aka Antichrist) and the “false prophet.” Since they are humans used by “the Dragon,” my feeling is that they are killed in the final battle because at the end of the thousand years, Satan is loosed on the earth once more (Revelation 20:7) and, once again, his defeat is immediate. Then it says, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine; also see Revelation 19:20-21 above). At the end of the 1000 years, the beast and the false prophet will be raised again with the rest of the “dead” (Revelation 20:5) to face the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11-15).  I cannot say with certainty, but my guess is that they will be the first on the docket for judgment.

Beginning with Revelation 20:7, the scene jumps to the end of the 1000 years. John records nothing of what takes place during the 1000 years except that the Bride of Christ – those that died in Christ, the martyrs for Christ, and the raptured saints – “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years,” and “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, 6). That implies that there will be some on earth to rule. Furthermore, when Satan is released at the end of 1000 years, he goes “out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8). That says that the population of earth will be replenished to the point that there are “nations” living in peace and harmony without satanic influence. But what will that be like, and what can we expect? For that, we need to look elsewhere in the Bible.

First of all, the millennial reign of Christ will be an autocratic form of government where Christ’s reign will be absolute with zero tolerance for lawlessness. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:15-16, emphasis mine). The image of a sharp sword coming from His mouth symbolizes the authority of His Word – He is the Word (John 1:14). That He rules with “a rod of iron” indicates no tolerance for any opposition to His authority. “His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne [speaking of Jesus] as the days of heaven. If his children [those whom He rules] forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes” (Psalm 89:29-32). Although He will rule with absolute authority, He will be a kind and benevolent monarch. “And I will set up one shepherd [speaking of Jesus] over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David [speaking of Jesus]; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David [speaking of Jesus] a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezekiel 34:23-24, emphasis mine). “And David my servant [speaking of Jesus] shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them” (Ezekiel 37:24, emphasis mine). “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14, emphasis mine).

Secondly, because there will be no tolerance for lawlessness, the millennial reign of Christ will be characterized by universal peace. Today the world clamors, “peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14), but when Christ reigns, the world will know true peace. 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). He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). “And he [speaking of Jesus] shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).

Thirdly, not only will there be universal peace on earth, but the earth itself will be renewed as in the time before the Fall (Genesis 3). God says, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). In the renewed earth, the “curse” will be reversed. Animals will no longer prey on one another and even little children will play with what used to be venomous snakes (Isaiah 11:6-8; 65:25).  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Death for the inhabitants of the earth, those who survived the Tribulation and their progeny, will practically be unheard of. “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20, emphasis mine). People will live long lives as before the Flood. Only the “sinner,” i.e., the lawbreaker will have his life cut short by “the rod of iron.” Someone who is a hundred years old will be considered a “child.” Of course, those who returned with Christ at the end of the Tribulation, will come back with “glorified” bodies and never again experience death.

Fourthly, like the Garden of Eden, all the earth will once again be fruitful. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13).  Everyone will have houses and enjoy the fruits of the labor. “They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isaiah 65:22, emphasis mine). “And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil … And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:24, 26). “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:18). “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt” (Amos 9:13).

What a wonderful world that will be! Jesus will rule from His throne in His Temple in Jerusalem, and the Utopia of which everyone dreams will exist throughout the earth. However, very few of earth’s inhabitants will enter that renewed world. Those who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior right now will be leaving this earth very shortly. After that follows seven horrible years of Tribulation where the majority of the population will perish. At the end of that time, Jesus will return with His saints to reign on earth.

Reader, would you like to see that new world? If you cannot claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the odds are against you making it through the Tribulation that will soon come. Why not secure your place in Christ’s coming millennial kingdom and beyond. Read my page on “Heaven.”

Notes:


[1]  “Perhaps This Year!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2013/12/29/perhaps-this-year/

[2]  “Coming Soon!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  “Iran Building Weapons Factories in Lebanon and Syria, Israel Says” – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/29/world/middleeast/iran-missiles-lebanon-israel-.html

[5]  “Gasoline spikes after Harvey shuts down Gulf Coast refineries” – http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/348692-gasoline-spikes-after-harvey-shuts-down-gulf-coast-refineries

[6]  “Not Expecting to Die” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/30/not-expecting-to-die/

[7]  “Is the Bible Allegory?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/08/27/is-the-bible-allegory/

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Is the Bible Allegory?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

A young woman wrote me and claimed that God told her that the Bible is allegory. She claimed that people misinterpret the Bible when they take it literally. “The Lord” told her that the creation account recorded in Genesis represents later events in the Bible. I suppose, if she received a word from God, then it must be true. However, is she right, and did she really receive this instruction from God?

Volumes have been written and reams of paper spent defending the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. The problem of misinterpretation comes when people think they know what the Bible says, without really knowing what it says. The Bible is very clear and easily understood on its own without any kind of special interpretation. The problem is that people often do not like what it has to say, so they interpret it to say what they want it to say. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

That said, the Bible does employ allegory sometimes. For example, Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), and God told Ezekiel to preach to the dry bones. When he did, the bones came together, and flesh and skin came on the bones. However, there was no breath in them (Ezekiel 37:8). God instructed Ezekiel to preach to them once more and breath came on them and they rose up “and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). Then God explained what Ezekiel saw (vv. 11-14). The bones represent the nation of Israel, which God will gather from all over the world and restore to their land, but when they come, the Spirit of God will not be in them. God will then put His Spirit in them “that they may live” again. This prophecy is an allegory of Israel in the last days. That prophecy was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when Israel was reborn as a nation. However, God’s Spirit is not yet in them – they are still spiritually dead. Many Jews in Israel are atheists. Those who are not, still look for the coming of their Messiah. My point, however, is that this is one good example of allegory in the Bible.

Not all of the Bible is allegory. When an allegory is presented, it is very clear that it is an allegory, and it usually comes with an explanation. When you understand that, and compare an allegory, as in the example above, to the creation narrative in Genesis, it should be obvious that the creation account is not an allegory, nor is it Hebrew poetry. Genesis records a matter-of-fact account of creation. It is a historical narrative. Now, what you do with that is up to you; you can choose to accept it, or you may choose to reject it, but you cannot call it an allegory.

This young woman said, “The Lord told me it represents later events in the Bible.” I cautioned her that it may not be “the Lord” speaking because He will not lead us to doubt any of His Word. The Bible says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It cannot be “profitable” for doctrine, correction, or instruction if it is all allegorical. One can make of an allegory whatever one imagines, and not everybody imagines the same thing. In the example of Ezekiel’s dry bones above, it should be noted that God Himself explains the allegory. In the same way, Jesus always explained His parables to His disciples; He did not leave it up to them to determine the meaning of the allegory.

God’s Word is precise, not allegorical. Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The “jot” (Hebrew letter yod – י) is the smallest letter in the letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” is the smallest marking on a Hebrew letter that distinguishes it from another similar looking letter, for example, the difference between the resh (ר) and the dalet (ד). Jesus was not speaking in allegory. He spoke matter-of-factly and authoritatively. Again He said, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). Such emphatic statements cannot be true of allegories because allegories by themselves are up for interpretation.

God would not make His Word ambiguous through allegory if He means for it to be fulfilled to the smallest mark of the text. However, I know who would – Satan. From the very beginning, his tactics remain the same. Consider carefully at the account of the Fall (Genesis 3:1-5). “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1), This is not written as an allegory; it is written as a matter-of-fact. Note that the first thing Satan does is to introduce doubt in God’s Word – “Yea, hath God said…?” To paraphrase: “Did God really say that or was it just allegorical?” His next step is to call God’s Word a lie. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God told Adam he would die (Genesis 2:17), if he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and here Satan says that is not true. Again, to paraphrase: “You are not going to die. That was just an allegory. God did not really mean you were going to die.” That set the stage for Satan’s third tactic – to charge God with dishonest and dishonorable motives. “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). To paraphrase once more: “God wants to keep something good from you. He knows that if you eat of the fruit, you will be like gods, and you will know as much as He does, and He does not want that for you.” King Solomon said, “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). Satan has not changed from the beginning of time, and he still uses the same tactics to cast doubt on God’s Word.

No, the LORD God is not going to tell you that His Word is just an allegory and that you can interpret any way you think. God says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:7-9).

The Bible is not allegory. God makes His Word abundantly clear. The Bible does “contain” allegory, but where allegory is given, the interpretation follows close behind. Certainly, there are some things that are difficult to understand, as Mark Twain noted, however, most of it is plain enough. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). “Those things which are revealed” are plain enough for us to understand. They are not allegories that we must puzzle out. God reveals His Word to us clearly so that we can know Him intimately. He will not veil His Word in allegory so that every individual gets a different “insight” into what it says. God’s Word is precise. It is matter-of-fact. Our task is to accept God’s Word for what it says, not for what we think it says.

 

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Reclaiming the Rainbow

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:16-17)

When you see the colors of the rainbow displayed on clothing, placards, flags, or emblazoned at night on lighted buildings, what comes to mind? Is the first image produced in the mind’s eye the tableau of Noah kneeling before a stone altar with a flaming holocaust? Can you picture the Ark in the background teetering on an escarpment with thousands of animals exiting in different directions? Do you envision a clouded sky with the arc of a perfectly formed rainbow in the brilliantly arrayed in the heavens? Sadly, that is probably not the first thought to enter your mind.

The LGBTQ group, composed of probably less than 2% of the population, has hijacked the colors of the rainbow[1] as a symbol of their perversion. They take great pride in their perversion and demand that not only all should accept their deviance, but that all should give unrestricted support and approval of their abomination (Romans 1:32). In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June 2015 that homosexual “unions” were legal “marriages” under the Constitution of the United States. Then, in a blatant show of approval, the foolish President of the United States, Barrack Hussain Obama, bathed the White House with lights in the colors of the rainbow.

“Enough is enough!” many Christians protest. God first displayed these colors to remind us of His judgment on such perversion as demonstrated by these deviants, to recall His mercy in saving some to replenish the earth, and to promise not to destroy the earth again by water. (The next time will be by fire – 2 Peter 3:12.)  In a defiant effort to reclaim the rainbow for God, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter followed Barrack Obama’s example and bathed the massive Christian attraction in the colors of the rainbow.[2] Take that, perverts!

While I applaud Ken Ham’s gumption and bravado in defending the Word of God, I am not so sure about his method. For sure, the rainbow does belong to God, and the message of the rainbow rightly belongs to God – no question. However, the colors of the rainbow have been so distorted by the LGBTQ bunch that the perversion overshadows God’s message of redemption. Granted, Christians, by all means, should immediately associate Noah’s Ark bathed in rainbow colors with the message of the Bible. However, given the heavy re-messaging and marketing by the LGBTQ movement, the Bible message is probably not the first one that enters the mind when structures are lighted up with the rainbow. For all the good intentions, Ken Ham’s message is a mixed and confusing one. The Christian might be confused at first and then upon further consideration correctly assess the message. However, the non-Christian will assume automatically and wrongly the approval of the LGBTQ lifestyle. If they have the initiative to investigate further, they will learn otherwise, but not at first sight.

Jesus admonished, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  On more than one occasion, the LGBTQ people have proven themselves ravenous wolves seeking to devour “the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Therefore, Ken Ham’s blatant assault may be misconstrued as a provocation rather than a proclamation of truth. The wisdom of a serpent would be more subtle. Ken Ham could convey the same message more directly and more accurately by constructing a large illuminated arch behind and above the Ark and light that up in the colors of the rainbow.  The dove Noah sent out from the Ark returned to him with an olive leaf in its beak (Genesis 8:11) – the symbol of peace. Bathing the Ark in rainbow colors, as President Obama did the White House, is neither wise, nor harmless, and it is certainly not a symbol of peace.

The rainbow belongs to God. He will reclaim it in due time. Suffice that His children recognize its significance and declare its message in a manner “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Notes:


[1]  “The Rainbow” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/07/05/the-rainbow/

[2]  “Ministry Takes Back ‘God’s Rainbow,’ Despite LGBT Threats” – http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/american-dispatch/66369-ministry-takes-back-god-s-rainbow-despite-lgbt-threats, accessed 07/21/2017.

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Good Guys Go to Hell

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)

A popular idea going around these days suggests that anyone can go to heaven, if he or she is a “good” person. That sounds good, but by what standard does one measure “goodness”? The fornicator may say, “I’m not so bad; I won’t cheat on my wife.” The adulterer might say, “I’m not so bad; I’ve never molested a child.” The child molester could say, “I’m not so bad; I’ve never murdered anyone.” The murderer excuses himself, “I’m not so bad; the one I killed had it coming.” He would also add, “I am not a mass murderer,” and so on. Each one is not as bad as the other person is; by their own standard, they qualify for heaven. However, heaven’s standards exceed those we place on ourselves.

Jesus recounts the death of two men. The account is often mistaken as one of Jesus’ parables; however, the matter-of-fact telling of the account carries no alternative meaning, as do the regular parables of Jesus. In this instance, Jesus gives the proper name of one of the characters, Lazarus. He refers to the second man simply as “a rich man.” In this account, Jesus gives the impression that He has firsthand knowledge of the parties involved, so it makes one wonder why the rich man remains unnamed. The Bible tells us that “when the roll is called up yonder,” those who have died without Christ will be judged by their works recorded in “the books” (Revelation 20:12-13). When their “works” fail to meet heavenly standards, those being judged will be looked up in the Book of Life, and when their names are not found there, they will be cast into “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Perhaps this is why Jesus does not name the rich man. On the other hand, Jesus knows Lazarus by name. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28, emphasis mine). Apparently, Jesus did not know the rich man meaning that the rich man was not one of His sheep.

As Jesus relates the account, the worst thing said about the rich man is that he “was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). Is there anything sinful about being rich? Surely, that cannot be the reason for his eternal life sentence! Indeed, “in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off,” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Abraham was one of the richest men recorded in the Bible, yet there he is in paradise, so wealth was not the man’s problem.

Jesus tells us that Lazarus, a beggar, “was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20-21). The account implies that the rich man took no notice of the beggar’s plight, although Jesus does not explicitly say so. Very possibly the rich man tossed a few coins to the beggar from time to time as might be expected of a man of his status. Even here, we find no “sin” worthy of an eternal sentence to hell.

One characteristic about the rich man that clearly comes through in Jesus’ account is his self-centeredness or self-focus, especially upon his arrival in hell. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24, emphasis mine). Even in his circumstance, he considered himself superior to Lazarus so that Lazarus should serve him. His request denied and realizing that his fate is permanent, he suddenly becomes evangelistic. “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28, emphasis mine). Notice his concern is not for a lost world, but only for his family.

We see that the rich man was self-indulgent – “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things” (Luke 16:25) – and egocentric. So what! Did that make him an evil person deserving hell? My guess is that the rich man was probably a pretty good guy over all. Jesus does not say that he mistreated Lazarus in any way, only that Lazarus desired “to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). That only means that the rich man took no real notice of the beggar’s plight. If such neglect condemns one to hell, then I plead guilty as charged. Not a day goes by that I do not see someone begging on some street corner of Dallas, and I drive on by. No, that was not the rich man’s problem.

The unnamed rich man’s problem was his ignorance of the Good Shepherd. The rich man was not one of Jesus’ sheep; Lazarus was, though. Jesus knew his name, and he gained entry into the presence of God. The rich man did not go to hell because he was some kind of great sinner; he went to hell because his name was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Heaven – the New Jerusalem – is an exclusive place. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, emphasis mine). The rich man’s name was not recorded in that book, but Lazarus’ name was recorded there, which is why Jesus knew his name.

How about you, Reader? Is your name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life? If not, you will end up with that nameless rich man, and humanly speaking, you may even be a better person than the rich man. You may consider yourself to be a good person, but at the Great White Throne Judgment, when the books are brought out (Revelation 20:12-13) (one of which is the Word of God, the Bible), your good deeds will be judged according to the standard of God’s Word. Prepare yourself. You will not measure up. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Your only hope is for your name to be listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Ask Jesus to write your name in His book today. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Good guys go to hell, but those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be saved. Do it today!

Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus is recorded in Luke 16:19-31.

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Life on Other Planets

NOTE: NASA has no idea what these planets look like. This is the rendition of an artist’s imagination.

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalm 148:5)

Recently the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created quite a stir concerning the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 System.[1] Several of the scientists are absolutely gobsmacked and giddy over the prospect of the possibility of life on these planets.

“For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life?” said Sara Seager, astrophysicst [sic] and planetary scientist at MIT. “Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.”[2]

Given the propensity of these scientists to reject the supernatural creative acts of God, they understandably seek proof of spontaneous generation on other worlds where they are free to speculate to their heart’s content. Failing to prove evolution here on earth, they hope to prove it elsewhere where their speculations escape scrutiny.

It is bad enough that they suck the mindless masses into the void of fantasy, but sadly, many “Bible-believing” Christians get sucked into the same vortex. I received an email from such a one just recently that read as follows:

While I am in agreement with the thought that the universe is God’s creation I’m not sure I understand comments that suggest life is impossible anywhere else.  While we know the Bible is truth, there is truth outside of the Bible.  God may have created life elsewhere for His purposes, what am I missing?

The writer referred to an article recently published on the Institute for Creation Research website[3] about the seven newly discovered exoplanets.

While many cautiously practice speculating about non-disclosures in the Bible, danger lurks when personal opinions become truths that can lead the believer astray. So for this one, and others that may be going off on a tangent, I offer the following.

The best resource to address the question of life on other worlds is the Bible.

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, emphasis mine)

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18, emphasis mine)

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine)

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25, emphasis mine)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27, emphasis mine) Question: How many “images,” according to this verse, does God have?

And the Word [i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, emphasis mine)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine)

For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21, emphasis mine)

The Bible defines “life” more narrowly than how secular scientists define life.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine)

For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14, emphasis mine)

Basically, no blood, no life. So, if the question has to do with “life forms” such as bacteria, plants, or things like that, it is possible that such things could exist on other planets. However, one must ask, what would be the purpose? God does not create anything without purpose. What was God’s purpose for creating here on earth? (By the way, bear in mind that God created earth before any of the other heavenly bodies.)

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 43:7, emphasis mine)

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. (Psalm 104:31, emphasis mine)

I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (Isaiah 45:12, emphasis mine)

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth. (Psalm 57:5,11, emphasis mine)

And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:9-10, emphasis mine)

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. (Psalm 97:6, emphasis mine)

Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. (Psalm 148:11-13, emphasis mine)

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20, emphasis mine)

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (Isaiah 40:25-26, emphasis mine)

From the verses above, we see that at least part of God’s purpose in creation is twofold: for His glory and personal satisfaction, and so that man, whom He created in His image, can glorify God. Therefore, we must ask, how can we glorify God in that which we cannot observe? We continue to find more and more in the submicroscopic and subatomic levels right here on earth, so that we can marvel at God’s creation right here on earth. So, how would His purpose be accomplished by creating life on other planets beyond our observation? How can we glorify God about “life” of which we know nothing? (By the way, those NASA scientists are evolutionists. They do not believe in the Creator God of the Bible. They believe in evolution by “natural causes,” therefore, they “assume” that life “could” evolve on other planets. This is why they get so excited about the possibility. However, they have no rational basis to substantiate that belief. They cannot even prove life evolved here on earth.)

If we speculate that the “life” on other planets might be human-like, we need only to remember that humans were made in God’s image. That raises the question, in whose image were those creatures created? The question presents serious theological problems. Man’s sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) brought the curse upon all of God’s creation (Romans 8:22); therefore, those creatures would be under the curse of death too. However, Jesus died to redeem mankind, not Klingons or Vulcans. To redeem them, Jesus would have to die for each of those “races”, but the Bible says, “[We] are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10, emphasis mine). Jesus’ death on the cross was a one-time deal; therefore, Jesus’ sacrifice excludes Klingons and Vulcans. God is just and righteous in His judgment; therefore, I conclude that all life is here on earth alone.

Reader, if you reject the Creator God, you are just as alien to God as Klingons and Vulcans, and in grave danger of spending eternity in hell. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20, emphasis mine). “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15, emphasis mine). There is a way of escape for you; however, you must decide. The Bible says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, emphasis mine). Do that now.

Notes:


[1] Probing the Seven Worlds with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/probing-seven-worlds-with-nasas-james-webb-space-telescope

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Seven Earth-size Planets Discovered: http://www.icr.org/article/9867

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (7)

good-shepherd

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

Jesus’ seventh discourse recorded by the Apostle John contains two I AM statements that I covered in previous articles. The main theme of the discourse is the relationship of the Shepherd to His sheep. Jesus says, “I AM the door”[1] and “I AM the Good Shepherd.”[2]

In the first I AM statement, Jesus portrays Himself as “the Door” to the sheepfold (John 10:7, 9). As the Door, Jesus places Himself at the singular entrance to the sheepfold – the place of protection for the sheep. Anyone wanting to gain entry must go through Him. Only those sheep belonging to the Shepherd gain access to the place of comfort, peace and protection. All others are excluded. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

In the second I AM statement, Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep (John 10:11).  The Good Shepherd knows His Sheep and His Sheep know Him (John 10:14). The relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep is interesting. John the Baptist identified the Good Shepherd as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). That title impressed John the Apostle so much that he refers to the Risen Lord as “the Lamb” throughout the Apocalypse (Revelation 5:6,12,13; 6:1,16; 7:9,10,14,17; 12:11; 13:8,11; 14:1,4,10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7,9; 21:9,14,22,23,27; 22:1,3).  The Lamb is also the Good Shepherd; He is like His sheep in many respects. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). The Apostle Paul says that He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, emphasis mine).

The Good Shepherd became a Lamb in order that He might lay down His life for his sheep (John 10:15). Sometimes Jesus is seen as a “victim” of the crucifixion, but that is far from the truth. Jesus said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine).

From the time of the Fall (Genesis 3:21), it required the spilling of innocent blood to cover – atone for – the sins of man. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine). However, man sinned, not animals, so the only suitable blood sacrifice was that of an innocent man. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, emphasis mine). The problem is that there are no innocent men. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine).  Therefore, the Good Shepherd, the only sinless man, laid down His life to atone/cover/pay for the sins of His sheep. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28, emphasis mine).

Reader, if you are not under the protection of the Good Shepherd’s sheepfold, why not come to Him today? He is the Door, the only way in.

Notes:


[1]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (3): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/18/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-3/

[2]  Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (4): https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/25/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-4/

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Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (1)

john3_1_jesusandnicodemus

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3)

                   This passage, recorded in John 3:1-21, is the first of seven discourses spoken by Jesus and recorded by John. Certainly Jesus preached many more sermons than the seven recorded by John, but these seven, as least for John, uniquely demonstrated the deity of Jesus. Indeed, John records, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31, emphasis mine).

                   The passage opens with the introduction to the audience – one man, Nicodemus, “a man of the Pharisees … a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). His name means “conqueror of the people”[1] or “victorious among his people.”[2] Given the strength of his name, it seems strange that “The same came to Jesus by night” (John 3:2). At a glance, it seems as though Nicodemus came by stealth to avoid detection by those more adamantly opposed to Jesus, but that is not the case. “The Pharisee may have chosen this time in order to be sure of an uninterrupted and leisurely interview. During the day, Jesus would be busy and there would be crowds (crowds of common people!). Not so at night. Then there could be a long, private discussion.”[3]

                   At this point in his Gospel, John had not detailed many of Jesus’ miracles or any of His teachings. Certainly, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) rates highly as the first of His seven signs. From there, Jesus celebrated the first Passover of His ministry by turning over the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple (John 2:13-22). His action drew fire from the “Jews” who challenged Him: “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (John 2:18). Apparently, Jesus made Himself known during this time, although John provides little detail. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did” (John 2:23).

                   So, it seems that Nicodemus had at least heard of Jesus. Perhaps he witnessed the miracles of Jesus, and heard Him teach. Now he comes to Jesus by night for a private meeting. “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus addresses Jesus with the sincere title of respect. “Rabbi” acknowledged Jesus as “Master,” that is to say, “Master Teacher.” What little he knew of Jesus instructed him that He was more than an ordinary man. Jesus, he concluded, came “from God” because “no man can do these miracles … except God be with him.”

                   Nicodemus assessed correctly, but Jesus was not interested confirming what He knew to be fact. Nicodemus was not unlike the other “Jews” in many respects. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25, emphasis mine). Instead, He went right to the heart of the matter. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine). “Again” is a poor translation of the Greek anōthen, which means “from above.” Being “born from above” is in keeping with what John penned in the prologue to his Gospel. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine). Nicodemus clearly understood the term “born,” genneithei, in the normal sense of procreation (John 3:4), but he missed the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ message.

                   To clear up the confusion, Jesus affirms John’s statement in the opening chapter. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus prefaces His statement with “verily, verily,” i.e. “truly, truly.” Coming from God incarnate, this makes the statement immutable – it is unchangeable. Rebirth is not a matter of external changes, but rather it is a transformation from within, and accomplished “from above” through the saturation of the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We are all born of flesh. That is by design. The spirit of man died at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and thus we are excluded from “the kingdom of God.” Only the rebirth of our spirit can fit us for heaven.

                   The “teacher of Israel” failed to grasp the lesson the Master taught. This called for further instruction. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12, emphasis mine). Jesus addresses Nicodemus (thee). “We speak that we do know.” Some commentators suggest that Jesus refers to Himself and His disciples. However, at this point in His ministry, His disciples were novices; there was little that they “did know.” Indeed, His disciples did not receive “full knowledge” until after His resurrection, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Therefore, I believe the “we” Jesus refers to is the Trinity. I conclude that from His statement in the next verse: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). He, the Son of Man, has direct knowledge “from heaven,” from the Creator Himself (John 1:1-3). When Jesus said, “ye receive not our witness,” the “ye” in the KJV indicates that the Greek, second person personal pronoun is plural. Jesus did not single out Nicodemus; He referred to all the “Jews,” i.e., the religious establishment to whom Jesus later referred to as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24).

                   The rebirth is simple; Jesus explained. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Jewish history recorded in Scripture, the Torah to be precise. Numbers 21:4-9 records the time when the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness complained against God and Moses for the free food God provided daily. “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). The Hebrew word translated as “fiery” is śârâph, which means, “burning.” The same Hebrew word (seraphim) is applied to the angelic creatures witnessed by Isaiah in his vision of God on His throne (Isaiah 6:2, 6). In the case of the Hebrew Children, it referred to the burning bite inflicted by the venomous snakes. It may also imply the copper color of the serpents. We derive this from the instructions given to Moses. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated as “brass” is nechôsheth, which means “copper.”

                   The act of looking upon the bronze snake on the pole when bitten included recognition of the sin that brought about the snake bite, and the faith to believe that simply looking upon the likeness of the serpent on the pole would result in healing and preservation of life. In the same way, Jesus compared the simplicity of the rebirth. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, emphasis mine). Once again, this reaffirms John’s assertion, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

                   If one has a red-letter edition Bible, verses 16-21 are attributed to Jesus. However, man, not God, inspires red letters. While many Bible scholars agree that Jesus spoke these words, to me this seems that John added his commentary to expand on what Jesus said. It seems redundant that Jesus would say, “That whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 15), and then repeat “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (v. 16) in the next sentence. Regardless, the Holy Spirit, inspired these words through John’s pen, so they remain God’s Word whether they were spoken directly by Jesus, or whether John, through the Holy Spirit, expounded on Jesus’ words.

                   The teaching is clear. “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) inflicted a deadly bite on mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) from which there is no cure.  “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Death is antithetical to God who is life (John 1:4; 14:6). Simultaneously, God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Yet, He loves His creation too much to allow it to “perish,” i.e., die, with no hope for reconciliation.  So, “He gave.” His gift stemmed not from man’s merit, but from His love. “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, emphasis mine). “He gave His only begotten Son.” The burden of sin was too great for any man to bear, so God Himself took on the insurmountable debt of man’s sin. “And the Word [who was God] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God became man so “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Greek word translated “perish” is apótai meaning “to destroy fully.”  The verb is in the aorist tense indicating that it occurred in the past and its effects continue into the present. It is in the middle voice indicating that the subject is acting on itself, and it is in the subjunctive mood meaning that the action is contingent, probable and eventual. That all means that man in the past brought eventual death and destruction upon himself contingent on what he does with the gift God offers.

                   As in the beginning, it comes down to two choices: the tree of life or the tree of death, aka the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For the children of Israel in the wilderness it was to look upon the bronze serpent and live, or doubt and die. We all have the curse of death upon us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We also have a choice. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The other choice is unbelief. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine). We are “condemned already” because, to begin with, we are all born of the flesh, but not of the Spirit. Then, we are “condemned already” when we reject the gift of salvation God freely offers.

                   “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The condemnation was accomplished at the Fall. God’s solution was to take on human flesh to pay the “wages of sin.”  He paid the debt with His own innocent blood. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14, emphasis mine). He did all the work. The choice to believe  or not believe is ours.

                   Nicodemus took Jesus’ words to heart. In the end, he came to His defense. At the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews wanted to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up for him. “Nicodemus saith unto them, … Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:50-51). After they crucified Him, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathaea in the burial of Jesus, without regard to his Pharisaical reputation (John 19:38-40). He made the choice to believe. We have the same choice.

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 32-33.

[2]  Definition from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 187.

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