Tag Archives: Sin

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, Religion

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.

Comments Off on Good Guys Go to Hell

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Death, End Times, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Religion, Salvation, Theology

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

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, Death, Evangelism, Evolution, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Origins, Religion, Salvation, Science, Theology

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/

Comments Off on Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (7)

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Theology

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.

Comments Off on Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (1)

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Death, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Theology

Jesus’ Birthday

DF-09134 Nativity , May 18, 2006 Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.com To license this image (9139053), contact NewLine: U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207 659 2815 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020 +1 212-686-8901 (fax) info@wireimage.com (e-mail) NewLine.wireimage.com (web site)

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

In 1992, Carol Cymbala published a song, which brings a tear to my eyes when I hear the sweet, tender voice of a child sing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” The words are simple and true, and when intoned by a puerile melody, they grip the heart and focus the mind on the real meaning of Christmas.

happy-b-day-jesus

Everyone, I assume, knows that Jesus was not born on December 25. The Bible does not give us a date. Was it Kislev 25, the first day of Chanukah? If that were the case, the date on the western calendar would fluctuate within the months of mid-November to mid-December. Luke recorded the events around the time of His birth thus providing an approximate year for Jesus’ arrival to earth. Augustus was emperor of Rome, and he issued an order for a census “that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1), and “Cyrenius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2).

From Matthew’s account, we know that Herod the Great was “king” in Judah (Matthew 2:1). If secular history records accurately (and the record is dubious[1]), Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. Matthew reports that Herod, upon hearing of Jesus’ birth and not receiving word from the magi, ordered all the babies in Bethlehem, two years and under, slaughtered (Matthew 2:16). After the magi left, an angel warned Joseph to take the family and flee to Egypt, and Matthew says that they remained there until after the death of Herod. Given that we have no record of the time that elapsed between the family’s flight into Egypt and the death of Herod, Jesus’ birth could have occurred in 6 B.C. or earlier. That creates other chronological problems that distract from the point I am trying to make. (I find it strangely humorous that Jesus would be born “Before Christ.”)

The “time” of year also presents a problem. Luke records that “shepherds [were] abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Late December would not be a good time for shepherds to be out in the field by night. It gets cold in Jerusalem/Bethlehem in December at night! Some attempt to rationalize December 25 by suggesting that it may have been the actual time of the conception, making the delivery sometime around mid-September to mid-October, the Jewish month of Tishri. That is certainly plausible. Some suggest the conception may have been in the Jewish month of Tishri (September-October), and the birth in the Jewish month of Tammuz (June-July), and that the magi arrived on December 25, after the family had moved into a house as recorded by Matthew 2:11. That is also feasible.

Who cares! The point is that the Creator God took human form and presented Himself to His creation as fully one of them – Son of God, Son of Man; fully God, fully man. He came to us because that was the ONLY way He could save us from our sins. God took extreme measures[2] to rescue His fallen creation. That is worthy of commemoration and celebration.

December 25 seems to be a fitting time in other respects. During this time, Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” is celebrated. By this time, the winter solstice is past and the days start getting longer. The prophet exhorts, “Arise, shine; for thy light [speaking of Jesus] is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3). Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). With all the talk about “light,” December 25 makes as much sense as any other day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Notes:


[1] It is very probable, and more in line with the biblical account that Herod died in 1 B.C. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/herods-death-jesus-birth-and-a-lunar-eclipse/

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

Comments Off on Jesus’ Birthday

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Salvation

Extreme Measures

nativity-scene

And the Word 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)

The baby in the feeding trough, surrounded by smelly farm animals and adored by a small crowd including a soft-faced young mother, strong bewildered father, common shepherds and majestic kings makes for a sweet, albeit often overlooked, tableau. If noticed at all, its significance evaporates in clouds of sentimentality. How precious!

Do you not see! The Creator of heaven and earth reduced to a helpless, needy, human infant boy. The Owner and Master of all Creation presented to the world through the birth canal of a young virgin girl. The conception itself made an object of ridicule and shame; conceived outside the “knowledge” of a poor carpenter willing to accept the ridicule of the town’s people, and adopt someone else’s child. The engineer and designer of a finely tuned universe born in a dirty cave allotted to animals rather than a fine palace suitable for the King of the Universe. Rather than a reception by kings, dignitaries, and nobles, the first to greet Him were the low-class, detestable shepherds that kept the sheep for the Temple sacrifices.

This was “God With Us,” Emmanuel. God wrapped up in human flesh. Who could conceive of such a thing! The Jews expected a Messiah to turn Israel into a superpower; but Messiah was a man, not God in the flesh even though Isaiah had predicted, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:8).

No religion in the world envisions a god condescending to the level of mankind. The Greek gods occasionally mated with humans to produce demigods, yet they remained aloof from humanity. Islam has a god that demands absolute submission of his creation and even perfection (if that were possible) is subject to rejection according to his whim. Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism picture god as some nebulous ether of which all the universe is made and of which we are all part, and the human must achieve an unknowable level of perfection in order to be joined to that undefinable “oneness.”

Only the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – brings the Creator down to the lowest level of humankind in order to elevate humanity to a place near equal to God Himself. (The created thing can NEVER be equal to its creator.) The thought is incomprehensible. The method seems too extreme. If God is so great – omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. – could He not come up with a more sensible plan? Surely, some kind of merit system to earn a place at His side would be more appropriate. At least, that is what every other world religion offers. Man must do certain things – pray five times a day while facing Mecca, crawl ten miles over sharp rocks to light a candle for a saint, disassociate oneself from all worldly things, etc. – to appease the gods. However, that is not what the God of the Bible does (or did). He took extreme measures to rescue His fallen creation.

Man severed the intimate bond he had with his Creator at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6-7). Love is an act of the will. It is always an act of the will. It cannot be imposed. It cannot be coerced. It must be offered and accepted freely and willingly, otherwise it is not love. Therefore, God placed only one stipulation on the man He created. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17, emphasis mine). The man chose wrongly, and all of mankind, along with the whole of creation, suffered the curse of that choice. God introduced temporary measures to cover for human shortcomings – He shed the blood of innocent animals to cover (atone) their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), He accepted the sacrifice of innocent animals for the sins of man (Genesis 4:4; 8:20-21), and He institutionalized the sacrificial system shedding innocent animal blood to atone for sins (Exodus 12) – but this was insufficient. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Animals, while innocent of any wrongdoing, are not responsible for the fall of man. The sentence for the infraction was death for the guilty party – the man. Therefore, the only reasonable and adequate sacrifice must be that of an innocent man, but there are none. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What then! God took extreme measures to resolve the problem. God, Himself, put on human flesh. Through an act possible only for the omniscient, omnipotent, Creator God created a single-cell human zygote, in the pure virgin womb of a young Jewish maiden that developed as a normal human embryo. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4). God was born like any normal human baby. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “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).

Only the blood of a perfectly sinless, innocent man could suffice to pay the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). God took extreme measures to buy back His fallen creation. There was no other way to solve the sin problem. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

The next time you view a nativity scene, look beyond the sweet baby in the manger and see the cross. Two trees still grow in God’s garden, the Tree of Life, i.e. the Cross of Christ, and the worldly tree of man’s perverted “knowledge of good and evil.” One tree gives eternal life, the other eternal death, i.e. eternal separation from the Creator. The choice is yours.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Salvation, Theology