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Welcome to The Bible Blog!

Welcome to The Bible Blog. Thank you for checking it out. As a concerned Christian and the author of three published books, I decided to start a blog as a forum for anyone interested in studying and sharing ideas about the Bible. In a world where we are expected to agree with and accept the current (politically correct) opinions of others, I thought it would be fun and helpful to have a place where the truth can be discussed without fear of judgment or condemnation, even if it differs from the accepted norm.  Ideas expressed in this blog will likely be someone’s opinion.  Everyone’s opinion is important and helps us learn.  The one and only standard for absolute truth is the Bible. It is my prayer that this blog will help us all come to a better understanding of God’s will.  The world desperately needs some good news today!

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When Was Jesus Crucified?

And on the third day…

The Bible could not be clearer about how long Jesus was in the grave. We begin in the Old Testament in Jonah 1:17, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Many other Scriptures say exactly the same thing.

Matthew 27:62-64, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. Sir, they said, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” Mark 8:31, “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Mark 9:31, “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ ” Mark 10:33-35 Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.

Luke records the events of the resurrection as well as the dismay of two of Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:1-8 “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.”

We read in the same chapter beginning at verse 13, “Now that same day (first day of the week) two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’

‘What things?’ he asked.

‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’ ”

And in verse 46 Jesus told the rest of His disciples gathered in Jerusalem, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Jesus came into the world to fulfill all of the Old Testament.  If He were to fulfill the ritual of the Passover Lamb, He would have to die at twilight on the 14th day of the first month of their year. We must remember the days in their society began at sunset, not midnight. God told the Israelites in Egypt to kill that first Passover lamb at twilight on the 14th day. When the disciples asked Jesus where He wanted them to prepare the Passover meal, Jesus told them to go into Jerusalem and they would find the place. They did as He said and found an upper room “furnished and ready.” Jesus and His disciples would have arrived at the house in the evening, as the gospel accounts state, which would have been early on the 14th day. After dinner they went out to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was betrayed. The following morning (still the 14th day) Jesus was tried and later crucified. This timeline totally fulfills the details of the original Passover. Jesus died around three in the afternoon on the 14th day. Later Joseph came to get Jesus’ body for burial.

Mark 15:42-43 says, “It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” In Luke 23:53-54 we read, “Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” John’s account is also compatible with this scenario. He says in chapter 19:31, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.”

John says the day after the crucifixion was a “special Sabbath.” This is important because the day after the Passover, the 15th of the month, was decreed by God to be a special holy day when the instructions concerning the Passover were given to Moses (Exodus 12:16, Leviticus 23:5-8). Most people assume Jesus had to be crucified on Friday because the Bible says the next day was the Sabbath. Not every Sabbath was on Saturday. There were “special Sabbath” days ordained by God in addition to the seventh day of the week. The day after Passover was one of them. Since Passover was to be celebrated on a specific day of the month, not a day of the week, it could fall on any week day. Since we know Jesus was crucified on the 14th day, if that happened to be a Thursday that year (as many scholars say it was when the Israelites celebrated the first Passover in Egypt), the next day (15th) would have been a special Sabbath, just as John noted, and Jesus would actually have been in the grave for three days and nights, again just as the Bible says.

There is not one Scripture to support a Friday crucifixion. Every verse in the Bible that refers to the death of Jesus says He would be in the grave three days and nights…that He would rise on the third day. Jesus was crucified on Thursday the 14th. Friday, the 15th, was a “special Sabbath.”

AND ON THE THIRD DAY…HE AROSE!

HAPPY EASTER!

Mystery Accomplished!

Many Christians today believe and teach that “the end” spoken of in Revelation and other Scriptures is the end of the physical universe and is still in our future. There is only one “end” prophesied in the Bible and it is the end of the physical kingdom of Israel which was replaced with the New Jerusalem, the church, the kingdom of heaven. That happened with the destruction of Old Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70, exactly as Daniel prophesied and Jesus said it would in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. If Jesus has not yet returned, death has not been destroyed, the righteous dead are still held captive by the power of the grave, the church has not yet been established and Jesus was a false prophet.

The confusion comes in our failure to understand the difference between physical and spiritual death and life. Jesus was not crucified and resurrected to overcome physical death, but spiritual death…eternal separation from God. He did not make atonement so we can have physical life, but eternal spiritual life with God. The church is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Victory in Jesus does not spare us from physical death. It spares us from spiritual death so we may live forever with God, here on earth and in heaven when we experience physical death. That is why Christians have no fear of physical death. It no longer has any power over our eternal destiny. Jesus has destroyed its power. If death has not been destroyed, the new covenant in Christ is not yet a reality, the mystery of God has still not been accomplished, and we are still living under the Law of Moses. Paul said in the above Corinthian passage the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. If death has not been destroyed, sin still has its sting and we are still under its power…the law. That would mean the death and resurrection of Jesus failed to accomplish the very thing He came to do – destroy the Devil’s power, overcome the sting of death, and bring life and immortality to fallen mankind.

Paul said at the sounding of the last trumpet the dead would be raised and Christians who were still living would be changed. The perishable would be clothed with the imperishable, the mortal with immortality. He was not speaking of physical changes, but spiritual. He clearly said the physical (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The perishable (physical) cannot inherit the imperishable (spiritual). What brought about this change from physical to spiritual, from mortality to immortality? 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.”

Life and immortality was the “good news” of the Gospel of Christ.  It had been promised before the beginning of time, foretold by the prophets, and heralded since the day of Pentecost. But at the time of Paul’s writing to the Corinthian church the last trumpet had not yet sounded. The angel in Revelation who introduced this seventh and final trumpet said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

The Apostle Paul explained the mystery of God in his letter to the church in Ephesus. Ephesians 1:9-10, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Ephesians 3:6-12, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus…His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The mystery of God did not change between Ephesians and Revelation. The sounding of the seventh and final trumpet would signal the completion of this mystery. It would also signal that the times were fulfilled, the “time of the end” had come, and the physical temple could be removed, opening up the way into the Holy of Holies so we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

We learn from Hebrews 9:8, “The way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” The first tabernacle stood until it was destroyed by the Roman invasion of A.D. 70. That was the final God-directed event Jesus had said would signify his “coming in the clouds.” This “second appearing” of our Great High Priest proclaimed to all that the atonement blood was accepted by the Father and our sins were forgiven. The last trumpet had sounded. The physical temple was no longer the place of atonement, so it was forever destroyed. Animal sacrifices were no longer needed. The way into the Holy of Holies was open. The kingdom of heaven, the church, was complete. Gentiles and Jews were now members of one body. Death had been destroyed. The righteous dead were raised imperishable. Life and immortality were now a reality. The Devil’s power and his kingdom were destroyed. The fate of all who were living, and all who would ever live, was instantly changed. The fulfillment, or consummation, of the ages had come. In the twinkling of an eye, everything had changed.

Mystery Accomplished!

Distorting the Scriptures

In 2 Peter 3 the apostle responded to some “scoffers” of his day who were asking, “Where is this coming He promised?” Peter said these scoffers were distorting the Scriptures. The scoffers all knew exactly what Jesus had promised; “THIS generation will not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS have happened” (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). This letter was written between 60-68 AD, which would have been 30+ years after Jesus made His promise.  At least these scoffers had a reason to doubt, because the temple was still standing.

If you believe most of the preachers and teachers today, Peter should have told those scoffers, “you are correct, and He will not return for centuries!” But Peter knew better…and so should we.

He begins in vs. 2, “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” The purpose of this chapter is to refute the “scoffers” regarding the “promised coming” of Jesus Christ (vs. 3-9). In vs. 10 he says, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” Peter repeatedly acknowledged this as a day to which they were looking forward (vs. 12-14).

All the writers of the New Testament, the first century Christians and the scoffers all knew exactly what Jesus had promised; “This generation will not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS (including His “coming in the clouds” and the destruction of the temple) have happened.”  That was the “coming He had promised.” It had been 30+ years sing Jesus made that promise. He had ascended back to heaven and, as the scoffers correctly pointed out, Jerusalem had not been destroyed, the temple was still standing and “everything was still going on as usual.” Peter, using the flood of Noah’s day as an example of how God keeps His promise, pleaded with the Christians to maintain their faith because God would surely do exactly what he had promised and exactly when He had promised to do it.

Peter was not the only apostle who had problems with false teachers concerning the coming of the Lord. Look carefully at what Peter said in vs. 15-16, “our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2, Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.  Evidently there were some who were teaching Jesus had already returned. Paul explained why that was false, and went on to tell them when it would happen.  He said, “that day (the same day of the Lord about which Peter wrote) will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up IN GOD’S TEMPLE, proclaiming himself to be God.” This event was to occur inside God’s temple in Jerusalem. It cannot be in our future since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Jesus clearly said in Matthew 24, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel (the rebellion, when the man of lawlessness would set himself up in God’s temple) …then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountainsfor then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). 

In spite of the clear and unmistakable teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and the undeniable evidence of the total destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which was proof that “all these things” have happened…the majority of preachers and teachers today still claim this “promised coming” has not yet happened. They distort the Scriptures to claim that “SOON” does not mean soon, that THIS GENERATION must mean some far distant future generation, that “all these things” must mean “some of these things,” that the destruction of the temple had NO significance, that the “last days” the “tribulation” the resurrection and the judgment are still to come, and that death has not yet been overcome and the kingdom has not yet been established. 

If the “promised coming” of Jesus has still not happened, the entire context of Scripture must be ignored. John the Baptist should have preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is CENTURIES AWAY” (not near). James 5:7-9 should read, “Be patient brothers until the Lord’s coming…because the Lord’s coming is NOT near. The Judge is NOT standing at the door!” We should change 1 Peter 4:7 to say, “The end of all things is NOT near,” and 1 John 2:18 to, “Dear children, this is NOT the last hour.” Hebrews 10:35-37 should say, “You need to persevere…you will receive what he has promised. For in A VERY LONG TIME (not “just a very little while”), he who is coming will come AFTER THOUSANDS OF YEARS DELAY (not “and will not delay).”  And we must change Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:1, 22:7, 12 & 20 to, “I am NOT coming soon.” One must distort a lot of Scripture to teach Jesus has not yet returned.  If the “promised coming” of Jesus has still not happened, Jesus and His apostles were all wrong, the scoffers of Peter’s day were right…Jesus was a false prophet! If I remember correctly, God told Adam and Eve, “The day you eat of this tree, you will die.”  The original scoffer’s distorted translation was, “…you will NOT die.”  My suggestion?  Don’t believe scoffers!

The Mega Church Disaster

What happened to church? This is a question more and more people are asking and Christian folks by the thousands are finding no real reason to attend church anymore.  WHY?

I would humbly suggest that people are not leaving the church…rather the church has left the people!

Here is the Bible example of the first church:  “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

Explaining how the church of Jesus Christ was designed to function, the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15-16, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” And in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue (different language) or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

The church began as a living, breathing organism known as the body of Christ meeting together in public gathering places and in homes all over the cities and countryside. They studied the apostles’ teachings together, prayed together, ate together…shared their lives together. When they were together, every member was a vital part of the fellowship and each one took an active part in the “family of God.” If one had a song, he or she would sing it. If others had learned something from their study of the Scriptures, they would share that. They prayed for each other, observed the Lord’s Supper and often ate common meals together. Every gathering was a family reunion! And when they were not together, every Christian was a missionary. When severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem the Bible tells us they were scattered throughout the Roman world. And Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Teaching others about Jesus was everyone’s responsibility.

The church is a living organism…not an organization!

It is who and what we are…not something we attend!

As a living organism, the body of Christ spread throughout the Roman Empire in spite of intense opposition and even persecution. Every Christian was an ambassador for Christ wherever they went. Beginning in the second century the Roman Empire, unable to eradicate this new religion, devised a way to embrace it in what could be described as a hostile takeover. They changed this living, growing organism into a state-run organization, complete with a ruling hierarchy to control every aspect of its existence.  What began as a loving fellowship of believers who each had his or her individual responsibility to build up the body of Christ soon became a virtual dictatorship in which only the ruling elite had any say in the doctrines and practices of the church. The results were disastrous, leading up to the period in history known as the “dark ages.”

Fast forward a couple of centuries and look at the fresh beginnings many Christians made in a new world known as America. Tired of kings, emperors and religious leaders controlling every aspect of their lives, scores of ordinary people came to this new land to start over. Small groups of people with a shared faith in God and belief in the Bible began to meet in dozens of locations. Much like the early church of the first century, these people met together, studied the Bible together, prayed together, and ate together.  As a result, Christianity spread throughout the colonies. For the next 150 years the church was again a living organism affecting every aspect of American life and greatly influencing our culture, government and laws.

The industrial revolution of 19th and early 20th centuries brought about major changes in the economic and social structure of society. In the span of a couple of generations, we went from a largely rural, agrarian, family centered society to a highly organized urban industrial one. Large corporations with their presidents, managers and boards of directors became the order of the day. Most individuals had no ownership interest or participation in the decisions which affected the corporation. Their job was simply to show up and do what they were told.

Churches in America soon followed suit. By the latter part of the 20th century the family structure seen in the New Testament, in which every member played an active role and was intimately involved in the body of Christ, was all but gone. Virtually every church in America had become a corporate organization, complete with a CEO (usually the pastor or preacher) and a board of directors (elders) who made every decision for the congregation. Bible terms were used for most of these positions, but the function was clear. “Ordinary members” had little say or input into decisions and a “professional clergy” took over the teaching and other public activities of the corporation.

With the corporate model in place, the stage was set for the emergence of the mega-church phenomena we see today. Individual “pastors” began starting their own “churches,” employing methods that were more like the entertainment industry, to attract large crowds of people. Their size and multi-million dollar budgets give them access to international media and their leaders are viewed as great men of God because of the huge organizations they have built. They live in mansions, fly on private jets, conduct seminars, sell millions of books, headline lectureships and conferences, and are in constant demand to share their “method of success” with the less gifted among us. Most existing churches, seeing the “success” of these mega-churches, began copying their methods.

What are the “common people” expected to do? Come to the arena, buy a ticket (make a contribution) and enjoy the show.  And it will be an extravaganza of a show!  Of course such a production must be done by only the most “gifted” musicians and speakers. Gone is the “every member” participation you read about in the Bible. The fundamental rule of all mega-churches is to do whatever is necessary to attract people to the building and make sure they have a wonderful time while they are present. The so-called “gospel message” cannot contain anything that would be offensive.  “We must be “seeker sensitive.”

Although giving lip service to God’s Word, modern mega-churches are mostly about marketing methods. The church is viewed in much the same as any other corporate organization. Do what the people like and they will come. Church services in these mega churches have turned into entertainment extravaganzas that would rival any rock concert. This approach has been extremely successful but has left the membership without any real fellowship or participation in the body of Christ. There is no substance, no “real life” benefits. Bible knowledge is totally irrelevant and virtually nonexistent. Holy Scripture has been reduced to “whatever it means to you.” Sin is seldom, if ever, mentioned and the most important “virtue” taught is tolerance. These churches actually depend on a Biblically illiterate population for their success. Gone is the true family concept of the body of Christ. The original concept of small groups of Christians meeting to share life together without any need of a “local preacher” or organizational structure is regarded as archaic and dysfunctional.

Very similar to what happened when the Roman Empire took over the original church, the results of the mega-church movement have also been disastrous. What was once a deeply personal, individual commitment and involvement in the body of Christ has been reduced to attending a giant entertainment driven meeting one hour per week. No wonder so many people today feel like the church is not what it used to be…or is supposed to be.  It isn’t! People have not left the church, we are the church. The modern church has left the people!

It’s time to start over!

THIS GENERATION

 When discussing the teachings of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and His “second coming” (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 & 21), all agree that Jesus said, This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. And virtually every Bible teacher and preacher will agree that all the Apostles and other New Testament writers believed exactly what Jesus said.  They all expected His coming in THAT generation.  In fact they all believed and taught that many living at that time would see His coming before they died.  Again, that was what Jesus said in Matthew 16:28; “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here (this generation) will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

Nobody can deny or misunderstand exactly what Jesus said. Some people who were alive when He walked the earth would live to see His return because it would happen in that generation.  As the next thirty plus years passed, some of those people (and others the apostles taught) did die. When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, they wanted to know what would happen to the ones who died prior to Jesus’ coming. He not only answered their question about the fate of those who were deceased, but also what would happen to people who lived beyond that time when they would physically die.

1 Thess. 4:13-17, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

Paul continues in chapter 5:1-3, “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.”

Just like a pregnant woman does not know the exact day and hour she will give birth, but is certain it will be in the next nine months, so as for the exact day the Lord would return, nobody knew, but they did know it would be in their generation. Since they had been informed about the signs, this soon coming day would not surprise them like a thief.  Just as Jesus had said, Paul clearly knew some of the Christians to whom he was writing would be alive “until the coming of the Lord.” Remember he is explaining what happens to faithful Christians who die. He also explained that those who die “after that” event (when the Lord returns), will simply be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord…” Paul is not speaking of some immediate “rapture” of all Christians, but simply what happens when one dies.  Again, this is exactly what Jesus taught.  In John 11:25-26 He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

As clear as the teaching of Jesus and His apostles was about His “soon” return, during that generation, the majority of Christians today have been led to believe Jesus and His disciples were all mistaken about the time of His coming. Worse, to force the Scripture to fit the popular imagined future coming of the Lord, most modern teachers try to literally change the meaning of Jesus’ words.  They claim “soon” does not really mean soon and “this generation” can be interpreted to mean any future generation…now more than 2000 years (and counting) passed when Jesus said the events would certainly happen!

The Gospel writers recorded eighteen times where Jesus used the expression “this generation.”

Matthew 11:16, Luke 7:31, “To what can I compare this generation?”

Matthew 12:41, Luke 11:32,  “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.”

Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.”

Matthew 12:45, “That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 23:35-37, Luke 11:49-51, “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.”

Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29, “Why does this generation ask for a sign?”

Mark 8:38, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Luke 11:30, “For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

Luke 17:24-25, “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

I know of nobody who denies Jesus was speaking of the people living at the same time as He in each of the above passages. There are three other passages in which Jesus referred again to “this generation.” These are found in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:20.  The three gospel writers are quoting from Jesus’ conversation with His disciples about the coming destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem.

Looking at Luke’s account, the subject of discussion is found in verses 5-7.  “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’ His apostles asked, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” The ensuing conversation is all about Jesus’ answer to their question about the coming destruction of the city and temple.

In verses 20-22 Jesus said,When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”

Then in verses 27-28 He says, At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus has not changed the subject of conversation. He is still referring to “that time” when the city and temple are being destroyed and the signs leading up to that event.

Finally in verse 32 He says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

“Jesus is coming soon” was true in the first generation when the New Testament was being written. It is not true today.  HE CAME!

Never Again!

God’s everlasting promise: “Never again will I destroy all living creatures on the earth!”

We read the account of the flood in Genesis chapters 6-9. When the waters receded and they were able to leave the ark, the first thing Noah did was build an altar and worship God.  When God smelled the aroma of Noah’s sacrifice, He decided in His heart to make an everlasting covenant with all life on the earth;

Genesis 8:21, The Lord said in His heart; never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Sometime later God met with Noah and explained how He would make a sign to remind Himself and all future generations of mankind of His everlasting promise. In Genesis 9: 8-17 we read, “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature on earth: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’

The everlasting covenant was what God had decided in His heart;

NEVER AGAIN WILL I DESTROY ALL LIVING CREATURES ON THE EARTH!

Since Noah and his family had just encountered the flood, God used that as the example of what He would never do again. The sign of the covenant was the rainbow; a reminder of how every living creature was once destroyed; something He would do never again. God’s promise, the intent of His heart, was not that there would never be another flood but that He would never again destroy all living creatures…period.

However, most Christians today have been taught to believe God did not really mean “never again.” Instead we should actually interpret God’s promise as follows;

Nothing in all of Scripture supports this interpretation of what God said in His heart.  The real lesson from the flood is that the solution to the sin problem is not annihilation; it’s atonement! The remainder of the entire Bible is the amazing story about how “God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to destroy the world…but that the world, through Him, might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Jesus was physically born into the world to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  After He arose from the grave, He ascended into heaven to make that atonement sacrifice. His “second coming” as our Great High Priest was to confirm the atonement was complete, to end the physical kingdom of Israel and destroy the temple in Jerusalem because animal sacrifices were no longer needed, to abolish the Law of Moses, to bring salvation and establish His eternal Kingdom. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” In 10:37 this same writer says, “for in just a little while, He who is coming will come and not delay.”

Jesus clearly said, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). And in Matthew 16:28 He said, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here (this generation) will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” He appeared a second time…exactly how, when and why He said He would…to bring salvation!

Jesus did not come to destroy the world.  He is not coming again to destroy the world.

God said in His heart…NEVER AGAIN WILL I DESTROY ALL LIVING CREATURES!

The hope of the world has always been  salvation…not destruction!

Luke 21

Do you believe Jesus?

In Genesis, when tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan did not try to get her to deny the existence of God or bow down and worship him. He simply suggested to Eve that God did not really mean what He said when He told them, “the day you eat that fruit, you will surely die.” Everything Satan told Eve was true, except he added one little word. “You will NOT die.”  And from a strictly physical point of view, Satan was right!  Adam and Eve did not PHYSICALLY die THAT DAY…and the battle began. However, the reality was they did die, THAT DAY.  They were immediately removed from the Garden, eternally separated from the presence of God because of sin, which is spiritual “death.”  “The wages of sin is death…” spiritual death, separation from God.

The influence of Satan doesn’t change much. He always wants us to concentrate on the physical, ignore the spiritual, and believe that, at least in some cases, God did not mean exactly what He said.  Just prior to His death, Jesus taught His apostles that He would return, and explained in great detail what that would look like and when it would happen (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21).  All three accounts say exactly the same thing about His return:

Matthew 24:30, “They (people on earth) will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Mark 13:26, “They (people on earth) will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

Luke 21:27, “They (people on earth) will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Acts 1:9 tells us that the Apostles were watching as Jesus began to ascend, “and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” The angels told them He would return exactly as they had seen Him go…in a cloud, hidden from sight! Every mention of Jesus’ return says it would be “in a cloud.” Nowhere does the Bible teach Jesus was going to return in a physical, visible body.

All three Gospel accounts record WHEN Jesus said this would happen:

Matthew 24:34, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

Mark 13:30, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

Luke 21:32, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

What do we do with what Jesus said? Most preachers and teachers go to great lengths and Scriptural gymnastics to explain that Jesus did not really mean what He said!  Why?  Because He did not PHYSICALLY return during that first century.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Since Luke’s gospel was written to a Gentile, like most of us, let’s examine his account in chapter 21 closely.

Setting the scene: Vs. 5-6, “And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’

The apostles’ question: Vs. 7, They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” The disciples did not ignore Jesus’ statement about the temple buildings and change the subject to some imaginary “end of the world.” The subject was the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem and they wanted to know when it would happen and if there would be signs of this impending doom. Jesus answered their question

Jesus’ answer: Here are the signs of the coming destruction. (Vs. 8-28)

  1. Imposters will come. Do not go after them.
  2. There will be wars and tumults, do not be terrified.
  3. There will be great earthquakes, famines, pestilences and great signs from heaven.
  4. They will arrest you (the apostles), persecute you, and put some of you to death.
  5. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
  6. Those living in Judea should flee to the mountains, and those who are inside Jerusalem should leave.
  7. Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Subject has not changed.)
  8. There will be signs in the heavens and on the earth distress of nations.
  9. People will be in fear of what is coming on the world.
  10. The powers of the heavens will be shaken.
  11. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Significance of this event:

Vs. 22, “This is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” Vs. 28, “When these things begin to take place…your redemption is drawing near.” Vs. 31, “Also, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”

When will all these things happen?:  Vs. 32, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

What were the apostles instructed to do? Vs. 34-36, Watch for these signs. Stay awake at all times. Pray that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place.

The one event that everyone would see and would prove everything else had been fulfilled was the destruction of the Temple; “not one stone left on top of another.” Luke clearly links all these events to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, which was the subject of the original question posed by the apostles.  We also know that the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, which happened in that first generation.

Clearly 10 of the 11 things listed in this chapter were fulfilled in that generation, so why can we not believe all of them happened just as Jesus said?  Oh yeah…I forgot. Satan doesn’t mind if we believe in God and if we believe almost everything He says. He only wants us to change a word or two!  Since we know Jesus said “all these things” would happen before that generation passed, then that is exactly what happened. Speaking of his “second coming” in Luke  9:26-27 He said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus clearly said he would return in that first generation and that some standing there listening to Him would not die until He came. Every writer of the New Testament (divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit) taught exactly the same thing. So it’s up to each of us. Believe what Jesus said; that He came exactly how and when He said He would…or not.

Do the Scriptures define your theology…or does your theology define the Scriptures?

The Second Coming of the High Priest

 

The Second Coming of the High Priest

Imagine you are in a crowd of thousands, watching as the events unfold on the Day of Atonement. All eyes are fixed on the older gentleman dressed in white linen. You stand in awe as he takes the blood of a recently slain bull and disappears into the Holy of Holies. Everyone knows about this sacred place, but there is only one person on earth allowed inside…and there are strict rules that must be followed. This is where the High Priest enters the very presence of Almighty God to make the annual atonement sacrifice, first for his sins and then the sins of the people, including yours. If God does not accept him and his sacrifice, you will never see him alive again. You know the significance of this ritual and the anticipation builds as the crowd watches.

The High Priest must first make atonement for his own sins. As he disappears into the sacred chamber an eerie hush comes over the crowd as if everyone is holding their breath to see what happens next. After some time, sounds of relief and celebration erupt from the crowd as the High Priest emerges from the Holy Place. God has accepted his sacrifice for his sins and those of his family.  He is approved as God’s High Priest to complete the atonement ritual!

Next he takes blood from the lamb selected to be the sacrifice for the people and disappears again into the Most Holy Place in God’s presence. This sacrifice is for your sins, those of your family and every person standing with you in the huge gathering.  The crowd now stands in absolute silence in anxious anticipation of the second appearance of the High Priest from behind the curtain in the Temple. An anxious expectancy builds as all wait to see if the sacrifice is accepted by God. This time the wait seems so long.  A little boy whispers to his mother, “What’s happening?” She quietly replies, “Don’t worry, he’s coming back soon!”

Suddenly the crowd erupts with sounds of joy when they see the High Priest appear the second time from being in the presence of God.  They all know exactly what his appearance means;

“Your sins are forgiven!”

Once we understand the role of Jesus as the High Priest to complete the atonement ritual we will understand why all the writers of the New Testament were so excitedly awaiting His second coming. The ritual was exactly the same as under the Old Covenant…only the sacrifice was better. On the cross he shed his own blood that would be used for the atonement for sin. However, when Jesus died he did not enter the realm of death with a sin offering. As a matter of fact, technically his blood was not actually spilled until after he was dead. He entered death with NO sacrifice for Himself. This was the ultimate test of his complete lack of sin. This was equivalent to the High Priest walking into the Holy of Holies with NO blood offering.

Had Jesus had even one sin, nobody would have ever seen Him alive again. Paul says of Jesus, “…who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-5). His first appearing (bodily resurrection) proved that God had accepted him as the Great High Priest for the people. To finish the second and final part of the atonement ritual, he had to go away again, after he had appeared the first time from the grave, into the Holy of Holies to take his blood as the atonement for our sins.

So after Jesus had been seen by a sufficient number of people to prove beyond any doubt that he was alive and accepted as God’s High Priest, he left this earth to make the final sacrifice in the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” The eager anticipation of his “soon coming” that we read about in the New Testament was the second appearance of the High Priest to announce the atonement was complete.

Hebrews 9 makes this abundantly clear. In verse 8 the writer says that the sacrifice of the High Priest was the Spirit’s way of “…showing that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” Verse 28 says, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. It was in view of the completion of the atonement sacrifice for sin that Jesus taught that his coming would complete our redemption. In Luke 21:27-28, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, Jesus said, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

This is why he left no doubt how everyone could tell he had returned. Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies…this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written…Stand up, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near…This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Luke 21).  Why the destruction of the temple as the final sign? It was the place of the atonement sacrifice. Once the real atonement was completed in heaven there was no need for the earthly temple. No more sacrifice for sin is required!  When one saw the old temple destroyed, one would KNOW that the sacrifice had been accepted and the way into the Most Holy Place was open for all! The Temple was destroyed in that generation, just as Jesus said.  We are NOT still waiting for second coming of our Great High Priest!

He came!   YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN!

NO MORE DEATH!

     NO MORE DEATH!

Rev 21:1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I 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 the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ ”

The entire book of Revelation was written to reveal how Jesus fulfilled the promise of God to redeem mankind from the consequences of sin. Speaking of the coming Messiah, the Prophet said in Isaiah 25:7-8, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” When did Jesus “swallow up death” and “remove the disgrace” (sin) of his people?

And in Isaiah 65:17-19 the same prophet announced, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”

Comparing the old covenant and the physical nation of Israel to the new covenant we have Jesus Christ, Hebrews 12:22-24 says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” 

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

The above prophesies, and many more, clearly indicate that in the kingdom of heaven, the new Jerusalem, the church, there will be no more sorrow, hunger, death, crying, etc. This does not mean these things will literally disappear from the earth, nor are these Scriptures referring to heaven after we die. The comparison is between the physical kingdom of Israel and the spiritual kingdom of heaven, the church. The physical kingdom was subject to all these physical problems; wars, captivity, calamities, sorrow, hunger and death. The spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ is vulnerable to none of these things. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). In John 5:24 he said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Speaking to Martha on the occasion of her brother’s death, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus used the resurrection of Lazarus to demonstrate that he had power over death. It was a physical demonstration of what would soon become a spiritual reality. In the context of salvation and eternity, death and resurrection are always spiritual concepts, never physical. Most people, like Mary and Martha, get the two confused. Paul, writing to Christians in Thessalonica said, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In order to understand the resurrection of which Jesus and Paul spoke we must first understand the difference between physical and spiritual. The concept of “no tears, no sorrow, no death” relates to the spiritual nature of the kingdom of heaven as compared with the former physical kingdom. The former things have passed away, all things have become new.

In the beginning God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He said, “The day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” They ate…but did they die that day? Some would argue they “began to die” that day or they “became subject to death” that day. That is not what God said. If we do not understand the meaning of death, we will certainly not understand the resurrection from death.

Death literally means “a separation.” When Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. They were banished from the garden and separated from the presence of God that day. Physical death may have been a subsequent consequence of their spiritual death, but Jesus proved that physical death cannot separate one from God. If it did, he could not have come back from the grave. When Paul says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” he is not talking of physical death. The consequence of sin is spiritual death, eternal separation from the presence of God. Jesus did not die on the cross to overcome physical death, but spiritual death, the death that resulted from sin. The same verse says, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Just as the wages of sin is eternal spiritual death, the gift of God is eternal, spiritual life. When a person sins, he dies. In Romans 7:9 Paul says, “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” Since nobody can perfectly keep God’s law, everyone sins and everyone dies…spiritually. When does one die? When he or she sins.

In the same way, when one receives forgiveness from sin, he or she is “resurrected” to life. Jesus said in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Describing how we die to sin and are raised in Christ when we are baptized Paul said, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Once we receive forgiveness of our sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we are “resurrected” or raised to walk in new life…resurrection life. Most Christians believe they are waiting on the resurrection because they don’t understand they already have it!

What about Lazarus and all the other righteous people who died before the atonement of Jesus? Daniel was shown a vision of the “last days” in which atonement would be made and God would put an “end to sin” (Daniel 9:24) and in chapter 12:1-4 & 13 said, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge…As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

When was the resurrection from death going to be a reality? At the “time of the end” following the “time of distress such as has not happened from beginning of nations until then.” We know from Jesus’ quotation of this very same prophecy this time would be when the temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:15-25, Mark 13:14-23). What was allowing the power of death to keep its hold over these people? SIN! Once the atonement of Jesus was complete, there was no way death could continue to hold them. Did they come to life? YES! If they did not, it means death still has dominion and, since death is the result of sin, forgiveness must not yet be available. This view ultimately nullifies the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Do we still die physically? Yes, but as Jesus said, we are never spiritually dead…meaning we are not separated from God. We have already experienced the resurrection from death in Christ because we have received forgiveness for our sin. Remember, the wages of sin is death. With no sin there is no death.

Exactly how and when mankind would be forgiven of sin and be freed from death is known throughout the Bible as the great mystery of God. John recorded in Revelation 10:7, “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

Paul said the mystery would be complete when death would be swallowed up in victory. In 2 Timothy 1:9-10 this same apostle told the young preacher, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection from the grave destroyed death. It had no mastery over him because he was sinless. Now that the atonement for us is complete, it no longer has any power over us because we too, cleansed by His blood, are sinless. We can say with Paul, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For all whose sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

NO MORE DEATH…THANK YOU, JESUS!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

     ACTS CHAPTER TWO:

Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…” What is the gift of the Holy Spirit? Is the “gift” the Holy Spirit Himself that people receive from God or something the Spirit of God gives to mankind? The reality is we see both in Acts 2.

To understand what was happening on that day, we need to back up three years to another man who was preaching repentance and baptism for the remission of sin. Mark 1:4, “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” In verses 7-8 he said, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Three years later, just prior to His death, Jesus promised His apostles in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” And in John 15:26-27, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Following His death and resurrection, we read in Acts 1:4-9, “On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” 

Acts chapter two begins, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Spirit enabled them.” Peter, by the miraculous power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke to the crowd. “This is what was spoken by the Prophet Joel, ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Acts 2:16-21). Peter explained to them this was what had been prophesied by Joel for the last days of Israel and in verse 33 said, “Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

This “gift” was the Holy Spirit Himself whom Jesus promised to give His apostles. It was the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” spoken about by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33). It was a miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit on those who were to receive the divine revelation of the gospel and proclaim it throughout the world. John said he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The apostles were immersed with the Spirit of God. Jesus is the only One who could give this gift. No other person in the Bible ever baptized someone “with the Holy Spirit.”

This same outpouring (baptism) of the Holy Spirit is seen again when Peter was sent by God to teach the gospel to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. Acts 10: 44-48, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” When Peter was explaining to his Jewish friends back in Jerusalem why he taught and baptized Gentiles, he said in Acts 11:16-18, “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way? When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’ ”

We learn three key things from Acts 10 and 11 about this miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 1) Peter said this was “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 2) He also said it was “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” 3) He said it was exactly the same “gift” the apostles had received on the Day of Pentecost. Please note in neither case did this “gift of the Holy Spirit” follow baptism nor was it associated with the forgiveness of sins.  It was a sign from God, in fulfillment of prophesies, to prove the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles and forgiveness of sins was for everyone. Peter continued to teach Cornelius and his family the same gospel message he taught the Jews at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And they did!

As we have noticed, Peter clearly identified the “gift of the Holy Spirit” promised by Jesus to His apostles as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which happened when the Spirit, seen as tongues of fire, miraculously came upon them (and later on Cornelius and his household). However, Peter also says to the crowd in Acts 2:38-39, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Did Peter promise everyone present that day (and all who would obey the gospel in the future) they would receive the same gift (baptism) of the Holy Spirit that had come upon the apostles?  NO!  Contrary to modern interpretations, this statement by Peter was NOT referring here to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit Himself, but to the RESULT of that outpouring which had just occurred.

Let’s read the rest of the sentence, “…for the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Peter was speaking to a faithful Jewish audience who had been waiting for centuries for a coming Messiah. “The promise,” which was first for the Jews and their descendants, and ultimately to those who were far off (Gentiles), was the promise God gave to Abraham of a coming Messiah, not the promise of the Holy Spirit. He began by quoting from the Old Testament prophet Joel. That prophecy included the outpouring of the Spirit as a sign that the promise was being fulfilled and concluded with, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter’s message to those Jews who were convicted of the sin of crucifying their own Messiah was, “Repent and be baptized, and you will receive the gift of what has been promised…FORGIVENESS, SALVATION!” The promise to Abraham of a coming Messiah (the Redeemer) was the subject of Peter’s entire address. In verse 36 he said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Paul wrote in Gal. 3:14, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Christ Jesus was the promise of the Spirit. Gal. 3:16-18, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” Gal. 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Eph. 2:12-13, “Remember that at that time you (Gentiles) were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph. 3:6, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

The fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham was happening in Jerusalem that day. The Holy Spirit was bringing the plan of God to fruition.  Jesus was the MESSIAH! He was the promised REDEEMER! The Jews had killed him. For what were the Jews asking? FORGIVENESS! That was the “gift” the Spirit of God revealed to mankind that day and what the 3000+ who were baptized that day received.  Forgiveness was the promise “…for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” The other gift, baptism of the Holy Spirit Himself, was given by Jesus to the apostles earlier that same day, just as John had predicted and Jesus had promised them. Everyone who believes the gospel message and is baptized into Christ receives the ultimate gift (the promise) which was revealed by the Holy Spirit through the message of the apostles…forgiveness of sins. The promised gift of God for all mankind to which Peter was referring in verse 38 is not the Holy Spirit…it is JESUS. This is exactly what Jesus had promised His apostles, “When the Holy Spirit comes…he will testify about me. Paul said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Please do not think I am suggesting we do not have the living presence of God with us every day of our lives. That is exactly why Jesus died for our sins. But we are not baptized so we can have some “third person of the Godhead” miraculously possess our bodies and direct our every move. Christianity is not about miraculous “spirit possession.”  It is about having a normal, healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Before sin entered the world, God (THE Holy Spirit) “lived” with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Sin separated them from God, as it does us. We are baptized into Christ to receive forgiveness of our sins so we will no longer be separated from our Creator. Once forgiven, we have the same relationship with God as did Adam and Eve before the fall. We can, once again, live in the presence of our Creator and He lives with us. Forgiveness of sin puts us back in relationship with God…justified (just as if we had never sinned) by the blood of Christ. Jesus said in John 14:23, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

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