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MYSTERIES OF THE BIBLE
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this Mysteries of the Bible book with Mysteries of the Bible lesson. This
Mysteries of the Bible study and Mysteries of the Bible story with Mysteries of the Bible lesson looks at the Mysteries of the Bible message and asks what do the Mysteries of the Bible mean, what are the Mysteries of the Bible, why are the Mysteries of the Bible important, what are the Mysteries of the Bible messages and how do the Mysteries of the Bible affect you. The Mysteries of the Bible are essential in the Christian walk. Understanding the Mysteries of the Bible is very important and learning about the Mysteries of the Bible can help you to overcome the worldly whirlwinds. Let us delve into this Mysteries of the Bible lesson with Mysteries of the Bible message in this Mysteries of the Bible book, shall we?


 

CHRISTIANITY OASIS

PRESENTS

PURITY PUBLICATIONS
 


MYSTERIES OF THE BIBLE

By Kenneth B. Alexander, J.D., Minister
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface
Introduction
The Creation of the Heavens and the Earth
Always Return to Your First Love
Predestination-How God Sees the Future
More on Predestination
Gospels-Parables of the Kingdom
A Mother in Israel and a Prophetess
Has God’s Plan for Israel Changed?
Hell-The Dumping Ground of the Universe
Identifying the Spirit of God in Us
Interpreting the Bible
Jews, Christians and Passover
Jews, Christians and Tabernacles
More Links Between Christianity and Judaism
Matthew 13: The Wheat and the Tares
Melchizedek
The Second Coming and the Rapture
The Suffering Servant
The Fall of Man
The Feast of Pentecost
The Forsaken Bride A Story of Hope
Be Like Christ
The Recesses of the North-The Fall of Satan
The Works of God
The Epistle of Jude

 

PREFACE 

The author thanks the following for help in compiling this work. Pastor John Robert Stevens, deceased; Pastors Gary and Marilyn Hargrave; The Living Word, a fellowship of Churches (thelivingword.org); many true believers I have been associated with over the years; and The Libronix Bible Study System;

 

Author:  Kenneth B. Alexander, BSL, JD, Ministry

enoch1122@yahoo.com

scriptures are from The New American Standard Bible, 1995 ed. unless otherwise noted

  

INTRODUCTION 

            These are a collection of articles written under the hand of the Lord to reveal some of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God which are not usually taught in most denominational churches today.  This is further showing of deep foundational truths so one can enter the highest level of the coming age of Christ’s rule on earth. The road to perfection, which is what God longs for, is a narrow road. Few there be that pass on it. Christ said: “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there Because  strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

            Well you say I am a born again Christian and have accepted Jesus as my Savior. Isn’t that enough to get me to heaven? The answer is that what we call “basic salvation” is just the beginning to a real walk with God. Yes you that have saved will obtain a measure of eternal life. But beyond that are many things you must learn, which things involve a continuing salvation process that brings you into perfection; and not necessarily after you physically die.

            More than anything God is after a relationship with you like He had with the first humans in the Garden. There He spoke face to face with them in the cool of the night. The first humans were babies in their overall spiritual development and God had much to teach them. We who are saved are in much the same place. God has much to reveal to us and much more He would like us to become. He desires us to become Sons of God, like the first Son Jesus Christ. Together Christ and His brethren, us, form the Father’s family that he longs for.

            At the last supper Christ made it clear to His disciples that they had much to learn when He was gone He would send the “helper”, the Holy Spirit to teach them many things. He said: “When the Helper [ Gr paracletos, one called alongside to help, comforter, advocate, intercessor] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the  Helper [paracletos] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

            Christ was not speaking to babes. He was speaking to disciples who had been with Him for 31/2 years; they had cast out demons, healed people and done other mighty works. But Christ said He had more to teach them, through the helper that was to come, the Holy Spirit. Christ’s ministry was within a 30 mile radius of His home yet he wanted the gospel to go to the end of the earth. He wanted His disciples to do greater works than He did (John 14:12). He wanted the disciples to reduplicate themselves and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

            “To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? “For He says, Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’ ”Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue,” (Isaiah 28:9-11).

             This Book is one more line upon line, precept on precept so we can all reach perfection in the Lord as He desires.

 

THE CREATION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH 

Creation Generally

            The question about the events surrounding the creation of the heavens and the earth has been the subject of much consideration and speculation over the ages. All civilizations and cultures have their own creation stories or myths. Most theories involve a creation born out of violence, usually between warring gods. The ancient Sumerians depicted a great battle between Tiamit and Marduke, resulting in the remains of Tiamit being spread over the heavens, resulting in the creation of the universe.  Marduke became their god supreme.  Both the Greeks and Romans had myths of great conflicts between the Gods. Native Americans have stories varying between tribes. Most creation stories contain a flood, similar to Noah’s flood, as depicted in the Bible. It is beyond the scope of this article to study each creation story of the various civilizations.  Science today challenges all of the accounts by explaining creation by scientific processes involving no god(s) at all. Science for the large part places the Genesis account of creation, the most popular, as one more myth to be disregarded. But 21st century science cannot explain, hard as it may try, how the universe was created out of nothing. 

            The Bible makes it clear: “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Creation was created like everything else-by a Word from God.  

            The “big bang” is the currently accepted scientific theory of the origin of the creation of all things.  That may have actually been the way God initiated creation. Cosmologists theorize that the universe resulted from an explosion which originated from an infinitely dense piece of compressed matter/energy over 14 billion years ago. The resulting “explosion” created everything we see and do not see of the universe today. Science can mathematically calculate what occurred after this “big bang”, even down to down to the -10-41 power of a second (a decimal with 41 zeros to the right of it called a Plank’s second). They can explain by mathematical physics how this explosion gradually formed into stars, galaxies and solar systems. But beyond that they do not know what ignited the “bang” or how that piece of matter/ energy got there in the first place. In refusing to accept the fact that creation was initiated by God out of nothing, theories have been developed specifically to avoid accepting that fact. Some theories involve parallel universes, colliding membranes (called banes), theories involving extra dimensions and many more. Some absurd theories suggest that what we see and live in is nothing more than a hologram projected from the edge of the universe. Another says we are living in a computer generated world created by some form of humanity living in the future. Still another postulates that creation itself is comprised only of mathematical equations. And of course others say we were populated by extraterrestrial means. The list, believe it or not, goes on. These alternate explanations, however, are just theories, originating from the mind of men, and not proven.            

            We know there was a starting point to creation and a mathematical probability of an ending point. Science has made strides in understanding the cosmos in the last 400 years, especially in the last 40 years. However as science seems to close in on understanding visible  matter in the universe, they have recently discovered that as much as 96% of the universe is comprised of energy and mass that we cannot see or explain (i.e. dark matter, dark energy). All our scientific knowledge of anything cosmological, astronomical or even on a quantum level is based on the less than 10% of the visible universe.

            Man has begun to explore the heavens with sophisticated telescopes, and can now see visible matter billions of light years away. Man has ventured out to explore the closest planets, in our solar system, which rotate around one sun of billions that comprise our Milky Way galaxy. But beyond our galaxy lie billions of other galaxies which also comprise billions of stars themselves. Man has no technology to personally travel to any of our closest planets (man has reached the moon) let alone reaching our nearest star. Neither has science solved the elusive “theory of everything” which is thought to exist within the atom, combining magnetic, strong and weak forces with gravity.  Man is discovering a variety of particles that comprise the atom but cannot understand their function or purpose. If nature alone created all we can see it certainly left no easy clues as to the very nature of its existence.

            The same is true of Darwin’s theory of the evolution of life. His theory still cannot explain how the first organism formed into something “alive” and eventually evolved into man. Science speculates that life originated in a primordial soup of elements necessary for life that somehow mixed themselves together and became “alive”. This theory explains life as a “roll of the cosmic dice”, when conditions were just right for this chemical mixture to become “alive”. However, to this day scientists cannot, by mixing these various chemicals together in ideal conditions, create anything “living”. Science can manipulate what already exists by rearranging genes etc. but it can’t create life or even understand what “life” is.  

            To sum up, the mind of unspiritual man, no matter how hard it tries, knows little and can never know the mind of God. He cannot accept what should be obvious. God said: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares 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 55:8-9).  And: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:33-34).  Even Job in his agony knew this: “It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how, When He overturns them in His anger; Who shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble; Who commands the sun not to shine, And sets a seal upon the stars; Who alone stretches out the heavens  And  tramples down the waves of the sea; Who makes the  Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, And the  chambers of the south; Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number. “Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him; Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him. “Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him? Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?” (Job 9:5-12).  

THE CREATION ACCORDING TO GENESIS  

           Genesis, the first book of the Christian and Jewish Bible, starts with the story of creation as follows: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The question becomes: just what did God create at this time. The Hebrew word for “heaven(s) is "samayim” which is used throughout the Bible in a variety of contexts. However when the word is coupled with the earth (heaven and earth) it defined differently. The term “heaven and earth” are meant to refer to God’s creation in its entirety. While the term can be used to denote the sky, atmosphere etc. the most likely meaning in Genesis 1 is that “samayan” is used to denote God’s dwelling in order to separate that place form earth, which has been given to man.

Psalm 115:15-16 says: “May you be blessed of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, But the earth He has given to the sons of men”. In this case Sayamim and earth serve as a contrasting pair. This theme of the distinction of God’s ways (those of heaven) and humanity weaves its way throughout the Bible. Isaiah 55:8-9 is clear on this point: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares 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”.  While the term heaven, as used in Genesis, could incorrectly to refer to the universe, with its vast stars and galaxies, we must note that God relegates the creation of the universe (the Sun, Moon and stars) to later passages in Genesis.

            Next we read: “The earth was formless [waste and emptiness] and void, and darkness was over the surface [face of] of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving [hovering] over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, NASV). There has been much theological and scientific discussion of the passages Genesis 1 & 2). Those who cling to the idea that the Bible says the heavens and the earth were created in seven days are misreading Genesis 1-2. There is no time specified between versus 1 &2. These verses are entirely separate from subsequent verses that deal with the further details of creation. Verse 1 says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and does not say He did it in seven days. In verse 2 we skip forward and find the earth in a state of being formless and void. The time gap between verse 1 and 2 is not stated, and from our standpoint (God knows no time) the period could have been countless eons. We do not even get to the seven days of creation until later in the passage and subsequent verses do not include versus 1 or 2.

            The idea that the heavens and the earth were created in seven calendar days seems to belie belief and physical evidence. However many still believe that was the case. One Archbishop Ussher (1580-1656) held to this idea of a recent creation. He purported to construct a time-line of creation based on events which occurred in known human history and the time between them. Using 1 A.D. (C.E.) as a starting point, he counted backwards until he reached the year 4004 and stopped because at that time there was no more recorded human history. He did not imply that 4004 was the year of creation; he had just reached the end of recorded human history.  However some have adopted this date as the year of creation.

            Verses 1-2 clearly mention the heaven and the earth. As we have pointed out above the Hebrew word for heaven “Shamayim” or “shameh” can mean any number of things, taking it standing alone without being identified with earth (heaven and earth) i.e. the physical universe outside earth, the sky, where the birds fly and a spiritual realm where God lives. The word for earth is “Erets” which means the physical earth and all it comprises. No time frame is mentioned that indicates the space of time between when God made the “heavens and the Earth” and when He found the earth in a totally devastated state (v.2). 

            Science, from a mathematical standpoint, calculates the age of the universe to be approximately 14 billion years. According to science, out of the energy/matter of creation, the earth was formed some 8 billion years later. In that respect there is no real conflict between God and science on the point that a long period of time elapsed between God the time God created the heavens and the earth. It could have been billions of years (as man perceives time).

             God could have used any methodology to create all things. Scripture says: “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,” (Isaiah 24:24). And: “Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens;” (Isaiah 48:13). And again: “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring,” (Isaiah 42:5).

            We must understand what time really is, that is, what time means to God who lives in eternity.  The Bible says this about time from God’s standpoint:  “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  (2 Peter 3:8). Also Psalm 90:4 states:  “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night”. These scriptures are clearly allegorical but they state clearly that time to God is not how man computes time.

            Some interpreters say that the term “a thousand years” is simply a number meaning “ultimate perfection” (10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000). Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, Victor Books, 1996. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states as follows: God counts time differently than does man. People see time against time; but God sees time against eternity. In fact time only seems long because of man’s finite perspective. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”.  Other commentators simply regard a thousand  years as simply “a very long time” capable of any duration.  

            In interpreting 2 Peter 3:8-9 Matthew Henry states: “ The truth which the apostle asserts—that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. Though, in the account of men, there is a great deal of difference between a day and a year, and a vast deal more between one day and a thousand years, yet in the account of God, who inhabits eternity, in which there is no succession, there is no difference; for all things past, present, and future, are ever before him, and the delay of a thousand years cannot be so much to him as the deferring of any thing for a day or an hour is to us. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Abridged in One Volume, 2 Peter 8-9).

            Again, since there is no time mentioned in verse 2 of the time that elapsed between verse 1 and verse 2, we only know that at the time of verse 2, the earth had been created. It is cited therein that “the earth was without form and void”. The Hebrew word for “without form or void” is ‘Saraph” which means: to be “on fire, to destroy by fire, to cremate, complete destruction of  objects and cities, futility, waste, nothingness, void and destroyed”. We know nothing of what could have occurred to render earth into that catastrophic state. We know nothing of what occurred from the time it was created until it reached its condition depicted in verse 2. Given that God immediately began to restore it to a reasonable condition as he found it at that time tells us nothing of what had gone on before.

            Therefore we must conclude that time is computed by God differently than time is perceived by man. Computing time is just one more instance where man can never understand the ways of God nor what time means to Him. Therefore references to time in the context of eras or epochs do not necessarily reflect periods of time as man understands them. Peter’s reference to a day being like a thousand years to God, and vice versa, renders computation of times mentioned in the Bible essentially meaningless or perhaps more correctly allegorical.

            We also must understand that Genesis was never meant to be a historical or scientific Book. Its composition is more lyrical than scientific. It is actually a song of praise to God who created the wonders of the heavens and the earth. The Book is primarily a prose narrative, punctuated by poetic verse here and there. Much of the prose is of lyrical quality, using figures of speech and other devices that characterize the world’s finest epic literature. It does portray, however, what God wanted to convey as to the origin of what would culminate in the birth and ministry of His Son Jesus Christ, the Savior of an otherwise futile world.

            Verses 3-5 of Genesis state: “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. On the second “day” He creates: “Then God said, “Let there be an expanse [firmament] the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse [firmament], and separated the waters which were below the expanse [firmament] from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse [firmament] heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day”. In this case we can infer that the use of the Hebrew “Shamayim” refers to a physical heaven of some kind: a sky or in this case a “Firmament”.

            Firmament is from the Vulgate "firmamentum", which is used as the translation of the Hebrew "raki<a". This word means simply “expansion.” It denotes the space or expanse like an arch appearing immediately above us. The language of Scripture is not scientific but popular, and hence we read of the sun rising and setting, and also hear the use of this particular word. It is plain that it was used to denote solidity as well as expansion. It formed a division between the waters above and the waters below (Gen. 1:7). The raki<a supported the upper reservoir (Ps. 148:4). It was the support also of the heavenly bodies (Gen. 1:14), and is spoken of as having “windows” and “doors” (Gen. 7:11; Isa. 24:18; Mal. 3:10) through which the rain and snow might descend. (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

            Heaven, as used here, which God called the firmament or expanse, is likened to a massive transparent dome that covers the earth in the mystical world view of the ancient Hebrews. The blue color of the sky was attributed to the chaotic waters that the firmament separated from the earth (Gen. 1:7). The earth was thus surrounded by waters above and below (Deut. 5:8). The firmament was thought to be substantial; it had pillars (Job 26:11) and foundations (2 Sam. 22:8; Harper’s Bible Dictionary). It still suggests a distance between heaven and earth as an inconceivable distance, yet not an impassable gulf, as there is between heaven and hell. This firmament is not a wall of partition, but a way for the two realms to communicate. It is the visible heaven, the pavement of the holy city; above the firmament God is said to have his throne (Ezekiel 1:26), for he has prepared it in the heavens; the heavens therefore are said to rule (Dan. 4:26). The so called “Lord’s prayer” begins with “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). The height of the heavens should remind us of God’s supremacy and the infinite distance between us and him; the brightness of the heavens and their purity should remind us of his glory, and majesty, and perfect holiness; the vastness of the heavens, their encompassing of the earth, and the influence they have upon it, should remind us of his immensity and universal providence.

            Note that the light created on this second day was not light from the sun, as the sun is not created until the fourth day. On the third day: “Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day” (Genesis 1:9-13).

            We can see so far that the “days” God was speaking about were not what we consider days now as there was no alternating light and dark as the sun and moon had not yet been created. Without that reference to the computation of time we have no guide as to the length of the days designated through 1:3 in Genesis. The Hebrew Term for “day” is “yom” and in addition to being referred to as a physical day, it can also refer to an unspecified period of time (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, William D. Mounce, Zonderman, 2006).The Greek noun “hemera” (used in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament Bible) can also mean an unspecified amount of time as well as a literal day. It appears that the term “day” is used by God to show an order of creation that was understandable to the reader, instead of millenniums of time, or even billions of years. Time is a creation of God which began at a finite moment in eternity. God is eternal and no one knows what came before (if there can even be a before in the context of eternity). It is as if God carved out a section of eternity and made it time. Since Genesis is the first book of the Law (Torah) God is teaching man the order in which he will live in creation, which comprises seven days including the Sabbath.

            God goes on with His creation: “Then God said, “Let there be lights [luminaries, light bearers] in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for  seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, [luminaries, light bearers] the  greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also”. “God placed them in the expanse [firmament] of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to  govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day” (Genesis 1:13-19). Thus it was not until this fourth day of creation that a human day was governed by the sun and the moon.

            On the fifth and sixth day God made all the living things that were to inhabit His earth including man on the sixth day. At each point He paused to notice that what He had created was “good”, including man.

            We recall that after God created the Earth that He found it in a state of being formless and void (described above). We don’t know how it came to be that way but with the Spirit of God hovering over it, God remade the earth into a place where He called it and all creation “good”. Later, after the Garden of Eden, it was returned to a futile state, the state we live in now.

            We can see that the scientific explanation for creation, and God’s account, do not differ fundamentally from each other. The order of creation from a scientific view follows God’s order in sequence. In the beginning God made heaven and earth, the stars, the sun and moon, then the plant life, then animal life and finally man. One thing science has done is maximize the stars and the universe over the earth where God places little emphasis on the physical universe. Earlier He said “and he made the stars also” almost as an afterthought.

            Modern science tends to minimize the importance of the earth in the overall scheme of things in the universe because they say the earth is a small insignificant piece of creation placed in an insignificant place in an ordinary galaxy. However God places great emphasis on the earth. For all we know, the earth may be the most important place in the universe. There is no real proof we have ever been visited by extraterrestrial beings, if they exist at all. From all the heavenly bodies we have visited or observed we have found none even remotely similar to earth. The great schism which has developed between God and science has been that science has set about to minimize the importance of the earth in relation to the vast cosmos. The Bible speaks of the heavens and the earth in the same breath and in most cases minimizes the importance of the heavens (that is the physical universe).

            Bible scripture speaks of the destruction of the universe in a way that diminishes the importance of the physical universe. “And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine,” (Isaiah 34:4). And: “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Revelation 6:14). Matthew Henry in his authoritative commentary says: “Look up to the visible heavens above, which have continued hitherto, and seem likely to continue, but they shall vanish like smoke that soon spends itself and disappears; they shall be rolled like a scroll, and their lights shall fall like leaves in autumn” (quoting Isaiah 51:4). It is true that science predicts the ultimate demise of the universe but at a point so far into the future that it is not really relevant to us living today. The Bible points to a possible imminent destruction of the heavens.

            We do know the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) was hovering over the earth to try once again to return earth to its former heavenly state, as recorded in the remainder of the Bible. According to scripture, Adam and Eve lived on a perfect earth. They had need of nothing. God was constantly present. After their sin and removal from this perfect world, they were cast into a world which was under futility (Genesis Chapter 3). Banishing Adam and Eve from one state of being to another God said: “To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).  

            Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil [sorrow] you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19).

             Thus death and futility were born. God had good reason to take the first humans from a world of Paradise to a world of futility: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us [Father, Son and Holy Spirit], knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from  the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the  east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:22-24).  What He did, knowing now the propensity of man for evil, was He placed man in a limited place so his evil would not have the enduring, eternal effect it would have had had otherwise.   

            Man was created to be an eternal being, in the image of God. But because of sin and disobedience he was made subject to futility and death, as we all are today. One need only look around at the state of earth as it writhes in the grips of futility. Nothing is permanent. Nothing has any lasting significance. Kingdoms come and go. Everything wears out. Even scientifically the entire universe will wear out and die eventually if left to its current course. All of medical science can only cure disease long enough for its patients to eventually die at a later time.

            Paul the Apostle said in Romans 8:20-2: “For the creation was subjected to futility,”.  Futility is variously defined as: “of no avail, useless, dismal, fruitless, ineffectual, pointless, and vain and the quality of producing no valuable effect” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, 11th Ed.).

            This state of futility is aptly described by King Solomon in his book entitled Ecclesiastes:

“Vanity of vanities,” [futilities of futilities] says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
[futility]
What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.
Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again...
All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one might say,
“See this, it is new”?
 Already it has existed for ages
 Which were before us.
 There is no remembrance of earlier things;
 And also of the later things which will occur,
 There will be for them no remembrance
 Among those who will come later still.
(Ecclesiastes 2-11).

            However futility is not to be the permanent state of creation. Paul the Apostle said in   Romans 8:20-22: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”. Creation was subjected to futility not of it is own will but because of the will of God. But God retained a hope it would return to its glorious state. There remains a promise that the Sons of God will release creation from its divinely imposed futility.

            This hope is first voiced in Genesis 3:14-15. The serpent that deceived Eve was Satan (Revelation 12:9). In the Garden God spoke to the “serpent of old” as follows: “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise [crush] you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:14-15). What God was saying was that the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) would crush Satan’s head killing him, which He did on the cross. Although Satan would bruise the heal of the Son, the Son would initiate the fatal blow. “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be  tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

            So in the end the original sin is forgotten and creation is made new again. In the Book of Revelation John says: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5). So just as God made all things new when He found the earth in a formless and chaotic state in Genesis, so again He makes all things new at the end of the age and the end of time.

                                   

ALWAYS RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

In the Bible Book of Revelation John wrote to the church at Ephesus as follows: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance [steadfastness], and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have  perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.  ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:2-5).         

          At first glance the church at Ephesus had everything going for it. They toiled for the Lord with great perseverance and steadfastness. The churches of Christ were, at that time, under great persecution by the Roman Empire and by orthodox Jewish sects. It took great strength and perseverance just to exist as a body of believers, let alone engage in the monumental task of spreading the word of God. God recognized and commended them for that quality.         

          Further, the church had apparently been infiltrated by false prophets and some who called themselves Apostles. At that time the church was under assault by various groups and men who advocated doctrines other than the true gospel of Christ. Among them were the Gnostics who were a false sect who taught a doctrine of “secret knowledge” as a means to salvation. They denied that Jesus was the Christ and battled Paul throughout his ministry. Also present were the aesthetic Jews who wanted to mix Christianity with elements of the Jewish Law, and legalism which pervaded Israel during the time of Christ. Other groups preached mystical doctrines that conditioned righteousness on what men ate drank or how they conducted themselves in various rituals such as washings, fastings, and other natural observances such as new moon festivals etc. Others taught angel worship (See the Books of Colossians and Galatians, wherein Paul opposed these types of intruding religions). The Ephesian church had the perception to weed out these evil influences from their midst and adhere to the true gospel taught them by John.

            Further they had endured, even while being under the greatest persecution the early church had faced during that time. One of Satan’s greatest tactics of spiritual warfare was and is to “wear down” those pursuing Christ, as noted by Daniel in 7:25: “He [Satan] will speak words against the Most High and wear down the saints [holy ones] of the Highest One” Yet God commends the Ephesian church for enduring and not becoming weary; they refused to be worn down by the continual assault of the enemy.

            Therefore it appeared the Ephesian church had done everything right. What could God possibly have against such a faithful, victorious church? I am sure the church thought they were doing very well themselves. However, as one reads on in the scripture, God had something against them that was so important that it could lead to their very destruction if left uncorrected. They had left their first love. They were so focused on doing works, enduring, weeding out evil and being steadfast that they had forgotten why they were doing it all in the first place.         

First and foremost God requires that we love Him first, before all other things. An Israelite lawyer, one who knew and practiced the Law of Moses, asked Christ the following question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He [Jesus] said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost [first] commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38).         

Certainly this world, in all its various pursuits, has completely lost touch with God in most cases. The human intellect and man’s soulish pursuits of pleasure have erased God from any consideration in the hearts of men. But here God is not speaking to humanity in general—He is speaking to a faithful, steadfast, perceptive Christian church that despite all their good works will lose out with God unless He becomes their only priority.       

The Kingdom of God is all about having a personal relationship with God. It is about love—loving Him first before anything else. He is a jealous God. When one of His chosen focuses on something other than Him He becomes enraged and reacts violently. This is all too evident in the way He treated the nation of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament. When Israel would begin to focus on other things, like the gods of the surrounding nations, God would judge them severely. He would react as would any jealous lover when he/she is betrayed. Jealous rages account for a majority of murders in society. God judged His chosen nation of Israel many times for their apostasy.          

Over and over in the scriptures God likens Israel, His chosen nation, to being an unfaithful bride or to whoredom (see the Book of Hosea for example). That is not to say that He likened the Ephesian church to whoredom but the principle is the same. Anything that rivals God for His affections is something that displeases Him no matter how good the intentions. No one can argue that the Ephesian church had good intentions in doing everything they knew to please God. Yet in all their doing, they somehow lost their bearings and forgot for whom they were doing all these good things.         

Many Christian churches of today are involved in many kinds of good works intended to please God. Missionary movements spread good will throughout the earth. Churches engage in political activist movements intended to influence legislation to reflect what they think God wants.  Many churches are so involved in doing what they think is the will of God that they forget that all He wants is for them to love Him. The works come, if at all, out of that love relationship. Without manifestation of the pure, unadulterated spiritual love of God, works designed to please Him are worthless—they are called “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1, 9:14).        

Revelation speaks of the seven lampstands surrounding the throne of God which some say are representative of the seven churches spoken to by John (Revelation chapters 2-3), including the Ephesian church (Revelation 1:12-13). The Ephesians were doing so well that, according to the scripture, they already had a lampstand in place surrounding the throne of Christ. However, despite all the good works being done by the Ephesian church, God threatened to remove their lampstand from among the seven unless they repented and returned to love Him first. As harsh as this may seem to the human mind, it is sadly symbolic of the nature of God who wants to be put first in everything. He seems to say that if all we do is love Him, with all our hearts, that that one act is in and of itself sufficient to please Him. Only out of that love comes our love for our neighbor and all of the wonderful works He intends to accomplish on the earth, the foremost work being the establishing of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10).

We don’t take this word with any condemnation that we have somehow failed Him by not loving Him first. We know that loving Him with all our hearts is only made possible by His gift of grace. We simply accept the gift. We love you first, Lord. We love you first because you first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is impossible for us but with God all things are possible (Mark 9:23, 10:27; Matthew 19:26).

 

PREDESTINATION: HOW GOD SEES THE FUTURE

           God is essentially unlimited, and every element of his nature is infinite. His infinity in relation to time we call his eternity, in relation to space his omnipresence, in relation to knowledge his omniscience, and in relation to power his omnipotence. God is eternal, all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful. Omnipresence means He is present everywhere at the same time. Omniscience is infinite knowledge. Omnipotence means having unlimited authority or power.

            At the same time God’s infinity implies his immanence. By this we mean his all-pervading presence and power within his creation (cf. Ps. 139). He does not stand apart from the world, a mere spectator of the work of his hands. He pervades everything, organic and inorganic, acting from within outwards, from the centre of every atom, and from the innermost springs of thought and life and feeling, in a continuous sequence of energizing effect. God is pure spirit (John 4:24). When we say that God is infinite spirit, we pass completely out of the reach of our experience. We are limited as to time and place, as to knowledge and power. His infinity likewise means that God is transcendent over his universe. It emphasizes his distinctness as self-existing spirit, from all his creatures. He is not shut in by what we call nature, but infinitely exalted above it (Wood, D. R. W. ; Marshall, I. Howard: New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1996, S. 418).

            Scripture confirms this. “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6).  And: “Do you people think that I am some local deity and not the transcendent [omnipresent] God?” the Lord asks Do you really think anyone can hide himself where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. “Do you not know that I am everywhere?” (Jeremiah 23:23-24, NLT).

            Romans 11:33-36 (KJV) says this about God: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and HIS WAYS PAST FINDING OUT! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be the glory forever. Amen” (also Isaiah 40:13; Job 36:22). 

            In order to understand predestination as it applies to God and this current creation we must realize that from the inception of creation God had a plan. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He created those things, not in the abstract, but with a predetermined plan. Man always poses the question “Why are we here?” and or “What does this all mean?”. If you were to ask that question of God, He could give you an answer. It may not be the answer you were looking for but it would be the correct answer nevertheless. The answer is that He is looking for a Kingdom on earth that would duplicate what already existed, and has existed for eternity, in heaven, the Spirit realm of God. As Jesus said, as he was teaching the multitudes how to pray: “Thy [the Father’s] Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

            With that in mind God set about to create His physical Kingdom where nothing material had existed before.  He created the earth, the cosmos, the plants, animals and all the things necessary to provide a suitable environment for man, the crowning achievement of His creation. He created man (from the earth) and then woman from the man. He set them in the physical Paradise on earth which resembled heaven (the spiritual realm) in that in that it was perfect in every respect. Adam and Eve were babies in this new creation but God planned to multiply them to fill His creation which, upon completion, He had called “good”. “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

However God did not want a "robotic” creation where man would just carry out His predetermined plan with no say in the matter.  He wanted man to have a choice in the matter. He wanted a creation of man who would “choose” to be part of God’s plan. Psalm 110:3 describes what God wanted: “Your people will volunteer freely [be freewill offerings] in the day of Your power;”.  So God gave man a freewill where He was not required to fulfill God’s plan of destiny but could choose which way to go.  

God gave man everything he could have ever wanted or desired in this perfect creation He had The Garden tailor made just for them. So great was God’s expectations that He intended one day they would rule His entire creation, temporal and spiritual. Man would even rule angels. But He gave man only one test. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  

Genesis says: “Now the serpent [Satan disguised as a serpent, see Revelation 12:9, 20:2) was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and  you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened [to know good and evil] (Genesis 3:1-7).

            Now the fact that they ate of the forbidden fruit was not in and of itself bad. God, as they matured, would at some time have explained in more detail about good and evil. But the fatal fact was that they had sinned, disobeyed God, and thus were forever polluted by that sin and could no longer remain in the Garden. The way God set up the creation was that “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Even in the Old Testament it was set up that way. If a man was to keep the law, he had to keep the whole law because even one violation, without forgiveness, was death (Galatians 5:3). At that point there was no provision for the forgiveness of sin and the penalty had to be carried out.

God had only one thing to do in the case of Adam and Eve, in view of the fact that now knew sin, good and evil. “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24). If He would have left man in his current condemned state, and had he lived forever, God’s plan would have been ruined eternally and he would have had no choice but to abandon the plan completely and destroy the creation he had so carefully completed. Sin left completely unchecked  for eternity would have been nothing but disaster.

So God cursed the ground and subjected man to a state called futility in order that his now apparent evil tendencies could be controlled until He could put into action another plan for obtaining the Kingdom He wanted. He subjected creation to a futile state but not without hope that He would still get what He wanted. As the Apostle Paul put it later: “For the creation was subjected to  futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21). God had not abandoned His plan. He had modified it in hope that He would get what He wanted in the end when the children of God were revealed.

God in His condemnation of the serpent, man and woman left open that door of hope. The Lord said to the serpent (Satan): “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise [crush] you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). The seed of the woman was of course Jesus Christ who, by His death and resurrection, would crush Satan on the head, although Satan would bruise His heel in the struggle. Once that occurred, the provision for God’s perfect Kingdom would become a reality again and a potential for any and all to reach into.

             So because of the original sin God subjected creation to futility. In a sense the door was opened for evil to become a part of human society but the extent of the penetration of evil was limited by earth being in a futile state. Creating death was a big part of His containment process. No one could live long enough to perpetrate enough evil to destroy creation.

             Futility (sometimes mistranslated as vanity) is variously defined as: serving no useful purpose, completely ineffective, occupied with trifles, producing no result, completeness of failure or un-wisdom of undertaking or failure to achieve a desired result.  Fruitless comes close to vanity but often suggests long and arduous effort or severe disappointment. Other words to describe the condition are: barren of results, abortive, bootless, fruitless, ineffective, ineffectual, unavailable, unavailing, unprevailing, unproductive, useless, vain, empty, hollow, idle, nugatory, otiose, inadequate, inefficacious, inefficient, insufficient, unsatisfactory and unsuccessful. Contrasted words are effectual, efficacious, fruitful; advantageous, beneficial, profitable (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 11th Ed. and Thesaurus).

            Futility indicates the fruitlessness of human endeavors as being the result of man’s natural life. King Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man of his time, wrote extensively on futility in his Book of Ecclesiastes. He says: “Vanity of vanities, [futility of futilities]” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” [futility]. What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun?... All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes see 1:2-11). He goes on to proclaim as futile all of man’s endeavors in life including the acquiring if wisdom, pleasure and possessions, the futility of labor, futility of the evils of oppression by the rich over the poor, the folly of riches and generally the futility of life. He mentions the word vanity or futility 10 or more times in the book.

            We can see the effects of this futility in our daily lives and in the course of history over the last 5000 years. Empires rise and empires fall, from the pinnacle to virtual extinction in a matter of a few centuries. Nothing is permanent. Most of humanity lives in virtual slavery to a few who hold all the power. Joy is fleeting. Happiness is momentary. Grief and sickness abound. Dreams and visions fail or fall short. Needless killing and wars dominate. Economies fail and starvation and famine abound. We can have great scientific advances but they do not solve economic or social problems. This is futility but we do not often see it because we don’t know anything else. If you can accept it, futility is God’s holding period until He can complete His plan for a perfect Kingdom where futility is finally done away with.

            Futility did not deter God from making steps towards His final goal. Without reciting a detailed version of Israelite history, starting with Abraham he created a nation whose lineage would end with the birth of a Savior who would crush the serpent Satan, remove sin from the world, open the door for all peoples to be reconciled back to God the Father and to open the door to the Kingdom of God (Paradise restored).

Christ accomplished two things as it pertains to ending futility. When God banished man from the Garden He essentially separated Himself from humanity. Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross both redeemed mankind and reconciled him to God. Redemption means deliverance from some evil by payment of a price. In this case Christ, by sacrificing Himself on the cross, paid the price required by God for the redemption of man, the forgiveness of his sin. “For He [Christ] rescued us from the domain of darkness, [separation from God] and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 see also Hebrews 9:12; Romans 8:23).

Reconciliation means the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. It implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to one another. The Bible tells us bluntly that sinners are ‘enemies’ of God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21; James. 4:4). By removing the sin of man through Christ man is thus reconciled to God, removing the enmity. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved  from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:8-10).

Therefore Christ accomplished God’s predestined purpose for mankind, the ultimate reconciliation of man to God by the principle of redemption.

            Now, as far as individual predestination and choosing, consider the following. Christ’s ultimate sacrifice opened up redemption for all of mankind including every man and woman on the planet. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only [unique, one of a kind] begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Our predestination, according to the scripture, is up to us individually. Bluntly, we can choose God’s free gift of eternal life and salvation by believing on Christ or we can refuse the gift and perish. God is not a respecter of persons where He would favor one over another with respect to His free gift of life in Christ (Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; Ephesians 6:9; 2 Chronicles 19:7). Any and all can partake.

So the question of predestination and free will is solved. If you wish to use your freewill to accept God’s provision then you enter into His predestination for you for a place in His eternal Kingdom. That becomes your predestined, predetermined destiny. So it can then be said of you: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Ephesians 1:5). “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).  

            So in a nutshell God has predestined His plan for the salvation of mankind. This has been His plan since the beginning. Despite what happened so long ago in the Garden God, in His love for mankind, did not give up on that plan but completed it by the sacrifice of His Son. As the scripture says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  

            If you are interested in more information regarding predestination, and how God deals with the future, see the succeeding Chapter “More On Predestination”.

 

MORE ON PREDESTINATION

We could stop with the previous chapter because it addressed the bottom line on the issue of predestination. However there are some additional situations addressed in the Bible which bear on this issue and reveal a bit about the character of God.

            In further examining the question of God’s knowledge of the future, and how He deals with it, we must remember we are dealing with God, the creator of the ends of the universe. His ways are past finding out to the natural man. All man can really do to his own benefit is to ignore speculation about this or that and realize that God can do anything, even limit himself, when it comes to dealing with mankind. What we can do, on a practical level, is: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).

            We know and have previously examined and concluded that any man’s future is not fatalistically predestined to the point he has no control. However, the scripture does provide some clues about how God deals with us in His infinite omnipotentence. When we are considering God’s knowledge of the future we have previously examined the doctrine of predestination. God also exercises a principle of election and choosing. Matthew 22:14 says: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  

      God chooses or invites all to walk with Him into His Kingdom. The principle of God’s choosing is not inconsistent with the doctrine of predestination, previously discussed. God genuinely “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”  (2 Timothy 2:4). Thus the universal call goes out to all men. Yet, in “the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11), He chooses only the elect “out of the world” (John 17:6) and passed over the rest, leaving them to the damning consequences of their sin (cf. Rom. 1:18–32). The culpability for their damnation rests entirely on them because of their sin and rejection of God. God is not to blame for their unbelief. The principle of free will still dominates.

Since “God desires all men to be saved,” we are not required to ascertain that a person is an “elect”. God alone knows who all the elect are (2 Timothy 2:19). We may pray “on behalf of all men” with full assurance that such prayers are “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” After all, “the Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving-kindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:8–9).

            In addition to the universal call to all men, God specially calls many but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). In the context of predestination the reason so few are chosen is because those called must “choose to be chosen”. Once we make that choice, the call and the cost of discipleship are fulfilled through rising in the Spirit by the grace of God to fulfill the demands of the Lord (Stevens, John Robert: This Week, Volume III (1972). North Hollywood, CA. : Living Word Publications, 1981, P. 88).

Thus we choose whether or not we will participate fully in His choosing and partake of all he has to offer. God said by his prophet Isaiah in 65:12 “I will destine you for the sword, And all of you will bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight.” There it is again: Man is given freewill to respond to God’s call or not.         

Also God laments: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name. “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts” (Isaiah 65:1-2). We must conclude that His choosing is based entirely on our response to His calling.  

In another vein, if a person chooses to exercise His right to be included in God’s predetermined plan, he must know that not everybody receives the same reward. Jesus said: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; [mansions in KJV] if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). Each individual has his own place reserved by Christ in the Father’s house (Kingdom).  

            The fact that there are many levels (dwelling places) in the Kingdom is confirmed by the Book of Revelation. One group is described by these scriptures is: “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4). “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads…And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been  purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:1, 3-4). Thus some have a destiny of being chosen by God to be first fruits of His Kingdom.

            There is another group mentioned in connection with the first group. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-10). So we have one group of 144,000 which can be counted, and are sealed, and another larger group which cannot be counted which, although saved, are not among the first fruits.

            Thus there is a clear scriptural distinction between the two groups and this is all in the choosing and predestination of God. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 also speaks of this distinction: One group is those in whom: “He comes to be glorified [revealed] in His saints on that day”. And another group: “and to be marveled at among all who have believed”. There is a group, God’s Saints, THROUGH WHOM Christ will be glorified and revealed, i.e. some will actually become like Christ, with His nature fully formed within them. Another group, eternally saved, marvel at God’s revelation of Himself in the Saints.

            Scripture bears this out. 1 John 3:2 says: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is”. There is a difference in just being a human sinner whom God has forgiven. Many churches today gauge their success on how many souls they have saved. And many who have been saved think that is all that is necessary in becoming perfect. Some think “I have been saved therefore I am going to heaven when I die” so everything is OK. And they are right to some extent. If they have confessed Christ as their Savior they are saved on one level. However, being saved is just the beginning if one wants to walk in the fullness of God which is actually becoming like Him; just like Him with His nature living within them. Ultimately, that is the goal for those who choose to go beyond mere salvation.

            There is a difference in being saved and being saved to the uttermost. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Being saved to the uttermost means that you are actually conformed to His image. Part of God’s predestined plan is to bring many Sons to glory, Sons like Christ in every way. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become  conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:29).  

            The two groups thus become apparent in their composition. One group has actually become conformed to the image of Christ, having become like Him. The rest are saved, and are God’s children, but they have not reached the ultimate level of becoming like Christ.

There is another group mentioned, which is probably the 144,000 previously mentioned. “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be  priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4-6). These again are those who have been resurrected, like Christ, and will rule with Him. The rest of the dead come later.

Daniel says: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:1-3).  

Why doesn’t God reveal the future to us? One reason is that we would not understand it if He did. God has a unique non-human way of looking at things:

“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something NEW,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert”
(Isaiah 43:18-19).

The very nature of human sciences such as psychology are based on calling to mind the past, even to childhood, in order to solve internal conflicts. God says not to consider the past because our faulty memories can only get us into trouble.

            And He says:

“THINGS which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And
which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him

(1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:4, 65:17).

Nothing we see or our furthest imaginations cannot compare with what God has for us on a day to day basis.

            When God moves, or says something to man, it is usually something the man has never  considered or imagined. It can be compared to a man wanting and praying for a bicycle for transportation. The man may think that his life would be fulfilled if only he had one; he may have even figured out the color and make of the bike. So he prays for transportation and gets up the next day to find a Lexus in the driveway. That is how God works. He always has in mind something greater than we could ever imagine. That is why it would be difficult to reveal future knowledge to man because man’s thinking is skewed so as to believe in limitations rather than an unlimited God.

            An obvious scriptural example of election and predestination is found with the Old Testament nation of Israel. They were God’s chosen people. In effect He said: “I am only moving on behalf of Israel; the pagan nations can have their gods and their ways, just don’t intermingle with them”. Is that fair or an example of Him having predestined the other nations to destruction? Deuteronomy 4:19 says: “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”. All other pagan nations founded their societies on the worship of the cosmos and idols.

             Although the nation of Israel was seemingly predestined by God to be His special people on the earth, they never lived up to God’s expectation of them and they were eventually cast aside. When they served God to His satisfaction, they defeated their pagan enemies and had times of peace. When they did not follow His law, God stirred up the surrounding nations who would defeat Israel. God would also send famine and pestilence. Even though Israel was predestined and elected to be God’s people, they never obtained what he had planned for them. 

            Did God know the future of Israel? Yes, He even predicted it.  “The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. “Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ “But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:16-18). But in this case there was a reason and Israel’s failure did not defeat God’s overall plan. He wanted to show mankind that man, in himself, could not fulfill the Law of God thus necessitating a Savior who could. Scripture says the Law of Moses was out tutor to lead us to Christ. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that  we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). 

            God is flexible in His predetermined plan.”God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to HIS purpose” (Romans 8:28). So God, who knows all things, has provided a way that if we deviate from HIS predetermined path He is able, if we choose, to re-do His predetermination to lead us back to the right path, which is the path chosen for us to walk.

            Simply because physical Israel failed to walk in what God had planned for them did not mean that God’s predetermined purpose failed.  For purpose of explanation, the Israel referred to in the Old Testament was the physical nation of Israel. After Christ and the initiation of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), physical Israel became spiritual Israel as salvation was opened to the Jews and Gentiles alike; the Jews, the physical nation of Israel were no longer afforded their unique position of being God’s special, chosen nation. They were thus put on equal footing with the Gentiles (Romans 9-11). Paul says in Romans 2:28-29 that:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter”.

God, in his great omnipotence, has the ability to choose to forget or disregard events such as sin. In the Old Testament man was required under the Law of Moses to continually make offerings for forgiveness of Sin. Thus man was constantly reminded of his sin because no sacrifice of a bull or goat erased sin completely. When Chris appeared all of mankind’s sin was forgiven, removed and forgotten by God. “And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
 After
those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind
I will write them,”

He then says,

 “And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more”

(Hebrews 10:15-17).

He could remember them, but He has chosen not to.

            God has limited Himself with the ability to change His mind about something He has decided will occur. Examples of God’s predestination being changed by the intervention of man are recorded in the scriptures. In Abraham’s time God predestined to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and told Abraham what he intended to do. Abraham challenged God’s predestined future by bargaining with God, asking Him if He would spare the cities if there were as few as 10 righteous men therein. God agreed to do that. He turned away from what he had predestined and promised Abraham that if there were indeed a handful of righteous men in Sodom/Gomorrah he would relent and save the cities. He even sent angels to assess the situation. However, in the end, the only righteous men found were Lot and his family. The cities were destroyed but could have had there been as few as 10 righteous men found in the cities. (Genesis 18:20-19:29).  

            Likewise Moses saved the entire nation of Israel by intervening and changing God’s mind about situations. As recorded in Exodus 33 God became angry with Israel and vowed to destroy the entire nation, leaving only Moses to carry on the chosen nation. Moses interceded with God and God changed His mind and decided not to destroy the people. Similarly in Numbers 21 God again became angry with Israel and set to destroy them, sending fiery serpents among them. Moses interceded with God to stop the carnage. God said He would relent if Moses made a bronze serpent and held it up upon a standard. Moses did so and it came about that all who looked upon the bronze serpent were spared. Again God changed His mind, His predestination.

In the Book of Jonah God decided to destroy the wicked City if Nineveh and sent Jonah to warn them. However, after Jonah’s warning, the entire City decided to repent. “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:3-5). “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

This is consistent with the idea that anything God has predestined can be changed. Although His overall plan is not affected, details of how He carries it out can be changed by the intervention of men of God. Even what is written in the Bible is not necessarily fatalistic. Perhaps God writes a certain future but always leaves open the possibility that the outcome can be changed by prayer and intercession. This can be true even of the prophecies and predictions contained in the Book of Revelation. Things do not have to be as they are predicted if man repents and humbles himself to the Lord. In 2 Kings 20 God intended to kill King Hezekiah by striking him with a fatal illness. The prophet Isaiah interceded and God changed His mind and allowed the King 16 years more of life.   

            A wise man once said “the wicked destroy themselves”. They don’t need intervention from God to do evil. It’s in their nature to do wrong. All the evil in this world that denies that Christ was and is the resurrected Son of God causes man to seek his own way rather than God’s. Disaster is always the answer for not accepting God’s will over our own. So we could say that man creates his own predestination. God’s predetermination that the Kingdom of God will come on this earth never changes. God is the driver of the buggy. If we want to ride along He is willing to allow us (from the movie “Mulholland Drive”). The fact that God knows the beginning from the end has no bearing on that.

             Remember, God’s ways are unknowable to us in our fallen state. The only real answers come directly from God where He lives in the realm of the Spirit (Heaven if you will). And He reveals them only when we are ready to receive them. So it is to us not to wonder about the future, predestination, election and the like, but to seek God because our salvation draws nigh. There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed. And all who sincerely believe in the gift of grace, eternal life is theirs if they will only believe. If we truly believe, our life on this earth will also be much less complicated. A wise man once said that “the worship of God is the answer to a thousand questions”.

 

JESUS’ PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM

Did you know that the most important aspect of Jesus' ministry was to preach of the coming of the  Kingdom of God? A great many of His parables were concerned with this topic. It's not hard to recognize such parables and sayings because they usually begin with "The Kingdom of God (or heaven, no difference) can be compared to….". We will examine some those parables and sayings, all contained in the Gospels.  

The Kingdom of God is described in the scriptures as the coming together of the Kingdom of Heaven with the earth, forming the ultimate Kingdom i.e. the Kingdom of God wherein God’s will is done both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 6:10). As it now stands, Satan has been removed from heaven and banished to earth where earth, Satan’s kingdom, stands in opposition to God’s coming Kingdom. When the Kingdom of heaven is reconciled to the earth it is said that the Lord will then rule the combined Kingdom with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15; 12:5; 2:27). The Lord, while on earth referenced the coming of this Kingdom age and how to become a part of it, frequently using parables, collectively called the Parables of the Kingdom. Some of these we will examine below.  

The Gospels of Jesus are the first 4 books in the New Testament of the Bible. They are written by men who were either with Christ in person as an original disciple or were with an apostle and learned Jesus' truths. The Gospels, the word meaning in Greek "Good News", were not biographies of Christ but were brief descriptions of His ministry on earth as the Son of God. The Apostle John said that if everything about Jesus were written were to have been written that "even the world itself could no contain could not contain the books" (John 21:25). So what we have in the Gospels is a snapshot of His ministry. But curiously they contain all we need to know of His ministry to enter the Kingdom. 

The Gospels were written by men but all scripture we have was "inspired by God", in our case the actual words of God spoken through mere men. What is contained in our Gospels is what God wanted us to hear. There are many other spiritual works not included in the Bible books but they are not necessarily what God considered essential for our walk.  

The Gospels were written largely by uneducated and/or unpopular men. Matthew was a hated Jewish tax collector, who collected taxes for the Roman Empire. Mark was an ordinary man, a close associate of Peter, one of the 12 disciples. John, like Peter, were fisherman. Only Luke stands out as a learned man, being a physician, having a close relationship with the Apostle Paul, who left his position as a learned Jewish learned man destined to priesthood when he met Jesus in the Spirit.  

When Jesus left the earth, and went to be with the Father, he told the disciples that he would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would Glorify Christ: "He shall teach you all things, and bring your to remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). This is also called a "quickening" to our remembrance. Thus the writers of the Gospels wrote the words that the Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance. They did not speak their own words. Thus the Bible contains the literal words of Christ quickened to the disciples remembrance, including Jesus' parables and allegories.  

A parable according to Webster’s Dictionary is: "a short allegorical story designed to convey some truth or moral lesson" An allegory is: "an extended and elaborate metaphor” (Unger's Bible Dictionary). Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables for the reason that: "And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" And He answered and said to them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear" (John 13:10-11, 13, 16).  

The first recorded Kingdom parable is: "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:3-9). He then told the disciples they had been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, identifying this parable as a parable of the Kingdom of God. Its meaning, as conveyed to the disciples is contained in Matthew 13:18-23. The parable conveys that it is the heart (the soil) that defines whether the seed grows abundantly. There are many levels of bearing fruit according to how the heart hears and acts upon the Word.  

Jesus goes on to relate another parable of the Kingdom: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn " (Matt 13:24-30).

Here, Jesus is implying that there are two types of forces in the earth, the evil and the good. God himself does not deliberately create evil, but an enemy (the devil) sows evil into the world. Rather that removing the evil from the world immediately and risk destroying the good, He advocates waiting for the harvest when the evil and the good would be clearly defined and the good harvested and the evil burned. 

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32). By this He shows that it takes only a small amount of faith to bring forth something great, in this case the Kingdom of God.  

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46). This shows, among other things, that if you find the Kingdom it is best to give everything you have acquired to acquire this pearl no matter what the price. This brings remembrance to Christ’s command to leave all and follow Him.   

 "He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33-34). Leaven or yeast is introduced into bread in a small amount but the bacteria in it grown to a much greater size and soon encompasses the bread itself.  

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field (Matthew 13:44). Here a man found a treasure in a field and ended up buying the whole field, not just the treasure alone. 

"Again, "The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (vs. 47-50). This spoke clearly to the disciples since many of them were fishermen and Christ’s description of the art of fishing was exactly how they conducted their business. He likened this process to the separation of the bad from the good at the end of the age.  

What have we learned so far about the Kingdom of God? The sower Jesus sows the Word of God. Sometimes, depending on man's heart, the seed sprouts and brings forth fruit of various levels of effectiveness (30, 60, 100 fold). Sometimes the word is sown and the enemy sows tares among it so that the wheat and tares grow together. This explains the state of the world today wherein the good and evil are in the earth together; but it won't be that way forever. It also explains what seems to us to be delay in Christ's coming; He is waiting for the time of the harvest. The parable of the fish also speaks of a separation of the good from the bad. 

We also learn the value of the Kingdom of God and that we should seek it before all else ("seek first the Kingdom"). Jesus likens it to valuable pearls, where the merchant sold everything he had to purchase the pearl ("leave all behind and follow me"). Similarly, the man who found the treasure in the field did not just try to dig it up; he sold all he had to buy the entire field. That is what is required to enter into the Kingdom.  

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus responded to them in Luke 11:2-13 and more fully quoted in Matthew 6:9-13: "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven" (see also Luke 11:2). Jesus continues His answer in Luke 11:5-13. He goes on to speak of the man who went to his friend at midnight, seeking something he really needed: bread for his family. His friend, even though he was a friend and had enough bread, responded for his friend to go away as he and his family were asleep. But the man persisted in telling his friend he really needed the bread and finally the friend got up and gave him what he wanted. The friend would not get up and give bread to the man solely because he was his friend but only due to his persistence. Like wise, if we are so close to God that He calls us His friend, we still must exercise persistence in prayer in order to get from Him what we need.  

Jesus goes on to say: "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:10-13). The Lord gives to them that seek Him (the NASV says "seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking"). This is just for our daily bread. We are seeking the Kingdom. We must disregard what seems like delay and seek and keep seeking after the Lord with dogged persistence. 

The Lord's Prayer also illuminates another truth. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". At this point, “anything but" the will of God is being done on this earth. Only when the Kingdom is fully manifest will we see the will of God done on earth as it is already done in heaven. At that point, earth and heaven (the Spirit realm where God lives) will all be one Kingdom and "The government will rest on his (Christ's) shoulders".  

The parable of the ten virgins is again likened to the Kingdom of God. It would be good to read the entire parable (Matthew 25:1-13): "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins pure and undefiled), who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom Christ. And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps (their undefiled spirits, Spirit of Christ), they took no oil (anointing) with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps (their light.) And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the prudent answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. "And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour". 

Although they were all virgins in that they had kept themselves pure (He is not speaking of unbelievers) some took Him seriously and not only showed up but were ready. However, the five foolish virgins expected the Master to appear when they expected he would and only took enough oil for their lamps to last until that moment. The wise took extra just in case the Master delayed. Even though both sets of virgins drowsed as the Master delayed, the five wise ones were ready when the door opened. It is an attitude of heart. Since we do not know the day and hour of His appearance, we must always be in a state of readiness. The consequences for the other virgins, also believers, were high.  

Similarly, in Matthew 25:14-30 “a land owner (the Lord) went on a trip (to the right hand of the Father) and entrusted his three slaves (disciples, believers) with five, two and one talent according to their abilities (callings). When he returned, the slave with five talents had had increased it to ten. The one with two had gained two more. The land owner praised them because being faithful with a little, he put them in charge of many things. However, the servant with one talent had buried it and gave the one talent back to the Master. The master rebuked him saying: (Matt 25:26-30) "You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth".  

Remember, that last slave was a servant of the Master, but what he had gained was taken away and he was sent to the place of outer darkness. This was because he knew that the master was a hard man and in fear hid the talent for fear for losing it. It is the fearful who lead the parade into hell. What God gives us is often not enough in and of itself to get the job done but it must be increased. Christ said He expects us to do greater works than He (John 14:12). What jeopardy even believers face in not increasing what they have received from the Lord.  

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus stresses the importance of doing God's will. In the Day of Judgment, all appeared before Him. He put the sheep (righteous) on His right and the goats (unbelievers) on His left. Jesus told the righteous they had done the will of God by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor etc. They went into the Kingdom. But to the goats He said they had not done as the righteous and thus: "He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me'. And these will go away into eternal punishment".  

And: "Not every one who says to Me, Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:21-23). Entrance to the Kingdom is not dependent on what works we do, even in the name of the Lord. The question is whether what we did was what God wanted us to do.   

Finally, "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and shall cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth". This describes the slave put in charge of slaves who does not anticipate his Master will be late, gives up, and begins acting like an evil taskmaster. 

There are many more parables on this subject in the Bible. In fact in reviewing them for this article, nearly all speak of the way of entrance into His eternal promises. Just remember Jesus said: "Enter in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereon: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads life, and few there be that find it". (Matthew 7:13-14 KJV). Let us travel the less traveled road in our walks with God.

 

A MOTHER IN ISRAEL AND A PROPHETESS

The Role of Women in the Church and Kingdom

            It goes without saying that the debate as to women’s role in the church and the Kingdom has been raging since ancient times. Even during the ministry of Christ, and later Paul and Peter, the church has been accused as being male dominated, excluding women. Most modern churches, such as the Catholics, maintain a marked segregation between men and women in the ministry even prohibiting Priests to be married in order to keep their minister free from the influence of women. The truth is that the exclusion of woman was not the case in the early Apostolic Church of the first century and shouldn’t be so now.  

            The truth is that women are an integral part of the Body of Christ (the true church). Many women are called to a dual ministry – that of a “Mother in Israel” and a prophetess. The “Israel” referred to here is the spiritual Israel of the New Covenant under Jesus Christ. Old Testament references refer to physical Israel but are applicable to the spiritual Israel of today (Romans 2:28-29).  

            The term “Mother in Israel” may be new to some, but it is a scriptural term. Deborah, the Old Testament female judge, was called a mother in Israel. “The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Until I arose, a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).It is a unique ministry. As Paul said: “For though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15). So it is with mothers; we don’t have many true ones. In reality the concept of Mother in Israel is the feminine side of God in action which, although perhaps more hidden, is as prevalent as His male side.   

            Spiritual motherhood is a spiritual quality, although it is exercised in the natural world. It is the spiritual side of what a woman does in the physical natural realm. It is a ministry of creating and nurturing. The mother creates a child, from conception to adulthood, starting in the womb and continuing through the life of the child.  

            A Mother in Israel, or spiritual Mother, exercises much the same creativity in the Body of Christ.  She has the power and authority to create men and women of God. As the child of God is birthed in salvation, the mother, with silent or vocal cries, intercedes for the child. In the beginning stages of the new convert in Christ, when he/she is most vulnerable to outside influences, she looks after the child, cares for it, protects it, nurses it and tends to its spiritual needs. The unique creative power that is in her can be exercised towards God and can literally “bring to birth” future Sons/Daughters of the Lord. It is this concern and nurturing quality that, in and of itself ministers; the creative power within her.

             That same spiritual quality was in Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament. (1 Samuel 1:1-28, 2:18-21). Hannah was barren. She knew the Lord and knew that within her lay a child of promise. She remained in the Temple day and night crying out to bring forth the child within her. She finally struck a deal with God that if God would give her a child, she would in turn give the child back to God. This was probably intended all along but it took Hannah’s violence of spirit to bring it to fruition. Sometimes God promises us something but makes us pursue fulfillment with fervency (for a good example of this principle see 1 Kings 18:43-45).  

            Deborah, mentioned above, had great care and concern for the people. The people saw her heart and were inspired to willingly go to war for her (Judges 5:7; also Judges Chapters 4-5). 

            In some ways the ministry of the mother in the church is hidden. She may be behind the scenes creating, interceding and making things happen. But it isn’t always a hidden ministry. The love of a mother can be so great as to be violent in expression. An example is found in Judges 4:17-24. After the Israeli army routed King Siscera and his armies under Deborah, the king fled the battle. Jael, a Kenite woman, lured Siscera into her tent and cut off his head, thus assuring Israel a complete victory (Judges 4:17-24). This spiritual violence is sometimes necessary. Jesus said: “The Kingdom suffers violence and the violent [of spirit] take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  

            On a practical side, a child of God needs both the Fathering and Mothering ministry in order to grow and develop correctly. God Himself has this male and female quality. The woman never needs to compete with a man to be successful in her ministry. They work side by side. While the Fathering ministry may consist in planting the seed of the Word of God, the mother's nature creates the growth and protects the seed while it grows to maturity. Although a mother may minister the Word with as much power and authority as a man, it is this backside ministry as a Mother in the Kingdom that can be just as effective. God shows her things and she implements them by her faith, love and intensity.  

            Her ministry and counsel especially to other women, is invaluable. She is able to obliterate the spirit of insecurity that sometimes afflicts women in the church. If she is truly mature in her spirit, she is aware of that spiritual quality in her and is able to direct it effectively. A Mother must “know her spirit” and how to control it, so it can be directed in the proper direction according to the will of God. 

            One of the most important things she does is to create other Mothers in Israel. She is less a leader and more a creator; in the natural realm you could compare it to leading by example. Many spiritual movements have failed because the original ministers did not duplicate themselves, so that when the leader left the ministry, there was no one of like spirit to carry it on. In that respect she will often work with the young women, by example and by proper teaching, to show them what is expected of a woman of God. She will in essence minister “herself” to them as Christ ministers Himself, his nature, to us.

             At the same time, a woman can be a prophetess. This term is found more frequently in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and is applied widely to various situations involving women. Generally, the word is applied like that of the prophet. She ministers the creative Word of God, imparting the Christ nature to her listeners, She also, like a prophet, can predict the future thing that God is going to do in the earth and sees visions pertaining to future event(s).   

             As  Joel prophesied


“It will come about after this
That I will  pour out My Spirit on all  mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,

Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days

(Joel 2:28-29).
 

This prophecy was fulfilled on the Day Of Pentecost (Acts 2:16 et al).

              The Bible refers to many prophetesses. Specifically named include Miriam, sister of Moses, who led a choral dance in celebration of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 15:20); Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, whom we have already mentioned (Jdg. 5:7); Huldah, wife of the keeper of the royal wardrobe, declared God’s divine will to Josiah the king after the rediscovery of the book of the law  (2 Kings 22:14); and Anna, who praised God in the Temple at the appearance of the infant Jesus (Luke 2:3). Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist was a prophetess and a priest.  

              Isaiah’s wife, unnamed in the scriptures, is called ‘the prophetess’ (Is. 8:3). Philip’s four unnamed daughters prophesied in Caesarea (Acts 21:9) and caught the attention of the Apostle Paul. In the early church, as Paul’s Corinthian correspondence indicates. The gift of prophecy was exercised by various Christians irrespective of sex (1 Cor. 11:4).    

            There is no verse in the Bible that prejudicially separates the ministry of a woman from that of a man or in any way refers to woman ministers as inferior. Indeed they are given the same equal treatment and credit as the Prophets are. Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 11:13, that women ought not to pray with their heads uncovered is a spiritual analogy of the spiritual covering a woman should have. It was also a solution to the problem of some unspiritual women of that day disrupting the service by speaking words from the congregation that were not in the flow of the spirit.   

           Women were important in the New Testament, as they provided lodging, food and money to the ministries of Jesus and Paul. Among these mentioned were Mary Magdalene, the two other two unidentified Mary’s, Martha, Prisca (Priscilla), Aquilla, Apphia, Timothy’s mother Lois and others. Women were present at Jesus’ crucifixion when the other Apostles (except John) fled. It was a woman who poured the expensive perfume on Christ prior to His death. It was Mary Magdalene who first discovered that Jesus had been resurrected and she was instructed by Jesus to tell the male disciples.  

           A woman’s ministry in the Spirit of God is a beautiful thing to watch. God Himself creates her into that perfect vessel of Himself and through her virtue she is an example to all. It is always what she becomes spiritually that in and of itself ministers. Others see it and follow. As fellow members of the Body of Christ, we honor them.

         


HAS GOD’S PLAN FOR ISRAEL CHANGED?

The Spiritual Israel of the Kingdom of God    

In the Old Testament God brought the Law to the Jewish people through Moses (see Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Israel was God’s chosen people. God desired and still desires a people He can call His own-a Family. The Law was to be obeyed by Israel to the letter. This was the Old Covenant between God and His people. The law contained provisions for forgiveness of sins. There were over 600 such laws enumerated in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. If the people obeyed the laws God would bless them. However, it became apparent that Israel, in themselves and in their humanity, could not follow the Law. This disobedience ultimately led to the destruction of physical Israel as a nation. Something more was needed in order for God to fulfill His desire for a people.  

 The real purpose of the Old Testament Law was to bring people to a realization that in their human form they were sinners who could not please God in the flesh (Romans 7:18), despite endless temporary sin forgiving sacrifices. When God saw this, He devised a plan whereby His law could be fulfilled---the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ himself would provide a permanent sacrifice so that by appropriating this sacrifice, man could become perfect. Christ came to fulfill the law for all people and thus made salvation available to everyone. Obedience was no longer by human works to fulfill a law but by Faith in Jesus Christ. This is called the New Covenant.  

The new covenant is described thus: He said: “But  this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and  I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:33). 

“Moreover, I will give you a  new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the  heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.  (Ezekiel 36:26-28). 

Thus God promised by the New Covenant to actually give believers a new heart (a new nature) so that they would be unable to disobey God and would keep His laws. This act by God was a free gift to all believers. They did not need to work for it. All they had to do was receive it. By receiving this gift from Christ, He would replace their old disobedient natures and give them His nature.   

But  if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:6). 

The Old Covenant was given to physical Israel only. The New Covenant was to the whole world (John 3:16). The new covenant was a spiritual covenant. As Paul says in Romans 2:28-29: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But  he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. God no longer looks on the outward appearance, Jew or Greek, but on the inward appearance, the heart. From now on the promises to physical Israel become the promises to all of mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike.   

Paul goes on: What then?  Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and  Greeks [Gentiles] are  all under sin; as it is written, “THERE is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,” (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3). Since there is no righteousness in man in and of himself, it takes this impartation of Christ’s nature to produce true righteousness.  

 Unfortunately, the Jews (Orthodox) still walk by the law. As John said: “He [Jesus] came unto his own [Israel] and his own received him not. (1 John 1:11). The Jews crucified Christ, not understanding His message of grace by faith. “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. 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” (1 John 1:12-14). 

As many as received him” applies equally to Jews.  “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,” (Romans 11:17). What Paul is saying is that Israel is still the root of the Christian faith and we Gentiles are “grafted in” to that root. It doesn’t matter if a few branches were broken off (the result of Israel’s failure to accept Christ). The root remains. Israel is now on equal footing with the Gentiles; those Jews who accept Christ retain their place as the people of God, just as the Gentiles who believe become the children of God with them.  

 “And they [Israel] also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again… Only a partial  hardening has happened to Israel until the  fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (Romans 11:25). “For if their rejection [of Christ] is the  reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (v. 15). “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (v. 24). “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith (v.20). In other words God has forgiven the Jews for their crucifixion of Christ and has again included them in the family of believers which includes all nations and people.  

Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, by his own admission, and persecuted the Christian Church in that day with a vengeance. Paul knew and aggressively followed the Israeli Law. After Christ met him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he immediately believed in the grace of Christ, contrary to the way he led his life previously. Yet in the Epistle to the Romans he defends the Jews and recognizes that, since Christ came to forgive all sin, He was also was able to forgive Israelites who believed in Him.  

Now we come to the question of Israel today. As we said, a Jew is no longer saved and blessed just because he is a Jew after the flesh. Many people interpret the end-time as a dual fulfillment, one for physical Israel and another for the Gentiles. They believe that the temple, described by the scriptures, will be erected in physical Israel and that physical Israel will be saved due to their prior standing with God when the physical temple is rebuilt. It may be that the temple in physical Israel will be restored (although doubtful), but that is not what is spoken of as the true temple in the scriptures. We, as the Body of Christ, including Jews and Gentiles, are the real temple.     

“So then you are no longer  strangers and aliens, but you are  fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been  built on the foundation of  the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the  corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into  a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being  built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:19-22). We are the spiritual temple being rebuilt, and Christ will take up residence in the temple of our collective hearts.  

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is  Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; (Acts 17:4).  But God, being rich in mercy, because of  His great love with which He loved us,  (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in  Christ Jesus even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).  

So if we are the temple of God, and not a temple built with hands as former temples, what will be the end result? “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain [the mountain of God], and showed me  the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God having  the glory of God. (Revelation 21:2) 

The New Jerusalem is not a physical temple but comes down from heaven, the spiritual realm where God dwells. The “age to come”, referred to by Christ, is a merging of the two realms, the physical and the spiritual. Israel is not excluded but all who believe, including Jews, are included. Then we will all be one and one for all. As Christ said: “Pray, then, in this way…‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). So be it.

 

HELL

The Dumping Ground of the Universe

Hell is a place that is created by God to ultimately house all that is evil and is located in a place separate from God. Its inhabitants are men and spirits that have given themselves over the evil plan of Satan.  God has limited His creation so that what is created  cannot be done away with, only changed. The matter in the material world cannot be destroyed but it can and does change form. God’s Word is like that.   Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35. It remains the same. It is a creative force generated by God which changes but does not become destroyed. It is the same force that went forth from God that created the universe, man and angelic beings. 

The force that is created by man and spirits does not die either. The evil that is generated by man continues in much the same way as the Word of God. Eventually there must be a separation of the good and evil forces. The scriptures confirm this.  

Matthew 13:41-43 says: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  

On the Day of Judgment, there will be a separation of good and evil. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (entire verses are in Matthew 25:31-45). 

The same example is set forth in the parable of the farmer who planted good seed in his field.

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his ENEMY (Satan) came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares (weeds) also.  So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Will thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, No; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
(Matthew 13:24-30).  

            If God were to remove the evil while it grew among the good wheat, He may be in danger of harming the good produce. But, when the wheat was mature, He was able to safely separate the worthless tares and the good wheat.           

            God did not sow the bad tares in the field; an enemy did. That is why there is so much evil in the world. What God created was good (Genesis 1:31). The damage was done by Satan, his angels and his troupes of man given over to evil. Satan created the evil in an otherwise perfect world, beginning from the deception in the Garden of Eden to the present day. Using humans and demons as channels of that evil they have polluted the earth with evil that cannot die. 

            What will happen to all the evil that was generated? It must go somewhere; it doesn’t die. God has prepared a place for it, like a toxic dumping ground. When it is separated from the righteous, it is disposed of in a special place “set aside for Satan and his angels”, called hell or Hades. It is in this place which exists complete separation from God. However there will still be communication between the two realms. The righteous will see the evil in hell and likewise. The following is scriptural confirmation of this.        

             Jesus gave a parable about the rich man and Lazarus, a poor beggar. They both died and Lazarus went to be with Abraham in heaven, while the rich man went to Hades (Greek for hell). From Hades he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his five brothers, lest they end up like him. “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:31. There is no turning back. The rich man originally asked Abraham to send Lazarus to him to put some cold water on his tongue, which could not be done either. All the suffering in hell is caused by the evil that Satan through man generated and the consequences of total and complete separation from God for eternity. 

            The Kingdom of God is a place wherein there exists no evil at all. It has been removed far away from the righteous. The gulf between the two places cannot be crossed. Scripture does not confirm the existence of a purgatory. What we do here and now on earth is irrevocable. It is not meanness on God’s part, just a recognition of reality.  Since evil cannot be uncreated it must be put somewhere and God has provided a place for it.

 

IDENTIFYING THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN US 

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so IN SPIRIT... (John 4:24). This is a very literal truth. It does not mean we give God “spirited worship” nor does it mean that we worship Him spiritedly with our soul or body. We must worship literally with our human spirits.  Since God is a spirit we cannot relate to Him through any other medium.   

Man/woman is a triune (3-part) being comprised of spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  We cannot relate to God with our soul or our body by themselves. We cannot relate to Him intellectually, through our emotions, or with our good works; these are part of the dead soul nature. However, within each of us there is that part, our spirit, that can communicate with God one on one. Few are aware they have this within them. The main reason is that the spirit of man is buried, beneath his soul and body, and is rarely able to express itself. The spirit does not control our soul and body as it should. We are controlled more by our intellect, emotions, feelings and our bodies.  

When man was banned from the Garden of Eden, his spiritual contact with God ended. In the Garden, spirit contact with God held the preeminence over man’s soul and body. This spiritual relationship with God was preeminent (Genesis Ch. 2-3). When the separation between God and man occurred, because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, that spirit relationship ended, and men began to live in subjection to his soul. Now man had to call upon the name of the Lord (Hebrew Qara) which means to seek God and worship with altars (Genesis 4:26).  

Man/woman became aware they were naked, became fearful (soulish), and hid from God. A predominance of the soul had begun in their lives. That state has progressed throughout the generations until today the soul, which is comprised of the emotions, the mind, the intellect, seat of passions, anger and pleasure etc., has become completely preeminent. As the soul became the dominating force, the body became the channel of expression of the soul. You see today an "acting out" of these soulish qualities including greed, lust, power, murder, idolatry, commercialism, and the like. Thus, our current state has very little manifestation of God in it (love, joy, peace and the other attributes of the Spirit) (see Galatians 5:16-25). Our spirit is buried and our soul and bodies run rampant. 

Christianity, and  most other religions, seek as their ultimate goal a return to their God.  Unfortunately this cannot occur until our human spirits are awakened and become able to relate to God's Spirit. This is sometimes referred to as "restoration" (Acts 3:21). It is the time referred to in the Bible as when God (Christ) returns and sets up his government on the earth (Isaiah 9:6 "...and the government will be on his shoulders"..). That is the time when the Spirit takes back its former dominance over all things including our soul and bodies.  

Now we mentioned that man is a triune being. If man has reached the place where he is aware of his spirit, and it begins to take dominance, what happens to his/her soul and body. The soul is a kind of neutral switchboard that responds to whatever stimuli it receives. If it receives energizing from the spirit, it responds and generates according to what the spirit is doing. If stimulus from the body or the flesh nature is received, it responds that way. Many refer to this phenomenon as the old man (the soulish man) and the new man (the spiritual man). The old man responds soulishly to non-spiritual impulses (lust, greed, hate) while the new man is the man of spirit and responds to God.  

In the new man, the soul emanates goodness, love, kindness, concern for others, in short all the spirit qualities of God Himself. That is why when we gain this spirit awareness, we should feed IT and deny the other responses. In this way we allow the new man to grow. In time the new man will dominate our lives. As for sin or evil, bad thoughts etc, because your new man is so strong, you will not even want to do the other. As John put it in 1 John 4:4 "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world...", referring to the strengthened, quickened and powerful Spirit that is in you. 

Perhaps the most revealing Chapter in the bible on the Spirit is in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Chapter 8. Chapter 8 follows Chapter 7 wherein the Apostle Paul recognizes that he is unable to control his conduct. Although he might want to do good, he finds himself unable to do so in his own strength (Rom 7:14-25). He concludes the chapter with the plea "who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (v.24) 

In Rom. 8:5-6 Paul says "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [or the fallen nature] but those according to the Spirit the things of the spirit". And "...the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God for it does not subject itself to god, for it is not even able to do so..." (Rom. 8:7). Therefore all the intellectualizing about the things of God are fruitless, as the human mind in its current state cannot ever understand the Spirit because it does not have the ability to do so. 

Who are the ones who have a spirit to spirit relationship with Him? "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God those are the Sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Christ was a Son of God because of how He walked.  He did nothing on his own initiative but He did only what the Spirit of the Father led Him to do (John 14:7-15). Therefore, in Christianity, the appearing of the Lord on the earth was not just to forgive sins. His was to restore this spirit to spirit relationship between man and God, so that doing righteousness, goodness and love became the natural thing to do; it came from God, through our souls down to our bodies ending in the will of God being done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). 

We are made ultimately in the image of God. God also has a triune nature. God is one God, because the parts exist in complete oneness, but have their manifestation as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Explaining this would take another whole article but for purposes of this discussion, as it relates to us: The Father is the Creator. He has His expression through the Son (Christ) who is the Word of God, the 'logos' in Greek. Jesus said his words were not His but the Father's and so they were. Jesus was speaking the Father's words through His complete oneness with the Father. The Holy Spirit, the third element of God's triune nature, was sent to the believers in Christ after Jesus had been crucified, because when crucified He went away to sit at the right hand of the Father and become invisible to us here on earth. The Holy Spirit's purpose was to lead believers into "all the truth", a deeper knowledge of Christ and ultimate perfection to a mature man. At the end of it all, Christ delivers the perfected Kingdom over to the Father so God becomes in all and through all. 

How does one get an awareness of his/her own spirit? To start, believe you have a spirit, the ability to connect with God. Ask God for an awareness of it -ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking. Eventually it will, or should be, quickened to you so that you have experienced a spark, no matter how small, of God. It will be a "still small voice" but distinguishable from all the other voices that vie for attention in your mind. Once you hear it keep at it to make it sharper. Strengthen it, develop it. It’s yours, your right to have this - God is more than willing to give it to you. This will at sometime become a necessity because scripture says that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the entire earth, as the waters cover the sea. It will be this Spirit knowledge, knowledge of God that will dominate. There will be no more need for you to be taught to know the Lord for all will know Him. 

And through this knowledge, your entire spirit, soul and body will be preserved blameless for an eternity of joy in His Kingdom.

 

INTERPRETING THE BIBLE

The first thing to learn about the Bible is that it is incapable of human mental interpretation. It is unique in that respect out of all other books written by men. John 1:1 makes that clear: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was  with God, and  the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  The Word is just not a collection of literary works; it is and conveys the Spirit of God-it IS God. 

The Word of God is recorded in the Bible. The operative Greek word is “Logos” meaning “The Word”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words partially defines Logos as: “…the phrase “The word of God” i.e. the revealed Word of God is used as a direct revelation of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15) of the gospel…(citations)… in this respect it is the message from the Lord, delivered with His authority and made effective by His power…The personal word is a title of the Son of God…His distinct super-finite personality…His relation to the Godhead, His creative power… (Page 1241-1242).  

So the Word itself is God. Human interpretation or mental understanding is not God; the Bible can only be understood spiritually by revelation from God. John 4:23-24 says that God is a Spirit and we can only know Him or relate to Him in the spirit. The Word is literally God’s power and authority going out from Him and “made effective” through the Word. Christ is the Word, God made manifest. All things were created in and through Him. God created the heavens and the earth through a creative Word (Genesis 1:3-“let there be”).  

            “And  the Word became flesh, and  dwelt among us, and  we saw His glory, glory as of the only [literally “unique, one of a kind”] begotten from the Father, full of grace and  truth (John 1:14). Christ was the eternal, powerful, authoritative Word that revealed Himself and the Father. The entire Bible speaks of Christ. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39).  

            The Pharisees, to whom He was speaking, were the eminent Bible scholars of the day. They knew the Word to the point of memorizing the entire book. They interpreted every “jot and tittle”. Yet they opposed Christ who was the fulfillment of the Word on earth.  In other words, they knew the Word but they knew it without revelation from God. Otherwise, they would have recognized Jesus as who he was. Instead they hated and crucified Him. 

            “For the word of God is  living and  active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of  soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  

            Hebrews speaks of the LIVING Word of God. Living (Zao in Greek) means-to live; to have life, to be alive…spirituality [Galatians 2:20]; spiritually and eternally together (John 6:57)…applied to God who has life independently from anyone and from Whom all living beings derive their life and existence” (New American Standard Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, Strong’s number 2198 for living, page 1830 in Bible). So we conclude that the Words of God are not mere words but are a living being, Christ. 

            Not only is the Word living, it is piercing, as far as the division of spirit and soul. Why is that important? Because man is a triune being, composed of spirit, soul and body. Since God is a spirit, the only way we can relate to Him is through our spirits (John 4:23-24). At the present time our human spirits are for the most part under the dominion of our souls. The Word, as expressed in the Bible, comes to separate the spirit from the soul so our entire being can fully relate to God.  

            The Study Bible, mentioned above, defines soul (Psuche) as: “that immaterial part of man held in common with animals…the lower region of man’s being… (p. 1888). Spirit (Pneuma) means breath or wind, as God breathed life into Adam; “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and  man became a living being [soul]  (Genesis 2:7). And: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [literally “from above”]. The wind [pneuma, Spirit] blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8).  

The Word is so piercing and powerful that Paul uses joints and marrow as an allegory. The joints and marrow are so interconnected it is difficult to separate them. So it is with the spirit and soul of man. Yet the Word is able to do that, to separate the two until the freed spirit is able to relate to God and actually control the soul and its lusts.   

How does the Word do this? John says (6:63): “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;  the words that I [Jesus] have spoken to you are spirit and are life”. Taken literally, the Words of the Bible are not words at all but they are Spirit and life. The “words” are merely a conveyance of the spirit and life of God to us.  

The natural man, the one who interprets the Bible with human understanding, is not aware of the spiritual realm where God lives. Paul said of such men: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural [literally unspiritual] man  does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for THEY ARE FOOLISHNESS TO HIM; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is  spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one” (1 Corinthians 2:12-15).   

Then how do we read the Bible to obtain this spiritual knowledge that goes far beyond human wisdom. The Bible is not necessarily read for understanding. We must eat the words so that they become part of us. Ezekiel 3:1-4 contains an apt example:

            “Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll.

 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and  fill your body [inward parts] with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

 Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them”.  

God gave Ezekiel the scroll (symbolic for the Word), he ate it and it filled him. As with many of us, the Word was sweet to the taste but it brings trouble in the way of persecution etc. Immediately after Ezekiel had digested the Word, God told Him to go and speak it. So it should be with us. We eat the Word and it becomes part of us. Only then can we go forth and speak the truth in love.  

Similarly, Jeremiah said: “Your words were found and I  ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (v. 15:16).  

In Revelation 10:8-11, John said: “Then  the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take  the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.”  So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, “You must  prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”  

Likewise we don’t just read the Word for human understanding or theological or historical interpretation. We read it to become it. One of the foundational Christian principles, the communion, is based on the same process.  

“And when He had taken some bread and  given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is  poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; 1 Corinthians 11:24).         

Earlier, when Jesus introduced this principle, He said to the multitudes: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of  the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood  abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56). That was when many of His disciples left the Lord, because it was strictly against Jewish law to eat blood.  

They did not have eyes to see or ears to hear what the Lord was saying. It actually stumbled them; the truth of the Lord became a stumbling block to them in their blindness. So it is with anyone who reads the Bible without revelation. Many write volumes interpreting the Bible according to their own understanding. Many see nice stories, history, seeming contradictions, perceived historical inaccuracies, fallibility due to the fact it was written by man and disbelieving the authenticity of the miracles recorded.  The words recorded in the Bible, meant to be spirit and life, are only foolishness to them. As we said above the Bible must be read as: “not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Co 2:13).        

So how do we eat the words so that they actually become a part of us, feeding our spirits and imparting the nature of Christ? First, we must read it with faith. The starting point in understanding the Bible is to BELIEVE IT IS THE WORD OF GOD. Without that, you have nothing but a confusing jumble of mere words you do not understand. We have to believe the Bible is what God intended to convey to us, at the time we are reading it. There is no one correct interpretation good for all time. It is a living Word speaking what God wants to convey day by day. A commentary is useless as soon as it is written because by that time God has moved on. He speaks to us each day. While reading you don’t ask the Lord “What does this mean?” You ask Him “What are you speaking to me today, Lord?”  What part of the living word is He showing me now?        

We’ll stress again: We cannot read the Bible with human understanding, from our minds. Paul says that the human mind is enmity to God, and is not capable of understanding Him (Romans 8:7). We must be open “in the Spirit”. We must have open hearts. We must be absolutely ready to let God into our hearts. We must eat the Word. When I first became a Christian I read the Bible frequently but for the first 5 years I had no idea what it was talking about. Yet I continued reading it because I couldn’t deny that something was happening to me when I read. Years later the words I read without understanding were brought to my attention by the Holy Spirit and I realized that even as I read without understanding I was receiving from God. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all things He said. The disciples themselves didn’t understand until the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost. Yet thereafter, they carried the Word to the ends of the earth. 

            It is in almost a meditative state that we read the Word. As you read, with or without understanding, you will find the presence of God, the anointing, come upon you until you feel as if you are actually in His presence (you are). You must read the word until you reach that state. It is in the presence of the Lord that your nature is changed into His and that is what you actually want. The victory is not in overcoming circumstances in your life, living a good life or doing many good works.   

2 Peter 1:4 describes this change of nature: “…He has granted to us His precious and magnificent  promises, so that by them you may become PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE, having  escaped the  corruption that is in  the world by lust”.  

We must let the Word change us; we must be born again. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. There is no way, no truth or life apart from the person of Jesus. Let’s read the Bible with this central idea that we are becoming like Him and the Bible is our chief vehicle to accomplish this.

 

JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND PASSOVER 

The Feast of Passover is a festival formerly celebrated exclusively by the Jews commemorating the nation of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by God, through Moses (Exodus 12:14-20). It was celebrated during the 15-21 day of Nisan according to the Jewish lunar calendar. Passover, or “pesah” in Hebrew (pascha in Greek) literally means passover and celebrates the passing over of the death angel prior to Israel’s deliverance. The Feast is actually two feasts, the first day of Passover being called the Feast of Unleavened bread (see symbolic significance below). The feast was later adopted by the Christian faith for its symbolic relevance to Christ and His permanent sacrifice on the cross. It is important both to Jewish and Christian faiths in that when the feast was first initiated by God He declared it an ordinance that was to be celebrated permanently or eternally (Exodus 12:14). Christ Himself said that the Feast would be celebrated even into the days of the Kingdom of God, when Christ returns to set up His eternal reign upon the earth (Matthew 26:26-29).   

As we have said, the Feast was originally was celebrated by the Jews commemorating a specific event, the Israelis leaving Egypt and leaving slavery behind. God, through Moses, was visiting upon Egypt the last of the 10 plagues that is the death of all first born sons. In order to protect themselves from the plague, the Israelis celebrated what would be the first Passover. The death angel, which would pass over the entire nation of Egypt, was to spare the Israelis from the same fate through obedience to God’s commands (see below).  This is the story of that first Passover in brief, as recorded in the Bible in the Book of Exodus 11:1-12:51). The celebration is still celebrated today by Jews and some enlightened Christians. However, its celebration today, after Christ, is not a feast only of remembrance of a historical event. Today it has a more real, spiritual application, applicable to all believers. In order to understand Passover we must understand the chronology of what brought about the Israelis presence in Egypt in the first place.  

Joseph, the son of the Jewish patriarch Jacob, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, who were jealous of Jacob’s apparent favoritism of Joseph. Joseph became a slave in Egypt. After a time he was falsely accused of attempting to seduce his master’s wife. He would spend 11 years in an Egyptian prison. It would have been a life sentence but for the intervention of circumstances that would lead to his release (see Genesis 37, 39-45 for the entire story as related summarily below).  

The Pharaoh of Egypt at that time had dreams that nobody in Egypt could interpret. By a chain of circumstances, Joseph was summoned from prison to decipher Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph, interpreting the dreams, told Pharaoh of a great famine that would sweep of Mesopotamia and Egypt some seven years hence. This was to be preceded by seven years of good crops and plenty. Believing Joseph, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of gathering and storing grain in preparation for the famine. He was given power in Egypt second only to the Pharaoh. Over these seven years of plenty Joseph accomplished the program of storing for the coming seven year famine and became a powerful figure in Egypt.   

At that time, Jacob and his remaining 11 sons lived in Canaan, some distance away. They too were affected by the famine. Needing food, some of the sons of Jacob traveled to Egypt to buy grain. They had no idea Joseph was alive and in Egypt. Eventually Joseph was reunited with his family and invited them to come and live in Egypt. They were given good land and they settled there with Pharaoh’s blessing. The Israelites multiplied greatly and became a prosperous nation.  

However, following Joseph’s death, there came a time when Egypt’s leadership did not remember what the Pharaoh had done for them and they feared Israel because of their numbers. Eventually, the children of Israel were made slaves, and built bricks from Nile mud to be used in Egypt’s middle Kingdom building programs. Israel continued to live in Egypt as slaves. Ultimately they remained in Egypt for 430 years. They cried to God about their condition under the hard Egyptian taskmasters and God heard their cry. He sent a deliverer, Moses.   

God raised up Moses who, through extraordinary events, had been raised in Egypt as royalty even though he was an Israelite. At the approximate age of 40 Moses one day killed an abusing Egyptian taskmaster and fled to Midian, where he remained for another 40 years as a shepherd of sheep, working for his father in law. It was during this time that he acquired from God the necessary tools to be the deliver he was to become. At the end of that time, God called Moses to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites from their slavery. So Moses traveled to Egypt and, through him, God brought nine severe plagues upon Egypt, asking after plague for the Pharaoh to let the people leave Egypt. Each time the Pharaoh (possibly Ramses II) hardened his heart and refused to accede to Moses’ (God’s) demands. So God promised to bring about one more plague more severe than the preceding ones. He was to send a death angel throughout Egypt to kill all the firstborn sons therein, including Pharaoh’s. There begins the story of Passover (see Exodus Chapters 1-11).  

The Lord gave specific instructions to Moses as to how the Israelis would avoid having this plague affect them, and instructions on how to carry them out. Since the death angel would also kill the firstborn of the Israelis if they were not protected, the people had to perform certain acts prevent themselves from that fate. At the same time Moses ordered them to leave Egypt in a rapid orderly manner.  

Moses instructions were very specific. Each household was to take a lamb without blemish, kill it at twilight, and put some blood of the lamb on each lintel and two door posts of their dwellings. They were to roast the lamb with fire and eat all of it before dawn. They were to eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, with their loins girded (pants on), sandals on their feet and eat it in haste - at midnight the death angel was coming. The blood on the door-posts was to alert the death angel to "pass over" that household when striking the firstborn in Egypt. This they did while the people of Egypt wailed in grief at the death of their firstborn sons. As a result Pharaoh finally let the people go.  

The acts God commanded Israel during this time had and has deep spiritual significance for both Jews and Christians today. Many of the acts foretold of a coming Savior, a Messiah who would deliver all people for once and for all.  

The lamb without blemish is a shadow of the Lamb of God, the Messiah, who was to come (Revelation Chapters 4-6). The blood of the lamb sanctified and cleansed the Israelis and became an analogy for the coming of Christ and His shedding of blood for salvation and removal of sin (Revelation 7:10-17). The unleavened bread was to signify the new life that was going to come forth, without the old leaven (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8) signified the hard times that they had experienced in Egypt, symbolic of the hard times Christians and Jews alike would experience in walking with God.  This is described in the Christian Book of Revelation (7:14 et al) as symbolic of the times of tribulation experienced by Christ's followers “those who came out of great tribulation and washed their robes in the blood of the lamb).  

Eating the meal in haste at that first Passover was essential as they were going to leave Egypt in the morning. They had to be dressed and ready to go at any moment (Ex 12:11). So we are to be ready as no-one knows the day and hour of the Messiah’s coming (Matthew 25:1-13). We, as the spiritual Israelites, must "eat all of it" (Ex 12:10); it takes all of Christ's provision to bring forth the Kingdom of God.  

God had a dual purpose in delivering His people and bringing the plagues that preceded their escape. God had said (Ex 12:12) that "against all the God's of Egypt I will execute judgment" (Egypt had a very elaborate multi-deity religious scheme). It is said that thereafter Egypt never regained their place of former glory and power as evidenced historically the decline in Egypt from the time of Ramses II. Likewise, by the victory of Christ the Messiah, judgment was executed against Satan and his powers throughout the whole earth upon His death and resurrection. This is ultimately accomplished by our act of obedience to Christ in accepting the provision He made for us by His death on the cross.     

As we have said, God that the observance of the Passover as a permanent (eternal) ordinance (Ex 12:14). Orthodox Jews celebrate it to this day. The commandment applies to Christians as well. After the New Covenant instituted by Christ, within which the Gentiles were included with the Jews as recipients of God's promises, we all became one "spiritual Israel". Paul said (Romans 2:28-29) that: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter...". 

There are other reasons to celebrate it as well. It was during Passover, not Easter, that Christ was crucified and resurrected. The Last Supper was actually a Passover meal called a Seder (Matthew 26:18-25). Easter was not introduced until 4th Century by what then was the Roman Catholic Church as part of a religious compromise with pagan religions. Easter is actually a mistranslation of the Greek word “pascha” meaning Passover. The early Christian Church celebrated Passover during their existence.  It is also during Passover that our most important vehicle of appropriation of Christ's nature was instituted - the Communion and foot washings. Some of the most profound statements and prayers of Christ were voiced during the Passover meal (John Chapters 12-17). It was also during Passover that Jesus, as youth, was left behind by his natural family, being found in the temple in Jerusalem "being about His Father's work" (Luke 2:41-50).  

Today Passover should be celebrated by Jews and Christians alike as a specific time God has chosen to move in deliverance for His people, as He did in Egypt. It is not the ritual so much as it is a celebration of deliverance from our old natures, to enable us to fulfill His will for us.  All the Jewish feasts are important in themselves ((Passover, Pentecost, Rosahsana, Yom Kippur, Succoth [also called The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of Booths, The Feast of the Harvest, Purim). Each Feast celebration has special origin, purpose and symbolism. We can meet God during these Feast times in a special way. Celebrating these Feasts is not a legalistic requirement, but a special time of blessing instituted by God for His people, be they Jew, Gentile or Christian or any other religion. Many Christian churches today celebrate the Jewish feasts, instead of the pagan holidays of Easter ad Christmas.  

The feast of Passover is all about deliverance. Christ came to deliver His people through deliverance from and removal of their sin. He accomplished this through His death and resurrection during the Passover. Rather than a remembrance of past historical events, it is a special time of appropriating Christ’s provision, enabling salvation to its fullest. It is a time commanded in the scriptures that be celebrated for eternity. It reflects Christ’s eternal deliverance for all believers. It can be celebrated in a literal Jewish manner but it is the spiritual work that is done in our hearts that is emphasized. The original Passover was a type and shadow of what was to come; the eternal provision of Christ’s grace and love towards us. 

 

JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND TABERNACLES 

The Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths is a scripturally described celebration instituted by God and recorded in the Old Testament. This time of Tabernacles is actually several feasts or celebrations in one including: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year and the Feast of Trumpets), the Days of Awe (or the 10 days of repentance including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper); Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Succoth (Hebrew “hag hassukkot”), the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles. Although most Christian do not celebrate these so called “Jewish” feasts, choosing instead to observe the pagan originated holidays of Christmas or Easter, extensive study will show that these feasts, such as Tabernacles, are the true celebrations ordained by God for both Christians and Jews and to be celebrated permanently or eternally (see below).

 

1.      Introduction to the Feast of Tabernacles  

            Following their deliverance from Egypt, and the settling of the Israelites in the wilderness, God enacted many laws for which the people were to be governed while they were there. He also instituted feasts or holy gatherings (convocations) to occur at certain times during the year. These have become known as Jewish High Holy Days and are celebrated by Jews to this day.   

            These Feasts have great significance for Jewish peoples but surprisingly have as much or more application to Christianity and Christ’s New Covenant. Hidden in the rituals of the Old Testament are great truths applying to Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. Here we will examine this Feast time known collectively as Tabernacles. We will first discuss the Three-fold Feast as mandated by God, on a physical level, during the time Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness and recorded in the Torah (Law) sections of the Bible (the first five books). Then we will compare these to the New Covenant initiated by Christ of which these original feasts were a type and shadow of the Christ (Messiah) to come.  

           

2.       Feast of Tabernacles in the Old Testament

             Rosh Hashanah, widely known as the Jewish religious New Year, is the first day of the 10 Days of Awe. It ends the old year and sets the course for the New Year. Rosh Hashanah, in Hebrew, means “Head of the Year”, and falls on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish lunar calendar. 

             Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets, lasting 1 day from sundown to sundown of the first day of the 10 Days of Repentance, or Days of Awe. The phrase “Rosh Hashanah” is not found per say in the Bible or the Torah. However the Jewish word “teruah” is used when referring to this Holy Day (Numbers 29:1). Teruh means a “loud noise, a shout or a blowing of the shofar ram’s horn”. Numbers 29:1 is translated “a day when the horn is sounded” and “zichron teruah” which means “commemorated with loud blasts”. It is traditionally known as “the day of the blowing of the “shofar” trumpets” which are hollowed out ram’s horns. A trumpet call such as this was used when the Israelites were to gather together.  

            Rosh Hashanah also begins the ten-day period culminating in the Day of Atonement. The 10 day period is referred to as the “Days of Awe”. The 10 day period of the “The Days of Awe’ (in Hebrew Ya-mim' Noh-rah'-yim) is also known as the ten Days of Penitence (or repentance). This was a time when God would “awe” His people with His presence. Since atonement for sin is the main goal of the Feast, these days are preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A participant was to aggressively set about to expose the sin of the previous year so it could be forgiven and removed.  It was a time for heart searching and for reflection. To a Jew it is a time of renewing vows made both to the Lord and others which were broken during the previous year.  

            Yom Kippur is the most significant day in the Jewish experience. It is mandated by God in Leviticus 23:26 and described fully in Leviticus 16. The literal translation of Yom Kippur is “Day of Atonement”. Biblically and liturgically it is also known as Day of Judgment and Sabbath of Sabbaths.  

            Atonement literally means reconciliation to God, after the bond had been broken by sin. It means, in a broader sense in Hebrew, ‘purge,’ ‘cleanse,’ ‘expiate,’ ‘purify,’ ‘wipe on or off,’ ‘cover,’, ‘justify’ etc. The literal meaning of the word is simply “at-one-ment”, i.e., the state of being of one or being reconciled, so that atonement is actually reconciliation to God. 

            The most important ceremonial aspects of the manifestation of atonement in the days of the Old Testament law involved the High Priest, two goats and a bull. This has great significance to us today as we see below. At that time, in the wilderness,  the Jews had constructed a temple (tabernacle) as a precursor to the great temple that was to be built in the Promised Land. The temple was constructed into three main areas or divisions: the “outer court”, the “Holy Place” and finally the Holy of Holies, the most Holy place. No one entered the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once a year on the day of Yom Kippur (for a fuller description of the Holy of Holies see the quote from Hebrews below). A veil separated this most Holy place from the rest of the temple.  

            A ritual occurred on the Day of Atonement which literally cleansed the Jewish people from all sins they had committed the previous year. This Old Testament ritual is actually a representation of the eternal sacrifice that Christ was to initiate. As we can see below, salvation, as represented by the Day of Atonement, included the two aspects of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The following are a summary of the events which led to the Atonement (see Leviticus 16 for a description of the entire process).   

            There were two goats and a bull involved. The bull was slain as atonement for the sins of Aaron the high priest who was to administer the atonement for the people. The first goat was sacrificed for the defilement of the temple by Israel. In Christ it represents the first part of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The first goat was slain and sacrificed as forgiveness for the sins of Israel. But mere forgiveness is only the beginning of what God had for Israel in a complete experience.    

             The second goat remained alive. It was brought before the Lord where Aaron the priest became the vehicle of God to physically (or spiritually) transfer all of the sin of Israel for the previous year to that goat. This literal “transference” of the sin was a real occurrence, not only a ritual. The sin of Israel was actually “placed upon” the goat. The goat was then led outside the camp and banished into the wilderness never to be seen again. God also made this ceremony a permanent ordinance which means it was to occur eternally. Today it is carried on as a celebration of the Lamb of God (Christ) who bore the sins of all humanity and forever removed sin from the world. In short it shows us that only being forgiven of sin is not enough. We must also have the sin removed completely so that we do not have to continually come back to God to seek forgiveness every year as the ancient Israelites did.   

            Following Yom Kipper by four days began the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth) lasting eight days which culminated in an eighth day “Feast of Rejoicing’. The Feast is also known as the “Feast of Booths”.  

            Tabernacle, in Hebrew means the place where God meets man, and thus God and man   “tabernacle” (verb) together. Tabernacle is also referred to a tent or dwelling. “Miskan”, a Hebrew noun, means God’s dwelling place called the “Tent of Meeting” (also Hebrew “ohel”) in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament wilderness it was where God would speak to Moses. In the New Testament the equivalent term “skene” is used to denote the permanent temple, Christ’s body, where God will tabernacle with His people for eternity. Leviticus 23:39-43 explains why this Feast is called “The Feast of Booths”: 

            “On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a Sabbath rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day.

‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.

‘You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.

‘You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt [Passover]. I am the Lord your God.”  

            Thus each Israelite built a booth from plants and trees for their family to dwell in for seven days. They did this for a remembrance of how God delivered Israel from the bondage of the Egyptians. It was a family time and a time for the Israelites to commune and sup together. Being after Yom Kippur, the people rejoiced over God’s forgiveness and all would hope for a favorable upcoming year-crops a’ plenty, prosperity, good fortune and well being. Thus the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of God being with His people and a time of remembrance of God delivering them from the bondage of Egypt. In the Kingdom of God we will eternally live in this constant state of tabernacling, being in His presence forever. 

 

3.       New Testament Application of the Feast of Tabernacles. 

            The Old Testament is, most of all, the physical foundation upon which Christ is building His spiritual priesthood and His Kingdom. The Books of the Torah also, in a literal and symbolic way, speak of Christ and His coming as the Messiah. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39). Old Testament scriptures reveal much about Christ that is not revealed per se in the New Testament. Many Old Testament scriptures are quoted word for word in the New Testament, even by Christ himself (see Luke 4:18-19; the Lord quotes Isaiah 61). Isaiah 53 is devoted entirely to a description of Christ, the suffering servant written centuries prior to His appearing. Likewise Jeremiah 31:31-34 lays out Christ’s coming New Covenant centuries before its fulfillment. That scripture is later quoted by the writer of Hebrews as being the New Covenant (Hebrews 7:8-12). 

            The Feast of Tabernacles is also important in its depiction of our relationship with God today. It covers everything from the blood sacrifice, to the High Priest, to forgiveness of sin, to the relationship of God with his people. First of all is the principle of the blood. Hebrews says that “there is no forgiveness of sin except by the shedding of blood” (v. 9:22). In the Old Testament the blood shed by the sacrificial animals was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. With Christ, He became the sacrificial Lamb who forgave the sin of the entire world by the shedding of His blood on the cross, rendering one sacrifice for all time.  

            Rosh Hashanah was the trumpet or “loud or noise” that signified the New Year and the gathering of all Israel together. The trumpet is symbolic of the Word of God. Note the parallel references in the scriptures to the sounding of the trumpet: the walls of Jericho fell; the seventh seal of the seven angels with the seven trumpets of Revelation 8; the 7, trumpets carried by those escorting the ark (Joshua 6:4); Gideon and the trumpets (Judges 7:8), the great trumpets that will gather the scattered of Israel (Matthew 24:31). There are many more examples but  suffice it to say the blowing of the trumpet on Rosh Hashanah was a significant event duplicated literally in the end-time (Christ will descend with a shout! And a trumpet call, the Word). It literally denotes that everything from creation onward was accomplished by the trumpet call, the speaking into existence of all things by a spoken word of God. Today we use the speaking of the Word to call into being things that we do not see (Hebrews 11:1) just as God called creation into being by His Word i.e. “Let it be” and it was done Genesis 1). 

            The Days of Awe (10 Days of Repentance) are symbolic of our preparation to receive Christ at His return. Our old human natures must be brought to the surface, revealed and replaced by the nature of Christ by transference. This transference principal both removed our sin and placed it on Christ but it also transfers His Holy nature to us so we can be like Him. This involves much reflection and the ability to let go. Being the longest portion of the Feast indicates the importance of this process to God. It can be a difficult and painful time as our most secret sins work their way to the forefront of our lives. But without it there can be no Yom Kippur. Our depth of repentance in many ways dictates our depth of forgiveness and our experience of the removal, not just forgiveness, of our sin.    

            On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Aaron was the priest who administered the sacrifice of the blood of “bulls and goats”. In the New Testament God administrated through Christ His forgiveness of the world by one eternal sacrifice.  

            The writer of Hebrews (9:1-10:21) contrasts the Old Covenant with the New, excerpts of which appear below. The author of Hebrews expresses the inadequacy of the first (Old) covenant with that of the New Covenant. First He describes the Old Tabernacle as it was in Moses’ day: 

            “Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. ‘For there was a tabernacle [sacred tent] prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden  altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;  

            “Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second [Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance”. 

            “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing,  which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which  cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation” (v. 9:1-10).  

            The priest entered the Holiest place only once a year, on Yom Kippur. The sacrifice he offered there, however, was not an eternal sacrifice but a temporary one relating only regulations for human conduct. Only a cloth veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. When Christ was crucified on the cross, that veil was rent from the top to the bottom providing access to the Holiest place to all (Matthew 27:50–51).  

            “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through  the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from  dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He [Christ] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance”.  

            The sacrifices for forgiveness of sin always occurred with a death of a bull or goat under the Old Covenant (see Leviticus 1-7 for an explanation of all of the Old Testament sacrifices for sin). The Old Testament sacrifices were but a type and shadow of the true sacrifice that was to come. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens [the old Covenant on the physical level] be cleansed with these, but the heavenly [spiritual] things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (v.11-23)  

            “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a MERE COPY of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He [Christ] would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (v.24-26).

            As we have said, the Old Testament priest had to continually offer new sacrifices for sin every year performed in a physical temple made with hands. Christ entered into the spirit realm (Heaven) where God dwells and continually lives to make intercession for us.   

            “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of  the good things to come and not the very form of things can ever, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened : burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. (see also Psalm 40:6-8).  

            This scripture can also be likened to the many good sacrificial works we do for Christ in hopes of pleasing Him. However, He no longer desires or approves such “dead works”. We are transformed into the one who comes “to do the works of God” which proceed not out of our flesh nature but are from God. This New Covenant of Christ, where He writes His Word permanently on our hearts, is described fully in Hebrews chapter 10: 

            “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.  By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which  can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet” [from psalm 110:1]  

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (v. 10:1-14).
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
“THIS is the covenant that I will make with them
After
those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind I will write them,”
He then says,
“AND their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.”
 

            The First (Old) Covenant showed the way to the second (New) Covenant. The inadequacy of the temporary nature of the Old gave way to the permanence of the New. The Old Covenant was inadequate in that the sin “problem” remained. However, the Old Covenant pointed the way to the new. Since the Old didn’t work a New was necessary to oblivate the sin problem forever.  

            Similarly, the Old Testament Law, the rules and regulations enacted by God, could never be fulfilled by man, even His chosen Jews. This necessitated the one ultimate sacrifice by Christ. Since it was proven over and over again that God’s chosen people, the Jews, could not fulfill the Law in and of themselves, Christ came to fulfill it for them and all of us. It is not now by works we are saved but by faith in a Messiah that accomplished this fulfillment for us for eternity.  

            Therefore, all the Tabernacle “rituals” pointed to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and were actually a “type and shadow” of the true tabernacle that was to follow. Aaron transferred the entire sin of Israel for the previous year onto the scapegoat (Azazel) who carried it far away and forgotten. With Christ, the entire sin of the world was transferred to Him on the cross. When He died and was resurrected He arose a resurrected being seated at the right hand of God. The sin that had been on put on Him from us was banished. By faith all can participate in this resurrection. Therefore Christ became our permanent Yom Kippur. Everything He did, and more, can be traced back to this Old Testament forgiveness of sin and to the type and shadow of the Feast of Tabernacles that we all, Jews, Christians and Gentiles alike should celebrate as an eternal ordinance of God.

 

MORE LINKS BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND JUDAISM

Judaism: The Foundation of Christianity

For too long Christianity in general has been critical of Judaism. They assume incorrectly that since the Jews were a part of crucifying Jesus, they committed an unpardonable sin. That is the real basis for anti-semanticism today. However, this is not how the New Testament Bible looks at the Jewish nation. In fact the Apostle Paul himself was a Jew and a “Pharisee of Pharisees” who became converted to Christianity. Although Christians were persecuted by the Jews in the early centuries, Paul never lost his passion for his Jewish brethren.  

A brief study of Jewish history reveals the following. God first called Abraham from the pagan Chaldean city of Ur and told him to go to the land of Canaan, which later became the Promised Land for the Jews. He made a covenant with Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him. God reckoned Abraham righteous because of his faith. That covenant is still viable today for Jews and Christians alike. Neither “religion” denies that you need faith to walk with God.  

For the next centuries following Abraham, all the nations were not blessed. Tiny Israel was cloistered away from the nations. God had told them not to associate with the surrounding nations or their religions. In Israel, throughout their history, Jews were unable to follow that command. Time and again they adopted the religions of the surrounding Canaanite peoples to the point that God was forced to judge them over and over again. There were intermittent times when a good King would tear down all the pagan idols and return Israel its one true God, but invariably they would go back to pagan Baal worship or honor one of the many Gods of the pagan peoples. Israel was taken into captivity or defeated in battle during these times of apostasy. Finally the nation was all but destroyed by the Babylonians around 500 B.C., and most of the nation was taken into captivity.  

God had given Israel His law through Moses in the Sinai wilderness. In addition to the 10 Commandments there were some 600 other laws that the Israelis were to follow. God promised that if they followed those laws, He would bless them. Of course, Israel was unable to follow the laws as God required and thus their rocky history.  

One thing Israel did right was to preserve the Word of God. The Word went from oral to written form and the overall opinion of scholars is that the Word was accurately copied and translated down to the First Century. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Hebrew manuscript, turns out to be substantially similar to the versions of the Word we have today. God, who can do anything He wants, used Israel to protect His Word, despite being written by imperfect human channels. As a result, despite all the speculations to the contrary, thousands of years later we have a Bible that is God’s Word. Nothing God does is imperfect, so we Jews and Christians alike have His word to light our paths, just as it did throughout Israel’s history.   

The Messiah, for Jews and Christians alike, was to come and deliver Israel from bondage and thereafter rule with a rod of iron. This is reflected and even predicted in the writings of many ancient Jewish prophets, whose words are recorded in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and nearly all the others prophesy the coming of the Messiah (see Isaiah Chapters 9 & 53; Jeremiah Ch. 33; Daniel Chas. 10-12 and a multitude of others). Jesus, the Messiah of the Christians, acknowledged this by saying to the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; [The Messiah] (John 5:39). And it is true, after close study, that nearly the entire Old Testament speaks of a Messiah or reflects Him through types and shadows and visions. The New Testament quotes scriptures from the Old Testament countless times.  

Yes the Jews were instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus, apparently without any justifiable cause. The Jews of that day feared Jesus and used His seeming violation of Jewish law and His claim to be God as a reason to kill him. Does thus then exclude the Jews from the Kingdom? No, says the Apostle Paul, and he goes into some detail in the New Testament Epistle to the Romans.  

The New Testament recognizes the Law of the Jews. The writer of Hebrews says the Law was a type and shadow of things to come (Hebrews 8:4-5). Christians believe that when Jesus came the first time that he was the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17).Likewise, through Him, humanity also becomes able to do what Jesus did. The law becomes our teacher to lead us to the Messiah. “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ [the Messiah], (Galatians 3:23-24).  

Paul grieved over Israel; he did not condemn them. He says: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish [literally pray] that I myself were  accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren [Jews] my kinsmen according to the flesh,…(Romans 9:1-3).  And: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them [Israelites] is for their salvation (Romans 10:1).   

Paul goes on to say: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?  May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God  has not rejected His people whom He  foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2). 

He explains: “I say then, they [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression [against Christ] salvation has come to the Gentiles, to  make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!”… For if their rejection is the  reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but  life from the dead?  (Romans 11:11-12, 15).   

The point Paul is making is this. Many consider that Israel’s sin in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah excludes them from salvation. Paul is saying we all have sinned, including Israel, so they can be forgiven just as the rest of the world (the Gentiles) were. For them, Jesus was not the Messiah, but consider that Jesus promised to come again and now ever lives to make intercession for any who ask. The fact that Israel rejected Him the first time (from a Christian standpoint) does not mean they will not accept Him the second time. There is no partiality with God; Jews and Christians alike face the same challenges of accepting the Messiah i.e. “there is level ground at the foot of the cross”. 

Paul then explains the positioning of the Jews and Christians by making an analogy of the olive tree and the branches: “But if some of the  branches were broken off, and  you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,  do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that  it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you Romans 11:17-18). He is saying that the perceived sin of Israel in rejecting Christ is represented by branches being broken off the tree. With the coming of the Messiah, Gentiles were grafted into the tree. But the root still belongs to Israel. Israel is the root of Christianity.  

“You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either (Romans 11:21-22).  

We would today call this passage the Christian position on anti- semanticists. Since we all stand on equal ground (i.e. all have sinned) how can we be critical of the Jewish people who are the root the branches sprung from? Christian’s branches can be cut off as easily as some of the Jewish branches were.       

   “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? This passage is self-explanatory.  

Thus, at this point, there is no real difference between the Judaism and Christianity. The barriers between the people and their religions don’t really exist. The Messiah died for all peoples and He is coming back to rectify all things. The Bible says “He would that none perish”. We have ALL sinned. We ALL have need of forgiveness. In order to move closer to each other, the Jews must realize that they must change their reliance on the Old Testament Law and believe in a Messiah, who offers them the same salvation He offers to the entire world. The Christians (formerly Gentiles) must also change their lives from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. It’s all level ground at the cross and there is no reason to arbitrarily reject one group or another.

 

MATTHEW 13: THE WHEAT AND THE TARES

            The parable of the wheat and the tares is found in Matthew 13:24-30. It is one of the seven parables of the Kingdom found in that chapter. The parables all begin with “the Kingdom of God [Heaven] is like…” or “the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to”. A parable (parabola) is defined as: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious [we would say spiritual] principle. It is from the Greek root word parabolē meaning comparison; also, from paraballein to compare (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). A parable has been defined as an allegorical saying, analogous to a deep truth that cannot be described in human language. A proverb is much the same as a parable but is not a story but a brief reference to a principle, in the Bible a spiritual principal.   

            It seems appropriate to quote the entire parable here and then in succeeding paragraphs dissect it. 

“Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares [darnel, a weed resembling wheat] among the wheat, and went away.

“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.

‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” (New American Standard Bible, 1995 revision).  

            When the disciples asked Jesus what the parable meant, Jesus replied: 

“And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [Christ], and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end [consummation] of the age; and the reapers are angels.

“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, [literally everything that is offensive] and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (vs. 37-43). 

            Those without ears to hear or eyes to see will never understand the parable, let alone the spiritual principle being conveyed. Earlier the disciples had asked Jesus why He spoke to the multitude in parables. Jesus answered:

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand (Matthew 13:10-13). This also illustrates that one can only understand the parable with divine revelation from God, just as Christ had to explain it to the disciples. In other words, the parable is not self-explanatory although simplistic. As Daniel said of the end-time: “…none of the wicked will understand but those who have insight [revelation] will understand” (v. 12:10).

             Christ was the farmer who sowed good seed in the field, the whole world. He planted the seed in the ground with the potential of the seed becoming full Sons of God, as He is. Satan has sons as well. He took a third of all the angels in heaven with him when he was expelled. Many became men, manifestations of Satan on the earth (see Genesis Chapter 6). The sons of the evil one even intermingled with women and there were giants [literally Nephilim] born to them. This is a continuing cycle that exists even today. In fact the presence of evil men was so prevalent in ancient times that God had to destroy them with a flood. The Lord said that most religious of the Jews in His time, the Pharisees, were of their father the devil.  

            This intermingling of tares and wheat caused much damage to the true Sons, both in knowing the nature of the deception that surrounded them and in their ability to recognize who they themselves were. Oneness was impossible. The Sons couldn’t even know their brothers and sisters because the tares blocked their view. The roots of the Sons and the tares were intermingled-instead of knowing themselves as Sons they took on the nature of what was constantly around them. So intricately were the Sons bound with the tares it ultimately took the angels to separate them. It is they, as a divine moving of God, who, after separation, bound the tares into bundles and burned them. Humans try to imitate the righteousness of God but always fail because in themselves they cannot do it. It is and has always been God who provides what was needed, through His grace.   

            The tares were immediately apparent to Christ as the enemy, as He was able to view the entire field. But judgment and fulfillment do not come all at once, so as to rush in and begin to yank out all of the tares. His goal is maturity. People ask “why would a loving God cause all the evil in the world?” The truth is that He didn’t cause it. It is caused by the sons of the evil one, who also planted his seeds in the earth. This is the same principle applicable to the times in Old Testament as Joshua was taking the Promised Land. God allowed the Canaanite nations to exist so they could take care of the vines and crops that Israel would inherit; and He allowed Israel to grow up and the iniquity of the nations to come to the full. Also realize that it was not necessarily the good seed that overcame the bad seed; it took a work of God to do it.  

            For those who say there is no hell, this parable and the explanation clearly show there is. It is the eternal dumping ground of the universe, entirely separated from God for eternity. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there. People say “How could a loving God send anybody to such a place?” He’s not sending just anybody. He is sending those who through some choice became aligned with Satan and spread evil throughout the world. The evil they generated comes back on them. There should not be any sympathy for those who caused evil, sickness and futility to reign on the earth since ages past. We will look on them with contempt. 

             Actually the most important part of this parable comes at the end. While the tares are burning Christ says “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”. Can you imagine the glory! The Sun is so bright we cannot even look at it. We will radiate this intense light. Without the hindrances of the tares, we will be unlimited. We will no longer subsist in the light generated by another, but will generate light as does the Son of God.  

            The Kingdom of God is coming to this earth as it exists in the Spirit realm of God (Matthew 6:10). It is not far away to be possessed when we die and “go to heaven”. Neither is it a rapture, when we are taken away from the middle of the tares, leaving the “wicked” to contend with what is left. It is the tares who are taken away in judgment-the parable says nothing about the Sons being taken away. The Sons are left here to bring forth the kingdom in this earth. We should rejoice!

 

MELCHIZEDEK

Eternal Priest and King 

To many Christians Melchizedek is a mystery. He was a man who came to Abraham following Abraham’s defeat of the five Canaanite Kings who had attacked Sodom and Gomorrah, took all their food, and fled with many captives, including Lot, Abraham’s nephew (Genesis 14:17-20).    

Following Abraham’s return he was met by a man identified only as Melchizedek. According to scripture, and correct translation, Melchizedek was the King of Salem (King of righteousness) and a priest of a single God named El Elyon. Melchizedek is translated roughly from the Hebrew Malkiy-edeq).  This King brought bread and wine for Abraham and blessed him saying: “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” (Genesis 14:19-20, KJV). Abraham then gave him a tithe of a tenth of all the spoils of the battle. This is the only personal appearance of Melchizedek in the Bible. However he is discussed in the Books of Psalms and Hebrews (see below).  

Melchizedek was identified as both a priest of God, El Elyon, and a King of Salem. In a literal interpretation of Genesis 14:19, Melchizedek blesses Abraham “in the name of God Most High” which is translated El Elyon. Melchizedek also calls the “God Most High” (El Elyon) the possessor or “creator” of heaven and earth. Abraham, worshipped a God called “Yahweh” but apparently made no distinction between his God and that of Melchizedek because Abraham gave tithe to Melchizedek thereby conceding him a priesthood greater than his own patriarchal priesthood. Also Melchizedek worshiped only one God, unlike Abraham’s Canaanite neighbors, who worshipped many Gods, eliminating the theory that he hailed from any polytheistic society.      

Salem, wherein Melchizedek was identified as being King, is closely associated with Jerusalem which eventually became the center for worship by the Jews in King David’s time. Prior to the Jewish occupation of the city it was named “Uru-salem or Uru-salimmu” (see the Tell el-Amarna letters, 14th century B.C.). It is believed that Melchizedek heralded from that city and Salem is also translated “peace” (see Psalm 76:2). Melchizedek’s validity as a priest of the Most High God (also El Elyon) is emphasized by Abraham, as he rejects any spoils offered him by the defeated Canaanite Kings, in the name of the same God he mentioned in Genesis 14:19.  

Melchizedek is later identified in the scriptures as holding an eternal priesthood as a type of Christ who was to come. The Book of Hebrews goes into the most detail as to whom this mysterious figure, Melchizedek, represented. Hebrews explains that Old Testament Priests, from the tribe of Levi, officiated over the various sacrifices given to God by the people to atone for sin. However, this priesthood was temporary, not permanent, in that the sacrifices had to be offered over and over again. Further, the Priests died and their priesthood was ended. Christ, on the other hand, was not from the physical tribe of Levi (He was of the natural lineage of Judah). Therefore Christ (Jesus) had no part in the Old Testament temporary priesthood. His priesthood was permanent in that His one sacrifice forever accomplished salvation and reconciliation to God.  

Christ’s ministry as a priest is therefore compared to that of Melchizedek “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God…to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent , having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abides a priest continually (Hebrews 7:1-3).  

The writer of Hebrews goes on: “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there arises another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment [Mosaic Law], but after the power of an endless life (vs. 16-17). The Old Testament priests were appointed by law; the eternal priesthood was appointed by God and was eternal.  

“For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God…And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: For those priests were made without  an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek: By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament…”But this man, because he continues ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.  For the law makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, makes the Son, who is consecrated [literally “made perfect”] for evermore.  

            Neither Christ nor of Melchizedek was appointed by man but by an oath from the Father. The commissioning to the Priesthood was that set forth in Psalm 110: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent [change His mind], Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. By saying “The Lord said to my Lord”, David seems to be speaking of the Father (The LORD) and Christ, the Son of God (my Lord), who is the “Priest forever”, ever living to make intercession for the Saints and the Sons of God they become (Hebrews 7:25).

       The oath “thou are a priest forever”, was never made to the Levitical priesthood. Both Christ and Melchizedek are identified as being made priests forever, seeing no beginning or end of their priesthood. Christ was also, like Melchizedek, called a King. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:32-33). And “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion  endures throughout all generations. (Psalm 145:13). “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end (Isaiah 9: 6-70.   

            Many speculate as to who Melchizedek really was. Some say Shem, the son of Noah. Others say he was an actual incarnation of Christ himself. The Christian mystics and the Gnostics identify him as many things including a pagan God-like figure, a Buddha, a divine being in the secret doctrines of Jesus etc. Still others identify him as an angel or messenger of God. However, without speculation, he was clearly identified in the Bible. These theories must be rejected because they contradict the actual word of God wherein he is identified as none of these, only as a priest and a King of the Most High God creator of the heavens and the earth.  

Melchizedek was a man who served as confirmation of Christ’s ministry of eternal priesthood (see above). He was also a King, like Christ, over His Kingdom of Salem, a Kingdom of Peace. He could be identified as a prophet (Genesis 14:19-20), speaking the Word of God over Abraham after his victory.  

Christ (Messiah) was also identified as a prophet, priest and King. When Christ came to the earth as God, He restricted Himself and walked as a man within human limitations. He came as a prophet (speaking The Father’s word) and was a priest (see above), after the order of Melchizedek—that divine priesthood which was instituted when God, in human form, ministered on this earth in the priesthood which preceded the Levitical priesthood. That He is also a King requires no explanation. This is called the three-fold ministry of Christ (prophet, priest and King), three being the number of unity (Father-Son-Holy Spirit; spirit-soul-body etc.).  

So we see Melchizedek for what he is-a confirmation of Christ’s ministry. Any more identification other than what is written in the Word of God is fruitless human speculation. The mention of Melchizedek as part of God’s priesthood is meant to glorify Jesus and further solidify our understanding of His great sacrifice for us.  

*Scripture references are from the King James Authorized Version of the Bible   

 

SECOND COMING AND THE RAPTURE 

            About all we can be sure about as far as Jesus Second Coming is that no one knows the date or the time, not even Christ Himself. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36). Therefore anyone who attempts to predict the time from prophecies, years, millenniums, a Mayan calendar etc. will probably be wrong, as so many have been in the past. The main thing the Lord teaches us is that we must be ready, even if He tarries in His Coming.  

            “Therefore  be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24: 42-44). Thus we can be sure He will not come on our timetable but on His and even at a time when we don’t think He could possibly come.   

            Jesus goes on: “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master  put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?

“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

“Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’  and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 24: 45-51).  

            About all we can do is keep doing the will of God and walking with Him so that when He does come we can be assured we aren’t among those that are left out. Even if he delays His coming, we must not become discouraged and turn again to fleshly living. 

            Christ reiterates this warning in the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The parable starts with the gathering of 10 chosen virgins who were actually waiting right at the door of the Lord, awaiting the call of the Bridegroom to come to the marriage feast. These were very special women who had been called for this and had undergone years of preparation. They all brought lamps as the Lord had commanded them. However the 5 foolish virgins did not bring extra oil for their lamps. Expecting the Lord to come at a certain time, they brought enough oil only for their expected time. However, the Lord tarried, and came late, and by that time the foolish virgins had run out of oil. In other words, they did not have sufficient anointing from the Lord, sufficient light to shine into the darkness to see Him as He was. On the contrary the 5 wise virgins realized that the Lord could come at a time they didn’t expect and brought extra oil in the event He came late. This boils down to the fact that some thought they were ready when they were not.            

            Although all the virgins slumbered and slept, and all awoke when He did come, some were prepared and some not. Perhaps He delayed His coming to give the foolish virgins a chance to get what they needed just as God had delayed before waiting for the “wickedness of the Amorites to come to a full” (Genesis 15:16). He is not willing that any be lost. Nevertheless, when He came, it was too late for the foolish virgins. They, realizing the horror of their situation, ran to the streets to get (buy, pay the price) for what they needed. In any event they finally found what they needed but it was too late. The door was shut. The Bridegroom told them “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matt 25:12). They may have had what they thought they should have but at the end of the day they didn’t know the Lord in the intimate manner that He desired.  Perhaps they thought they had more time to get ready. But the parable ends with the ominous: “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt 25:13).   

            This is the danger in walking with God by the intellect. Our intellect may tell us many things and often they are not true. If our intellect tells us He is coming at a certain time then our intellect is surely wrong. To God, there is no time, only eternity. He who predicts the future is not walking in the Spirit of God. To those who know God in the spirit, such questions as to when, how where etc. are irrelevant. The only thing relevant is to do the will of God on a day by day basis constantly looking for His return. Romans 8:14 says: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”.

            There are signs the Lord told us to watch for preceding His coming.

·                     “For  many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

·                     “Wars and rumors of wars.

·                     “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will
                       be famines and earthquakes.

·                     deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and

·                     you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

·                     “many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.

·                     “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

·                     most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:4-12).

             Then He describes literally what will happen:      

“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

“Unless those days had been cut short, no life [flesh] would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect [chosen ones] those days will be cut short.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him.

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

 “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.

        “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the  coming of the  Son of Man be” (Matt 24:15-28).           

            These passages also do not predict how and when the return will occur. It just says that it will happen. Humanity has always had wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes and tribulations. All nations from the beginning of times have had these signs of the “end-time”.  So we cannot go by the signs themselves. We can just continue to do the will of God. All Jesus said about His coming was: “Behold I am coming quickly, just be ready”.   

            “But immediately after the tribulation of those days  the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet [the word of God] and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matt 24:29-31).  

            Mainstream “Christianity” attempts to give its own literal interpretation of these events. However, again, these interpretations obviously arise from the human intellect, not the Spirit. Who can know what tribulation awaits or whether it has started already. What is the sign of the Son of Man appearing in the sky or coming in the clouds? What is the great trumpet? How does He gather His elect? Eschatologists everywhere are sure they have the answers and so teach others. They are false prophets, talking about what their own minds tell them.

            Most organized religions today are influenced by the God of this world (Satan). They are those who teach Christ but do not know Him; in fact the teachings of the average Christian church preach doctrines that are inapposite to Christ.  

            Paul, in speaking of the false apostles of his day said:

            “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15).

             Satan’s angelic name Lucifer which in fact means “light bearer” or “son of the morning; morning star”. He is a religious spirit, a false light bearer. Religion is his greatest deception. By appearing like a light bearer, or an enlightened one, he can keep the people in bondage to precepts, doctrines and false security rather than imparting the nature of Christ. Again, as we read, Satan deceives the whole world. Matthew 24:20 says:  “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible,  

            Therefore we can conclude that we in our human state cannot understand, predict or interpret anything having to do with God.  All true knowledge about the 2nd Advent must come through the Spirit of God, not the intellect. It’s Ok not to know everything. Eventually we will. For now, as we continually press in to “know him” more, there is “nothing hidden what will not be revealed”.

             There is also the current Christian doctrine of the rapture. Those who believe in the rapture are continually waiting for the time when Christ will remove them from this world before what they believe as the great tribulation occurs. Then, when the end-time events are completed they will return with Christ where he will set up His Kingdom on the earth. This means that certain believers will be able to avoid the beasts, the heads, the horns, the “anti-christ”, the mark and all the other aspects of the tribulation supposedly depicted in the Book of Revelation.

             The problem with the rapture is that there is no instance in the Bible where men of God were spared any tribulation. From Abraham, Noah, Moses, any of the prophets none were spared anything. They were usually right in the middle of it. Most Old Testament prophets prophesied during periods of trouble and wars. The early Christians were crucified, fed to lions and killed in all manner of ways. They hid in caves to escape the persecution of the Romans and Jews. The only way they were raptured was by horrible death. Why should it be different now? The Sons (the elect, the chosen ones) are those that actually bring forth the Kingdom on the earth. They stay here to do the dirty work. They aren’t “waiting” for anything; they are eagerly anticipating His return, which is a different thing. They are also initiating it.

              Those who believe in the rapture also try to interpret the Book of Revelation (eschatologists). The Book of Revelation is incapable of interpretation by anything except through the Spirit of God. John was “in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:1) when he saw the revelations. The false revelators who interpret Revelation literally forget that the real truth is only revealed through the Holy Spirit. These false predictors think they have all the answers but the truly spiritual realize wisely that they don’t. What God really does is not known to the average man unless he has “eyes to see, ears to hear”.

             Actually the rapture theory was first advanced in the 19th century by a few not to be named here scholars. It is nowhere advanced in the scriptures by Paul or Jesus.  It offered people a doctrine of safety and security rather than the unpredictable moving of God. This increased church attendance. Those promoting such theories even found what they considered to be confirmation in the scriptures for the doctrine such as:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout [cry of command], with the voice of  the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).  

             Paul was here reassuring the church at Thessalonica about the dead who had gone on before them. When Christ comes, he said, He will bring those who have died (are asleep) in Him and we who are alive at His coming will meet “the Lord in the air” (the spirit, neuma in Greek) and all (Christ, the dead and the living) will live forever with Him. There is no preceding rapture indicated; Paul speaks only of Christ, those who have died and the ones who remain on earth at the time.

            Similarly rapture proponents speak of situations described in the scriptures such as:

“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left (Matt 24:38-41).

            Jesus is speaking of the judgment that is going to take place as it did in the Days of Noah. The flood came and took them “all away” except Noah and his family who were left. Similarly, Jesus said of the men of the field and the women at the mill that one will be “taken” and the other left. As in the Days of Noah the ones taken will be those taken in judgment and the righteous left.  

            We still come back to the bottom line. As we continue to be ready and follow God we really do not need to understand anything more. Seek first the Kingdom and all we need will be added to us, including knowledge. By that time the spirit and physical worlds will be one as His Kingdom will come on earth as it is already in heaven. Just remember, we will experience similar sufferings as Christ as that is God’s will. It was not His intention to “rapture” Christ. It was His will that Christ suffer. It is same today. As we move in to create the Kingdom we will also experience the sufferings of Christ. … if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:17).  If we don’t suffer we are not partakers with Him. Let’s not be cowards and wait for some rapture to remove us from the earth right when we’re needed most. 

 

THE SUFFERING SERVANT AS THE WORSHIPPER

Psalm 13 

            Psalm 13 is a deep Psalm of need and faith and is symbolic of Christ on the cross. It is a short Psalm and is duplicated here for reference: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.  How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.  But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.            

            While suffering on the cross Christ cried out:  "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). When God transferred all the sin of the world upon Him, He had to turn His face from Jesus. Jesus didn't know why. That not knowing was part of His suffering; His Father turned from Him at the hour of His greatest need.  

            Many prophets and men of God have asked the Question "How long"? Most all (if not all) of those references concern Christ in one way or another. Christ said: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John  5:39). The Old Testament scriptures, first and foremost, were about Christ, providing details of His life and ministry we don't have in the New Testament.  

            Christ walked a lonely ministry. No one could have understood Him. He continually refers to the multitudes He was speaking to as those who didn't have "eyes to see nor ears to hear". 

            His own people, the Israelites, rejected Him. As He says: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).  

            So most of the references to "How long” are references to mourning, a deep call to the Lord for fulfillment. Even God Himself had this call: "And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?" (Numbers 14:11). 

            Jesus was constantly incensed at the disciples for their unbelief: "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me" (Matthew 17:14-17).  

            The cry comes even from the dead: " And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:9-10).

Who can argue that the following reflects the Lord's thinking: "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? [deception]" (Psalm 4:2). This cry must have persisted during the last 2000 years of apostasy.  

            The Psalms have no less than ten references which cry "How long?" (Psalm 94:3; Psalm 74:9; Psalm 82:2; 6:3; 35:17; 89:46; 62:3; 79:5 to name a few).  

            Job, in his unjust sufferings, as Christ suffered unjustly, cried "How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle? I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be" (Job 7:19-21).  

            Jeremiah (12:4), Hosea (8:5), Habakkuk (2:6), Zechariah (1:12) and Joshua (18:3) all had similar cries. Proverbs 1:22 says: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” 

            So Psalm 13:1-4 predicts accurately the cries of Christ, what He must have felt and what He carried with Him during His life on earth. Yes the Psalm comes from David's own experiences in his life, but as we've seen above, his words had a more far reaching meaning, as did the cries reflected in the words of other men of God. They reflected Christ in that they came forth from a suffering heart, a reflection of Christ who suffered more than them all.  

            David ends the Psalm with a declaration of faith in God, in His salvation and in worship of Him (vs. 5-6). This is also a common response in men of God.  

            Jeremiah laments: "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail..."(Lam 3:1-5 quoted, see 1-20).  

            But after describing his unjust sufferings he concludes:  "My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him" (Lam 3:20-24). See also Psalm 52:8; Psalm 9:14; Psalm 116:7.  

            We can take this with us in our walks with God. Men who suffered probably more than we, always had as their final response gratitude and worship of the Lord (Psalm 13:6). That is the correct response of a man of God. He worships in the midst of inhuman suffering.

            Another reference to the sufferings of Christ, as spoken by David, is in Psalm 22: 

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded...For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture [clothing]".            

            But he concludes: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: (Psalm 22:1-5, 24-28).  

So shall be our response to the sufferings He feels justified to impose on us to His Glory.

*All scripture references are from the King James Authorized Bible Version. 

 

THE FALL OF MAN

          We all know that it was Eve’s, then Adam’s, disobedience to God that caused the fall of man from the Garden of Eden. But why the complete condemnation of man from that time until now? We today still struggle with the nature that resulted from the fall; couldn’t God have forgiven Adam the one sin? And why and how was he deceived? We will examine the fall in a context that might seem new to some and fill in some of the details.  

            First of all, it was Adam’s sin that caused the fall, not necessarily Eve’s. It was the man who had the authority and Eve was subject to Adam. God had to be aware of this weakness when He created Eve.  

            Eve was alone when she was tempted by the serpent, who was possessed by Satan. It was likely that Adam was not with her because he would have prevented her sin (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Genesis 3:6). The serpent was craftier than any other animal in the garden. He probably plotted to get her alone for that very reason. That is why Jesus sent the disciples two by two. If we are alone we are more vulnerable to deception.  

            Why then did Adam succumb to Eve’s deception? Genesis says that when God created Eve, Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman [meaning “she man” in Hebrew the word is "Ishsash"] because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24).  

            In their relationship together they had a pure love and an absolute oneness with one another. She was bone and flesh of the man from whom she had been created. The Hebrew word for bone is ‘Estem. When used in the context of “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” the word (or phrase) usually means “a close genetic relationship” (New American Standard Bible, Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, Lexical Aids section, Strong’s #6106). God’s foremost commandments are to love Him and your brother:  

            “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “YOU SHALL love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You SHALL LOVE your neighbor as yourself.’  “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). 

            Paul put it this way in Ephesians 5:28-29: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church… 

            Therefore, in the perfect world of the Garden of Eden, Adam loved Eve as no man since has loved a woman. “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6). God made Adam perfect, in His own image, but He left him with a free will and a choice. When Eve came to Adam after eating of the Tree of Good and Evil, Adam must have immediately recognized what she had done and the probable consequences. She had been disobedient to the only condition God had placed upon them in the Garden. One interpretation states that  he knew (or thought) that Eve was thereby condemned and would be punished. He loved Eve totally, so much that he could not bear being without her, even in the Garden of Eden.  Although he knew that his disobedience would put him in as great a condemnation as Eve, he chose to be with her in whatever God would will, rather than be without her.  

            The first thing that happened after the sin was that Adam and Eve suddenly realized they were naked. As God searched for them, he called to the man (Adam) and said to him: “Where are you?” He [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Gen 3:9-10). Prior to that time they were naked and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25). The Hebrew for naked is Arowm or arom. It means nude, naked, bared, ragged, and badly clad and refers to the dress of very poor people. One must assume that Adam and Eve were in that condition before the fall. But they were not ashamed before God. Now that when their eyes were open, they became afraid and shamed and hid from God for the first time.  

           God’s response was “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (v.3:11). What He was saying was “I didn’t tell you that you were naked so who did?”  

            The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (v.12-13).         

            Thus came the first instance of shame and denial; they were blaming something else and not themselves for what had happened. It was a form of a lie and Satan is the Father of lies. That shame still plagues believers today. Many feel condemned because of their sin and want to shrink back from God rather than step up and accept His gift of salvation. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).  

            The interesting thing about this is that although Adam and Eve were made in the image of God, they were still children. There were many things remaining that God wanted to teach them. God had not yet told them they were naked. As their wisdom increased and they “grew up”, God would have gotten around to telling them that truth when they were ready to know it. Satan, however, as part of his plot, revealed to them what was the truth, but before God was ready to tell them.  

            The same is true of many of us; they are many things He would like to reveal to us, but we are not ready to receive them. Just as Jesus said in John 16:12-15: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will  guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. “He will  glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”  

            Therefore the things Jesus had to say the disciples they could not bear at that time. He had to relegate that task to the Holy Spirit who, over time, would reveal the things of Christ to them; line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (Isaiah 28:10). Too much truth, given at the wrong time, can be as damaging as or more damaging than the lie. For Satan’s truth, given too early, destroyed Adam and Eve and all mankind after them. They couldn’t handle what they had done and hid from their Creator.                    

So God cursed mankind and the earth with futility. But he subjected mankind to futility not without hope. Paul said: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).  

What was the hope? God said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise [crush] you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15). God was saying that the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) would crush the head of Satan and thus release creation from the divinely imposed futility. Therefore what God did in the Garden was with hope: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the  sons of God…. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:19, 22-25).      

            By the same token, the knowledge of the truth of good and evil god would have revealed to them at the right time, when they had been prepared for it. The prohibition of eating from that tree was but a test, to see if the pair could obey God in their innocence. They failed. The scriptures say that although there were truths the disciples were not ready for, that the Holy Spirit, in His timing, would reveal all things to them. A fair comparison can be made with the Bible itself. God tells us He made the heaven and earth, but He doesn’t tell us how or why. The Bible contains all of the truth but our revelation of the of God’s word deepens as reveals more truth. God gives us only what we need and can bear at the time. 

There is one additional truth we need to touch on. Why couldn’t God have allowed Adam and Eve to remain in the Garden? Because the Garden contained the tree of life. If Adam and Eve had been left in the Garden after they had entered into imperfection by their sin, they may have eaten of the tree of life and lived forever in their unperfected state. What a disaster that would have been! He couldn’t allow mankind to continue eternally in a state of sin. He said: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24). God in His mercy subjected creation to futility (Romans 8:20) but in hope that through the redemptive work of Christ creation would return again to the freedom of the glory of God.    

            Thus God, in his infinite wisdom, created a plan for man to eventually become perfected and mature in Him. Ephesians v. 13-15 says: “…until we all attain to  the unity of the faith, and of the  knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the  fullness of Christ. As a result, we are  no longer to be children [like Adam and Eve], tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by  craftiness in  deceitful scheming; but speaking [literally “holding on to’] the truth  in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.  

            This is what Christians today are undergoing-the maturing process that will lead them to absolute maturity. That maturity is to become the likeness of Christ in every way. We will not be led back to the Garden of Eden as it was-populated by the immature. We will create the Kingdom populated by the mature who know both good and evil. We will be ready to receive this truth. And we will banish evil from the earth. Unfortunately we had to take the long way around by learning the consequences of sin-death. But by our perfection we will banish death and all sickness, sorrow and grief. This all could have been avoided had Adam and Eve simply obeyed God and gone on to perfection in the way God intended. The result is the same but Oh what a road back. Thank God and Christ for having the mercy and lovingkindness to reopen the path back to God. Without that, we are condemned and subject to death, as Adam and Eve were.

            So mankind learned a lesson the hard way. But we get back our Garden and much more but not without defeating the massive evil released by the original sin. It seems that man always takes the hard path which could be avoided by simple obedience to God. We don’t have to learn from experience. We can bypass that way and learn obedience. So the story of the Garden of Eden teaches us.   

 

THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

            The celebration known as the Feast of Pentecost is one of the main Jewish Feasts or convocations initiated by God during Israel’s time in the wilderness. It has great application to Christians today in that it was on the Day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit fell on the Apostles and others following Christ’s death and resurrection. The Feast was originally known as the Feast of Weeks, as recorded in the Old Testament. It was named the Feast of Weeks as it occurred exactly 50 days from the waving of the symbolic barley sheaf during the Feast of Passover. It is one of God’s ordained Feasts, Passover and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles being the others. God gave the revelation of the Feasts to Moses while Israel was in the wilderness. The first Feast of Pentecost occurred 50 days after Israel’s Passover deliverance from Egypt. (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10; 2 Chronicles 8:13). Some believe it was on this day that Moses received the 10 Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai (6th Savin).

The Feast was also called the Feast of Harvest because it celebrated the harvest of the later grains (Exodus 23:16) and the feast of the Firstfruits because the first loafs of bread from the harvest were offered to the Lord (Numbers 28:26; Leviticus 23:17). The timing of the exact day of the Feast is recorded in Leviticus 23:15.  

            In early times it was an agriculturally based celebration associated with Passover. It had to do with the firstfruits of the harvest that was symbolically planted around the time of Passover. The Feast lasted 1 or 2 days depending on how the Jewish lunar calendar set the day for that year. It has also been suggested that the Feast celebrated a renewal of the covenant given by God to Noah following the flood (Book of Jubilees 6:1-21). As with all Jewish Feasts the rituals and ordinances involved spoke symbolically of the Christ (Messiah) that was to come.    

            There were specific ordinances commanded by God that were to observed in keeping this feast. In order to be scripturally accurate applicable portions of scripture that reflect the Feast are quoted below: 

“…all your males are to appear before the Lord God (YHWH), the God of Israel.

“You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.

 you shall do no laborious work (Ex 34;22-26).

“You shall offer a burnt offering for a soothing aroma to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old; and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah [bushel]  for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one male goat to make atonement for you. Besides the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall present them with their drink offerings. They shall be without defect (Numbers 28:26-31).  

“You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [week]; then you shall present a  new grain offering to the Lord.

‘You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord [during Passover it was unleavened bread).

‘Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.

‘You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

‘The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the Lord;  [in a wave offering the offering was placed on the hands of the offeror and the priest, after putting his hands under those of the offeror, the priest moved the offering backwards and forwards horizontally]

‘On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 23:15-22). Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand…

You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes” (Deuteronomy 16:9-12).

            Passover represented Israel’s deliverance from Egypt into the new land God was giving them. The Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits represented the fruit of the produce of the new land, as opposed to the leeks and onions consumed by Israel in Egypt prior to the exodus. As we see below, the Old Testament Feast was fulfilled in Christ in that His great commissioning and promise to His disciples was fulfilled on that day.  

            In the New Testament, the Greek word “Pentekostos” meaning 50th, resulted in the Feast being named Pentecost. The early church did not celebrate the pagan feasts such as Easter and Christmas; they celebrated the three feasts God had ordained to be perpetual, including Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that the single most important event in Christianity occurred.  

            Jesus promised the disciples that when He had Ascended He would send them the Helper, The Holy Spirit, who would bring to their remembrance all that He had said and would guide them into all the truth (John 14:26). On Pentecost that Spirit was poured out on all those assembled with the disciples. This was the fulfillment of a prophecy by the prophet Joel recorded in the Old Testament:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days
(Joel 2:28-29).

             For 50 days after Christ’s crucifixation, the clueless disciples wandered in their confusion-some went back to fishing; others went home. They did not know what to do. Finally they gathered together in an upper room and began seeking the Lord. The result was astounding.   

            “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).  

            Thus the Word of God was fulfilled in that the Holy Spirit did not just fall on the disciples or the Jews; it fell on ALL. There were  representatives of many nations present at this time and they marveled that they were suddenly speaking in other tongues but could all understand each other. This was confirmation of the New Covenant wherein fulfillment was not just to physical Israel but to Jews and Gentiles alike. The next scripture shows the extent of the diversity that was present when the Spirit fell: 

            “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?  “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”  And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine” (Acts 2:5-13).  

            But now the disciples, who had lived with Jesus for more than three years, understood now just as the Lord said they would. “But Peter, taking his stand with [spokesman for] the eleven [Judas had been replaced], raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day (9 AM); but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:14-16).  

            From that day, the disciples (now Apostles) began to speak the Word of God throughout Israel and the world. They became known as those “those who turn the world upside down”. They did the works of Jesus and more, just as He had said they would. They were filled with the Spirit and loved not their own lives until death. They performed miracles, signs and wonders and raised the dead. They converted thousands upon thousands to Christ. They established churches and converted countries that are still Christian to this day. They did it all by the Holy Spirit which had fallen on the day of the first-fruits, the day of harvest, the Day of Pentecost. They were the first-fruits; they were the harvest. Pentecost is a short Feast, really only one day but it should be celebrated by Jews and Christians alike. However, beyond being a feast of a set time, these feasts were perpetual ordinances and can be celebrated any-time, anywhere. We celebrate Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit to us who will guide us into all the truth and into the Kingdom of God.           

 


THE FORSAKEN BRIDE: A STORY OF HOPE

            The theme of God’s people being the Bride of Christ is prevalent throughout the Bible (Revelation 21:2 for example, see also Song of Solomon). God constantly likens His relationship to His people as that of a husband and wife. It is in this portrayal that God most reveals His vulnerable side, His love, and the explanation for His sometimes violent, angry and jealous side.  

            The marriage relationship between man and woman is probably the most intense that exists in the human experience. Crimes of passion dominate almost all other crimes in the affairs of men, who are created in the image of God. The emotions engendered by close, intimate relationships rival those of God who loves more intensely than human. As a result, it has been, and is now, not uncommon for God to react in ways that seem to us as extreme. Yet in all His dealings with His people, ancient Israel and today’s spiritual Israel, these extremes are hope for God’s people, His Bride. They reveal God’s unfailing and eternal love for us.             

            Isaiah Chapter 54 speaks of this relationship and God’s hope for a final consummation of this love relationship which is more intense than any emotion generated by man. “For the Lord has called you, Like a wife  forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. “In an  outburst [overflowing] of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:6-8).   

            Forsake, in Hebrew, is azab, and also is used as abandonment in the context of God’s relationship with Israel in the Old Testament. As the verb enkataleiop, in Greek, it means to “separate with” someone/something by leaving, abandoning or deserting. It evokes the most extreme of actions by God upon humanity with seemingly disastrous ensuing consequences. Christ’s most extreme reaction on the cross was His agonized cry of “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The answer to this question dates to the beginning of creation when God forsook His creation in the Garden of Eden.  

            God’s heart is revealed in the story of His original creation and His subsequent abandonment of it. In it, His overwhelming love for His Bride is shown because he did not completely abandon His object of passion without hope for redemption. Paul says in Romans 8:20-21: “For the creation was subjected to futility [a form of abandonment by God], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”.  

            God’s original depiction of creation was that of a paradise filled with His presence and love. God was “pleased” with His created world and saw that it was “good” (Genesis Chapter 1). In it God had a close relationship with the crown of His works, man. In all of it He required only one thing of man, only one commitment, such as the commitment(s) expressed by a husband and wife in their vows of marriage to each other. In this case God required the commitment of obedience which was quickly violated by man. The results of man’s violation of this commitment invoked in God an emotion so severe that, in His anger, He abandoned creation to a place without His abiding presence, a condition which continues to pervade humanity to this day to its detriment.   

            Physical Israel, as depicted in the Old Testament, was to be to us an example of God’s plan of redemption of mankind and the ensuing struggles inherent in the completion of that plan. In it all God promised and demonstrated His great compassion in the face of continual rejection by His chosen people. This is no better depicted in the Book of Hosea wherein God expressed how He felt about Israel’s continual unfaithfulness to Him in the face of His promise of love and blessing.  

            In Hosea, God commanded His prophet Hosea to fall in love with, and marry, an unfaithful prostitute. “…the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land [Israel] commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking [abandoning, not following after] the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2). As an example to Israel of His feelings for His people God caused Hosea to experience His (God’s) pain, as His chosen nation and people pursued unfaithfulness evoking His anger and jealousy. Hosea went on to love and marry the prostitute, and to have children by her, while she continued to be unfaithful to Him.  

            God’s displeasure with His people, who had abandoned and forsaken Him, is expressed throughout the book of Hosea, wherein Israel is likened to a whore in the most uncomplimentary terms. He, who had given so much in the relationship, is grieved and responds in anger, jealousy and judgment: “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil, And lavished on her silver and gold, Which they used for Baal [a pagan god]. “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time And My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax Given to cover her nakedness. “And then I will uncover her lewdness In the sight of her lovers, And no one will rescue her out of My hand.  “I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths And all her festal assemblies. “I will destroy her vines and fig trees, Of which she said, ‘These are my wages Which my lovers have given me.’ And I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field will devour them. “I will punish her for the days of the Baals [pagan gods] When she used to offer sacrifices to them And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, And follow her lovers, so that she forgot [abandoned, forsook] Me,” declares the Lord” (Hosea 2:2-13). 

            Yet is all His rejection and forsaking of His people God still refused to abandon completely, leaving open a door of hope and redemption. Although the forsaking and rejecting may be something easily, though painfully, accomplished by man, God’s ultimate forgiveness and redemption is not common to man. In the midst of a complete betrayal of His love God says:

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but  He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

(Hosea 6:1-3).

            Words alone cannot describe the depth of God’s love for us. We take for granted what can only be adequately expressed with tears. We can only imagine the depths of God’s love for us who have, as humanity, rejected him with the result that he has rejected us as He did Israel. As humans, a broken heart is the most extreme feeling we can compare to how God feels about us. To what can we as humans compare to a broken heart? Yet God extends to us a healing for our broken heart, and His, if we but return to Him. He says return with “fasting and weeping”. How else can we return in view of our sins? What do we have left to offer except what He desires most a “broken and contrite heart?”  

            David, in the midst of his repentance over the sin of adultery and murder, says only: “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).   

            Christ asked the question on the cross as to why God had forsaken Him at the time of his greatest need. The answer to that question is as follows. The sin of mankind can be boiled down to his rejection of God wherein God’s reaction was the same. In His anger He rejected man to his own devices which resulted only in suffering and grief. God, in His great compassion, had to lay that rejection, abandonment, forsaking, onto Christ on the cross so that His love could prevail and His redemption and reconciliation could be fully accomplished. Although beyond the expression of words, this is mankind’s lesson. He has removed our rejection and abandonment. We were forsaken, as was Christ on the cross, but only for a brief moment (a thousand years to God is as a watch in the night). How can we also but forgive each other as God, although broken and grieved beyond measure, forgave us and allowed Himself the vulnerability to accept us to Himself.

            His promise to us is without measure.

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
“Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
“All your sons will be taught of
[disciples of] the Lord;
And the well-being of your sons will be  great.
“In righteousness you will be established;
You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear;
And from terror, for it will not come near you.
If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me.
Whoever assails you will fall because of you.
“Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
And brings out a weapon for its work;
And I have created the destroyer to ruin.
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD”
 
(Isaiah 54:11-17).

 

BE LIKE CHRIST 

            To be like Christ is to actually displace our own human nature with the nature of Christ. Analyzing with our minds “what would Jesus do” in a situation is not being like Him. Neither is taking on a religious persona or trying to be a good person. The only way to be like Him is to actually become Him.  

            The Old Testament contained various laws that the Jews were to follow in order to please God. Although the Israelites tried to follow the laws, they failed over and over again. They were conquered many times because they were disobedient, following after other religions and worshipping idols among other things. The point of the Old Testament laws was to make man aware that even though he had God in his midst, he could never fulfill the law in himself. Thus Jesus Christ became necessary to fulfill the law for us.  

            Jeremiah 31:33-44 and Hebrews 8:7-13 state how the New Covenant under Christ differed from the Old Mosaic covenant. 

“BEHOLD, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect  a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah
;
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when
I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt
;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.

“FOR this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After
those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write THEM ON their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
And when He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is
becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear”. 

            No longer does Israel (spiritual Israel of Christ’s time) have to obey God’s laws by their own strength or stamina. Now the laws will be written on their hearts. With this new nature they will no longer sin because it will no longer be in their nature to do so. A majority of Christianity today seems to cling to the old and obsolete law that was if you do certain things, works and actions, God will be pleased. God is not pleased with anything done on the human level. He is only pleased by His Son and those who are becoming like Him. Any works that please Him come from the Spirit and are not man’s works but Gods.  

            There is no question scripturally that we are to be like Him. 1 John 3:2 says:

 “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be LIKE HIM, because we will see Him just as He is”. 

            “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).   

            Jesus Himself said that we are to be made perfect. “Therefore you [you shall be] perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We have already shown that man can never, in all his efforts, be perfect. The only way to be perfect in the Father’s eyes is to possess His nature, as Christ did. 

            How do we accomplish this? Many look at scriptures such as the Sermon on the Mount and walk away saying “I could never do these things”. How can I never judge another, even deep in my heart? How can I never look on another without lust or even think it? How can I never be anxious? Never be self-righteous? Or angry, or unbelieving? Many try to walk in these teachings and walk away discouraged because they realize they can’t do them.  

            Those who walk away with that feeling are right; they can never do them in themselves. Christ says that righteousness has to be an impartation and a change of nature.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6, KJV).

            But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:20–24). 

            2 Peter 1:4 states:

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust”. Only be being partakers of the divine nature may we become righteous.   

            “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being  transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  

            By seeing the Lord, a little or a lot at a time, we are changed into the same image (nature) as He is. Therefore it is our spiritual relationship with God that changes us, not our great works. When we see Him, we change much the same as the Old Testament example of Moses. After Moses met the Lord on the Mount, he had to put a veil over his face to hide the glory because the Israelites could not look on him.  

            How do we see Him? We seek Him. We hunger after Him. We cry “Lord, show yourself”. We pray and are persistent.

            Jeremiah 29:12-14 says:

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord” 

            Jesus spoke a parable in Luke 11:5-10 as part of His lesson to the disciples on how to pray. The parable was: A man went to his friend asking for bread to feed his guests. The friend was asleep and would not get up. But because of the man’s persistence in asking for the bread the friend finally got up and gave him what he needed. Of particular interest is verses 8-10:

“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet  because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

 “So I say to you, ask [keep on asking], and it will be given to you; seek [keep seeking] and you will find; knock, [keep knocking] and it will be opened to you.

“For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened” So we seek and keep on seeking with persistence and we will receive His nature and meet Him and change.  

            Matthew 7:11 states:

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ASK Him!”. The “good gift” we seek is His righteousness. 

            Finally, this promise is not for the sweet bye and bye when we die and go to Heaven. It is for now, right here, right now. Jesus said it straight out in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”

(Matt 6:9-10). 

            His will is already being done in Heaven, the spiritual realm where He lives. He wants that same will to be done on earth. If it is only being done by those who are dead and in Heaven, then how is it going to be done on earth? We on earth, who seek, cry and hunger for righteousness, will find it here. We don’t have to wait for death or some kind of rapture to be perfect. Christ was speaking to those on earth, not to those who were dead. His will is that perfection is available here and now for those who seek Him.     

 

THE FALL OF SATAN 

            Did you ever wonder exactly what we are up against as mature Christians who want to walk on with God in this life? This article is for those who long to move further into a knowledge and awareness of God; to move into a daily, hourly walk with Him. It is for those to whom simple salvation, accepting Jesus as our Savior, is only a beginning. By understanding what we must overcome as Christians, we can better maintain a deeper, personal walk with God and Jesus Christ, and an understanding and awareness of Him and His purposes.           

            The answers to knowing the deep attributes of God may seem, at times, to be shrouded in mystery. However, the secrets of the ages are hidden within the Word of God (Matthew 13:34-35; Psalm 78:2). Although the Lord commanded Daniel to seal up the words of the Book, after showing him many secrets regarding events that were to take place in the future (Daniel 12:9), Revelations Chapter 5 promises us that the time would come that the “seals of the Book” would be broken. (v.5-6). To the perceptive Christian, this unsealing of the Book is taking place today. It is the purpose and promise of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all the truth and show us all things (John 16:13). We need only the eyes to see and the ears to hear (Matthew 11:15; Revelation 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).                        

            Isaiah chapter 14 reveals some of the answers to these mysteries. On the surface, this chapter seems to be, a discourse taken up against the King of Babylon who was reigning at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy and who ultimately attacked and destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Isaiah may very well have been referring to that king, on one level. However, many Old Testament writings and prophecies, although written long before the birth of Christ, were directed towards the future, to the time of Christ and beyond. (John 5:39, 46-47; Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-36). With that in mind, a deeper and more mystical understanding of Isaiah 14 is indicated.  

Isaiah 14 speaks of Babylon and the king of Babylon. Scriptures written later speak of another Babylon, far beyond the scope of the Babylon of Isaiah’s time.  Revelation chapters 17-18 describe in some detail the “mystery Babylon”, who was the “harlot” that did battle with the Lamb (the Lord), and deceived the nations.  It is likely that even if in chapter 14 Isaiah was referring to the physical king of Babylon of his time, he was revealing a far stronger force behind the king. It is that “force” that we are concerned with here.                      

            We have all heard of Satan, Lucifer or simply “the devil”, referred to as a “fallen angel”. What does that mean to us as Christians?  We must first examine what the scriptures say about Satan. First, it was this serpent of old, the devil and Satan (Revelation 20:2), who first deceived man, resulting in man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It was he who first questioned the Word of God (see generally Genesis 2-3). Satan is described later as the ruler of this world (John 12:31). Satan tempted Jesus on the mountain saying rightfully that  “All the power in this world” was handed over to him and that it was his to give to whom he wished”. (Luke 4:6). Satan has also been described as “ he who blinds the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Corinthians 4:4). This “devil” is even described as the “Father of the unbelieving” (John 8:44). Apostle Peter instructs Christians that Satan is “our adversary” and that “we are not to be unaware of his schemes“(1 Peter 5:8). 

            If we are to become more aware of this “adversary”, what do we actually know about his origins, purposes and methods? We do know that at one time he held a very high place before God. Isaiah 14:12-14 begins with:

“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn.
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!”
 

            “Star of the morning” (or “morning star”) is defined in the Hebrew as “Lucifer” or “the shining one”. The King James Version literally reads “O Lucifer, son of the morning”.  Spiritually, it appears that this “morning star”, the brightest object in the sky,  was actually a place that God at one time gave Satan as his very own dominion (Job 38:7). It is also a place that will ultimately be occupied by Christ and His Sons (Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19).            

            Isaiah goes on (verse 13):

“But you said in your heart,
I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.”

And in verse 14:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”

            If we accept that Isaiah was not only referring to the king of Babylon of his day, but was also referring to a force much more formidable, we can begin to break down these verses and better understand our enemy Satan. We find that Lucifer (Satan) desired to “ascend above the clouds” and “make [himself] like” God.   

            How did Satan want to be like God?  First, he wanted to “sit on the mount of assembly”. The mount of assembly, in the Hebrew, was the place of honor occupied by God at ordained feasts, worships, and other gatherings of the peoples.  Satan further wanted to “sit” on that mount. The word “sit” is synonymous to the word “enthroned” in the Hebrew, which refers to the permanent “seat” of the Lord. Enthroned is used, for example in Psalm 9:11 (God, enthroned in Zion, the mountain of God) and Psalm 22:3 (God enthroned on the praises of his people). Therefore, according to Isaiah, Lucifer desired to inhabit a very high place, as God occupied. Satan did not want to serve God, but desired to sit or be enthroned, like God, in a place of honor, receiving the adoration and worship of the people. 

            However, it likely became obvious that there was room in ‘heaven” for only one such high place, and it was permanently occupied by the “Most High”. Not to be daunted, and rather than humble himself to the Most High God, Satan then sought a suitable place to set up his own kingdom. Isaiah says that place was located in the “recesses of the north” (verse 14:13). This reference to the “north” is a key for us in understanding our enemy today. 

            What are “the recesses of the north”? The obvious indication is that the Babylonian empire attacked Israel from the north. However, the operative word “north”, as used in Isaiah14, is “saphon”, pronounced “saw-fone’” and indicates generally the direction north. However, the word is likely derived from “sapan” (Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 4, page 451) which means a hidden or dark place, gloomy and unknown, to hide, hidden, secretly, secret place, lurk, prively, the hidden ones and laid up (Strongs, 6828, 6845) In other words, Isaiah tells us that Satan wanted to set up his own rule and kingdom, in order to receive adoration and worship, like God, and to call the shots, like God. But he wanted to (or had to) do it as far away from God as he could. The “recesses of the north” is the hidden, “dark”, gloomy and secret place, away from the “light” of God where everything is laid open and bare, and nothing is hidden from His sight (Hebrews 4:13).  

            We know that Satan ultimately set up his kingdom on this earth (Ephesians 6:12; John 8:44). By setting up his kingdom in a secret, dark place, here on Earth, away from the presence of God, we begin to get a glimpse of what Christ had to face in bringing our redemption and reconciliation to God, and what we have to face in bringing that redemption and reconciliation to full reality on the earth (“on earth as it is in heaven”, Matt 6:10). 

            Does it seem strange to you that it is the natural state of being for humanity to be unaware of the presence of God? If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, throughout the universe, why is man not continually, consciously aware of Him? It was not always so. In the Garden of Eden, man walked in the presence of the Lord continually. God brought animals to Adam, and he named them. God walked and talked with Adam in the Garden, in the cool of the night. The presence of God was so prevalent that Adam and Eve actually had to hide themselves from His presence after they were deceived (by the serpent) and ate the forbidden fruit (see generally Genesis 2-3).    

            From the day man was banished from the Garden of Eden, he had a struggle to obtain an awareness of God; he has had a struggle just living day to day (Genesis 3:14-24). Why? Because Satan had been allowed to set up his own kingdom on this earth, ruling the earth and all that is in it (Luke 4:6; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 6:12; John 8:44, 12:31, 14:30, 16:11).  He set up his dominion here on earth, as Isaiah said, in a spiritual location as far away from the light of God as possible (the hidden place, the “recesses of the north”). While man struggles to get closer to God, he is continually hindered by the evil one, who has set up his rule in separation from God. Man, who lives in Satan’s kingdom, was made subject to that separation (2 Corinthians 4:4). Over time, it became completely natural for man to live separated from God. Satan has been so successful in his plan that a large percentage of humanity struggles to believe that God even exists at all. Contemplate the magnitude of this deception; that Satan has been able to convince an entire race of people that the creator of the universe either does not exist or has no power in our lives! Without Christ, and His victory over Satan, we would not even be aware of this deception, let alone be able to overcome it (2 Corinthians 4:6).  

            Satan is the lie and the Father of it. Jesus went so far as to call him the “Father of the unbeliever” (John 8:44). We were all unbelievers, until we accepted Christ. (Romans 5:19; John 3:16). We have had Satan’s nature inbred in us for thousands of years, so that over time we learned to absolutely accept separation from and unawareness of God as a natural state of being. Although Christ created the provision for us to overcome that deception, we believers still face the challenge of making that provision an absolute reality in out lives (see Romans 7:14-25).  

            `We know that Satan’s end is clearly spelled out in the same chapter of Isaiah, verses 15-20. Satan will be thrown down to the pit and all of humanity will look on him, as he is unveiled before them and exclaim “is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook the Kingdoms…and did not allow the prisoners to go home [to the Lord]?”… who will go down to the pit to be trodden under by foot”.  

            However, until that day the important challenge we face in walking on with God into maturity is overcoming this unawareness of God, which is such an integral part of Satan’s kingdom. It is Satan who, through his disobedience and refusal to serve God, lives, with us, in separation from God, in the dark place, in the  “recesses of the north”. It is readily apparent why an awareness of his strategy is so important to us at this time in the history of the restoration of all things. If we remain separated from God, we will not inherit the full extent of His promises, since His goal is total restoration and oneness of the human race to Him. 

            What is Christ’s ultimate purpose and how does He mean to accomplish it? One primary purpose is to bring many Sons to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 8:19, 23, 29; Hebrews 2:11), thereby releasing all of creation from divinely imposed futility (Romans 8:20-22). He intends to do this by creating His very nature within us, even within our mortal bodies (Galatians 4:6-7; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 8:11). Only the nature of Christ can inherit the Kingdom of God; those who walk according to the flesh (in a state of unawareness) will not (Romans 8:5-8, 12-14; 1 Corinthians 14:50).    

            Thus, in order to inherit the Kingdom, our natures must change. We who were born according to the flesh, according to the ways of Satan, in separation from God, must put on the nature of Christ our Lord, who lives not in unawareness but in glory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-54). But how do we change? Can a leopard change his own spots? (Jeremiah 13:23). Can we change through our own efforts? 

            The way we change is by beholding Him, seeing Him, becoming aware of Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we fully see Him, we become like him (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12). It is a matter of awareness. Satan knew this. He knew he had to set up his kingdom in separation from God, because if we were allowed to see Christ, high and lifted up, at the right hand of the Father, we would become like Christ. When we become like Christ, Satan’s defeat is fully manifested; Christ’s victory becomes a reality.  

            The prophet Daniel saw this more than a thousand years before Christ’s birth. He saw that the evil force “would speak out against the Saints of the most high” and “wear down the saints”. He saw that the evil one would “attempt to make alterations in times and in law” and that he would actually succeed for “a time, times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25). One such alteration in law was to block the awareness of the Saints, to blind them to the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:11), to make it natural for man to be unaware. However, Daniel saw the end result (verse 26-27). He saw that “…his [Satan’s] dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One…” 

            We as “the people of the saints of the Most High” must strive to become aware of our Lord; to have a greater personal relationship with Him. By seeing Him, we will change, from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). We can have this awareness of Him in this lifetime; we don’t have to wait until we die a physical death. We who are here alive on earth at this time can defeat the fallen angel, like Christ did, and foil his plans to maintain his own kingdom, in the recesses of the north, far from the presence (awareness) of God.  We can and must manifest, here on earth, the victory won for us by The Lord Jesus Christ. By seeking and cultivating, on a daily basis, a continual awareness of His presence, we make that victory certain.      

 

THE WORKS OF GOD OR HOW GOD WORKS 

1. WHAT WE DON’T KNOW 

            Nobody really knows how God works. It is a mystery ready to be revealed in the last times and the coming of the Kingdom of God. His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33). However, we have some idea about how he works on earth in his dealings with mankind and this is what we shall discuss.  

            Job was a righteousness man according to God (The Book of Job in the Bible). He was knowledgeable and wise in the things of God and walked with God. One day Satan came before God and convinced God to take away all that Job had to see if Job, in the midst of this adversity, would continue to worship God or would curse Him. God consented and Satan was allowed to slay Job’s children, his flocks, his servants and destroy his wealth and his health. Job ended up on an ash heap, covered with painful boils, surrounded by his friends, with whom he engaged in discourse. The bottom line was that Job mourned over what had happened and criticized the way God did this to him as he was not conscience of anything he had done to deserve this. Yet he retained his faith in God despite accusations from his friends that his calamities we due to Job’s sins, justifying God’s judgment. Job continued to bemoan his condition and still tried to justify himself and his self righteousness throughout.  

            In the end God intervened and showed Job how little he knew about God. God’s words are recorded in three pages of the Book. Therein he lambasts Job for his lack of understanding of God or His ways. These verses are a rare insight into God’s ways as they compare to the limited understanding of man. In rebuking Job, He said, among other things, thus. 

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
“On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

(Job 38:2-7).

“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning?
And caused the dawn to know its place,”

(Job 38:12).

“Have you entered into  the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
“Have the gates of death been revealed to you,”
(Job 38:16-17).

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
“Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?”
 (Job 38:31-33). 

            In other words God was telling Job not to question God because he did not know the works or ways of God. The same is true today. Only God knows the secrets of His creation. Consider that not even the Son knows the day and hour of His coming (Matt. 24:36–44).  

            We do know some of the works of God. But most of us do not know His ways. In Psalms 103:7 it is said: “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel” (Psalm 103:7). There is a distinction. We are to KNOW the Lord, to have an intimate relationship with Him (Hosea 6:3). Only then will the mysteries He is hiding from us will be known.   

 

2.                 WHAT WE DO KNOW 

a.         God Works Through Man 

            We know God works through imperfect man. The entire Bible was written by mere men who spoke the Word of God: apostles, disciples, Kings, prophets, men of God (see Hebrews 11). The word of God today is spoken then and now by men anointed by the Holy Spirit. 

            Sometimes He works through the most unlikely of sources. Cyrus, king of the conquering Persians, did not know God at all. Yet God used him to restore Israel after their captivity by the Babylonians (see generally Ezra 1). He called Cyrus his servant (Isaiah 45:1-7). He usually used weak men to do his will i.e. Gideon, David the shepherd boy, Amos the farmer, the disciples who were fisherman, common men, Moses the murderer and Abraham the nomad. The Scripture says He uses the weak to confound the wise: “but  God has chosen the foolish things of  the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

 

b.         God Speaks Directly to Us           

            Paul the apostle said he was not taught the gospel that he spoke by men but directly from God. He had learned to hear the Word of the Lord. Sons of God are those who are led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). To know God and hear from Him, one must communicate with Him in the Spirit. John 4:23-24 says:

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in SPIRIT and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

 “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”.    

            God is a triune (three-fold) nature and the three natures collectively work towards the ultimate fulfillment of all of God’s will and purpose. The Father created the heavens (spiritual and natural) and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The Son, the Word of God, came to earth as the manifestation of the Father on earth. The Holy Spirit is our helper) came to lead us into complete fulfillment. All of these separate manifestations of God reveal Himself to us.  

            Man is comprised of spirit, soul and body. The soul and body are separate from our spirits. It is only through our spirits that we are able to communicate directly with God who is a spirit. Many are not even aware that they have a spirit. Without a spirit relationship with God, our soul and body dominate our lives, choking out our spirits. The soul is the seat of our emotions, intellect, desires, lusts, prejudices, human love as opposed to divine love etc. The body was to be the housing for our souls and spirits. Collectively, our soul and physical nature is called in the scriptures the “flesh” nature. The spirit (ours in conformance with God’s) is supposed to rule our beings, subjecting our soul and bodies to do the will of God. In our flesh (without spirit domination) we do not do the will of God. 

            We perform many disciplines trying to please God or ourselves like reading the Bible so much each day, praying, meditating, counting rosary beads, going to church etc. But none of these activities are pleasing to God because they originate from our souls in an effort to be pleasing to God or to live a good happy life. However, despite the happy and good life you will still die because there is life only in the Spirit realm where God is. It is when the good works originate from God that they are effective. Our own righteousness is as “filthy rags” to Him (Isaiah 64:5). We cannot hear His word or perceive His ways through our souls. 

            “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are  in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8). Our minds are set on the flesh if we do not have a relationship with God in the Spirit. We cannot really relate to Him through the flesh or our intellect; flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  

            And: “However, you [who are spiritual] are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:9-11).  

            To most of the unspiritual, spiritual things are incomprehensible to them. Paul said:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14).  

            Paul said in Romans 7:18 this about his natural life:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh”.

This was from a great man of God and apostle of Jesus Christ.   

 

c.         God Works Sovereignly   

             Sometimes God works at His own initiative. We can see the “works” of God through our natural eyes. The children of Israel saw the miracles of God performed in Egypt, the parting of the Red (Reed) Sea, the water from the rock, the manna, the cloud and the fire. But seeing these mighty works does not make one spiritual. The Israelites still had their flesh nature resulting in sins of unbelief, idolatry, murmuring, complaining and fear.   

            Sometimes, we pray for something and it is answered (we know not how) and we see the results with our eyes. We are perceiving the results of the acts of God but not His nature or how He did it. However, despite seeing God’s works we still live in an age dominated by futility.

 

d.         God Speaks Through Creation           

            God speaks through creation (Romans 1:20). He speaks through the stars (Psalm 19:1-3). He speaks through nature. But He is rarely heard. Science, despite its intellectual accomplishments, does not recognize God. Although they can manipulate created things into great achievements, they can’t explain how the created things got here in the first place or why.  

            God can speak through anyone or anything. He spoke to the false prophet Balaam through his donkey (Numbers 22:22-33). Many times the person on the street or in a coffee shop will say something you needed to know. God can speak through your doctor or therapist. Sometimes even He will speak through a song on the radio or a movie. He is not limited by whom He uses to speak His word or to perform His works. 

 

e.         Dreams and Visions 

            God spoke about the last days through a vision to John, and he recorded it in the Book of Revelation. God saved Jesus from the death threat of Harrod by speaking in a dream to Joseph (Matthew 2:13). Speaking through dreams was more prevalent in the Old Testament when few men could communicate directly with God. Prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah and others had fantastic visions and dreams from the Lord.    

            The prophet Joel said this about the end of times:

“It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days”
 
(Joel 2:28-29). 

            In short, we must be watchful and ready for the lord can speak to us or work through us at any moment of the day. We must learn to have our focus fixed on Him as we go about our everyday lives.

 

f.          Transference 

            God does his best work through a principle called Transference. Transference is taking something you have and giving it (transferring it) to someone else. Witchcraft works on this principle, transferring spells, curses and the like their intended victims.  

            The principle originates in the spirit realm. When we take communion (the bread and wine) we partake of Christ’s nature itself and His attributes are transferred to us. Scripture says that when He appears we will [already] be like Him and shall see Him as he is (1 John 3:2). In other words we will already have been transformed into His nature so we can see Him. Prior to that, scripture says that no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). By this transference from God (Christ) to us, we will be transformed (1 Corinthians 15: 51-55). We will acquire His nature which has been transferred to us through the spirit.  

            We start with the flesh nature with its attributes: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness and carousing (Galatians 5:19-21). We end as spiritual beings that radiate the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). How do we acquire these godly qualities? From Christ in the spirit as a free gift of grace. This principle is also called impartation. Christ imparts His nature to us. We can then, to the extent we have received that nature, impart it to others through prophecy, the laying on of hands etc.   

            One word about the psychic realm. Many mistake this realm for the spirit realm. There are many levels of so called spirit including the physical plane, astral plane, psychic plane…) However, true spiritually exists only in the highest plane “Heaven” where God lives (there are many levels of “Heaven” as well); Paul says he was caught up into the 3rd heaven. The psychic planes are where spiritualists and occultists speak with the dead, move objects, acquire knowledge, tell fortunes, predict things and meditate into and transfer from. God in the Old Testament condemned these practices, not on some legalistic basis, but because He knew people can easily be led astray by anything that did not come directly from Him. The Old Testament is full of examples where the false prophets and soothsayers predicted results of events only to have God do it just the opposite.   

 

g.         Worship 

            God works through worship. True worship is a divine communion directly with God through our spirits. It is here we most feel His love and care for us. He strengthens us. We receive more from God during these times as our spirits are open and accessible to God’s impartation. It is here we can let go of all the stressors of everyday life and focus completely on Him. We can be free. One minister once said that “worship was the answer to a thousand problems” and so it is. Lay your cares on Him and exalt Him for what He is-our creator, our savior, our source of life and sometimes our friend.  

            Thus God works through many channels. Our job (actually His job) is to get to the place where we do not only know His works but that we know Him; not the creation but the Creator.   Under the Old Testament covenant Israel had to obey the Law to garner God’s favor. Under the New Covenant, God writes His laws on our hearts so that it becomes impossible to err.

The writer of Hebrews says this:

“FOR this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After
those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them  on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people
(Heb 8:10). 

            We will do God’s works when He writes his laws on our hearts. The more we expose ourselves to Him, the more we change. Then we become doers of the Word on earth as Christ was. Then we know not only how God works but whom He is who is doing the works.  

 

THE EPISTLE OF JUDE  

Jude was a half-brother of Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. In verse 1 Jude acknowledges himself as a "bond servant of Jesus" and "brother of James", also born of Mary and Joseph.  It is a tribute to Jude that he identified himself as a bond servant of the One he had come to know as the Lord and Messiah. Jesus had come to Nazareth, where He had been raised. He had been unable to do many miracles because the people there were too familiar with Him. They couldn’t believe the carpenter’s son could be the Messiah ((Mark 6:1-5; Matthew 13:53-58).  Jesus said: “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household” (Matthew 13:7; Mark 6:4). John said: “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). Yet, after that, Jude wrote this Epistle glorifying Jesus; James became the chief Apostle in Jerusalem.  

            The central theme of Jude is the love and brotherhood. He spends a great deal of time warning of the false Christs and false prophets whose sole purpose was to destroy the Christian faith. At one point he called them “hidden reefs in your lovefeasts” and “they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead,  uprooted;” (Jude 12). 

He tells them to "contend earnestly for the faith once for delivered to the saints" (v.2). That faith was under attack by forces of wickedness; some believe the false Christs were adherents to the Gnostic heresies.  

            He goes on to identify the false believers as: “…certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand  marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (v.4; “ angels which had left their proper abode, the unbelieving children of Israel in the wilderness after deliverance from Egypt, residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, those who went after strange flesh, rejecters of authority and those who revile angelic majesties” (5-8).  

In verse 9, he draws a comparison with the battle between Michael (chief angel) and Satan over the body of Moses. "But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you". The interpretation of this verse seems a mystery to most Christians. This story, according to most scholars, came from the now extant book The Assumption of Moses. Moses' body was buried in the earth and Satan, the God of this world, wanted the body for himself. However, Moses was buried in a specific place ordained by God and He wanted it to remain there. Michael, instead of exerting his power by railing against Satan, simply said "the lord rebuke you", thereby interposing the authority of God into the situation which Jude wanted the early Christians to do.                                                                                                                                                         

          He is scathing in his rebuke of the false prophets. "But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain [see Genesis 4:1-16], and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam [Joshua 13:22), and perished in the rebellion of Korah [Numbers Chapter 16]. These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (v.10-11).  

Jude is the only book of the Bible that mentions Enoch, save Genesis (5:23-24). Apparently there was a Book of Enoch present at the time of Jude because he is quoting from it. Today we have the pseudopigraphical Book of Enoch which may or may not be the work of Enoch himself. However, the following references to the words of Enoch match the book we have today of the prophet God took without him seeing physical death (Book of Enoch 1:9).  "And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" (Jude 14-16). Here Jude cites as his authority for these words Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the prophet who was translated to Heaven and God without seeing death. Apparently Jude had read the Book of Enoch. The Book of Enoch we have today quotes those same words (1 Enoch 1:9).  

Jude concludes by instructing the saints as what they were to do in the face of such deception. "But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh (Jude 17-23).  

Today, the same deception abounds. There are a million and one ways the Christian can be deceived and drawn away to the world. Jude ways we must hold tight to what we have and exercise our faith towards God and one another. We must have perception to see these deceivers for what they are, as Jude did. We must hate them, even their garments, with a Godly hatred as Jude did. Satan’s entire purpose on the earth is to defeat Christ’s Kingdom from coming forth. We must not let him.

Although the book is short, it compactly states the problem and the solution to all generations. Not bad for a guy who at one time did not believe his brother was anyone other than the Jesus he grew up with.

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