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Fourth Day, Let's Clear the Air

 

I worked for several years in setting up and managing translating centers and though I’m not an expert in any language, I do know about the fundamental challenges that translators face and how they deal with them or fail in them. 

 

Having said that, what we’re ‘looking at’ during the fourth day is (no pun intended) visibility. Let’s step through it and I’ll explain.

 

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; (v14)

 

"and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. (v15)

 

Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. (v16)

 

God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (v17,18)

 

So, the evening and the morning were the fourth day.  (Gen 1:14-             19)

 

Most commentators assert that this is when God created the sun and moon and stars, but I vigorously disagree.  First, Genesis 1:1 says very clearly that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  This was before Genesis 1:2, before the chaos and ruin on our planet, before the ‘tohoo va bohoo’.  And it follows with, “darkness was on the face of the deep”.

 

Now, you might ask about the coming of the light and Day in verses three through five.  And, of course, that’s astute; yet we all know that we don’t get daylight without the sun.  So, I submit that in Gen 1:1, God created and placed the sun, the moon, the earth, and the stars exactly where they needed to be but in Gen 1:2 the chaos and ruin brought a shroud of darkness over the planet.

 

In Gen 1:3, God’s restoration begins.  He started to clear that darkness and perhaps restarted the earth’s rotation on its axis.  However, there was more to do to sustain His new creation.  God cleared the air so to speak. 

 

He wanted His lights in the sky to be clearly visible.  You see, in verse 16 we read “Then God made two great lights:” and the Hebrew for action is indeed “made” not “created” – it uses the word pronounced “aw-saw” which means to make from existing materials versus “bara” which means to create out of nothing.  Thus, the translators could have justifiably written, “Then God made visible two great lights…” because they were already there but somewhat shrouded just as they will be again during the Tribulation:

 

For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.  (Isa 13:10)

 

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.  (Joel 2:31)

 

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, (Mark 13:24)

 

You see, for His own good purposes, God sometimes brings healing or if you would, light, in stages.  Jesus showed us this in Mark 8:22-25:

 

Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him and begged Him to touch him.

 

So, He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.

 

And he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking."

Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.

 

Now, my translation ‘beef’ is in verse 17 which was translated “God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth…”  The word “set” should have been translated “gave” which is what it is about 10 times more in the scriptures than “set”.  I think the verse should read, “God gave them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth…”

 

Set implies that He placed them at that time, but I submit He did not.  He simply made them visible so that they would shine and dominate the Day and Night skies.  They also needed to be seen clearly to serve as, “signs and seasons, and for days and years.”

 

Of course, God didn’t need it but His creation did – thus on the fourth day, I think He ‘cleared the air’ “and God saw that it was good.”

 

 

Third Day, Doubly Good

 

If we are ‘paying attention’, we notice something ominous about the second day.  It was the only day out of the six days of creation that did not mention that “God saw that it was good.”  Recall that on that day, He separated the waters above and below by an expanse He called Heaven.  Now, I’ll suggest for your consideration that this may have been for at least two reasons. 

 

First, at the end of the second day, the heavenly environment was as yet incomplete, God wasn’t finished with it for we read in Genesis chapter seven, that in Noah’s day He poured down a massive flood of rain from the upper waters, thus depleting them and fundamentally changing the environment of the planet. 

 

And second, as stated, the upper waters were used for a massive judgement upon a completely depraved and wicked mankind. God being omniscient and knowing beforehand that this would become necessary did not declare His tool of judgement to be good.  I’ll mention a possible third reason later.

 

Now, on to the third day. 

 

Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. (v9)

 

And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.(v10)

 

The appearance of land God said was good.  It is one of the seven times “good” is used in this chapter. Clearly, God elevated the planet’s crust in some areas and lowered it in others to achieve this.  We should also note that this was the re-appearance of the land for we see that in the beginning God made the planet complete and beautiful.  Then during the ruinous chaos, it is evident that waters (the deep) covered all of it just as with the flood of Noah’s day.

 

In Genesis 1:2, it is the Spirit of God that initiated the act of redemption as he brooded over the waters of the wasted planet.  Then the Logos, the Word, began to work as God uttered “Let there be light.” So here we see the Trinity in unison.  John wrote, “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 were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  (John 1:1-3)

 

Father God called the land Earth which is sometimes the name (in prophetic picture) in Hebrew for Israel while the seas are a picture in prophecy of the gentile nations.  That’s fitting for while the earth remained covered by water on the second day, there was no mention that it was good but when the Earth appeared, God said it was good.  Israel is His land and His people among the Gentiles. Through the prophet Joel He said,

 

“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”  (Joel 3:2)

 

Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. (v11)

 

And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (v12)

 

God’s desire for His creation and His people is fruitfulness.  To the living creatures He made on the fifth day He spoke:

 

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.  (Gen 1:22)

 

To Adam and Eve He spoke:

 

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.  (Gen 1:28)

 

God the Son (Jesus Christ) Who is the Logos, the Word and the agent of God’s creation here, thousands of years later said to His disciples:

 

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.”  (John 15:8)

 

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

 

So both the appearance of the earth (typical of His people) and the fruitfulness of the earth (typical of His people abiding in Him) He saw as good, doubly good.

 

So, the evening and the morning were the third day.  (Gen 1:9-13)

 

 

Second Day, First Heaven

 

The first day was all about bringing light to planet earth and then separating it from darkness.  The second day events are recorded as:

 

Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."

Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. So, the evening and the morning were the second day.  (Gen 1:6-8)

 

One day, one creative act; God created the expanse – a large space between two layers of water, upper and lower.  Then He called this expanse Heaven which along with Light is a key part of God’s divine plan.

The word “heaven” in both Hebrew and Greek is interesting in that the word is always plural.  So, the word for “heaven” and for “heavens” is the same.  Of course, the sky or heavens have always fascinated us and there’s good reason for that.

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Gen 1:1)

 

In the very beginning, the heavens are the first of God’s physical creation.

 

“Indeed, heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”  (Deut 10:14)

 

Notice that God’s ownership or sovereignty over the heavens is primary while the same is declared as a secondary over the earth and “all that is in it”.  That’s because man was intended to rule over the earth but his sinful disobedience in Eden put his works on it into a form of debt and consequently, temporarily under Satan’s rule (until Christ paid the debt on Calvary).

 

All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;
All their host shall fall down
As the leaf falls from the vine,
And as fruit falling from a fig tree.
  (Isa 34:4)

 

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished.
  (Isa 51:6)

 

From these and other scriptures, we know that one day God will start over to cleanse the entire cosmos from sin while those who are saved will remain in God’s care.

 

For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
 (Isa 45:18)

 

Yes, God made the earth to be inhabited and guess what.  He made Heaven to be that way too.  Jesus told us:

 

"In My Father's house (in heaven) are many mansions (lit. dwellings); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  (John 14:2,3)

 

You see, there are three heavens.  The first heaven is what we call the sky, that is, our atmosphere. The second heaven is what we call the cosmos or universe.  The third heaven is what we call Heaven, the home of our Lord and our place of forever home.  It is a spiritual place, entirely real, more real than our physical existence but truly indescribable. The apostle Paul being stoned and left for dead wrote about himself:

 

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven.

And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I               do not know, God knows--

how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor 12:2-4)

 

The apostle John in recording Christ’s Revelation had much to say about Heaven.  Here is my commentary on Revelation 21:

 

   There is just one last item on the Lord’s agenda for man’s reconciliation.  The church age has demonstrated the benefits of grace. The righteous have been resurrected or raptured.  The Tribulation is over.  All evil has been purged from the cosmos having first been confined to planet Babylon then cast into the eternal torment of perdition.  The old heaven and earth have vanished.  And now…

 

    Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea.  It’s a brand-new start – the word for “new” here not only means “fresh” but “of a new kind”.  So, if you ever gazed over Yosemite Valley and marveled at its beauty – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  For one thing, there’ll be no more sea.  This may be literal, but I’m a bit more inclined to believe that the imagery of Revelation remains consistent and thus, since the sea has represented the gentile nations, this may mean that there will be no more unbelievers, no more rebellious against or ignorant about God.

 

   Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.   And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  I find it interesting that for the first time in his vision, John writes, “…I, John,…” as opposed to just “…I…”.  By emphasizing the fact that John saw God’s kingdom descending, this very well could be referring to the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy found in all three synoptic gospels -- there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Mat 16:28, Mk 9:1, Luk 9:27)  And notice how the holy New Jerusalem is called the “tabernacle of God”.  As we examine it in more detail, we’ll see that the pattern of the earthly tabernacle did indeed align with the heavenly. 

 

   But most important is the amazing pronouncement that “God Himself will be with them and be their God.”  With this, we’re finally ‘back to Eden’ and even better than Eden.  For the Lord, it isn’t just forgive and forget but also fellowship forever.  Praise God!

 

   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  This is the blessed assurance of heaven.  And it is the complete opposite of the damned.  “no more pain” means “no more pain or great trouble”.  Hallelujah!

 

     Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  This is the Lord’s last command to write.  I picture John just in awe, thinking ‘This is too good!  I never thought it would be so fantastic!”  And so, it’s like Jesus is saying, “Hey John, write it down.  It really is true and trustworthy.”

   Next, Jesus will declare that the revelation pertaining to the events of the last days is done.  Yet, as He has done before, He will then give us some background information that covers a wide expanse of ‘time’. And here, as heaven is coming to earth, so to speak, it will help us to appreciate this marvelous conclusion.  In the following, He will describe for us our eternal home.  Are you ready?

 

   And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  Since the church will be raptured before the tribulation, I believe that the majority of this book is intended for the Hebrew believers of the last days, else we would only have up to chapter four.  That being said, the rest of the book of Revelation, though still focused upon the Hebrew saints, is intended as a blessing for all believers of the age of grace and tribulation. 

 

   The first thing Jesus wants us to know is that He is not only the Author but the Perfecter, the Creator and the Completer.  And the first thing He wants to do as our glorified Lord is to give us freely the continual refreshment of new life.  I submit that although this will be completed in heaven, it is begun even now, in this life – it’s all a matter of whether or not you thirst.

 

    He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.  “All things” means all things and so it seems that Jesus is saying that the overcomers will share with Him in His inheritance.  What is this overcoming?  I think it is sevenfold – we found that out in chapters two and three.  Each church was admonished to overcome.  Together, we are told to do this by:

  • keeping our heart set on Christ and a deep love relationship with Him.
  • holding on to our faith through all the circumstances of this life.
  • searching out the truth of God’s word, expecting Him to feed our souls, and serving.
  • no compromising – no mixture but rather holding to “pure religion and undefiled.”
  • stoking the fire of faith
  • ‘keep on keeping on’
  • choosing to obey the Father’s will and trusting Him even in terrible trials.

   Notice also, that He doesn’t say that He will be our God and we will be His servants or acquaintances or guests.  We’ll be His sons, His children!

 

   But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  Now, this is one of the reasons John will later be told not to seal the book, meaning that it should be read and understood.  The consequences of evil are eternally disastrous.  Recall, the new heaven and new earth are completed at this point and these people are already in perdition.  So, this isn’t spoken as we look forward but it’s a warning to all people from the time of the recording of this revelation until the Great White Throne judgment.

 

  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

 

   As an encouragement and blessing for all of us as believers, John is now going to get a peak at perfection – the heavenly city as it continues its journey to the new earth.

 

    …having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  Some people think the jasper is a diamond, but whatever it is, it’s a “most precious stone”.  This speaks of beauty and purity while the glory of God speaks of brilliance.  This is a shining, brilliant, transparent city.

 

   Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.   On the breastplate of the High Priest, the gemstones representing the tribes of Israel were arranged in four groups of three.  Since there are gates on all sides, the picture is one of easy access.  Yet there is a wall and not only a wall but a “great and high” wall which implies protection and security.  We’ll see that access is all a matter of ‘family ties’.

 

   Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.   Hmmm.  Twelve tribes and twelve apostles joined together and surrounding the “tabernacle of God”.  Does that ring a bell?  Of course.  The earthly tabernacle was the place of God’s presence and it was surrounded by two sets of curtains joined together by 50 gold clasps.  We showed in previous letters that these represented exactly what we see here – the church and the believing tribes of Israel surrounding heaven’s holy place and joined together in Christ.

 

    And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.  Now, this length, breadth and height are about 1377 miles. That makes it about one fifth the size of our moon if it’s a cube.  The phrase here “laid out as a square” implies a perspective from any vantage point, thus it seems to refer to a cube.  If the twelve foundations are evenly spaced, that would represent over 22,750,000 square miles and each of the twelve layers would have its own sky over 100 miles high.  It’s a big, Big house.   But why does God care that we know these dimensions?  What’s the point?

 

   The city is already built.  This isn’t a plan or design.  The original language specifies 12,000 “stadion”, each of which is about 600 feet.  However, of note, is that the word stadion also means “a race”.  Also, the fact that the angel used a gold reed implies that the standard he used to measure is of the highest quality and trustworthy. 

 

   Recall that the city is described above as having been prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. In addition, in chapter 19, we read of the Lamb’s Bride, And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  The word “bright” here is specifically, “shining, brilliant and transparent” and “arrayed” is literally to be surrounded with a covering and indeed, can apply to a city.

 

   Now, remember that the apostle Paul likened his ministry unto a race.  In 2 Tim 4:7,8 he said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness (or righteous acts), which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  In Acts 20:24, he used the same word, “course” in the KJV, which is derived from the word meaning to run, specifically “of those who run in a race course”.  In Heb 12:1 we read, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Clearly, each believer’s life and ministry is a race with a prize going not to the winner but to the finisher. 

 

  So as this cube, New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb who is prepared by her adornment, descends out of heaven, a trustworthy measurement reveals that her adornment or the measurement of what surrounds her is 12,000 “races” or 12,000 “lives of ministry unto the Lord”.  But wait, it’s 12,000 on each edge and there are 12 edges on a cube.  So, there are 12 times 12,000 or 144,000 ministries which measure out her covering -- the “righteous acts of the saints”. 

 

   This should ring a bell for in chapter 14 we rejoiced to see in heaven, standing with Christ all 144,000 Hebrew saints who gave their all for the Lord during the tribulation and evidently led a huge number of people to saving faith in Jesus as a result.  I suggest that the measurements we’re given here are a testimony to their races – they finished them and like Paul, they finished them in faithfulness.  As a result, their righteous acts are forever part of the shining, brilliant, transparent adornment of the Bride.

 

  Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.  The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  We can’t be sure whether this measurement is the height or the thickness of the wall.  Since this angel seems to be the same size as a man, that would make it about 216 feet.  Gold, in the Bible, speaks of faith and royalty whereas “clear glass” would indicate purity.  Unlike the city or throng of Babyon, this gathering is of those whose royal hearts are full of faith and purity.

 

   The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  We can clearly link in the original languages eight of the twelve gems listed here with those on the breastplate of the Hebrew High Priest which represented the twelve tribes of Israel.  Considering that the names of the twelve tribes are on the gates, I’m very much inclined to believe that the four remaining gems are also a match with those in the breastplate.  

 

   The High Priest, who represented Jesus Christ, wore the breastplate as a symbol that the twelve tribes were always on the heart of the Lord.  It was, however, called the breastplate of judgment.  But in Isa 59:17 and Eph 6:14, the breastplate donned by the Lord and by believers is called the breastplate of righteousness.  This is a fitting picture in two ways – first, the judgment upon Christ for our sins made the church righteous in Him.  Next, in the tribulation, the judgments of God upon Israel will bring forth a turning to the Lord and thus His covering of righteousness as well.  I think that is why these same gems adorn the wall.  They will serve as a continual reminder that God’s ways are always right, His judgments always just.  Those who enter will consider that they do so because of God’s faithfulness to His people.

 

   The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.  This is one of the clearest and most powerful pictures in Revelation.  How do you enter the heavenly city?  You must pass through a pearl.  This completes the picture of the surrounding wall of heaven – whereas the gemstones speak of the pressure and heat of judgment bringing forth righteousness in the Hebrew saints,  the pearls speak of the righteousness obtained purely by grace.  I’ll explain.  You see, to enter you won’t pass through a wall, you’ll pass through a gate.  Even though righteousness came to the Jews by way of the shock treatment, the judgments of the tribulation, even they have to enter heaven by grace.  Righteousness is a ‘boundary’ requirement, but grace is the point of entry.  The church was made righteous and enters heaven by the gracious blood of Christ which covers all our sins.  It took the judgments of the tribulation to drive the Jews to seek righteousness.  They too enter only by this precious blood.

 

   But what is a pearl anyway?  It is a piece of dirt, a piece of grit, that has been covered and covered and covered and so on with countless layers of beautiful nacre.  That’s exactly like those who accept Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary.  We are dirty, gritty, full of sin and our own ways, and we need a Savior.  His grace covers and covers and covers our lives as often as needed and as a result, we are beautiful in His sight.  Those who enter heaven by way of a pearly gate will be forever reminded of this wonderful truth.

 

   But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.  “Temple” here means the holy places of the temple so of course, with God Almighty and the Lamb present, they are the holy places.  The word for “glory” can and usually does mean a shining, but it also means a judgment or opinion.  As such, it is saying that not only does the shining brilliance of God illuminate heaven but the judgments (in the sense of teachings) of God bring wisdom to those in heaven as well.

 

    And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light,…  Though it is in the Greek, “walk” alludes to the Hebrew notion of how you conduct your life.  And Who is “its light”?  The Lamb!  The word “light” is actually “lamp” or “candle” – that which gives forth light having been set upon a lampstand, a prominent place.  You see, there is only one Name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved – Jesus Christ.  Ever since His resurrection, the gospel has been taken to the whole world and those “nations” or literally ethnic peoples who have turned to it have indeed conducted their lives, crafted their laws, by its light.

 

   …and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.  Again, this is background.  Who are the spiritual leaders (kings) of Israel (the earth)?  To answer that, we must note that the verb tense here for “bring” is in the present active.  In other words, it was happening at the time the Revelation was given.  The only leaders bringing people to heaven up until that time were the Apostles and disciples of Christ, the vast majority of whom were indeed Jewish. 

 

   Bringing people?  Yes.  Here’s what “glory” can be translated as - the glorious condition of blessedness unto which it is appointed and promised that true Christians shall enter.  And honor? It is literally a valuing by which the price is fixed.  Makes sense since Jesus paid that price for us with His life and receives the value of all the souls saved in return. 

 

    Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).   Because of Calvary, the gates are always open.  That’s why Paul said, We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.  He knew that to die while saved only meant immediate entrance into Christ’s presence.  (2 Cor 5:8)

 

   And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.   The “nations” are the gentiles,  and combined with the future tense in the verb, this seems to be saying that “they” – believers in general -- will first bring the gentiles to salvation.  That has proven out historically.  Nevertheless, we know from our studies in Revelation that God is definitely NOT done until all the redeemed remnant of Israel are gathered to Himself as well.  Paul wrote of the Jews, Now if their fall is riches for the world and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!...For if their casting away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?    (Rom 11:12,15)

 

   But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Though God has provided salvation, entry into heaven, to those who accept Jesus and walk in His light, He does not permit anyone else access.  If you are in the Book of Life, “Come in!”  If not, don’t you think it’s time to give your heart to Him??

 

 

 

The First Day

 

 

I’m a literalist.  I believe God created all of our existence in six days just as it is given to us in Genesis, but I also believe there is ‘more to the story’.  Jesus, Who by the way, according to the Gospel of John, is the One God used to create our existence, told His disciples,

 

                “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  (John 16:12)

 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m NOT claiming to speak for Christ!  But, I do want to give you some things to consider which I hope you’ll hear and be motivated to do your own studying. 

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

First, God does not create chaos. 

 

For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain, (Heb tohoo – formless, place of chaos)
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
  (Isa 45:18)

 

What God creates is “good”.  That’s His own declaration.  As we see in Eden, it is perfect, beautiful.  Thus, I am convinced that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” in that condition.  It was fully formed, complete and beautiful.  This is the character of our God.

 

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaking, we read,

 

And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  (Lu 10:18)

 

Now, many commentators assert that this was because the 70 had just returned to Jesus joyful because the demons were subject to their authority.  I’d say that that’s a big maybe.  The question remains, how did the demons end up on earth in the first place?  If Satan fell “like lightning” (suddenly, with violence) at this time or as a result of this event, we have a problem because there he is in Eden and throughout man’s history.

No, I suggest Jesus saw this fall long before for even the Prophet Isaiah wrote about it. 

 

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
 (Isa 14:12)

 

And from Job, the oldest book in the Bible, we read:

 

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.  And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”  (Job 1:6,7)

 

So, I’ll suggest that Jesus was possibly referring to Genesis 1:2:

 

The earth was (became) without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

 

That’s because that word translated “was” means equally “became” and because Isaiah said God DIDN’T create the earth ‘tohoo’ (and ‘bohoo’ - an undistinguishable ruin).  To create the earth in that condition might agree with the evolutionists but it is NOT the character of our God.

 

I suggest that Satan’s fall caused the devastation on our planet that once was beautiful and probably full of life.  He caused the ruin – the earth ‘became formless and void, and darkness covered everything.

 

And there we see the Spirit of God hovering (literally “brooding”) over it all.  This verbiage implies that the Godhead was about to engage in bringing a ‘new birth’ and thus we have recorded the first creative act:

 

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  (Gen 1:3)

 

This is wonderfully analogous to what God does by Jesus Christ to the ruined soul of man, to the soul made ‘tohoo’ and ‘bohoo’ by sin and it’s loathsome darkness.  John recorded,

 

                In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.  (John 1:4)

Jesus told His disciples, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

 

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Gen 1:4)

 

This is fascinating for it was the light that was good – not the darkness, not the light and darkness – just the light.  Nevertheless, He didn’t destroy or cast out the darkness,  He separated it.  He divided the light from it.  In the physical sense, it could be that this is when the planet began to rotate again on its axis. 

 

Spiritually, this is analogous to born again Christians with the light of the Spirit of Christ living in their souls having to exist in dark, sinful flesh bodies until freed by death.

 

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So, the evening and the morning were the first day. (Gen 1:5)

 

So the Spirit brooded and the Godhead began a restorative creation with Light.  And God calls it “Day”.  I suppose He could have just called light, light and darkness, darkness but He gives them identities – Day and Night.  And He uses them as both physical and spiritual points of reference:

 

I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior.

I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses," Says the LORD, "that I am God.

Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?" (Isa 43:11-13)

 

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  (2 Pet 1:19)

 

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.  (John 9:4)

 

But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him.  (John 11:10)

 

And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.  (Rev 21:25)

 

There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.  (Rev 22:5)

 

The first day is/was a wonderful creative act and a foreshadowing of God’s plan. 

 

The Gap

 

It is estimated but the consensus is strong that the time from Abraham until Jesus was about 2000 years.  According to Peter’s declaration in 2 Pet 3:8, this represents two days prophetically:

 

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

A just weight and balance are the LORD'S: all the weights of the bag are his work.  (Pro 16:11)

 

That is, the prophetic time piece so to speak given in Dan 9 temporarily stops after the first 69 sevens of the 70 sevens exactly as spoken when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey and was hailed as the Son of David (Monday, March 30, 33 AD exactly) and was crucified just a few days later on Calvary, paying the price for all our sins. 

 

Now, as a people group, the Jews rejected the message and their Messiah.  The apostle Paul put this way:

 

                Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”  (Acts 13:46)

 

Thus, for the next 2000 years or so, the focus of God’s attention has been to the mostly Gentile church.  This was prophesied by Hosea:

 

                After two days He will revive us (the Jewish people);

On the third day He will raise us up,

That we may live in His sight. (Hos 6:2)

 

And it was displayed in prophetic type (picture) by Jesus:

 

So, when the Samaritans (non-Jews) had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. (John 4:40)

 

And of course, there are other Old Testament scriptures that discuss this:

               

                Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles!

Laud Him, all you peoples!  (Psa 117:1)

 

                “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,

Who shall stand as a banner to the people;

For the Gentiles shall seek Him,

And His resting place shall be glorious.”  (Isa 11:10)

 

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,

My Elect One in whom My soul delights!

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. (Isa 42:1)

 

“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,

And will hold Your hand;

I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the Gentiles,  (Isa 42:6)

 

Indeed He says,

‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,

And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;

I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,

That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.' ”  (Isa                49:6)

 

For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,

My name shall be great among the Gentiles;

In every place incense shall be offered to My name,

And a pure offering;

For My name shall be great among the nations,”

Says the LORD of hosts.  (Mal 1:11)

 

And so, we can see that God, with His “just weight and balance” gave His loving attention to His people, the Jews for two prophetic days and then turned His attention to His people among the Gentiles for the same time. 

 

Now, that time is nearly concluded and we will soon witness the fulfillment of the last week, the last seven of Daniel’s prophecy.  This will be the seven year long period which Jeremiah 30 refers to as the time of “Jacob’s trouble”.  The church will be gone, ensconced to heaven during the rapture, the Jewish Remnant of believers and evangelists will be carrying the baton of Christian witness, and the Satan-ruled world will experience all the judgements described in the book of Revelation.

 

You can find much more about this last week, the last seven years in my commentary on Revelation (Fire Eyes) and at Gracentruth.net.

 

In the End - Part 2

 

In our previous lesson (In the End – Part 1) we explained the exactness of Christ’s fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in Dan 9:24 – 26a.  He rode into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey 483 years to the day, hailed as the Son of David.  Only God could do that.

 

Following this section of the prophecy, we have Dan 9:26b – 27.

And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. (26b)
The end of it shall be with a flood, 
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.(26c)  (Dan 9:26b,c)

 

26b was fulfilled in 70AD.  “Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, becoming the first Roman emperor to succeed his biological father.

“Before becoming emperor, Titus gained renown as a military commander, serving under his father in Judea during the First Jewish–Roman War. The campaign came to a brief halt with the death of emperor Nero in 68, launching Vespasian's bid for the imperial.” 

 

“When Vespasian was declared Emperor on 1 July 69, Titus, his son, (and ‘prince’) was left in charge of ending the Jewish rebellion. In 70, he besieged and captured Jerusalem, and destroyed the city and the Second Temple. For this achievement Titus was awarded a triumph; the Arch of Titus commemorates his victory to this day and age.”

 

“Titus surrounded the city with three legions (Vth, XIIth and XVth) on the western side and one (Xth) on the Mount of Olives to the east. He put pressure on the food and water supplies of the inhabitants by allowing pilgrims to enter the city to celebrate Passover and then refusing them egress. Jewish raids continuously harassed the Roman Army, one of which nearly resulted in Titus being captured.”

 

“After attempts by Josephus to negotiate a surrender had failed, the Romans resumed hostilities and quickly breached the first and second walls of the city. To intimidate the resistance, Titus ordered deserters from the Jewish side to be crucified around the city wall. By that time the Jews had been exhausted by famine, and when the weak third wall was breached, bitter street fighting ensued.”

 

“The Romans finally captured the Antonia Fortress and began a frontal assault on the gates of the Second Temple. As they breached the gate, the Romans set the upper and lower city aflame, culminating with the destruction of the Temple. When the fires subsided, Titus gave the order to destroy the remainder of the city, allegedly intending that no one would remember the name Jerusalem. The Temple was demolished, Titus's soldiers proclaimed him imperator in honor of the victory.”

 

“Jerusalem was sacked and much of the population killed or dispersed. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, most of whom were Jewish.”

 

And so, the next part of the prophecy is mysterious because we are not clear on what “it” is in 9:26c-1 or the “flood”.  I’ll suggest that just as Israel ended with a war in 70 AD, it picked up where it left off in 1948.

 

The Jewish people were scattered in 70 AD and without a nation until May 14, 1948.  “The Israeli Declaration of Independence, formally the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and soon to be first Prime Minister of Israel.”

 

Since its inception, Israel has been involved in a number of wars and large-scale military operations, including:

  • 1948 Arab–Israeli War (November 1947 – July 1949)
  • Palestinian Fedayeen insurgency (1950s–1960s)
  • Suez Crisis (October 1956)
  • Six-Day War (June 1967)
  • War of Attrition (1967–1970)
  • Yom Kippur War (October 1973)
  • Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon (1971–1982)
  • 1982 Lebanon War (1982)
  • South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000)
  • First Intifada (1987–1993)
  • Second Intifada (2000–2005)
  • 2006 Lebanon War (summer 2006)
  • Gaza War or Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 – January 2009)
  • 2012 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip or Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012)
  • 2014 Gaza War or Operation Protective Edge (July–August 2014)
  • Syrian Civil War and the Iran–Israel conflict during the Syrian civil war.
  • 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis or Operation Guardian of the Walls (May 2021)
  • Israel–Hamas war (October 2023- ). Operation Swords of Iron

However, it’s possible that just as Israel thinks it has finally settled their existential dilemma by defeating Hamas, Hezbollah and achieving peace with it neighbors via the Abraham Accords, “The end of it shall be with a flood,” (Dan 9:26c)

 

What flood you may ask.  The flood of Gog.

 

Let’s look at Eze 38:

                “After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.  You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”  (Eze 38:8,9)

 

You see, “flood” in Dan 9:26, according to Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon is used of an overflowing army as in Dan 11:22 and “storm” in Eze 38 is “from an unused root meaning to rush over; a tempest; by implication, devastation:—desolate(-ion), destroy, destruction, storm, wasteness.

 

And so, I suggest that the Gog-Magog invasion of Israel, with all its hoards will indeed be the “flood” and will end “it”, that is Israel’s warfare with its neighbors. (Refer to our lesson entitled, “You Can’t Fight God and Win” on our website, Gracentruth.net)

 

But the real war for Israel will continue.  That’s the war with God.  That’s the war they initiated when they rejected their Messiah and cried out, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Mat 27:25)

 

So, Daniel finished his prophetic verse 9:26 with “And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”  That literally means that the desolations are decreed.  They are foretold; they are the 70th seven in Daniel’s 70 sevens.  It’s called the Tribulation, the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer 30:7)

 

And Daniel continues:

 

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week (i.e. seven years);
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.

And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
(Dan 9:27)

 

Refer to our verse by verse commentary on Revelation entitled Fire Eyes available on Amazon.com or the individual chapters on our website Gracentruth.net for much more detail.

 

In verse 27 of Daniel chapter 9, we read, speaking of the Antichrist, “Then he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” Recent events have given me the goose-bumps.  To register their significance, we need to consider the covenant – what covenant?  Glad you asked!

 

Now, if you do a careful study upon this sentence in the original language, you will appreciate this translation (the KJV and Young’s also.)  This may be the Abraham Accords.

 

“Confirm” in the Hebrew is the word pronounced “ga-bar” and it means a continuation of something with an increase or strengthening of it sufficient to prevail or overcome.  It’s first mention is in Genesis 7:18 and it is used 25 times in the Bible all with the same basic meaning.

 

So what we’re reading in Dan 9:27 is that he, the Antichrist, will take an existing covenant or treaty and “confirm” it with “many”.  That is, this verse is not saying that he will create the treaty as some people have been expecting but rather that he will confirm or strengthen it.  But why “many” and who are they?  

 

   That’s a great question!

 

I’ll suggest for your consideration that this may be referring to the UN General Assembly – all 190 nations – the whole world if you would.  It is the UN that voted to give Israel a homeland back in May of 1948 and coincidently, its Security Council now wants to divide up the land to create the Palestinian state. (Of course, they are unjustly referring to it as liberating ‘occupied territories’.) 

 

This is potentially very significant because Daniel 11:39 says, speaking of the Antichrist, (note: the same guy who will confirm/strengthen the covenant with the “many”) that he will also “divide the land for gain (or literally, for “a price”). 

 

Could it be that this refers to the land of Israel being divided or apportioned to the Jews and the Palestinians for the price of peace and perhaps the right to re-establish a temple?  Could it be that in getting this covenant confirmed by the ”many” of the whole UN General Assembly, Israel will think that, at last, they have a peace, a temple and a messiah (all of which will be false)?

 

Be that as it may, the false messiah, the AC will betray Israel:

 

But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.  (Dan 9:27a)

 

I suggest that this betrayal will coincide with the beginning of God’s wrath being poured out as in Rev 16:1

 

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

 

That’s because, as we saw in Dan 9:27b:

 

And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate (the AC),
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”

 

So, there you have it, Daniel’s prophecy ties in both Ezekiel’s and the Revelation.  And it is about to happen before our very eyes.

 

 

In the End - Part 1

 

Daniel was the first book of the Bible that I studied after giving my heart to the Lord about 53 years ago and I’ve continued studying it and teaching ever since; but I’m sensing it’s time to once again revisit chapter nine.  World events are such that I think we should renew our vision of God’s omnipotence and omniscience.

 

Daniel was probably a teen or very young man when the king of Babylon’s army conquered Jerusalem and tore it down.  He along with many others were taken  captive to the foreign land and served the king eventually becoming one of his advisors. Several amazing stories are recorded for us in the first chapters of this book and by the time chapter nine occurs the Medes had conquered Babylon but God wasn’t done with Daniel.

 

As with the kings of Babylon, Daniel continued serving the kings of the Medes and Persians.  Chapter nine transpires or rather is recorded during the reign of Darius of the Medes.  Daniel writes, “…in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Dan 9:2) 

 

By this time, Daniel is probably in his eighties.  The books he mentions are the Hebrew scriptures and he points specifically to Jeremiah.  Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. (Dan 9:3) 

 

During this time of deeply earnest prayer, an angelic messenger, Gabriel, came to him and Daniel records, 

 

“And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:” 

 

“Seventy weeks (sevens) are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.”

 

“Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,

Even in troublesome times.”

 

“And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;


And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.


The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”

 

“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.


And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”  (Dan 9:23-27)

 

In this passage, the word translated as ‘weeks’ is literally ‘sevens’ so the prophecy starts with a declaration that 70 sevens have been determined or pre-established in which several awesome things will be accomplished. Note also that these ‘sevens’ are set specifically for the Jewish people and Jerusalem.

 

So, what are these awesome things? First, he says, “To finish the transgression” or literally, the rebellion or break away. You see, mankind broke away from God back in the Garden of Eden and the Lord said that within this period, the rift would be healed – mankind (including the Jewish people) would be reconciled with our loving creator—the revolt ended, the rift healed. But for this to happen, the next promised occurrence had to take place – “To make an end of sins” or literally offences and their penalties.

 

All of man’s offenses before a just and holy God had to be paid for – all past, present and future offences. And furthermore, the slate had to be wiped clean so the true reconciliation of man with God could take place. That is, not only would all offences and their penalties be satisfied but it would be as if they never occurred in the first place – “to make reconciliation for iniquity.”

 

Then he added the kicker – not only would the rift be bridged, offences and penalties ended, and reconciliation produced, but then, a perfect future is guaranteed, for he said that “everlasting righteousness” would be brought in – eternal rightness in everyone and everything! Wow!

 

Finally, he said that vision and prophecy would be sealed or closed up and that the Most Holy would be anointed.

 

So what was revealed in this passage is clearly the grand and glorious plan of God, and the timepiece so to speak for it is also made obvious – the Jews and Jerusalem – like two hands on a clock. And they’re ticking off 70 sevens or 490, but 490 what? We’ll see that it refers to 490 years. Verse 25 gives more detail.

 

Specifically, the passage says that from the going forth or issuance of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and notably the wall of the city, until the coming of Messiah the Prince (i.e. Messiah hailed as royalty, in the line of David) would be total of seven plus 62 or 69 ‘sevens’ or 483 years. Then verse 26 adds that after this period, the Messiah would be cut off or killed but not for Himself.

 

This prophecy is so explicit in its schedule – only God could pull it off. You see, just as Daniel predicted, the command which allowed the Jews to restore Jerusalem and specifically to rebuild the wall was given March 5, 444 BC by Artaxerxes Longimanus to Nehemiah. ( Other similar decrees were given but this one included the rebuilding of the wall, i.e., restoring the city’s defenses as mentioned in the prophecy.) We arrive at this date by looking at Neh 1:1 and 2:1. Then, by knowing that Artaxerxes succeeded his father Xerxes immediately after his death around Dec 17, 465 BC and had a year of accession before his own reign began, we come to Nisan 1, 444 BC (March 5).

 

Now, we’re going to do a little arithmetic. Although the total period outlined in the passage was 70 sevens or 490 years, the declaring of the Messiah as King was pinpointed as being after the 62 sevens which are listed after the first 7 sevens. Therefore, this put it after 7 + 62 or 69 sevens. That equals 483 years.

 

Also, we must use the 360-day calendar for each year. This was the calendar of the day, the calendar originally used as shown in the Genesis account of Noah’s flood – it’s the prophetic year, if you would. So, if each year holds 360 days and we want to measure out a span of 483 years, that is the same as 173,880 days.

 

Now, beginning with March 5, 444 BC, if we proceed forward 173,880 days, accounting for the 116 leap years, only one year between 1 BC and 1 AD, and a couple other slight imperfections in our own calendar -- we come to Monday, March 30, 33 AD exactly. There indeed we find Jesus, riding on the donkey, entering Jerusalem, hailed as the Son of David, that is, Messiah the Prince.  

 

And just as Daniel’s messenger foretold, Messiah was cut off, but not for Himself. Jesus laid down His life freely on the crucifix of Calvary the following Friday, April 3, 33 AD – but not for Himself. You see, He was sinless, the spotless Lamb of God. He was ‘cut off’ for us!

 

Now, you may be thinking, ‘We’ve explained 69 sevens, but we started with 70.  What about the last seven?’  Very astute.  The last seven is the seven-year tribulation period described in Jeremiah (same book as what Daniel was reading) as, 

 

“Alas! For that day (period of time) is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob's trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.” (Jer 30:7)

 

Lord willing, I’ll go more into that in another post; or you can check out my podcasts on the whole book of Revelation available on this website or on www.thefathersgrace.com or at my rss.com site entitled, “Abundance of Grace” by J R Dickey.

 

In the Light

 

You know, there are several “messages” in the scriptures.  For instance, the message of the cross - For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Cor 1:18)

 

And the message of love - For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, (1 Jn 3:11)

 

Of course, most of us, if not all, are familiar with these because Jesus did and spoke of them.  But there is one message which the disciples heard but which was not passed to us in any of the Gospels; in fact, it’s nowhere else explicitly in the Bible except possibly Rev 21:23.  Now this specific message is implied strongly throughout the Word but in only one verse do we receive explicitly this glorious nugget of eternal truth:

 

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  (1 Jn 1:5)

 

So why, I wonder, and maybe so do you, did no other disciple present this to us and why did it take John most of his life to get around to it?  Possibly because it presents a radical truth that even the post-Calvary church back then and today struggles with and stumbles over – the ‘stink’ of sin.

 

Oh, theologically we can easily get on board with this message, but hold on, the message continues:

 

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (is continually cleansing) us from all sin. (1Jn 1:6,7)

 

And here is where we as the church can get on a tangent - because of the blood of Christ, God sees us as sinless, after all, we are IN Christ and He in us.  But we also have a flesh body that is dead in sin and is constantly trying to influence us. 

 

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 Jn 1:8)

 

John introduced the ideas of walking in the light and being cleansed from sin. But he did not for a moment believe that a Christian can become sinlessly perfect.  To say that we have no sin puts us in a dangerous place because God’s grace and mercy is extended to sinners, not to “those who [just] make mistakes” or “I’m only human” or “no one is perfect” people, but sinners. We need to realize the victory and forgiveness that comes from saying, “I am a sinner — even a great sinner — but I have a Savior who cleanses me from all sin.” (Guzik)

 

Check out the Apostle Paul’s admission:

 

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  (1 Tim 1:15 emphasis mine - note the present tense)

 

Yes, our dead flesh has sin in it all the time.  It’s not free from sin and then sinful and then free from sin and then sinful – back and forth endlessly.  It’s full of sin all the time; but it is DEAD.  YOU however, are alive IN Christ.  YOU have been freed from that body of sin by faith and one day soon you will have a completely NEW body that is also sinless – a gift from God.

 

“Our sins are not forgiven because we confess. If this were the case — if forgiveness for a sin could only come where there was confession — then we would all be damned because it would be impossible for us to confess every sin we ever commit. We are forgiven because our punishment was put upon Jesus, we are cleansed by His blood.”

 

“However, confession is still vital to maintain relationship with God, and this is the context John speaks from. As God convicts us of sin that is hindering our fellowship with Him, we must confess it and receive forgiveness and cleansing for our relationship with God to continue without hindrance.” (Guzik)

 

Yes, the body of flesh is effectively already dead because of sin but we can allow it’s putrification, so to speak, to get it’s stink on us and hinder our fellowship with God.  (That’s when we let the flesh lead us).  Oh, we are saved still because our debt is forever paid but with confession comes a fresh trust of His forgiveness and a cleansing from all that ‘stink’. 

 

You can think of it this way – the Blood of Christ cleansed and cleanses (past, present and future) us from sin.  It’s a done deal, forever.  And as needed, confession when we fall short (including repentance) cleanses us from the ‘stink’ so we can enjoy our relationship with God even now that Christ’s blood provided.

 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (i.e. ‘stink’)  (1Jn 1:9)

 

Don’t let that dead stinking flesh guide you.  Be freed from sin, be cleansed as needed and learn to a greater and greater degree, to walk in the LIGHT. 

 

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 

 

 

Don't Drift

 

“You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

They will perish, but You remain;

And they will all grow old like a garment;

Like a cloak You will fold them up,

And they will be changed.

But You are the same,

And Your years will not fail.” (Heb 1:10-12)

 

The writer of Hebrews basically begins the epistle with a tribute to the greatness and immutability of God, specifically, God the Son or as John the Apostle wrote, the Word Who made all things.  And then follows with a dire warning to all of us who have heard Him:

 

“Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”  (Heb 2:1)

 

Isaiah the prophet tells us why this warning is important:

 

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,

And deep darkness the people;  (Isa 60:2a)

 

In my lifetime I have seen increasingly rapid darkening and demonizing of our world’s societies and God is not preventing it – as a matter of fact, He foretold it.  However, if you’re a sincere believer in Jesus Christ, you (and I) are told to stand fast and hold on to our trust in God, to continue to speak and live out the truth in love.  To look for His return.  To remember His promises to His children:

 

But the LORD will arise over you,

And His glory will be seen upon you.  (Isa 60:2b)

 

I’m presenting this message because the days are coming, in fact they are upon us, wherein many or even most people will not listen to the truth because all they know are lies, hatred, violence and thus they cling to darkness.  At this point, they don’t even recognize darkness because it’s just part of their DNA and instead they want to destroy light.

 

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;

Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  (Isa 5:20)

 

So, of course, we cannot afford to “drift”.  That word can mean to let something drift away from us or allow ourselves to drift away from something.  In either event, we cannot afford the separation.

 

Christ’s message to the Church in Philadelphia is:

 

“Behold, I am coming quickly(suddenly)! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”  (Rev 3:11)

 

In these last days, with darkness spreading and increasing, with lies and deception spreading and increasing, with wars, perversity and butchering of innocents spreading and increasing, hold fast to your trust and faith in Christ’s promises and Father God’s plan.  His end game is wonderful and cannot be stopped.  Don’t drift.  Hold fast.

 

 

Warning From Prison

 

As Paul was in prison, he looked to the future and sent to his young protégé, Timothy, the following admonition:

 

But know this, that in the last days perilous (used in describing wild animals, raging sea, and the Gadarene demoniacs) times will come:

 

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal,                     despisers of good,

 

traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers             of God,

 

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  (2 Tim 3:1-5)

 

Doesn’t sound very uplifting, does it?  It’s a list of spiritual failures and there is a stern warning at the end.  This is what I think is important for us to understand.  You see, many commentators have treated this prophecy/prediction as speaking of the degenerating of the entire human race but I don’t think that is the point. 

 

Now, I can heartily agree that the societies of man are in a downward spiral, and they do exhibit these negative traits more and more but the last three statements make it clear that he’s not referring to people in general but rather specific people within the Church.

 

“lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” clearly indicates people with a choice – that “rather” is very telling.  Those outside the Church are not instructed to love God.

 

“having a form of godliness but denying its power” cannot be referring to the world so to speak as they have no “form of godliness” but those in the Church indeed practice every Sunday (indeed every day) having a “form of godliness” and we have often seen it.  I suggest that the power of godliness is godly love which is sometimes in short supply.

 

“And from such people turn away!” cannot be talking about the people of the world otherwise we would have to terminate the Great Commission.

 

Jesus said, "But go and learn what [this] means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Mat 9:13)  and, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call [the] righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Mark 2:17)

 

Paul speaks to this in another letter:

 

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.

 

Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

 

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person.

 

For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?

 

But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."  (1 Cor 5:9-13)

 

With that being said, I’m convinced that this “last days” passage is warning us about certain segments of the Church.  And when you consider what Jesus said to the last days Laodicean Church in the Revelation, it makes sense:

 

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

 

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish              you were cold or hot.

 

"So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

 

"Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked"  (Rev 3:14-17)

 

With this all in mind, let’s consider the list of failures in the last days church above.

 

“lovers of themselves” – many churches today engage in many different ways in trying to satisfy the insatiable self-centered appetite.  In fact, you can consider this as the underlying characteristic of the whole list as it is the driving motivation behind the flesh or the ‘fruit of the flesh’.

 

Of course, it is the complete opposite of the fruit of the Spirit which we find in Gal 5:22,23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 

Notice, Spiritual love heads this list just as self-love heads the failure list.  Thus, it is clear that the last days church is basically going through the Christian motions in the flesh – they have left Christ outside.  

 

So, if the warning is to turn away from those within the Church having the characteristics of spiritual failure, where do we turn in these last days?   In closing, I’ll quote Jesus as He finished speaking to the ‘Church Age’:

 

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the                        churches." ' " (Rev 3:20-22)

 

TURN TO JESUS, TRUST IN JESUS

 

Broken

 

and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Co 11:24)

There are a lot of people in our societies who are truly broken and then there are many who, absorbed within their own self obsession are always playing ‘the victim card’ for everyone to pity them.  Of course, broken people often are the victims of a terrible event or circumstance.

 

And there are so many kinds of brokenness partly because our societies, our faith, our relationships are themselves so broken.  Often, it tends to isolate us emotionally.

Jesus knew that in His own brokenness He was truly alone among men; He was forsaken for us.  The Psalmist spoke prophetically of Him –

 

Reproach has broken my heart,

And I am full of heaviness;

I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;

And for comforters, but I found none. (Psa 69:20) 

 

But Christ also said, “… He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (Jn 8:29)  So while men rejected Him, Jesus took comfort in the Father’s presence which was continuous until the cross where He carried all our sins and as a result was alienated from the Father, temporarily.  There, He cried out - And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  (Mat 27:46)

 

That’s meaningful for us because we know that His ultimate brokenness- being forsaken by the Father was swallowed up in victorious resurrection from the grave. He busted the chains of death and depression and defeat for us all.

 

And as a result, we have such wonderful promises as:

 

            The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart and saves                    such as have a contrite spirit.  (Psa 34:18)

 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise.  (Psa 51:17)

 

He knows the pain of brokenness and He knows you.  If you will believe in Him, what He did for all of us on Calvary and that He rose again, He will live within you and sustain you.  In fact, it is in your brokenness that He will shine through.

 

As a matter of fact, there’s a story in the OT in Judges chapters six and seven that pictures this beautifully; it’s all about Gideon and I’ll paraphrase.  While hiding in a winepress, the Angel of the Lord approached him and commissioned him to lead the army of Israel to defeat the hoards of Midianites and Amalekites who were invading.  Gideon swallowed hard so to speak but obeyed.  He amazingly gathered together 32,000 soldiers but God told him they were too many.  Gideon ‘swallowed hard’ again (and again) until finally after sending most of the troops home, he was left with just 300 men.

 

All the masses of enemy troops were in the valley, like the sand by the sea, virtually innumerable.  Well during the night, Gideon gave clay pots to all of his men which each held lit torches inside, he divided them into three groups of 100 and instructed them to surround the valley on the hills and upon his signal, break those pots and hold them high, sound their trumpets and shout ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!’ 

 

Well, this crazy battle tactic worked as when they did this the hoards of the enemy in terrifying fear turned on each other and then fled wildly with the whole army of Israel in pursuit.  The battle was won.  The punch line here is that when the pots were broken, the light shined forth.

 

And that’s what can happen with us as well in our own brokenness – Jesus in us can shine forth if we let Him. 

 

But that’s not the whole story.  Brokenness can be a blessing, but brokenness is not the end.  In the Gospel of John we read:

 

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

 

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity

thirty and eight years.

 

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he said unto him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”

 

The impotent man answered him, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

 

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”

 

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.  (John 5:2-9)

 

You see, we are all broken.  We are born broken – we are born in sin and born to die.  Of course, we also experience things in life that can break us physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.  But God’s plan of redemption is to make us whole – not just better, not just repaired, not just refreshed, but whole, new, wonderfully new.  And the kicker is that this redemption is not just for us, for mankind.  It’s for the entirety of creation, seen and unseen, heaven and earth.  The Bible says:

 

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

 

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

 

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."  (Rev 21:3-5)

 

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.  (Isa 65:17)

 

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  (2Pe 3:13)

 

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  (Rom 8:19-22)

 

You see, the whole story is the story of everything being made whole – in Christ.  After turning away from the Promised Land in cowardice, the Hebrew nation wandered in the wilderness for 38 years and it was then Joshua (same name as Jesus) who led them in.  Not coincidentally, that’s the same time that the lame man above had been sitting by the pool of Bethesda helplessly.  In like manner, we are helpless to make ourselves whole, but brokenness is not our end, wholeness is, forever.

 

So be hopeful for you can trust Jesus and Father God and His Holy Spirit to do what they have promised to do – to make everything new and whole – all of creation, heaven and earth and all of us who live with Him (and IN Him!)  It won’t be long.  As Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings (brokenness) of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  (Ro 8:18)

 

 

Like Him

 

From the earliest days of mankind’s presence on earth, Satan has been working to convince us that God is withholding something from us.

 

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"

 

And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the               trees of the garden;

"but of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "

 

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  (Gen 3:1-5)

 

The clear implication was that God did not want us to be like Him.  A lie.  Possibly born out of jealousy.  For Satan himself pridefully wanted to be like God and it cost him.

 

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! [How] you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!

 

For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;

 

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most              High.'

 

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.  (Isa 14:12-15)

 

But God has always intended just the opposite.  We can see that in how He dealt with Adam and Eve as well as what He says about us who believe in His Son:

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.

 

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

 

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  (Rom 8:28-30)

 

Notice the past tense above.  God knew the outcome from before the beginning.  Of course, we didn’t.  Adam may have thought, ‘This is tough, having to work so hard just to live.’ That’s because God cursed the ground for his sake. 

 

But as we all know, working hard was what Adam and many (if not all) of us need, to develop character and help us appreciate what we receive from the loving hand of God.

 

Eve learned to invest in her children, teaching them to reverence God and she learned the value of humility.  When she was wanting to be like God initially, it may have been for different reasons but she was indeed, as a result of God’s judgement, learning godliness from her Maker.

 

In fact, most believers, if they were to list God’s character attributes would say – Holiness, perfection, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy and these very attributes are those He calls on us to embrace and manifest:

 

“For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  (Lev 11:45)

 

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  (Eph 4:32)

“Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”                    (Luk 6:36)

 

That is, He’s telling us to be like Him.  Unfortunately, even as believers we often still don’t ‘get’ Him – we get hung up on the power, the miracles, the radiant glory and we forget the most excellent things – the love, the mercy, the graciousness, that is the ‘Who attributes’ of His character as opposed to the ‘What’ attributes.

 

But that’s going to change because we have this promise:

 

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.   (1 John 3:2)

 

There are some who desire godliness or who try to manifest godliness out of pride – to be seen of men.  But God wants us to be like Him in love, in mercy, in grace, in humility and so on.  This is Who we will see then.

 

Sin-filled hearts of prideful men can only be impressed with power, radiant glory – that’s what knocked down the madman Saul who was seeking to persecute believers. 

 

As he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  (Acts 9:3-5)

 

But humble, broken sinners like Mary are impressed with Who He is.

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’  (John 20:16,17)

 

You see, He is the radiant glory and the power but He is also the grace and mercy and love because He’s complete, He’s perfect and He calls us to be the same:

 

            “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven                  is perfect.”  (Mat 5:48)

 

And for that to be possible, He had to put on flesh, become one of us, experience the totality of being human and do so perfectly, completely without sin:

 

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  (Heb 2:17)

 

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  (Heb 4:15)

 

Yes, contrary to the devil’s lies, God does want us to be like Him, like His Son, and that is a complete, i.e. perfect package deal.

 

 

Being Small

 

You really can’t ‘do’ small.  But this morning, I was impressed that ‘being’ small in your own estimation is something God can and will work with.  So, what does ‘being small’ mean?  

 

Well, first of all, it’s not really so much a physical characteristic.  It’s not being tall or short or numerous or few.  Rather it’s a character attribute that walks hand in hand with humility and lovingkindness. 

It also goes with submission and obedience to the one you esteem greater than yourself.  King Saul stood head and shoulders taller than all the rest of his countrymen, but when he ‘did his own thing without God’  Samuel the prophet said to him, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?” (1 Sam 15:17) You see, the problem was Saul did not want to be small in anyone’s eyes.

Look around you.  Everyone, yes virtually everyone has this same mindset naturally.  I say virtually because once in a while someone with a unique character fashioned by hardship or trial develops the godly ‘being small or little’ attitude.  The Psalmist had it.  He wrote in Psalm 119, “ I am small and despised, Yet I do not forget Your precepts.” (Psa 119:141)

And then, of course, is the example of Christ - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phi 2:5-8)

And though God is big, really big; His hand’s span stretches across the universe, He also expresses Himself to us surprisingly ‘small’ -  for instance, in dealing with a dejected, depressed Elijah, “— and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12) 

You see, with God, there are no size hang ups.  He’s perfectly at peace, perfectly God either way, big or small.  But when he reaches out to us, it is often with the little things.  Even in providing the heavenly manna in the desert wilderness with Israel, — And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground.  (Ex 16:14) 

Of course, this foreshadows Jesus for He told his followers, “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  (John 6:50,51)

Thus, it’s clear that ‘being small’ is a quality God uses.  But it’s not just ‘being small’ but it’s the being period, being what God desires and that’s the difference between religion and a genuine relationship with Him. 

Being is not the same as doing because being is God’s work, not ours.  It goes all the way back to the beginning.  God’s first command was a ‘be command’ - And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Gen 1:3) Then He followed with seven more - And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. ... And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. ...  And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide 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 firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. ... And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. ...  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Gen 1:6, 9, 14-15, 22, 28)

 

So, when the Lord tells us, “…Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:16 KJV) He is NOT telling us to do anything but rather to allow Him to do His work in us, to submit to the work of His Spirit. I think ‘being small’ in my own estimation is in fact part of that submission.

 

Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3)  So ‘being small’ is a big deal; it’s a key to entering God’s kingdom.

 

 

Challenged

 

Though these three men, NoahDaniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.  (Eze 14:14)

 

This verse along with its companion, Eze 14:20, identify three notably righteous men in the Old Testament.  For me, one of them is particularly interesting – Job.  He is the only man in the Bible for whom we have a recorded challenge by Satan to God. 

 

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"

 

So, Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing?

 

"Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land."

 

"But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"  (Job 1:8-11)

 

And amazingly, God accepted the challenge.

 

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So, Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.  (Job 1:12)

 

Why?  I’ll get to that, but first –

 

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"

 

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"

 

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"

 

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"  (Job 1:13 – 19)

 

In a single day, Job was devastated.  Everything was taken from him including his beloved children.  But Satan lost the challenge because:

 

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshipped.

 

And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."

 

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.  (Job 1 20-22)

 

But Satan wasn’t done with Job, and neither was God.  Once again, he came before the Lord:

 

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."

 

So, Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"  (Job 2:3-5)

 

Challenge number two; and once again, God accepted:

 

                And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” (Job 2:6)

 

And for the next 37 chapters, poor Job suffers intensely.  Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  (Job 2:9)

 

His pain was so great that he cursed the day of his birth.  On top of that, he was counselled by three ‘friends’ that his suffering was because of his abundant sin. 

 

One of Job’s responses to them concerning God was, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” which is a wonderful display of trust but then he added,  “Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” (Job 13:15)

which was a display of why God accepted Satan’s challenge.

 

As righteous as Job was, God knew that there was something at work inside that needed to change.  Not only that, but his trials produced a wonderful hope:

 

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God,

 

Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!  (Job 19:25-27)

 

Repeatedly, Job groans and moans and yet he defends himself and his righteousness to his friends.  Then finally, in chapter 38, God speaks directly to him:

 

            Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

"Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”  (Job 38:1-4)

 

After this God gave him an additional 52 questions that really put Job on the spot and to which he remained silent.  Then God finished:

 

                Moreover, the LORD answered Job, and said:

"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it."  (Job 40:1,2)

 

Dutifully, Job answered:

                "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.

Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further."  (Job 40:4,5)

 

But God wasn’t not done:

 

                Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

"Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me:

 

Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?

 

Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His?”  (Job 40:6-9)

 

And He followed with 18 more questions to Job as well as a short lecture on His power.

 

Job was overwhelmed and saw both God and himself in a new light.  He meekly replied:

 

"I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.  You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, 'I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'

 

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."  (Job 42:2-6)

 

And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

 

"Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."   (Job 42:7,8)

 

So, Job’s friends did as God commanded. And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed, the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)

 

What a story!  So why did God accept the challenges and allow Job to suffer such anguish?  Now, I don’t want to say I know because no one truly knows the mind of the Almighty.  So, I’ll offer an observation. 

 

It would appear like Job felt that he lived a righteous life and so he viewed his tragedy with some humility and some indignation.  It also appeared that his indignation grew to the point of declaring, “Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”

 

But in the end, his ultimate declaration was, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” And, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." 

 

So, in the end, Job came to the place of sincere humility and thus the true righteousness that God knew would come forth.  So, once again, we have learned through blessed Job, the true nature of our Father – He loves us and is FOR us even when it seems convincingly that He’s not. 

 

As believers, we all have a mortal enemy who seeks to demean and destroy us and turn us against the Lord.  But God knows us and knows what He’s doing in our lives, for this is true:

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28)

 

 

Third Day

 

Have you ever wondered why Jesus rose from the grave on the third day?  Of course, the easy answer is because it was prophesied.  But why did God choose three?  Is it symbolic of the Trinity’s victory over evil, over death?  I do think it has something to do with God Himself.

 

Let’s look at the mentions of “third day” in the scripture and see what we can glean:

 

So, the evening and the morning were the third day.  (Gen 1:13)  This is the first mention and if you look at what happened on the third day of creation, it clearly points to LIFE.

 

Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.  (Gen 22:4) Abraham was told by God to go to Mt Moriah and there to sacrifice his son, his beloved son to the Lord.  Abraham journeyed there and attempted to fulfill God’s command but was stopped by God’s Angel at the last instant.  This mention then speaks to OBEDIANCE.

 

And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled.  (Gen 31:22)  Jacob had spent many years in the deceitful, oppressive world of Laban.  Then he decided to go home to his father’s house in the promised land.  This mention then speaks to ESCAPE FROM BONDAGE.

 

Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.   (Gen 34:25)  Dinah had been taken captive, raped and then her brothers brought VENGENCE UPON THE EVIL.

 

Now it came to pass on the third day, [which was] Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.    (Gen 40:20) 

 

Joseph, who is a prophetic type of Christ, was imprisoned in Egypt, the prophetic type of the world.  During that time, two of Pharaoh’s servants were imprisoned with him.  Soon, they both had dreams that Joseph interpreted for them – the butler was to be released but the baker got death.  This speaks to divine JUDGEMENT (symbolically) that happened on the third day.

 

Then Joseph said to them the third day, "Do this and live, for I fear God:  (Gen 42:18)  If you remember the story of Joseph, you know that his brothers heartlessly sold him into bondage and slavery, and he was taken to Egypt.  After his miraculous rise to virtually supreme power, his family was forced to journey as well to Egypt to obtain food due to a severe famine.  He recognized them but they were clueless about him.  In their eyes, he was the PM of all Egypt second only to Pharaoh. 

 

Now, Joseph wanted to test them, so he was tough on them and threw them in prison for three days, then on the third day he brought them out and let them all go except the most violent brother Simeon.  He told them to bring back their youngest brother.  This mention speaks to TESTING AND MERCY.

 

Now, there are other mentions which speak to AWESOMENESS OF THE ALMIGHTY, HOLINESS, PURIFICATION, A COVENANT OF PEACE, AND REDEMPTION.  But this last verse is a powerful prophecy:

 

After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.  (Hos 6:2)  

 

Clearly, this speaks to the RESURRECTION and note that it is in the plural.  Hosea was praying for Israel, so this speaks to Christ, His church and the Jewish people as well.

 

So, you can see that “third day” has some powerful linkage to the overall plan of God.   As such I think Christ rose on the third day because that is in total harmony with the rest of scripture and proclaims loudly Almighty God, Lord of All, Three in One, Holy, Holy, Holy.

 

 

Days of Noah

 

When asked about His return, Jesus said, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mat 24:37)  In other words, the conditions of the world before the coming of Jesus will be like the conditions of the world before the flood:

  • Exploding population (Genesis 6:1).
  • Sexual perversion (Genesis 6:2).
  • Demonic activity (Genesis 6:2).
  • Constant evil in the heart of man (Genesis 6:5).
  • Widespread corruption and violence (Genesis 6:11).

Thanks to David Guzik.

 

As many forms of perversion are pressed upon us from the media and the government, in schools, from ‘doctors’, even in some churches, we must remember that we were told it would happen.  So what about those days of Noah?  Let’s take a look at Genesis.

 

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.  (Gen 6:1,2)

 

There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Gen 6:3)

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  (Gen 6:5)

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.  (Gen 6:11,12)

 

The phrase sons of God clearly refers to angelic creatures when it is used the three other times in the Old Testament (Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7). The translators of the Septuagint translated sons of God as angels. Those ancient translators clearly thought sons of God referred to angelic beings, not to people descended from Seth.

 

Jude 6 tells us of the angels who did not keep their proper domain but left their own habitation. Jude goes on (Jude 7) to tell us they sinned in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh. Here in Genesis 6, as in Sodom and Gomorrah, there was an unnatural sexual union.

 

We can deduce why Satan sent his angels to intermarry (either directly or indirectly) with human women. Satan tried to pollute the genetic pool of mankind with a satanic corruption, to put something like a genetic virus to make the human race unfit for bringing forth the Seed of the woman — the Messiah — promised in Genesis 3:15.

 

Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually: This says a lot. It means there was no aspect of man’s nature not corrupted by sin.  If you look at crimes per 100k, it would appear that it is relatively stable but that’s an intentional deception as the total crimes have tracked with the total population which has more than tripled worldwide in the last 70 years.

 

Moral depravity: According to a recent Gallup poll, 54% of Americans say the state of moral values in the country is “poor”—a record number. Some 83% say they believe morals are in decline. They aren’t alone: Survey data from a study published this week in Nature suggest that people in more than 60 nations share a general sense that people are less moral now than they used to be. The study, based on more than 12 million surveys administered to people around the world between 1949 and 2021, argues that people have felt this way for at least 70 years.

 

Evil thoughts continually:  Overall, recent data shows that the U.S. experienced its largest-ever recorded annual increase in homicides in 2020, compared to 2019, according to statistics from the FBI. The homicide rate rose nearly 30% in 2020 and increased again by 5% in 2021.

 

Now, I could go on and on, but we all know that these stats are only the tip of the iceberg.  We have all seen how addiction to technology produced tools and media have isolated us and mutated our thinking.  We are all revved up, angry and impatient, utterly and totally self-absorbed.

 

I’ve lived, worked and or traveled in almost 40 countries and I can tell you, these things are more or less ubiquitous.  Our societies do resemble those described in scripture as being in Noah’s day.

 

 

Timing

 

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:5,6)

 

Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him.” (John 11:14,15)

 

Now, most of you know this story.  Jesus knew this little family of two sisters and a brother, and He cared deeply for them.  The incident is the seventh miracle of John’s Gospel.  

 

Why did He wait? 

 

There’s a theory out there; it goes possibly, Jesus waited four days because He knew the Jewish superstition of that day that said a soul stayed near the grave for three days, hoping to return to the body. Therefore, it was accepted that after four days there was absolutely no hope of resuscitation. Clearly, this theory is conjecture – it comes from the ‘tradition of Ben Kaphra’ which is traced to about 200 years after Calvary and could easily have been invented by the Jews in response to their inability to explain Christ’s resurrection – i.e. that He wasn’t really dead.

 

So, I’m definitely not inclined to buy into the Ben Kaphra theory but it is obvious that Jesus was attuned to the timing of this miracle.  He specifically waited two days after He heard the news and arrived on the fourth day after Lazarus died.  The text makes it clear that He cared intensely.  The delay was not the result of apathy. 

 

In fact, He was definitely not apathetic -He cared so much “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” (John 11:33)  “The verb rendered ‘groaned’ is an unusual one. It signifies a loud inarticulate noise, and its proper use appears to be for the snorting of horses. When used of men it usually denotes anger.” (Morris)

 

It means that Jesus wasn’t so much sad at the scene surrounding the tomb of Lazarus. It’s more accurate to say that Jesus was angry. (Gusik)

 

So, He cared and He arrived exactly when He intended.  In John’s Gospel there are three times when someone dear to Jesus asked Him to do something (see also John 2:1-11 and 7:1-10). In each of these three cases, Jesus responded in the same way – He waited.  But this is the time He waited a specific amount of time.

 

Why the wait?

 

Clearly, the Lord does things on His schedule, not ours.  He rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, hailed as King exactly on time, on “this your day” (see our lesson of that name.)  When he knew Lazarus was dead, He waited two days and when He raised him from the grave, it had been four days. 

 

Now, as I prayed about this and asked the Lord for insight, He reminded me of the verse,

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the

Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  (2 Pet 3:8) 

 

And thus, I wondered if the reason for the delay was a picture, a prophetic picture.  I’ll explain and you can decide if you agree or not. 

 

Jesus waited two days after He knew in the Spirit that Lazurus had died.  Now Laz was someone Jesus loved but He waited two days before responding.  

 

Now, the name Lazarus means “who is helped by God” and this is amplified by the following verses:

Psa 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in                  trouble.

 

Psa 70:1 Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help                  me, O LORD.

 

Psa 71:12 O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for                my help.

 

Psa 109:26 Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy              mercy:

 

Psa 146:5 Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

 

Isa 41:10, 13  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. ...  For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

 

Could this be a picture of Christ waiting for about 2000 years to help Israel?  To raise them from the dead so to speak as in Ezekiel 37?  Of course that passage portrays the rebirth of the nation as a whole so what about their resurrection at the “end of days” as spoken in Daniel 12?

 

If you consider the Jewish or Hebrew people beginning with Abram and accounting for the time until the present day you have around 4000 years or four prophetic days.  That is you can link both the two days and the four days to the raising of Lazarus which could picture the raising of the Jewish people – see Dan 12:2,3,9,10,13.

 

So I suggest that if indeed we see the second coming of Christ in the not too distant future, it could be that He waited to help Lazarus in order to picture and to fulfill prophecy concerning God’s good will for Israel.  What do you think?

 

 

The Fellowship

 

I’ve been leading a small group of newer believers and we’re going over foundational lessons on our mutual faith.  The other day, one of them posed an honest question.  I’ll tell you what it was and how I answered.  We were discussing why Jesus and only Jesus could pay the debt for all our sins. I’ve written about that in another posting entitled One Perfect Man.  Anyway, he asked, “Why didn’t God the Father just come Himself?”  Good question.

 

I answered, “He did,” and talked about the wonderful mystery of the Trinity, three in one and I also mentioned how Jesus responded to the disciple Philip when he said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”    

 

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'?”  (John 14:8,9)Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'?

 

But something happened yesterday, when I was ‘at the altar’.  I was contemplating the love of God and He reminded me of something very, very special to me personally because He shared it with me not long after my youngest son went home to be with Him just two days after his 17th birthday.  In the depths of grief, I heard Him say to me, “Now we share a very special fellowship – the fellowship of suffering.”

 

Paul wrote something similar, speaking of Christ, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Phi 3:10)  But I knew that it was God the Father, Abba, Who had spoken to me.  And, it struck me yesterday that sending His Son was a demonstration of the greatest love ever.

 

I remembered that when Gabriel was on the verge of passing that I earnestly asked God that if possible, could He take me instead and Abba showed me that knows that sentiment.

 

So yes, God was present in the Son – it’s called the Incarnation - so He did come Himself.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  But all the cosmos knows that in sending Jesus, His beloved Son to suffer and die for us, God demonstrated a love for us that was only equaled by Christ’s love for Him. It is a love above all loves indescribable and eternal.

 

If you have lost a child, you may relate to this and if not, I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you that God loves us more than we can ever imagine not because of us but simply because it’s Who He is.

 

 

The Scars

 

You know, Jesus, after His resurrection, kept His scars, the piercings in His body.  We know that because of what He said to Thomas who at first doubted His resurrection.

 

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

 

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

 

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”

 

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.”

 

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24-28)

 

Of course, we know He didn’t have to keep those scars.  He chose to do so.  Clearly, we see in the scriptures that after His resurrection, He had the ability to appear any way He chose.  For instance, on the road to Emmaus or on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. 

 

But why?  What’s the purpose or picture?

 

The Old Testament spoke of them:

 

For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
  (Psa 22:16)

 

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.  (Zech 12:10)

 

These and other scriptures pictured that Christ would be crucified but why keep the scars?

 

To answer this, we need to dig some more into the OT law and history.  First, we need to review the story of Passover.  You remember that as the Hebrew people were about to be delivered out of Egyptian bondage and slavery, they were instructed by the Lord through Moses and Aaron to kill a lamb – to each family a lamb – and to place its blood on the two door posts and the cross beam above.

 

Of course, most of us are aware that this preceded the judgement of death of the firstborn that came on all of Egypt and where the blood was placed and the fact that it was from a spotless lamb pictured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary Who saved us all from eternal death.  The blood was placed on the doorposts as a picture of the Cross – where His body was pierced.  Go ahead and read Exodus 12 for the details.

 

Then turn to Exodus 21.

 

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.  If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.  If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.” 

 

“But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”  (Ex 21:2-6)

 

What this shows is that the servant who paid the debt owed to his master, if he chose to remain connected to his family and in service to his master would choose to be pierced  and to make that linkage crystal clear, that piercing took place in the same  place as the Passover lamb’s blood – on the doorpost.  And it was a scar that he kept as a sign of his commitment.

In the same way, Jesus, who said he came in the form of a servant (Lu 22:27), paid our debt of sin. Being pierced for us because He chose to remain connected to us and to forever be in relationship/service to our Father, thus He sits at the right hand of the Almighty.  And He kept those scars as a sign of His commitment, an eternal commitment.  Hallelujah!

 

 

Discipleship

 

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.”

 

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat 7:13,14)

 

We need to understand that this life as a sincere Christian disciple has two parts outlined clearly by Jesus; first, we are saved by faith in Jesus, that is, His death on the cross that paid for our sins, His resurrection from the grave that proved His sacrifice was acceptable to Almighty God and His ascension to the throne of God where He is seated at the right hand.  Second, we then live by faith in Him; following and thus learning and learning and still learning to look to Him at all times – to develop increasing trust in Him in all circumstances.

 

The first part secures our salvation forever; the second results in greater degrees of fruit, greater love, greater relationship… In this, in the Gospel, the rightness of God is revealed as we go from faith to faith.  Paul put it this way, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Rom 1:16,17)

 

The gate is narrow because there is only one way to enter, faith in Christ.  This is not the same gate as the ‘pearly’ gates into the heavenly city, but it does lead to them.  This is the gate of discipleship. The consequent path or way on the other side of this gate is characterized as difficult.  The Greek word literally means to press as in pressing grapes and is a metaphor for trouble, affliction and distress.  It’s difficult because that’s what God uses to shape and develop our eternal character, our glorious resemblance to our Lord Jesus -  “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 by the Spirit of the Lord.”  (2 Cor 3:18)

 

It's a difficult life, a difficult path or way, because it involves denial of selfishness.  “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mk 8:34)

 

It’s on this path that, though it is difficult, teaches us obedience.  If you will follow Jesus, that is believe AND follow, go through the gate and walk the path, you will learn as He learned – “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb 5:8)though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.

 

Now, Jesus said that few would find it.  I encourage you, be one of the few. Enter the gate and walk the path; believe and follow – all by faith.

 

The Joy of Your Lord

 

"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Heb 12:2)

 

What was that joy?  I’ve heard a lot of preaching and theories on it and they sound good but I still want the full assurance of understanding because that joy, THAT joy, gave Christ the will to go through the cross, the shame and rise absolutely victorious over death and the devil.

 

Let’s see if we can learn more from the scriptures about this wonderful thing called joy:

  • Clearly, it’s not the temporary happiness that can come from the human heart; it’s supernatural, entirely spiritual and is a product (fruit) of the Holy Spirit - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  (Gal 5:22,23a) 
  •  If for no other reason, Jesus was filled with this joy because He was filled with God’s Spirit and He claimed it as His own and something He could share - “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  (John 15:11)
  • And you can see that He was not ‘stingy’ with it.  He wanted His joy in His followers to be full – that is, to the max which could mean that it will continue to increase throughout eternity; He even spoke to Father God about it - “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”  (John 17:13)
  • And knowing our propensity to view all His promises as fleshly rather than heavenly, Paul said, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)
  • And this joy is not just for His Bride, the mostly gentile Church, but for Jewish believers as well for we see these promises for them (and presumably all believers) during the millennial reign of Christ –
  • Behold, God is my salvation,
    I will trust and not be afraid;
    ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
    He also has become my salvation.’

          Therefore, with joy you will draw water

          From the wells of salvation.  (Isa 12:2,3)

  • And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
    And come to Zion with singing,
    With everlasting joy on their heads.
    They shall obtain joy and gladness,
    And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
      (Isa 35:10)
  • “For you shall go out with joy,
    And be led out with peace;
    The mountains and the hills
    Shall break forth into singing before you,
    And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
      (Isa 55:12)

Eternal joy is what heaven, God’s presence, is all about.  It’s a wonderful promise.  All He wants is for us to be faithful to Him, to continue believing and thus producing His spiritual fruit in our own lives and the lives of those around us.  Christ spoke a parable and summed it up this way – “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Mat 25:21)

 

You can have this joy now, like a sapling that will grow and grow and grow.  Open your heart to Christ, ask for His forgiveness for your misdeeds and trust in Him.

 

Never Stop Trusting

 

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom 8:38,39)

 

This verse points out that there are many entities engaged in attempting to “separate us from the love of God” so it behooves us to understand this term separate.  It means to depart as when a man or woman departs from their spouse.  Of course, there’s only one reason anyone would depart from the perfect loving spouse Jesus, that’s doubting His love. 

 

You see, this potential departing or separation is not a matter of distance but a matter of relationship.  To get mankind to doubt God and specifically to doubt His love has been the goal of Satan and all these evil entities ever since man was created.  And he knows that until Jesus, it was an effective weapon against God’s children.  Apart from the power of faith and trust given by the Holy Spirit, no one can honestly believe that God loves them. 

 

Before salvation, all we can see is our sin, our flesh, and it stinks.

 

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

 

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

 

And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

 

So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”  (Lu 5:4-8)

 

It’s evident that Peter typified this struggle from here in the beginning of his relationship with Christ all the way to the shores of Galilee after the resurrection.  (See John 21)

 

But God’s love for you is because of Christ and when you are saved, you are IN Christ.  God no longer regards your sin, your failures.  They are paid for in full and His love is unwavering; it’s eternal. 

 

So when you fail, and you will fail; you will fall short, don’t listen to the enemy’s sniveling lies that you’ve alienated God or that He’s disappointed in you because you’re just so bad.  He wants only to get you to doubt God’s love for you.  Don’t you buy it!  Even when you blow it.  Confess your failure, your sin, change your mind, your direction (i.e. repent) and focus on God’s grace, goodness, and promise of forgiveness.  Christ is totally committed to you!

 

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)  and..

 

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  (John 6:37)

 

 

 

At Home

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  (Rom 8:28-30)

 

“Now here God is speaking of things concerning me that are not yet fulfilled. For you do not yet see the glorified Chuck. I am not yet in my glorified state. That is a yet future experience that I am to have. But yet, God puts it in the past tense, which to me is quite interesting. But even as He spoke to Abraham concerning his seed in the past tense, because He knew that Abraham was going to have a son whom He did foreknow. And because God has the foreknowledge, He can speak as Paul said of things as existing even though as yet they do not exist, because He knows they are going to exist. And so God speaks, and this is what thrills me, He speaks of my being glorified, because God knows He is going to do it. He is going to complete that work in me. He which has begun a good work in me shall surely continue to perform it. And so I rest in the fact that God has already spoken in the past tense of my future state of glorified together with Jesus Christ. I have got it made.” – Chuck Smith

 

I love what Chuck said here, but I’ll take it a step further – I’ll suggest that not only does God have foreknowledge to speak of seemingly future events in the past tense but in the eternal realm, time exists in a different fashion – it’s a “heavenly thing” that Jesus gave Nicodemus a taste of when he told him, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”  (John 3:12,13)

 

In other words, I don’t think Romans 8:28 – 30 speaks of our predestination, our call, our justification and our glorification in the past tense only because of His foreknowledge but because sometime “before time began” (see 2 Tim 1:9) He accomplished it and in heaven it is settled; somehow, it’s actually done.  Of course, in this life, in our realm of time and space, He is always at work in us “to complete” what he has begun (see Phi 1:6).

 

Sir Isaac Newton said of God, “He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity.” God is the one “who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15, nkjv). Creatures inhabit time. Jesus, as the God-man, inhabits both. – C.S. Lewis Institute

 

 Jesus said concerning the believer, “My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).  Now one author wrote that this is indicative of the heavenly city descending out of heaven and remaining with mankind on the new earth.  That’s a nice thought but this verse specifies an individual believer, not the whole planet. I recall that Jesus also said, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:19,20) and…

 

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”  (John 17:20-23)

 

This oneness, this unity with Christ and the Father and the Spirit, this is our home and it’s right now if you’re born again.  You see, when you are born again, you are thenceforth a spiritual creature – a new creation, and your home is of course, a spiritual home.  Did you get that?  When you are born again, you are IN God and He is IN you – it’s an eternal unity, a home unconstrained by time or space – eternal and infinite just as God.

Will you have a physical body?  Yes, Christ did after He rose from the grave, but it was a spiritual body as well.  Remember, we will be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

 

We have so much to be thankful for now and so much to look forward to as well, forever!

 

 

Dead Body Walking, Live Spirit Waiting

 

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  (Rom 8:6-10)

 

Man classifies death as the separation of man's consciousness from his body.  But the Bible says that if your consciousness is separated from God, that is, you don't have a real consciousness of God, (and Paul goes even further by saying that this condition is actual enmity against God) then of course you are truly dead. The mind of the flesh is death, because it is a consciousness that being separated from God is absorbed simply with the things of the body and its needs.

 

And let’s take this a step further – he writes “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit…” That is, you, the real you, your soul, is not contained by your body, not when you’re born again, but is rather in the Holy Spirit such that when the flesh gives up and dies, you, being in the Spirit are instantly in the ‘face to face’ presence of God.   Further, when you are in the Spirit, the Spirit is also in you – take your time to wrap your mind around that.  Your spiritual ‘container’, if you would, the Spirit of God simply waits for that sin-filled disaster called your flesh to kick off. 

 

I know first hand what it’s like to hold the hand of someone you love when physical death comes and I can tell you, you know instantly when they are gone, finally free.  They are no longer in that body but fully alive.

 

And notice how he concludes – the body is dead, present tense, because of sin, but the Spirit, which holds you, is living.  In fact, it is itself life.  And that’s present tense also.  How does it feel to be in life?

 

So don’t get all bummed out by your tendency to stumble and err.  It’s that dead flesh.  As Paul wrote, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind (soul) I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Rom 7:25)  Your salvation is present tense!

 

 

One Perfect Man

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?  

 

Of course, there’s an answer well worded and ‘tuned’ by knowledgeable theologians that many if not most believers may agree on but not everyone.  Then there’s an answer that sounds like it was developed for a Christian men’s or women’s retreat – simple and well-polished.  Then there’s the answer you’d get from a street corner philosopher – really off but sounds interesting.  Many answers, many points of view.

 

Each denomination or movement has its own version of the answer – what to believe, how to behave.  Someone looking for the answer could get really confused. 

 

To better understand the truth of the matter, we need to go back to the beginning to establish a foundation for it.  Beginning in Genesis, scripture tells us that the first man, Adam, a perfect man, in that he was originally sinless, rebelled against God’s command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Now, Eve, his spouse indeed ate first but she was deceived by the serpent.  Adam did not have that excuse.  He chose on his own.

 

When he did that, sin along with its wages - death, entered into the human experience, into our most  basic element, our genome if you would.  It became a fundamental part of our fleshly existence just as it is with the devil.  With that came a shift in our allegiance or subservience.  Satan then moved and motivated mankind spiritually and physically.  And, because God said we would die if we ate that fruit, that’s exactly what has since transpired ever since until another perfect Man showed up, Jesus Christ. 

 

Consequently, He changed everything.  The Bible records:

 

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life;” (John 3:36)

 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)

 

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

 

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:4)

 

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” (1 John 5:1)

 

As you can see from these and many other verses, belief in Christ is the key to eternal life.  So being a Christian is first and foremost a matter of sincere belief.  However, as we all know, someone can say they believe but in sincerity, they don’t.  So, we look to other verses which say:

 

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:38)

 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also;” (John 14:12)

 

“But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22,23)

 

From these and many other verses, we see that true belief leads to outward evidence of that belief.

 

OK, but why Jesus?  Why not belief in Moses or Elijah or David or Peter or John or anyone else?  The answer is quite simple actually.  You see, the debt or the wages of that original sin was initiated by one perfect man, Adam.  The consequences of that was an ensuing immeasurable weight of countless sins, iniquities and trespasses by the whole human race.  This was a debt or penalty no human could pay off because no human after Adam was sinless – no one since that time has ever had the base requirement of perfection, of sinlessness.

 

Now, God knew this from before the beginning of time and so at the appointed time God came in the form of a man – the God-Man, Jesus Christ.  He was entirely perfect and sinless and He paid the debt owed for all our sin, all our rebellion against God, for all time.  Too good to believe?  No, indeed belief based on trust or faith in God’s Son, faith in His goodness, His pure and unwavering character – that’s it. 

 

One perfect Man showed up from heaven and our devotion, our faith in Him and what that produces in our lives is what makes us Christian.

 

 

 

Thoughts Along a Shady Country Lane

 

No words can sufficiently laud the infinite beauty, glory, power, majesty of Almighty God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Perfect in unity, perfect good, perfect wisdom, perfect plans, perfect perspective.  Amazing mercy, love, kindness, …

 

And when we see Him, we shall be like Him for we shall behold Him as He is (1 John 3:2)

 

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)  …if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

 

He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1John 2:10) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:3)

 

Something to understand here.  This is not encouraging a self-improvement program. No sprinkling of hyssop, no ten steps to purity.  The translation is accurate but it makes all the difference how you read it. This is not an if then statement; it is not a action that is initiated by the believer driven by his/her hope.  Rather, it is the hope itself that purifies the believer. 

 

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Heb 6:19) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Pet 1:3)

 

Isn’t He Wonderful!!

 

 

The Ugly 'P'

 

There’s this great group of guys I meet with to talk about the things we’re learning from the Lord.  A few days ago, we got on the topic of pride and I mentioned C S Lewis’ statement on it:

“The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility...According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Well, one of the guys who is especially frank and honest (which I love) blurted out, “But God gave me pride and I can’t get rid of it.” And if we consider what the Bible has to say concerning this, you can understand his frustration:

 

Therefore, pride serves as their necklace;

Violence covers them like a garment. (Psa 73:6)

                Lesson: Pride is associated with violence

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;

Pride and arrogance and the evil way

And the perverse mouth I hate. (Pro 8:13)

                Lesson: If we reverence the Lord, we will hate pride

When pride comes, then comes shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.
(Pro 11:2)

                Lesson: Pride leads to shame

Pride goes before destruction,

And a haughty spirit before a fall. (Pro 16:18)

                Lesson: Pride precedes destruction

A man's pride will bring him low,
But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
(Pro 29:23)

                Lesson: Pride brings dishonor

The pride of your heart has deceived you, (Oba 1:3)

                Lesson: Pride leads to self-deception

…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Tim 3:6)

                Lesson: Pride caused the fall into condemnation of Satan

“when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; (Deut 8:14)

                Lesson: Pride will cause you to forget the Lord

“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor;
I cast you to the ground,
I laid you before kings,
That they might gaze at you.
(Eze 28:17)

                Lesson: God cast Satan to the ground because of pride

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!

For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
(Isa 14:12-15)

                Lesson: Pride deceived Satan into thinking he was greater than he was and led to his downfall

Though the LORD is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar.
  (Psa 138:6)

                Lesson: God distances Himself from the prideful

Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD;

Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.  (Pro 16:5)

                Lesson: A prideful heart is an abomination

Hear and give ear:
Do not be proud,
For the LORD has spoken.
(Jer 13:15)

                Lesson: The prideful don’t hear the Lord

Behold the proud,

His soul is not upright in him;

But the just shall live by his faith. (Hab 2:4)

                Lesson: The prideful are not upright

So now we call the proud blessed,

For those who do wickedness are raised up;

They even tempt God and go free. (Mal 3:15)

                Lesson: This is when we just look at the flesh, the outward appearance

“God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the humble.” (Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5)

                Lesson: Grace goes to the humble

 

So why does God save us and then still leave us with this and other ugly flesh characteristics to deal with?  The Apostle Paul agonized, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24) and said, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Rom 7:19)

 

Well, I’ll suggest that it has to do with helping us to grow in trust of God’s grace and learning to walk humbly.  Let me illustrate:

 

The Bible says that the firmament, that is nature, shows His handiwork (Psa 19:1). This is clearly evident in its beauty, its majesty and its intricacy, but also in the spiritual lessons God displays if we’ll pay attention.

 

In nature, there’s a wonderful parallel to observe – the lowly caterpillar. Here he goes, inching slowly towards a tasty leaf. And when he finally gets there, he just eats and eats – feeding himself seems to be the only goal in his pitifully limited life. From one leaf-binge to another, he slowly creeps.

But then, suddenly, he gets it into his little caterpillar mind that there’s more to life than chlorophyll and he puts himself in a real predicament – dangling by a thread so to speak. You see, he realizes he’s ‘out on a limb’ and it’s time to ‘turn over a new leaf’, to ‘branch out’ (sorry). Anyway, he takes this whole new course, this leap of faith – and there’s a radical change.

 

Yet to those watching, it’s a conundrum, a mystery, a seeming blunder because he's now living in a chrysalis – a very ‘limited’ life in the world’s eyes – no leaf parties, no upward mobility. I mean, life is over, right?

 

Still, while his fat-cat(erpillar) buddies scorn or laugh or scratch their little caterpillar heads, a metamorphosis is taking place – a dramatic transformation. Within that shell, a whole new creature is being formed (2Cor 5:17). And when the time is right, a struggle begins inside.

 

At first, the shell – what’s left of the old caterpillar resists. But then, there’s a crack … then another. Slowly, and with tremendous effort, this beautiful new creature emerges – fighting and struggling, then resting, then fighting and struggling. You almost feel sorry for him.

 

Finally, as he breaks free of the old caterpillar shell, he spreads forth his beautiful new wings. Drinking in the sunlight of a new world, he flies over the old world of leaves and twigs. On the breath of God’s Spirit, so to speak, in the light of His Son, he now looks for flowers – a whole new diet, a new life, a new freedom – completely unimaginable to the old caterpillar. But the struggle to emerge was very important.

 

A scientist studying this phenomenon cut open the chrysalis just as the butterfly began to emerge, and guess what happened? Instead of helping it, he actually impaired its ability to fly. He found that in the course of the struggle, the breaking loose (that is, dealing with the old caterpillar), the veins of the new butterfly’s wings were filled with the fluid that causes them to stiffen and expand. No struggle, no flight – a new creature but no lift-off.

 

And so, it is with us who believe in Christ. Upon getting saved, we indeed change. Christ is in us and we are in Christ!  Though the world perceives us as ‘constrained’, we are constrained by love (2 Cor 5:14) and an inward transformation now begins. As we grow in the Lord, we start to sense the hardness of the old man and the closer we come, by relationship, to the Lord, the more we detest its influence. We want to be free from it.

 

But the struggle is vital for in it we learn to make good choices – to resist evil and to cling to good and when we fail, to confess it to the Lord and trust in His promises – to walk humbly with Him, sharing His ‘yoke’ (see Mat 11:29). Thus, our eternal character is shaped. We are humbled by the honest assessment of our old flesh, and we are strengthened as the living waters of God’s Spirit course through our spiritual ‘veins’, preparing us to fly. And fly we will!

 

So, don’t be discouraged when the ‘old man’ rears its ugly head. Fight the good fight (1 Tim 6:12, 2 Tim 4:7). You will emerge one day soon into a whole new world with a new body, a new perspective, a new life – that for which you were born!

 

 

God of Peace - Part 2

 

I think we fail to recognize the importance God places upon peace.  Oh, peace between nations – sure; peace between individuals – naturally.  But the big one, the most critical one, is peace with God Himself.  

 

Now, Jesus shed some light on this when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)  

That is, He distinguished between the peace the world gives and the peace He gives.

 

You see, worldly peace can be broken in a day and often is.  The peace between nations and people is tenuous at best.  It doesn’t last because the people who contrive it are themselves broken. 

 

But Christ’s peace, that which we have through the Prince of Peace, is unbreakable because it is based upon His righteousness.  In fact, the Psalmist tells us, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psa 85:10)

 

And what’s more, the quality of His peace is far greater than the world’s:

His peace brings a true sense of safety – “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psa 4:8)

 

His peace brings a wonderful sense of contentment – “And you will go to thy fathers in peace; you will be buried in a good old age.” (Gen 15:15)

 

Christ’s peace also means relationship and unity with God Almighty – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Ro 5:1)

 

In fact, much of the OT law was dedicated to expounding on the Peace Offering (see Leviticus) which was also called the Fellowship Offering because it was the only offering that included the worshiper partaking of the sacrifice along with the priests.  It symbolized and celebrated the fellowship God desires with us when sins have been atoned for.

 

You see Christ’s peace that He gives freely to us is actually code for unity with the Father.  And He loves this unity so much, the scriptures call Him the “God of Peace” five times. Far more than any other descriptor. 

 

You can also think of peace as the polar opposite of evil, just as light and darkness are opposites – “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa 45:7)

 

And as God thinks on you, He looks forward to being united with you – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  (Jer 29:11)

 

So of course, Jesus wanted to give us this peace, His peace, not the world’s. But speaking of the world, the Psalmist wrote, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  (Psa 37:11)  

 

Yes, abundant peace, because – “Of the increase of his (Christ’s) government and peace there shall be no end…” Isa 9:6  Praise God!

 

The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Num 6:26

 

 

God of Peace - Part 1

 

Enormous winds had erupted suddenly upon the sea and in a matter of minutes the once calm water became  a roiling vortex of deadly waves breaking over every side of the ship.  The men on board were losing their minds in fear for their lives.  They were convinced they would not survive this raging storm. Screaming, yelling, bailing wildly; the waves were winning.  It was like they were under some supernatural attack and they were freaking out.

 

All except one man, lying on a pillow in the stern, sleeping. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

 

Only a few minutes previously, peace didn’t mean much to them.  They probably didn’t even think about it.  But when storms rage around you, storms of any kind, peace suddenly becomes critically important and valued highly, really highly.  It’s true for all of us.

 

Of course, the peace that is opposite to the raging storm is easy for us to comprehend but there is a much more needful peace that most people do not sense or understand.  I’ll try to explain.

 

When mankind first sinned, he in effect rebelled against God and unwittingly took the side of Satan in his cosmic battle against the Most High.  Yes, good and evil are at war all the time.  And mankind, ever since Eden, has been on the losing side, fighting against the God and Father who loves us. 

 

Now Jesus came to redeem our souls and thus resolve the conflict between us and the Almighty. Most people don’t even know they’ve been in conflict along with Satan, against God. Many would say, “I don’t even know if I believe in God.”  Which is exactly the point.

 

You see, it’s a spiritual war which manifests itself in our world through, disbelief, and the consequences of Satan’s weapon – sin.  Hatred, pride, lust, deceit, and so on that lead to conflicts of all sorts and of course, war.  But Christ’s sacrifice paid the debt we all owed for all time and settled the issue for those who believe.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”  (Ro 5:1)

 

You see, calming the storm on Galilee was a visual aid for all of us of His peace.  In Him we have this peace, an eternal peace that cannot be disrupted or destroyed.  Jesus told us, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (Jn 16:33)

 

Yes, you’ll have peace with God but now you will get tribulation from the dark side – the world, and of course, Satan.  But there’s reason for joy because Jesus vanquished evil and His peace is forever.  He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (Jn 14:27)“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 

If you’re in this battle, if you’ve recognized the raging storm, then you value the peace that comes only from the God of peace.  If you’re blind to the battle, you’re living on death row blind to your prison and deaf to the screams of the gallows, following your doomed commander into hell. 

 

Wake up and walk in the Light where rightness and peace are in perfect harmony. In Christ - Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.  (Psa 85:10)

 

 

Know God

 

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  (John 17:3)

 

Now Jesus never told us that there are seven steps to eternal life or a minimum donation needed or a portion of the Law that we must follow or some specific traditions.  It’s recorded in the New Testament that several times people approached Him asking, “What good deed must I do?” or “What do I have to do?” because our first reaction to the offer of eternal life is that we think we have to earn or merit it somehow; and sadly, even after having surrendered our will, our heart to Christ, we often get caught up in trying to be holy or righteous by embracing a personal moral code (based on scripture of course) – we still don’t get it. 

 

Christianity is NOT a self-improvement program.

 

Jesus was blunt, and to the point about eternal life – you simply have to KNOW father God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  So, this begs the question, how does one know God?  Is there a special phrase to say or a church membership or some tests to pass?

 

Think about it.  How do you know, really know anyone?  We’re not talking about a casual acquaintance like your buddy that you wave to once in a while.  This isn’t a trick question.  Who do you really know?  I mean, who knows you, knows how you think, what’s important to you, all your ‘secrets’?  Many if not most of you are thinking, ‘I’m not sure I know anyone quite that well, at least not since I grew up.’  That‘s usually because most if not all of the people we know in life are not unconditionally trusted.

 

But God can be trusted unconditionally and the first step in that trust relationship is accepting the fact that He sent His only begotten Son to take the pain, guilt and punishment for all, yep, ALL our misdeeds.  When you truly accept and believe that, you’ve opened the door to knowing God and knowing Jesus.  Just as you would expect, knowing comes from spending time in relationship, time spent listening to Him, talking with Him, doing what He says in His word both written and spoken.  Knowing comes when you finally realize that He’s IN you and you exist IN Him.  Knowing comes from many, many, many hours of sincere prayer.

 

If you’ve ever been under fire with your squad or pounded by an IED or spent weeks in rehab you begin to know those closest to you much better than your other buddies.  And this is good news because knowing happens pretty naturally when the stage is set for it.  The stage being set for knowing God is by believing what He did for you on Calvary’s cross.  Knowing starts with believing, it’s developed by trusting and obeying.

 

And the consequence of knowing God, knowing Jesus – that’s eternal life, right now, present tense.  Jesus didn’t say “This will be eternal life…”  He said “This IS eternal life…

 

 

THE Promise

 

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;  in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (or time began, or times eternal); (Tit 1:1,2)

 

Now, eternal life is referred to in the scriptures as a gift (Rom 6:23) as an inheritance (Mark 10:17) and here as a hope and as a promise.  The term eternal life is a new testament thing but in the old testament we find everlasting life (Dan 12:2) or live forever (Gen 3:22) or life evermore (Psa 133:3) and a few other terms.

 

But, the interest I have in our verse is that it says that God promised it before the world or time began.  This is intriguing because it begs the question – who did he promise it to?  The angels and of course the Godhead are already eternal beings so I suppose (and yes, I know that’s not a very good thing to do) He was making a future promise or commitment to mankind.

 

Clearly, man was not created yet but what this demonstrates is God’s foreknowledge and graciousness.  It is reasonable to postulate that this wonderful promise was made before He created the physical cosmos which exists in the realm of time and space.  It is also reasonable to conclude that since this promise is recorded in our scriptures, that God’s intended recipients of eternal life is mankind.

 

Now, Jesus told us, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3) And, “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.”  (John 14:6)  In other words, eternal life means you must know God and you can only know God, that is come to Him, through Jesus.

 

All that is to say that it seems that not only did God plan to give mankind eternal life before time began  but He also knew before time began how He would deliver this gracious gift.  In fact, in Christ’s revelation, it speaks of, “…the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8)

 

That is, because eternal life was promised before “times eternal”, this whole drama we mistakenly call life is really the setting for God to demonstrate to all creation who He is – His ability, His trustworthiness, His desire to bless, His goodness and rightness, His faithful promise.  You see, all Satan’s toilet bowl propaganda will ultimately be shown to be utter lies and one day they will be gone forever.

 

 

Rest

 

Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and so, the man became a living being (soul).  (Gen 2:7)

 

In the beginning, God made man in His image and so, among other things, he was triune like the Lord.  The dust, which became flesh, the breath or Spirit of God which became man’s spiritual link to God and the consequent soul of man which came about from the first two. 

 

Then when man sinned, and his own spirit died; his sinful flesh ruled his soul - he became a prisoner of sin.  However, by being born again through faith in the risen Christ, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence once again in men and women and we are freed from the prison of sin.

 

There remains though throughout our lives a new dynamic – a conflict:

 

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  (Gal 5:17)

 

This battle is for influence over the freed soul of man.  The good news is that Christ paid the price for all sin and the flesh is doomed to die.  But in this life, there is a consequent tension of conflict that can give the soul unrest.  Paul expressed it this way:

 

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to             do good.

 

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.

 

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

 

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of                death?

 

I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  (Rom 7:21-25)

 

And so, like Paul, as we seek to know, to follow and to serve our Lord, this tension of the soul can result in a sense of “wretchedness” and/or an elation of thankful confidence in Jesus.  That latter sense is a rest, not for the body necessarily, but for the soul.  That rest is what we learn from ‘plowing’ with Jesus.  Notice I did not say plowing (ministering, or laboring) for Jesus.  Big difference. 

 

When we are yoked with Him, plowing with Him, side by side, we learn this heavenly rest of complete confidence in Him. 

 

We learn to do it all just as He does – with lowliness, gentleness and true humility.

 

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will                give you rest.

 

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.  (Mat 11:28-30)

 

When we fail, when we sin, that sense of wretchedness is the natural outcome because we are inhabited by the divine Spirit of God but that wretchedness is useful.  Now Satan wants to use it to get us to stop plowing because of prideful shame but God will use it to remind us to abide in Christ’s gentle and lowly heart knowing our only hope is in him – He will deliver us from “this body of death”. 

 

That’s where we find rest for our souls.  Eternal rest.  Hallelujah!

 

The Twin

 

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”   (John 20:28)

 

Why did this verse hit me so hard this morning?  I’ve read it many hundreds of times before but this time it just grabbed me.  I teared up. 

Jesus told Thomas to stop doubting and believe.  You see, just after His resurrection Christ miraculously rose from the dead and appeared to the ten disciples who were apparently hiding behind closed doors.  But Thomas wasn’t there.  The only one not present and we don’t know why.  Perhaps he was depressed or confused.  None of the disciples believed Mary when she told them of meeting the risen Lord, so Thomas wasn’t alone in his doubting.

 

But there was something more to it, I think.  Whether or not the other disciples had believed Mary, they were ecstatic and told Thomas joyfully, “We have seen the Lord.” So, he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  (John 20:25)  This wasn’t just disbelief, it was a defiant posture, seemingly rooted in a hurting heart.

Now, everyone among them had been hurt; they all loved Jesus. So why did Thomas act the way he did.  Earlier, he had voiced his devotion - Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”  (John 11:16) 

 

Like Peter, it seems that Thomas was a passionate man, passionate in devotion, passionate in bitterness.  So, for Jesus to show up to everyone EXCEPT him, it may be that he was also passionate in disappointment. 

Have you ever been forsaken, left alone?  When people do that to us, we hurt.  When people we have loved do that, we hurt profoundly.  But when our Lord appears to have done that… that’s when our hearts can be crushed, and it could be that this kind of pain was weighing on Thomas.  Nevertheless, he desperately desired to be restored in his heart.

 

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 

 

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.”

 

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

 

His sudden realization of truth made Thomas the first person to explicitly acknowledge Jesus’ divinity.  And, church history tells us that Thomas went on to be an absolutely devoted apostle, carrying the Gospel as far as India and dying a martyr’s death.  So with Thomas, maybe you relate to his pain and his passion.  Jesus does, and so do I.

 

In One Another

 

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'?”  (John 14:9)

 

“At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”   (John 14:20)

 

“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”  (John 17:21)

 

“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”  (John 17:23)

 

The four verses above characterize the tone of what Jesus emphasized to His disciples as He headed to the cross.  During this time, it seems that His heart was deeply concerned that they would understand the oneness He came to impart to us from God the Father.

 

Many if not most believers have never recognized this, just like Philip, that if you are truly born anew, Christ is IN YOU and YOU are IN CHRIST via the presence of His Holy Spirit.  You’re not just believing in Him, you actually are living in Him and He in you. 

 

That disgusting ‘body of death’ that you’re dragging around is indeed dead because of sin.  It’s filled with it.  But YOU, the born anew you is already alive in Christ.   You’re in that body to learn to walk humbly, aware of your faults, to learn to truly trust in God’s word, His love, grace and mercy, and to prepare you to appreciate the new body Christ will give you at His revealing.  Paul wrote that it is, “…God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (or down payment).”  (2 Cor 1:22)

 

Oneness, perfect or complete unity.  Not a loss of identity but rather a fuller identity – kind of like when you’re in a  really good marital relationship – a fuller identity, just as with Christ and the church.  Ultimately, it will be a oneness that brings the fullest identity, all the parts living together perfectly again in our Creator.

 

“that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”  (Eph 1:10)

 

 

Several Amazing Things

 

Seventy weeks (sevens) are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.” 
(Dan 9:24 KJV)

 

“So, you are to know and have insight that from the going out of a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (i.e. 69); it will be restored and rebuilt, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

 

“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are decreed.

 

“And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will make sacrifice and grain offering cease; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”  (Dan 9:25-27 LSB)

 

In this passage, the word translated as ‘weeks’ is literally ‘sevens’ so the prophecy starts with a declaration that 70 sevens have been determined or pre-established and in the first 69 sevens several awesome things will be accomplished.

 

First, he says, “To finish the transgression” or literally, the rebellion or break away. You see, mankind broke away from God back in the Garden of Eden and the Lord said that within this period, the rift would be healed – mankind (including the Jewish people) would be reconciled with our loving creator—the revolt ended, the rift healed.

 

But for this to happen, the next promised occurrence had to take place – “To make an end of sins” or literally offences and their penalties. All of man’s offenses before a just and holy God had to be paid for – all past, present and future offences. And furthermore, the slate had to be wiped clean so the true reconciliation of man with God could take place.

 

That is, not only would all offences and their penalties be satisfied but it would be as if they never occurred in the first place – “to make reconciliation for iniquity.”

 

Then he added the kicker – not only would the rift be bridged, offences and penalties ended, and reconciliation produced, but then, a perfect future is guaranteed, for he said that “everlasting righteousness” would be brought in – eternal rightness in everyone and everything! Wow!

 

Now, there was a realization of these things when Jesus went to the cross, died for our sins and then rose again.  However, there will be a second fuller realization at the conclusion of the church age, that is at the rapture.  Then there will be a third even fuller realization when “all Israel will be saved” upon Christ’s second coming.  And finally, there will be a final and complete realization after the millennium when God makes all things new.

 

So, what about when he said that vision and prophecy would be sealed or locked up and that the Most Holy would be anointed

 

Well, the last prophecy in the Bible chronologically is the entire book of Revelation.  At the conclusion it says, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”  (Rev 22:18, 19) 

 

Therefore, it is clear that the book was sealed and locked – nothing to be added and nothing to be taken away and since it is mostly about the Jewish people and the holy city (the NEW Jerusalem) just as in Dan 9:24, it seems that the verses in Revelation fulfills that part of Daniel’s prophecy.

 

Finally, throughout scripture, some things are described as holy and some even as most holy but only one thing is termed “the Most Holy” and that is the Holy of Holies – the most inner sanctum of the temple where the High Priest would enter just once a year.  This is how the LSB version of the Bible translates “the Most Holy”.  

 

It contained the Ark of the Covenant underneath the Mercy Seat, both of which are perfect representations of Jesus.  So how was the Most Holy anointed? The earthly was anointed yearly with sacrificial blood of bulls and goats but the reason the prophecy is special is because the heavenly ‘Holy of Holies’ or THE Most Holy was once and for all time anointed with the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  (Heb 9:12)

 

A final note: a careful study of Dan 9:24 – 27 reveals that Christ rode into Jerusalem on the donkey’s back after 69 of the 70 sevens TO THE DAY. 

The 70th seven is the up coming seven year tribulation.  God’s Word is perfect and trustworthy!

 

 

Curling With Faith

 

You know, it may be that Peter recalled needing a helping hand.   Here’s the story:

 

And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

 

So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

 

But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

 

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

 

Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Mat 14:26 – 33)

 

Eager to display his faith in the Lord, Peter stepped out of that boat and indeed walked on the water but then he saw the wind and waves and fear stifled his faith.  He knew he didn’t have the spiritual strength he needed and he began to sink.  There was  no way for him to rise up himself.  In mercy, Jesus responded to his desperate need, reached out, caught his hand and lifted him up.  Like a one-arm curl.

 

Sometime later, after Jesus Himself rose up from the grave, Peter and John witnessed another certain man in desperate need of help.  He had been sinking under the waves of brokenness his whole life and now sat or laid, at the main gate of the temple in Jerusalem.  There were people everywhere, but few if any paid any heed to his pitiful plight.  He had been born lame.

The man saw the two disciples and asked for a coin or two.  He never expected what he got:

 

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

 

And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.

 

And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”

 

So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

 

And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

 

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.  (Acts 3:1-8)

 

Now, Peter was an ‘expressive’ guy – he ran past John into Christ’s empty tomb; he jumped into the sea to meet Jesus on the shore after the resurrection; he felt things deeply.  He was just wired like that.  So it’s easy for me to think of him ‘leaping and praising God’ in his heart right along with this healed beggar.  He absolutely knew the power of God and with this he had experienced it ‘on both ends’ so to speak.

 

And in that power, seeing the amazed crowds gathering, he spoke. 

So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” 

 

“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” 

 

“And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”  (Acts 3:12 – 16)

 

He made it clear right up front that he didn’t heal the lame man, it was faith in the name of Christ – the one who lifted Peter up lifted the beggar up too. Faith in Him will lift you up as well.

 

 

Try or Trust

 

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:2,3)

 

To “be like Him” is indeed a glorious promise for every sincere Christian.  But the second part of this verse can be for some a mystery.  That is, just how do we purify ourselves just as He is pure. Misunderstanding this led some desperate folks in the Middle Ages to beat themselves supposedly into submission to the spirit.  They tried very hard to be pure in this way even if they had to ‘help God out’.  If you’ve studied church history, you may recall that even Martin Luther got caught in this practice.

 

Now, purifying means cleansing and refers to the spiritual cleansing of the heart by faith.  When the early church leaders were concerned about all the Gentiles coming into the assembly, Peter stood to address them and reminded them that God “…made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”  (Acts 15:9) And James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

 

Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  (Jam 4:8) In other words, do not doubt. Have unwavering faith.

So, purification, for the Christian, is a matter of faith.  And then, there’s the notion of sanctification which is closely related. Fundamentally, this latter term means to set apart to special (usually "godly") use; in the OT it especially pertained in this way to the priests or items in the temple.  For example: 

 

· Leviticus 21:6-8 "They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord's food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore, they shall be holy. You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy."

 

In the New Testament - the word sanctify is the verb form of the word for "holy"; "to make holy" gives the idea; something that is "holy" is set apart from common use; it is the idea of becoming more like God who is holy.  For example:

 

· Revelation 4:8  "And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"

 

Now, sanctification is a wonderful principle but like purification, it can be misunderstood. Let me explain:

 

The Bible speaks of sanctification in three ways, and it is important you know which way it is being spoken of in which passage! These have been described as past, present and future sanctification or as  initial, progressive and ultimate sanctification or other terms like these.

 

Sanctification has a definite beginning the moment someone has been born anew in Christ. You can refer to:

 

· Acts 20:32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

 

· 1 Corinthians 6:11 "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

 

Next, sanctification increases as we mature in our Christian life.  You can refer to:

 

· Romans 6:6,7, 11-14 "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for [weapons of] righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you.

 

· John 17:17-19 "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."

 

· 1 Peter 1:13-16 "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

 

· 2 Corinthians 3: 18 "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

 

Next, sanctification is never complete in this life.

 

Sanctification of our souls is complete at death. Refer to the following:

 

·Though God sees only His Son in us, we experience the problem of sin through our life. It’s like the "hangover" of our fallenness: 1 John 1:8 "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

· Yet, at death our souls are instantly in heaven with "the spirits of the righteous [people] made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23).

 

· Our souls are fully sanctified in the presence of God since nothing unclean (not even mostly clean) can ever stand before Him (see Revelation 21:27).

Sanctification of our bodies takes place at the Lord's Return.

 

· Philippians 3:20-21 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

 

· At His coming, every Christian will be given their resurrection body that shall fully "bear the image of the man of heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:49).

 

Now, here’s the stumbling many believers need to understand.

 

God (especially the Holy Spirit) is the one who sanctifies us.

 

· 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it."

 

· Ephesians 5:25-27 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."

 

Unfortunately, many of us think that as with the Jews trying to keep the Law, the onus of sanctification falls on us and so we end up trying to be holy and failing and trying again and again and again… The point of the Sermon on the Mount was that we can’t make ourselves holy.  Some Christians even walk away from the faith because they think they have to be good enough, holy enough and they just keep failing.

 

Listen, you cannot be good enough, holy enough, perfectly sanctified by your own efforts.  The good news is that God’s got you.  If you are born again, Christ is in you and His Spirit will accomplish all that He has for you.  Refer again to 1 Thes 5:23, 24.

 

Having said that, we are given commands that we must heed in order to continue the sanctification process in this life.  Refer to:

 

· 1 Thessalonians 4:3 "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality."

 

· Romans 6:19 "I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification."

 

· Romans 6:22 "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."

 

However, understand that your initial, progressive and ultimate sanctification is all the work of the Spirit of God – call on the Lord and trust Him.  Don’t try, but rather trust.

 

(Thanks to Grace Fellowship Church for some of this.)

 

Courage in the Fire

Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. (Dan 3:1)

God used the Babylonian empire as a tool of judgement upon the Hebrew nation. For many years the people of Judah had turned their backs on their Creator. They no longer worshipped Him, preferring the gods of the nations around them. They sacrificed their own children to achieve greater pleasure. Their military had become pathetic in the face of their enemies.

The nobility shown and grandeur built by David, Solomon and their ‘founding fathers’ was long gone. The streets were filled with vile displays and crime was rampant. Prophets speaking for God like Jeremiah and Isaiah and others had warned them for generations to repent, but each generation became more self-righteous and arrogant.

Into this cesspool came Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. They utterly destroyed Jerusalem, robbed the temple treasury and carried captive the children of the elite to be servants in their own realm. Among them, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who became servants and advisors in the king’s service.

At one point, as we read about it in Daniel chapter two, they were able to save the lives of all the king’s wise men by revealing and interpreting his extremely troubling dream. Though the king received the message of his prophetic dream as given by Daniel, he later seems to have believed he could pridefully make his own destiny and symbolically built this enormous gold, all gold, statue and set it up in Dura – a statue symbolizing him and his eternal kingdom.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they were standing before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (v2,3)

Of course, setting up this image and then gathering everyone to the dedication is a foretelling of what the satanic antichrist will do pretty soon during the Tribulation where everyone must worship him (who is called ‘the beast’) and his own image or else be killed.

 

Then the herald loudly called out: “To you it is said, O peoples, nations, and men of every tongue, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” (v4-6)

A German philosopher is known for saying, “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” And I do believe that at least as far as the Jewish people are concerned, that’s a major reason this story is in our Bible. The Tribulation time will be a fiery trial for them in particular but God will deliver those who turn to Him. The Bible says,

“And I will bring the third part (of the Jews) through the fire (of the Tribulation)

And refine them as silver is refined

And test them as gold is tested.

They will call on My name,

And I will answer them;

I will say, ‘They are My people,'

And they will say, ‘Yahweh is my God.'” (Zech 13:9)

Anyway, our story continues, Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and men of every tongue fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. (v7)

No one wanted to get burned so they all capitulated. Many probably thought, ‘No big deal. What’s a little bow.’ In fact, it’s the same trade that Satan offered Jesus:

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” (Mat 4:8-10)

You see, a ‘little bow’ is a big deal.

And well, you probably know the rest of the story. Some of the honchos who bowed down to the king’s golden image brought charges against Daniel’s three friends (interestingly, Daniel is not even mentioned in this chapter – that’s a fascinating thing prophetically as well but not for this posting) that they did not bow and therefore must be thrown into the fiery furnace.

So these three fellows were dragged before the king who demanded to know if their accusers were correct. He said, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you are not serving my gods and do not worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, then you shall fall down and worship the image that I have made. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can save you out of my hands?”

You have to admire these gutsy guys. They responded to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to respond to you with an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to save us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will save us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden image that you have set up.”

At that point, the king really lost his cool and commanded that his servants fire up the furnace seven times hotter than usual. Then the three cohorts were thrown into the furnace by men who were themselves killed by the seven-fold heat.

Of course, the king as he watched was expecting to see some crispy-fried Hebrews but as he looked his eyes bugged out and he cried,  “Was it not three men we cast tied up into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He answered and said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

Anyway, he called the lads to come out and when they did, only their binding ropes were burned off. They didn’t even smell of the fire.

Sure, this is a wonderful miracle but I want to point out their courage. That’s because its this kind of courage that we as believers are going to need today and in the coming days, as will the Jewish believers during the coming Tribulation.

Friends, don’t cave in, don’t ‘bow’, don’t compromise your faith. Don’t fear the threats and don’t believe the lies. Even if you stumble or fail, don’t give up - The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. (Psa 37:23,24)

Yes, the Lord will be with you even in the fire – only the binding ropes of this life will ultimately be gone!

 

The Clean Heart

When you want to learn more about grace and forgiveness one of the characters in the Bible you can reference is David the king of Israel. For all his courage in battle and sincerity in worship, his life was filled with messes, and he often was their maker. Can you relate to that? I sure can.

In this life we don’t often if ever get do-overs, but we can look forward to one day getting a complete make-over as we are brought into Christ’s presence in the sky. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:51,52)

And in the meantime, as we recognize our messes, we can and should echo David’s call to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psa 51:10) In fact, all of Psalm 51 is a lesson in this godly attitude.

In fact, it starts with the explanation - A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba. Now, you probably recall the story. David’s army was at war, but the king decided to stay home. One day as he was walking on the roof of his palace, he espied a beautiful woman bathing on the roof of a nearby home – the home of one of his most loyal men – Uriah. Yep, this gal was his wife.

Well, David proceeded to make one of the biggest messes of his messy life. He was captivated by this beauty and commanded that she be brought to him. Subsequently, he made love to her (with no mention of her consent) and wouldn’t you know it, she got pregnant.

So, then the king was embarrassed and did not want his mess to be discovered so he first recalled Uriah from the war and then told him to enjoy a little ‘R&R’ with his wife. But the soldier was not about to have a conjugal visit with his wife while his comrades were in the midst of battle, so he slept separately and didn’t touch his wife, Bathsheba.

When David found this out, he was alarmed and sent orders back to his general to place Uriah at the very front of the battle and then call for a retreat of everyone but him. The result was reported back to the king – Uriah is dead.

One terrible mess compounded by an even more vile tragedy with yet more and more messes were on the way as a consequence. Later, the prophet Nathan, by direct revelation from God revealed to the king that God saw what he had done. Nate related a story to David of a poor shepherd who had one lamb, just one, who was most dear to him, and this other dastardly man took the shepherd’s lamb and slaughtered it for his own purposes. Well, this incensed David who wanted the vile man to be killed for what he did. At that point, the prophet pointed his finger at the king and said, “You are the man!”

David was shocked, exposed, and probably aghast. But to his credit, he confessed his sin and that is the background of this Psalm which starts:

Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions
. V1

Immediately, David knew he needed to dump the cover-up and beg for God’s mercy.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin. V2

For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me. V3

Sin leaves a ‘stain’ on the heart, its existence makes us feel ‘dirty’ and that feeling persists. But David understood that acknowledging his transgression was key to obtaining God’s mercy. And he knew that only God could give him a clean heart and renew a right spirit. In fact, the writer of Proverbs 20, probably his own son, Solomon recorded,

Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,

I am pure from my sin”? Pro 20:9

Therapy won’t clean your messy heart. Neither will escaping into drugs, sex or any other ‘distraction’. Denial of the mess doesn’t make it any less messy. But in confessing and surrendering our sin to God, we can expect that His Spirit will continue the work He began from the moment we first opened our heart to Him.

Cleaning your heart is part of a greater process that will continue until you stand before Him face to face -- 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 by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor 3:18

Yes, just like David and me, your heart, your life is undoubtedly filled with sin-spawned messes. But we can each take comfort knowing that they are all cleaned completely by the blood of Jesus Christ.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9)

 

It's About Time

God is very much into timing and scripture is filled with examples.  Just after appointing twelve disciples, Jesus instructed them, Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mat 10:5,6)  However, later on the mount of ascension, He would say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

On another occasion, upon being prodded by His half-brothers to go the feast in Jerusalem, He said, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” (John 7:6) “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” (John 7:10)

God does what He wishes in His time, not ours; and He conveys His Words and His Will in His time as well.  Upon explaining to His disciples that He had to “go away”, Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:12,13)

Now, this becomes quite poignant to each of us when it comes to our expectations of God and how He decides to answer our prayers.  You see, He has said many things concerning His willingness to hear our prayers of faith and to respond but as you search the scripture, you’ll note that He never commits to respond according to our timetable.  And if you take your trust back (which you should never do) this can be disappointing, frustrating, and even disillusioning.

It’s not that God is slow. It is not that He is juggling too much. It is not that you are in a queue of billions waiting for your turn.  All those are human concepts and of course, we are quite prone to placing our human characters and concepts on Him.  God’s infinite capabilities, knowledge and presence are well beyond these notions.

But our spiritual enemy has shrewdly manipulated society, rev’ed it up so to speak, so that we all want any and everything NOW.  Food, entertainment, information, money, justice, you name it – we are conditioned for instant gratification.  And when God doesn’t play that game with us, a game that the enemy has driven into our characters, we doubt and complain that God doesn’t see or care. 

Why did God wait for several thousands of years after He first alluded to it in the Garden of Eden to bring the suffering Saviour, and risen Lord, Jesus Christ?  Why did the Hebrew people have to wait 400 years in Egypt before being freed?  Why have these same people endured nearly 2000 years of “stupor” and “blindness” to their true King and why must they still endure seven years of horrendous rule by a false king?

Timing.  It is so real and so important and yet, for us, it is so mysterious.  Can you imagine being with Mary when the angel Gabriel told her, ‘You’re the one. You will give birth to the Messiah.’ Or with Noah when the Lord said, ‘Come into the ark.’ Or with John at the foot of the cross when Jesus said, “It is done.”  Timing is a mysteriously important part of all that God does.  Existing outside of time gives Him complete perspective and full control.  This is clear from the following verse provided in two translations:

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6 RSV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6 NIV)

Now all of this is simply an introduction into the purpose of this message – you see, we have yet another time to be aware of, to “Watch” for and to be prepared for.  Jesus Christ is going to return to take possession of this world.  He will resurrect His faithful ones from their graves, rapture those who are waiting and found faithful, and will conquer Satan and his loyalists.  The former two will occur in an instant. 

And our waiting for this reminds me of a story in scripture. 

He was a truly godly man.  We don’t know if he was a priest or member of any select group of religious/pious people.  He may have been a devoted Levite or simply a farmer or even a beggar.  In any event, he was in the temple at the right time. 

In all likelihood, Simeon had earnestly desired to witness the coming of the Messiah.  He probably longed for it for many years.  Surely, he had pleaded with God to let him see Christ and perhaps days strung out into weeks, into months and years.  At some point, he struggled with believing that God had heard his prayers as his own life waned and he grew older.  He knew his time to pass was close and it would seem that he hung out continually in the temple, hoping and waiting and hoping. 

One day as he stumbled along, making his way to the temple courtyard.  Something Holy drove him to come this time - perhaps in great faith, perhaps in great expectation, perhaps in despair, perhaps in the midst of a spiritual battle – the greatest of his life.  The Holy Spirit moved him and I’ll bet as he entered, he sensed a glorious presence that grabbed his heart and lifted his step.  A lifetime of waiting was culminating in the most amazing moments he could ever have imagined – a baby.  And he supernaturally recognized this child instantly.  His waiting was over in an instant.

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.’” (Luke 2:25 – 32)

In like manner, our waiting for the true King of Israel will soon be over.  Like Simeon, do you want to “depart in peace?”

What are you waiting for?  God’s timing is perfect and usually mysterious, but your time is easy to understand - it is right now.  That is, you have no guarantee of tomorrow.  If you don’t know that you have a right relationship with God via Jesus Christ, your time is now.  Pray for God to forgive you for all you have erred in and to redeem you by the sacrifice of His Son.

If you’re already saved through faith in Christ and waiting on an answer to prayer, wait in patience and peace – if you asked in faith, God heard you and He will answer. 

All our waiting will be over soon.

 

Finishing the Feasts

God seems to love festivals and has used them not only to bless His people with reasons to worship and fellowship but also to appreciate His divine plan.  That’s because each of the seven that He specifically ordained have prophetic fulfillments.   Four of them have been fulfilled in the first appearing of Jesus Christ and the consequent birth of His church. 

 

Briefly, Pesach or Passover was fulfilled on the day of this festival when Jesus was crucified.  He was the true Passover Lamb that all the sacrifices pointed to since Moses first told the Hebrew slaves to kill a lamb and place its blood upon the door openings and in the basin (see Exo 12).  Where they placed the blood pictured the bloody head, arms and feet of Christ on the cross.  

 

The next feast is all about unleavened bread.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the day after Pesach and was a continuation of the Passover.  It lasted for seven days (see Lev 23:6).  Recalling that leaven in the scriptures speaks of sin, this unleavened bread pictures a needed purity of that which we as believers take in.  Jesus’ perfectly pure life fulfilled this.  As the spotless Lamb of God, His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary was acceptable to God.  Believing that is what we consider ‘taking Him in’ to our hearts. 

 

Unleavened bread also symbolizes the manna that the Israelites ate when they traveled through the wilderness.  This reminds us of Jesus’ own words, “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:57,58)   

 

The Feast of First Fruits was celebrated soon after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Lev 23:10,11; Deut 26:1-4).  The first of the barley harvest was dedicated to God and brought before Him. The Jewish people recognized that it was God who brought the increase, and it all belonged to Him. By giving the first part, they were recognizing God as the provider.  Christ fulfilled this holiday literally with His resurrection, “on the day after the Sabbath” and thus He is called the “firstborn among many brethren”. (Rom 8:29)   

 

The Feast of Weeks which we know as Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after this last feast.  This celebrated the harvest and was again fulfilled to the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers gathered together in the upper room.  A harvest of three thousand souls were saved that day, and the church was born having a commission to reap the harvest of souls in all nations.   

 

Hence, there remain three festivals or feasts to be fulfilled.  They are all in the fall season.  

 

The first is the Feast of TrumpetsRosh Hashanah.  This festival starts the new year with the blowing of the ram’s horn trumpet, hence the name. Since it is a preparation of repentance, the traditional activities center around looking at sins.  It has become customary to go down to the sea, filling one’s pockets with rocks along the way.  Once there, the rocks are thrown as far as possible into the sea, identifying one area of sin with each rock.  As they are thrown, it symbolizes a cleansing, representing God removing the sins to the bottom of the sea.   

 

This feast will be fulfilled at the last trumpet (as opposed to the first trumpet – see Exo 19:16) and the voice of our Savior calling us up in the Rapture of the church (see 1 Cor 15:51-55).  In a glorious transformation, all our sin will be left behind forever.  Though we know the day of this festival, Jesus said that no one knows the day or hour of this event.  It is always to be considered imminent.  Its position, however, preceding the next feast is very relevant for in like manner its fulfillment will surely precede the fulfillment of the next one.  

 

The sixth holy day is the Day of AtonementYom Kippur.  This is the only solemn feast - all the nation of Israel would fast together, coming before God, to atone for their sin. This is the one day of the year when the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies, bringing the blood to place on the mercy seat. The temple of God and all the worship items in it were consecrated anew to the Lord.  I’m strongly inclined to believe this will be fulfilled when the 144,000 saints of the tribes of Israel are saved by grace, sealed and sent, like the church, to continue God’s witness in a godless world (see Rev 7).  They will bring the atoning grace of God through Jesus Christ to both Jew and gentile in the terrible days of the tribulation.  

 

Finally, there remains the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot.  This seven-day festival commemorates God’s provision while the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness. In addition, the people express thanksgiving to God for His continued provision in their lives.  During this festival, the people live in, or at least take their meals in temporary shelters, commemorating that time. The family starts building their sukkah (tabernacle) immediately after Yom Kippur.  It is noteworthy that this is the only feast that will be celebrated throughout the millennial reign of Christ (see Zech 14:16-19). 

 

As such, it will undoubtedly also commemorate the caring of God for His remnant of Jewish believers in the wilderness during the tribulation.  From its place in the sequence of feasts and its symbolism, I’ll suggest that it will be fulfilled in the second coming of Christ, the victory of Jesus and His saints at Armageddon and the ushering in of the millennial age.   

 

Turning Points – Exodus

 

   The Exodus was a turning point for the Hebrew nation but with a ‘background’ of two to four million enslaved people, the epic story is focused on just two characters, God and Moses.  Now, as our sovereign, omnipotent creator, God has no turning points – He doesn’t change.  However, Moses had a momentous turning point.  And we need to understand its impact on the man as the catalyst for the turning point of the masses.

   Now, this incredibly important event occurred when he was eighty years old, but we have to review his life before that in order the appreciate it.      Many of us can recall how in order to persecute the Hebrews who had become too numerous in Pharaoh’s eyes, the order was given for all newborn sons to be cast into the river to drown.  Defying this order, Moses’ mother hid him for three months after he was born and then built him a little ark out of bulrushes.  She made it waterproof and then launched the baby boy with hope in her heart onto the river.  Soon after, the little boat caught the attention of Pharaoh’s daughter who was bathing nearby. 

   At this point, God touched her heart, and she took the Hebrew baby as her own.  Now, Moses’ sister was watching and offered to find the princess a nursemaid.  When Pharoah’s daughter said yes, she found her mother who was then paid to nurse her own child. 

   Over time, in Pharoah’s household, Moses grew in stature and renown and at the age of 40 or so, he tried to resolve a dispute between a couple of Hebrews. However, in the process, his crime the day before of killing an Egyptian was made public and he had to flee from Pharoah for his life into the desert.  So, after some 40 years of learning to be a real somebody in Egypt Moses found his new abode in the remotest part of the desert, tending sheep and avoiding scorpions.  

   This wasn’t just the desert; it was the “far side” of the desert.  And in that place, he became a shepherd, considered the lowest profession in Egypt.  Consequently, the next 40 years he learned to be a real nobody.  Finally, at the age of 80 God saw that he was ready for his turning point.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So, he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 

So, when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”  Moreover, He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.            (Ex 3:1-6)

   So, what made this the turning point?  No longer brash and impulsive, no longer prideful or pompous, Moses observed this simple but amazing miracle and as a result he encountered the God of all.  He had become meek, so meek that the scripture describes him as the meekest man in the world. (Num 12:3)

   This was the first time God spoke to Moses revealing, Himself through a humble bush burning in the desert. 

   So, the preparation of this speechless shepherd was finished.  God knew he was ready for the next step – a mission unparalleled in human history before or since.  He was ready to trust God and in obedience to His commands, to lead some six million Hebrews out of Egypt and to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about four hundred years earlier.

   Now, Moses would continue to learn from God for forty more years until his death but in a day, he went from lost to found, from lonely to the friend of God, from having no clue of spiritual truth to receiving the law of God.        Everything that transpired after this – the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the march through the wilderness – all of it launched from this simple experience. 

 

   Therefore, let’s consider what this means to us.

 

   What does it say about God?  We can see that He has great patience and humility.  He waited for more than 300 years to bring Moses on the scene and then another 80 or so to get his attention.  He did not appear as a stormy tornado or a mighty cedar tree or even as a commanding king but rather as a simple bush burning in the desert wilderness.  Also, He is perfectly holy, and He told Moses to respect that holiness. 

   When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, He called to him – He didn’t engulf him in flames or sweep him up into the heavens or even shake the ground.  Oh, God could do those things if He wanted but here, He reached out to Moses gently.

 

   What does it say about God’s promises?  Now, God made many specific promises to His people. 

   In Caanan, God made a promise to Abram –

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.  (Gen 15:13, 14)

   When Joseph, as Prime Minister in Egypt called for his family to come down there where he would take care of them, Jacob/Israel stopped along the way to check with God on the journey.

And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.  And God spoke unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 

And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:  I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: …  (Gen 46:1-4)

   And then near the beginning of Moses’ life, the Bible records that concerning the Hebrew nation,

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  (Ex 2:24)

   That’s to say God always fulfills His promises, and He does so on His schedule and according to His plan, not ours.

 

   What does it say about God’s preparation?  I went through 13 weeks of preparation in the military officer training program.  Moses went through eighty years of training.  The Hebrew people went through about 400 years of preparation and still they needed 40 years of ‘toughening’ in the Sinai wilderness before entering the promised land.

   I think it’s fair to say that God’s training is considerably more thorough than mankind’s.  Most if not all of the men and women God used mightily in Scripture were tested and prepared for years; from Noah to Abraham to Joseph to Daniel all the way to Jesus, everyone was prepared through testing and training.  You will be too. 

   When a crop is planted, you cannot rush it; it will be ready in its time and not before.  The same is true for each of us who look to the Lord to grow us in faith. We are all being prepared for heaven.  God knew Moses was ready for his next step in service when he turned and decided to investigate the burning bush – why it wasn’t consumed.  That’s when he met God and as a consequence, soon all of the Hebrew nation would meet the Almighty. 

   To encounter the Lord personally – that’s the turning point in anyone’s life.  That’s what this burning bush experience represents. 

 

 

 

 

Turning Points - The Fall of Mankind

 

As turning points go, this was huge.  Oddly  enough, it hinged upon what we, in our violence-filled age, might consider as a seemingly small faux pas.  Now, God placed both the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil right in the middle of the Garden of Eden.  And of course, He knew what was going to happen, but how it happened and why it happened are our points of interest.

In making Eden and placing Adam in it, God was desiring fellowship with Man.  Walking in the garden in the cool of the day, he was looking for Adam and Eve.  Of course, you know the story of what happened – they had disobeyed God’s command and had eaten of the forbidden Tree, and now they were hiding, ashamed that they were naked and afraid of their Maker.

But how did this come about?  How could a very simple restriction be so brazenly ignored?  Let’s back up and review the situation. 

Shortly after the six days of God’s creative work, He made a wonderful place called Eden. The serpent, i.e. Satan, who has always been a liar and deceiver was also in the picture.  Clearly, his goal was to ruin the relationship between God and his special creation, mankind.   So, Eve was in the vicinity of the forbidden tree.  Bear in mind that she had not yet been created when God warned Adam about it, so she evidently learned about the restriction from her mate afterward. 

Now we’ve got to consider:

                That she and Adam had no understanding of death.

                That she was apparently one person removed from direct communication with God at least on this matter.

                She was fairly easily ensnared by Satan’s lie but we should recall that she had never been lied to.

                It seems possible that in her own mind, her disobedience was to Adam.

                With the whole garden to roam in and tend to, she (and Adam) chose to be near to the forbidden tree.

                She was not surprised by the talking serpent which we could say shows her innocence and naivete.

                At the time, she was sinless, just as Adam.

All this made her the serpent’s target.  So, as he slithered in her direction, she was sunk the moment she engaged in the conversation.  Her only defense was Adam.  He was the one who could say, “That’s not true or that’s not what God told me.”  But, it would seem that although he was nearby, he was not in on the dialog or wasn’t in the immediate vicinity.

So, what was this conversation?  Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

He started with a question.  One that Eve could not answer with the same assurance as Adam.  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”  

Now, God never said anything about touching it. So, for whatever reason, she got it wrong, and Satan knew he had her. 

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

There it was, the flat out lie followed by Satan’s twist on truth.

So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

This was what the serpent was aiming for.  Eve was the way to derail Adam and thus bring the split between God and Mankind.  This was the turning point because Adam was fully aware of God’s command, and he still disobeyed.

And at this point, we might ponder why.  Why disobey?

When he saw that Eve was ‘still vertical’, did he doubt God’s warning?

Did he love Eve more than God and decide to commit ‘suicide’ with her?

Bottom line, we just don’t know.  It’s not recorded.

However, for Eve, it is recorded – she SAW that the tree was good for food, it was pleasing to look upon, and desirable for wisdom.  It would seem that her seeing, though, was highly influenced by what she wanted and what she heard from the serpent.  That is, she was seduced.

And we are surrounded by that same seduction every day.  Almost all modern marketing is based upon subtle plays of seduction.  1 John 2:16 says, For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.  These are the very things that seduced Eve and they seduce us as well.

So, this turning point turned mankind away from God and made us slaves to sin, doomed to death.  But this did not surprise God, deter His grace or foil His plan.  In fact, I suggest that it was simply a part of it for out of this incident came the first allusion to His redemption plan through Christ.  Eph 1:4 says, “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love.”

If mankind had not fallen in Eden, we could have enjoyed gardening here on earth for a long time. But with the fall came the divine response of eternal redemption so that all who believe can enjoy much, much, more than gardening in God’s presence in heaven for eternity.   1 Co 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, not ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

In other words, what looked like disaster and a ‘win’ for evil became the ultimate triumph for the Father as His Son redeemed us and all creation and took His place at God’s right hand.  Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

Attributes of God – Restoration

 

Every attribute of God is perfect, infinite and boundlessly good because that’s God.  And one of these wonderful attributes is His restoration.  It’s not something we hear a lot about but instead we observe it over and over and over.  Before the six days of creation, God found the earth “tohu” and “bohu” – void, wasted, in a ruin and he proceeded to shape it into a state of life, abundance and goodness.

 

Consider the life of Jesus Christ who restored so many people to health, to sight, to cleanness, to hearing, even to life.  He spoke “Talitha cumi” to the 12 year old girl meaning “little girl, arise,” and she rose to life; He called out “Lazarus, come forth!” to the one who had been dead for four days and out of the tomb he came, still wrapped in grave cloths but restored to life. 

He Himself rose from the dead on the third day after His death on the cross.  The grave could not hold Him.

 

God does allow testing and trials into our lives for His own purposes but as with Joseph in Egypt, when the time is right, the prisoner can be made a Prime Minister.  As with Job, when the lesson is learned, a life that was stripped of prosperity can be restored to abundance.  As with Peter who shamefully denied Christ three times the night of His mock trial and condemnation; when the ‘storm’ was over and grace appeared, the apostle was restored to faithfulness.

 

So, when He restores something or someone, He doesn’t just fix with a ‘patch’; He makes whole and new.  Consider the following scriptures:

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Cor 5:17

 

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

 

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ’Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (1 Cor 15:51 – 54)

 

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  2 Pet 3:13

 

So, as we can see, God’s ‘end game’ is the restoration of believers as well as the restoration of his physical creation but He proclaims that He won’t stop there. Consider these:

 

The apostle Peter preached to the crowds gathered soon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:

 

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Act 3:18 – 21)

 

In heaven, John the Apostle witnessed and recorded:

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

 

And here’s another wonderful thing about it.  As a part of this, He restores joy:

 

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
(Psa 51:12)

 

That’s because joy is a primary characteristic of our restored being:

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore
.  (Psa 16:11)

 

Therefore, with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation
.  (Isa 12:3)

 

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away
.  (Isa 35:10)

 

Jesus Himself concluded His parable with:

 

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'”  (Mat 25:21 and 23)

 

And He said to his disciples:

 

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  (Jn 15:11)

 

And shortly after the resurrection, Peter shared with the crowds gathered around him the words of King David:

 

You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.” 
(Acts 2:28)

 

What great news!  This is, what you as a believer can look forward to is – a fully restored life, a fully restored character, everlasting and ever increasing joy in the presence of God, boundless restored relationships and an eternally expanding quality of life. And actually, as good as that sounds, it’s still just the beginning for:

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
(1 Cor 2:9)

 

 

The Attributes of God - Love

 

As we begin to consider God’s attributes, we have to acknowledge our limitations.  His attributes are themselves infinite, thus we who are finite cannot fully appreciate them nor can we sufficiently describe them. 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isa 55:9)

 

Jesus, Himself quoted what the Jews called the Shema when asked for the most important command in scripture.  It says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) This was and is considered by the Jews as the most important scripture.  However, it should be noted that as important as it is we cannot initiate this commanded love.  That’s because we are not the source of this love, God Himself is.

 

John wrote, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1Jn 4:19) and, 

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10)

 

In other words, we can never obey this critical command to love God unless we first receive and acknowledge God’s love for us.  In Eden, we learned from the serpent to doubt God’s love for us;  believing his lies sent us spiraling away from God and into self-destruction.  However, the good news is that believing in Jesus is believing again that God does love us.

 

Interestingly, the Old Testament is filled with at least a couple dozen commands like the Shema for us to love God but only a few that speak of God loving us. (eg Zeph 3:17)  Conversely, the New Testament is filled with verses that express God’s love toward us such as:

 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) and,

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38,39) and,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,…” (Eph 2:4)

 

Another example is when Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)

 

Of course, God has always loved His children and He demonstrated that countless times throughout the OT, but the epitome of that endless infinite love was and is expressed in the gift to us of His own Son’s life to take our places and pay for our transgressions.  But it doesn’t stop there.  His love keeps on giving throughout eternity for…:

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The 
things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9 and Isa 64:4)

 

Now the one thing that we all long for but rarely if ever experience is sincere, trustworthy and enduring love.  People fail us - mates, friends, children.   But knowing God, by definition, means knowing His love.

 

John, the Apostle wrote: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 Jn 4:8) and “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn 4:16)

 

Now it has come to be in vogue to assert “Love is god.”  But clearly this is not at all the same thing and is yet another serpent-lie.  When you believe that, you by default allow for any trending or politically correct definition of love and thus your god.  That of course subjugates your puny fantasy god to your own ideas and ‘agenda’. 

 

Of course, love is a relationship and since God is eternal, it’s a really long relationship (lol) but truly, it’s something that will grow and grow and grow forever.  First, believe; then receive and keep on receiving and returning divine love.

 

Of note, this is a ‘Who’-attribute of God as opposed to a ‘What’-attribute.  His amazing Love speaks to Who He is; so how do we recognize this love?  We could go into defining the three different words in Greek for love but instead, let’s consider Jesus.  How did he show us God’s love?

 

The first thing that comes to mind is that He gave His life for us on the cross.  That is the ultimate selfless sacrifice.  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)

 

In this selfless act, He not only suffered a terribly painful death, but He carried upon Himself all the sins of humanity  - a truly incomprehensible weight.  We are naturally so self-occupied that we cannot grasp the selfless love of our Creator.  It is the polar opposite of our naturally evil hearts.

 

But when we are truly saved, His love overflows in our heart empowering  wonderful acts of worship as the Holy Spirit embraces us, children of the Most High, filling us with love-light and love-life – and in so doing, grants us the power to recognize and return God’s love.

 

What this means is that you can talk about, contemplate, ponder and discuss this Who-attribute of God forever but you won’t know it, that is know God’s attribute of Love until you know Him.  You must establish an intimate relationship through His Son, Jesus. 

 

You see, grasping at least some of the ‘What-attributes’ of God like His sovereignty or His triune nature can be approached intellectually but getting a handle on the ‘Who-attributes’ like love or grace require actual relationship.  It is this relationship, which by the way is also initiated by God, that allows us to know and be known by our Lord.

 

When Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  (Mat 7:21-23)

 

These who will be barred from entering the kingdom of heaven will evidently know about God, but they never actually know God and thus they cannot fulfill Deut 6:5 to love God.  You see, this attribute of God, Love, this is the big one.  Don’t debate it, don’t just approach it intellectually.  The Pharisees never got it; sometimes contemporary seminarians don’t either. 

 

Come to God on His terms – simple, humble faith.  Ask Him sincerely for forgiveness for all the misdeeds of your life; ask for faith to believe in the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus.  Ask Him to fill you with His Love.

 

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor 13:14)

 

 

 

The Humble are the Godly

 

After resigning his pastorate to go lead another church, a pastor was approached by an endearing older member of the congregation. She wept over the pastor’s decision to leave and said, “Things will never be the same.”

 

The minister tried to console her by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m confident you will get a new pastor who is better than me.”

 

She continued to sob and replied, “That’s what the last three pastors have said, but they just keep getting worse.”- source unknown

 

People today just don’t understand humility. It’s scary because contemporary, let’s say worldly, thought casts it in an extremely negative way.  You see, humility is not just an act or a posture, it’s a mindset, a whole way of thinking about God and about yourself.  You consider others better than yourself. You are at peace with God and heaven is delightful. That’s because humility is based in selflessness.

 

Likewise, pride is not just an act or posture but an opposite mindset.  And all of humanity walks in this manner naturally.  Thus, when you seek a definition of the word “humble” you’ll find:  “having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.” or “low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.”  And, so, as we think of humility via the filter of sin, we don’t see it as God does. We see it only as a ‘downer’ literally.

 

But the Bible tells us that God lifts up the humble (Psa 147:6) to dwell with Him in the “high and holy place” (Isa 57:15).  There He beautifies them with salvation and revives their spirit (Psa 149:4, Isa 57:15b).  So in heaven, the truly humble are highly exalted and actually live in the Almighty’s presence.

 

And here on earth, contrary to what the dictionary says, it’s not really positional – Moses, who led millions and spoke face to face with God was “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.”(Num 12:3)

 

“When Jesus called the disciples to pursue greatness through the humility of serving others, he wasn’t merely calling them to be countercultural; he was calling them to be counter-natural — or better, to be supernatural.

None of us is born with this character quality. If Jesus’s humility ethic seems alien, it’s because it is. It is the ethic of a foreign kingdom (Matthew 18:1), a better country (Hebrews 11:16).” – Jon Bloom

 

But still, what’s so great about humility? Why does God esteem it as a high quality of human greatness? Possibly because humility is the only condition of the soul that enables us to perceive and value truth and glory for what they really are. Only the humble can truly view the heavenly.

Yes, humility leads us into the mindset to be able to see and understand. Which is why God “leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). Only the humble can be “pure in heart,” and therefore only the humble can “see God” (Matthew 5:8).

“Why did Jesus say only the humble can enter the kingdom? Because only the humble can see the kingdom. Why are the greatest in the kingdom the servants? Because the more humble we are, the more reality we truly see, the more of God’s multifaceted glory we truly see, and therefore the more joy we experience, and therefore the more we want others to experience that joy. What makes humility so great is that it’s God-like.” – Jon Bloom

 

So if we are having difficulty perceiving real humility what do we do?

First, look to Jesus. He embodied and demonstrated for us the humility of God.  Read the Gospels and take note.  Second and most important, invite the Spirit of Christ into your heart, your life.  Accept His gift of life and you will begin to appreciate and perceive God in a whole new way. 

 

You see, ever since Eden, we’ve been duped to believe that God is fundamentally mean and withholding, that He is severe in character.  Unfortunately, many Christians mistakenly still see Him as such and it hinders their ability or desire to enjoy a truly loving relationship with Him. 

 

Now God is just and holy but don’t confuse that with severity and meanness.  As we witnessed in Christ, God is humble and loving.  Some may point to Old Testament stories of war as examples of God’s harshness but they always leave out two important facts – first, those actions were taken after literally hundreds of years of violence and rebellion against God.  Second, we only have the observation of our own time and space; we cannot know what is happening in eternity.

 

No, it is all too easy for our sin-nature lens to attribute Satan’s own attributes of pride and hate mistakenly to our loving humble Almighty God.  We just don’t see correctly, and consequently we don’t understand the beauty and heavenly nature of humility.  Only Jesus Christ can fix that in our hearts.

 

It’s not the famous or the gifted that are necessarily the godly.  Most often, it is the humble who actually are the godly.

 

 

 

 

Shed Your Shoes

 

The time of sojourning was over – the times of desert wandering and trudging through the wasteland of the Sinai wilderness.  It had been a lifetime, literally, but now in a very short time, all that was changing radically. 

 

First there was the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground, next there was the circumcising of all the men of war, next the manna, the bread from heaven stopped.  You see, when God says it’s time, things can happen quickly.  For Joshua, this was more change than he’d seen in, well, a long time.

 

But it didn’t stop there.  Joshua was a one step at a time guy; you try leading millions of anxious people into a whole new existence, and you soon realize that you need to be focused on what’s next, but he wasn’t sure what was next.  Moses had always called those shots.

 

So, there in front of him were the massive impregnable walls of Jericoh, a city filled with hostile adversaries.  And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

 

So, He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

 

Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.  (Josh 5:13-15)

 

Now clearly Joshua was a gutsy guy.  Here he was in proximity of a formidable enemy stronghold and suddenly a ‘man’ with sword drawn appeared.  Courageously, he approached the ‘man’ and posed what he thought was a reasonable question.

 

“No,” he gets in reply.  Kind of like saying, “You need to open your eyes.  You don’t even have the right question.”

 

Then the ‘man’ explains to the new leader that he was not just ‘the man’ but THE MAN, the Commander or Prince of Jehovah’s army.  This is in fact Jesus pre-incarnate. 

 

How do we know that?  Because he accepts Joshuas worship (it is forbidden to worship anyone but God) and the Commander tells him that the ground on which he/He is standing is holy – only one thing makes anything holy – that’s the presence of He who is Holy, Holy, Holy.

 

Now Joshua had already done a face-plant, he was prostrate in worship, but Jesus told him to remove his sandals.  And it is this command we are going to consider further. 

 

His feet were undoubtedly already dirty from walking and removing his sandals would place his feet in direct contact with the ground.  The dirt wasn’t the point; I think the point was that, like Jesus said, the ground on which he was worshipping was holy and his sandals had been in contact with the unholy – that is the ‘world’ so to speak. 

 

Important to note:  Our Holy God can not and will not be ‘polluted’ or tainted with the unholy.  The unholy can not abide in His presence.    

You see, we tend to pollute – oh, not intentionally – but we just can’t help it.  Wherever we go, whatever we do, our sin-nature is there.  Paul wrote, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death.”

 

Even when we worship it’s there – recall that after His resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdelene, “Don’t cling to me,” as she worshipped at His feet.  He had yet to present Himself spotless to the Father.

 

And so, we also, like Joshua need to ‘shed our shoes’ before Jesus.  (Of course, I don’t mean our physical shoes.)  That’s because they are symbolic of how we have made contact with the sin filled world.  The spiritual muck we have trod through and that clings to us must be shed in the presence of the Holy. 

 

Recall, at the last supper, Christ principally displayed servanthood to the disciples while washing their feet, but he also spoke of the same symbolic cleanliness with Peter:

Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;…” (John 13:6 – 10a)

 

The same thing happened to Moses as well:

And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So, he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

So, when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”          (Exo 3:2 – 5)

 

So, the lesson for us is that there’s a time to ‘shed your shoes’ so to speak, to wash feet.  Now, we who are saved are spiritually cleansed by the atoning blood of Jesus.  So, we’re not speaking herein of salvation, rather we’re addressing getting instruction – hearing from the Lord.  Like Joshua before conquering Jerico, like Moses before leading Isael out of Egypt, and like Peter before the crucifixion, the resurrection and his part in leading the Church, when we shed the ‘footwear’ we are preparing to learn “What’s next Lord? What’s my part in your plan?”

 

So how do we ‘shed our shoes’?  It all points to the feet, to our walk“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6,7)

 

It’s not the physical dirt that hinders our walk; it’s the darkness of this sin-filled world – what contact with it does to us.  Shed those points of contact and walk in the light; and you’ll enjoy fellowship with Jesus and your brethren.  Now, you know how you’ve ‘touched’ the world – you know where you got compromised and thus soiled by sin.  Confess that to the Lord.  That’s shedding your sandals.  He’ll do the rest.  As with Peter in the upper room, He’ll wash you:

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.” 
(Isa 1:18)

 

Do you want to hear from God?  That’s always on Holy ground. It’s His presence that makes it that way.

 

Presently, and even more so in the coming days the world will fall rapidly into greater and greater chaos; and many are going to need to hear from God and learn “What’s next?”  “What do I do?”  To face the chaos on your own is a guarantee that you’ll get swept down by it into the pit of hell.

 

Right now, God is calling out to all who will listen.  If you will hear, shed your shoes, confess your sin, listen to the good news of His forgiveness through Christ and obey what he tells you.

   

 

 

 

To the Faithful

     “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Rev 3:11b

     Here we are in the last days.  The faithful Philadelphian church will be on earth until the rapture and then we will depart in an instant. But until that moment, what is our call?  The whole of society worldwide is degenerating rapidly, and evil is becoming more open, more embraced by humanity.  What is good is being marginalized and labelled as bad while what is evil is being paraded and presented as in vogue.  The wolves are taking off their ‘sheep’s clothing’ and ravaging the true lambs of Christ. And it’s worldwide.

     So, what do we who love God and believe in the risen Lord do?  Do we hide?  NO.  Do we shrink away?  NO. So do we surrender? Definitely NO.

     Do we pretend that the growing evil doesn’t exist, that it will subside or go away? NO.  Do we take up arms and fight?  No. Do we campaign? No. 

     So then, what do we do??

     Hold fast to your crown.  Hold fast to what you have.  Let no one take it from you. 

     What exactly is that crown and how do you hold it?  Well, your crown is so amazingly important.  It’s representative of something wonderful – “In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people,” Isa 28:5

     Specifically, it represents the Lord’s righteousness.  “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Tim 4:8

     And because of that righteousness, you have life, eternal life.          

     “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Jam 1:12

     It’s a glorious, brilliant eternal gift. “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” 1 Pet 5:4

     So, when you have true, sincere faith in Jesus Christ, there is a crown waiting for you in Heaven.  It’s reserved for you as well as each of us who believe.  That’s why Satan’s end game is to try to take it from you; he’s a thief, and he desires to rob you of life, of joy, of eternal rewards.  You see, if he’s lost you because placed your faith in your risen Lord, then he’ll still try to cheat you out of your blessedness. 

     He mocked Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns which long ago turned to dust.  Oh, he lost that battle, in fact, on the third day afterwards, he lost the whole war.  But that’s how he operates in running this planet – mockery, fear, hatred.  He uses these very things he knows are in the heart of sin-filled man.   

     They didn’t work on a sinless Christ.

     Remember, crowns are representative.  Why does a king wear a crown?       Is a king still a king if his crown is stolen?  Fundamentally, yes, but he’s missing the symbol of his authority. 

     So how do you and I hold on to our crowns?  That word, “hold on” is not like someone who’s drowning holding on to a life-line.  It literally means, to “be chief, be master of, to rule”.  It’s more like the one who’s throwing out the life-line, holding on to the other end saving you.  It describes your position in Christ over sin, over fear. 

     To put it simply, you are the victor, not the victim. That’s true in life and death.  And it’s true because of Christ has a permanent hold on you.  

     “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” Jn 10:27-29

     You hold on by knowing, truly knowing, that while this world is drowning in a flood of lies, fears and bitterness, Jesus has an unbreakable hold on you and because of that, you can reach out and hold on to others. 

 

 

 

A LOT of Good News!

 

   You might be surprised to learn that there is more than one Gospel. Now, I’m not being heretical because they are expressed in scripture and pertain to separate dispensations.  But if you are a bit wary, good, you should be, because Paul wrote to the Galatians, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” So then, what I’m sharing is not another gospel, it’s simply a look at the Gospels spoken of in the Bible.

   And it may be somewhat revelatory for you.  It was for me, for as with most Christians I confused them, thinking they were all basically the same but they are not.  Anyway, the first one we’ll consider is the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This gospel is what Jesus preached to the Jews before He went to the cross.  For example:

   And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Mat 4:23

   Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Mat 9:35

   And He also foretold that it would be the relevant gospel proclaimed during the tribulation which is on the horizon.

   “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Mat 24:14

   So, what is this gospel of the kingdom?  As you probably know, “gospel” simply means “good news” or “good message”.  And this gospel is clearly about a  kingdom.  But whose Kingdom?

   Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:14,15

   And of course, Jesus spoke extensively about the kingdom of heaven as well, populated by all whose names are found in the Book of Life. 

Yes, the gospel of the kingdom is the good news of God’s kingdom.  And what is the good news?  That’s found in many verses throughout the Old Testament. For instance:

   All Your works shall praise You, O LORD,
And Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom,
And talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts,
And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. 
Psa 145:10-13

   So, this gospel or good news has to do with God’s glory, power, mighty deeds, majesty and that this kingdom will last forever.  Thus, we see that the kingdom belongs to God, but Who will rule it? Naturally, the King, the King of Kings:

   For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isa 9:6,7

   Wonderful! - this is a splendid gospel because the Enemy of life, Satan, who is the current ruler of the kingdoms of man will be deposed.  And from the verse above, we see that God’s Son, Jesus, will conquer and rule eternally over all creation - a peaceful kingdom of God established by judgement and justice.  Sounds amazing, right?  And it’s coming soon. 

    The prophet Daniel spoke of it as a rock, sent out of heaven to the earth, which crushes all the kingdoms of man at the end of the tribulation period.  In turn, it appears that the new heavenly kingdom on earth which is born out of that will be turned over to the faithful, righteous Jews:

   “And in the days of these kings (the Tribulation time) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”  Dan 2:44

   “But the saints of the Most High (the righteous Jews) shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.”

   “I was watching; and the same horn (the Antichrist) was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

   “Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
  Dan 7:18, 21,22, 27

   Now, as indicated, “saints” in these verses refer to righteous Jews, not the church.  Even though our Catholic brothers and sisters have their own definition of Saints, this scripture is not referring to the church, it is Old Testament terminology. 

   You see, the gospel of the kingdom of God would seem to pertain specifically to the Jews, most specifically righteous Jews versus the Church.  That’s one reason Jesus preached it and taught them to pray for its coming:

   “In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.”
 Mat 6:9, 10

   And he taught them to seek it first –

   But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…  Mat 6:33

   So, the Gospel of the Kingdom is simply the good news that God will establish His righteous rule, a perfect government, on this earth with Jesus Christ as Sovereign and entrust it to the faithful Jewish believers to run.  That’s why the Jews looked for their Messiah to be a conquering king. Even John the Baptist seemed to stumble a bit on this.

   

   Now, let’s consider a second Gospel; we see it mentioned in Mark 1:1:

    The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

   Of course, we’re all familiar with this as everyone knows the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the four Gospels.  These four perspectives are obviously, the life and ministry of Jesus and we can understand clearly that they are good news because of how he lived, what he did and spoke and most especially, what He accomplished on the cross of Calvary and on Resurrection Sunday. They lay the groundwork for this second gospel --

   The apostle Paul preached the gospel of Christ:

   For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Rom 1:16

   …from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Rom 15:19

   You see, the great surprise for him and the rest of the apostles was that after two thousand years of considering their relationship with God as exclusive, Paul, a Jew of Jews, learned that the gospel he preached was for all people - for the gentiles!  It was a revelation for him:

   For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—

if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery … which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:

that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

   To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ… Eph 3:1-8

   He also referred to this as the gospel of God:

   That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God,… Rom 15:16

   And finally, as the gospel of grace:

   But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

 

   So we have two major gospels – first, the gospel of the Kingdom of God which was and will be preached to the Jews, and second, the gospel of Christ also known as the gospel of God and the gospel of grace, which has been preached first to the Jews but mostly to the gentiles. And there is a significant difference between them – the first emphasizes an eternal kingdom while the second emphasizes an eternal relationship. 

   That’s why the Apostle John, in introducing the transition to the new gospel recorded:

   Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." John 6:29

   Now, the first gospel promises a return of Christ as a conquering King at Armageddon; the second promises a return of Christ as a bridegroom to rapture and resurrect his bride.  Please note, however, that chronologically, these are reversed, for as Jesus said:

   But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Mat 19:30

   So, the chronologically first return (the Rapture) will involve a wedding feast to which only the saved, filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, will gain entry as the Bride as we see in the parable of the ten virgins:

   Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

   Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

   Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,

 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

    But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

    And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’

   Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

   And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

   But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  Mat 25:1-10

   You see, the gospel of Christ is wedding invitation or sorts. Those who accept by faith this good news, are filled with the oil of His indwelling Spirit just as the wise virgins’ lamps were filled with oil.  Sadly, during the Church age, the Jews that did not believe in Christ have had no lamp-oil.  And Jesus indicated that they would, by and large, ignore this invitation as we see in His parable of the wedding feast - see Mat 22:1-14.

   And thus, the Church, the Bride of Christ will indeed be married to our awesome Lord and rule by His side over all the cosmos forever.  But as Paul wrote,

   And so, all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;"
Rom 11:26

   The Jews who heed and are obedient to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (before the Church Age and during the Tribulation) which includes, of course, accepting Christ as Lord, will be saved and will rule over it (that is, God’s Kingdom on Earth).

   Okay, now the last gospel in scripture is proclaimed during the tribulation by an angelic being:

   Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people - saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”  Rev 14:6,7

   As you can see, the essence of this gospel is to be in awe of/reverence God, glorify Him and worship Him.  That’s good news and it’s forever!

Two amazing gospels – and of course, as born-again believers, we believe them both and we (Jew and Gentile) are all one in Christ for there is only one salvation – that is in Jesus Christ.  And that’s a LOT of good news.

 

 

 

                                                                                                                  

Fire Eyes - Second Edition                                          A Complete Commentary on the                        Book of Revelation by J R Dickey

   The subject of prophecy has been the endeavor of liars, lunatics and the true lovers of God since it first began to be spoken and recorded. For the liars, it has been a tool for deception and self interest. For the lunatics, it is ultimately a tool of pathetic discredit and nonsense. For those who sincerely love and seek to understand God’s Word, it serves to guide, instruct and encourage.

   The principles to understanding prophecy are not complicated, nor are they restricted, as some assert, to scholarly mediators, mysteries or magi. God has always been willing to give the necessary wisdom for ‘hearing’ the message He conveys in His Word to those who seek Him with all their hearts.

   Fire Eyes deals with the Revelation of Jesus Christ – chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Its addendum deals with prophecies that in a way preface and provide foundational understanding. May you be blessed and encouraged as you read.

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