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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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God’s Moral Law

  The Ten Commandments:

To fail to understand God’s moral law, which has been (and is) the foundation of every covenant God has ever made with mankind, is to fail to understand much of the Scriptures. This is similar to teaching that the Old Testament and the Law of Moses are the same. The Old Testament contains the Law of Moses, but the Law of Moses is by no means all of the Old Testament. The majority of the Old Testament has little to do with the Law of Moses and everything to do with the coming Messiah who will establish His kingdom and redeem all mankind from the penalty of sin.

The underlying principles of every law or covenant God has given is; a) Love God; b) Love People. Jesus, in His teachings, emphasized how the Ten Commandments were the embodiment of these two principles. The Law of Moses was based on God’s moral law, as seen in the Ten Commandments, not the other way around. The new covenant in Christ is also based on these same principles. This new covenant replaced the Law of Moses, but the Ten Commandments are just as applicable today as they ever were. They were God’s law from creation. They did not begin on Mt. Sinai when God made His covenant with the Jews known as the Law of Moses.  Sin, by definition, is a transgression of God’s law. The penalty is death; which is why it is referred to as the law of sin and death. That has been in effect since the Garden of Eden. You sin, you die!

But, you may ask, what about the fourth command to keep the Sabbath? According to God Himself, the origin of keeping the Sabbath is from creation. “The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” at creation, not on Mt. Sinai centuries later (Exodus 20:11). How could anyone claim it originated with the Law of Moses? Sabbath means “rest” not “seventh.” It has always been (and still is) God’s will that man (and even animals) be given a day of rest. The principle behind this law is “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is just as applicable today as it was in Adam or Noah’s day. It does not have anything to do with worshipping on Saturday. That is a complete misunderstanding of the principle of the fourth command. Neither is it some arbitrary law about one day of the week being sacred. Jesus went out of His way on several occasions to teach how badly the Pharisees had misinterpreted the Sabbath. He said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

“Thou shall not murder” was not written in stone until Mt. Sinai, but it was just as wrong for Cain to kill Able as it was for one Jew to kill another, and it is still binding today. We are not bound to follow the rituals contained in the Law of Moses concerning the Sabbath, but it is still wrong to force people to work seven days every week with never a day off for rest.

The Law of Moses was based on the Ten Commandments…but they are not the same law. One is the “law of God” which has been in effect since creation, the other is the “Law of Moses” which God gave him to direct the affairs of the nation of Israel. We are NOT under the “old covenant” Law of Moses. It was “nailed to the cross.” But we are still under the law of God. The stone tablets, representing God’s moral law of the universe, were kept in the Ark of the Covenant, covered by the Mercy Seat. It was there the High Priest offered the blood sacrifice for sins against God’s law.

When we get to the final book in the Bible we read of the revealing of Jesus Christ and how He established the eternal kingdom of God, also known as His church. When the seventh angel sounded his trumpet the voice said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). We read in verse 19, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within His temple was seen the Ark of the Covenant.”

When the Law of Moses was fulfilled, there was still the Ark of the Covenant which contained the stone tablets, representing the universal moral Law of God. It was on this Mercy Seat that Jesus made the final blood offering for the atonement of the sins of the entire world, from Adam and Eve forward. The wages of sin had finally been paid. The law of God said, “You sin, you die.”  Jesus took our place and now says, “You sin, I died!” GRACE!

The new covenant we have in Christ today replaced the Law of Moses. But it is still built on the same principles upon which God’s law has always been based; love God and love people. Specific requirements changed with each covenant God gave, but the underlying principles never change.

James, “The Lord’s Coming”

  James said “the Lord’s coming is near.”

Was he wrong or just misguided by the Holy Spirit? He wrote a short letter to the Jewish Christians who had been dispersed because of persecution. In his opening salutation he said, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”

The majority of his teaching had to do with daily Christian living. He encouraged them to be humble, not to show favoritism, to live their faith in actions, to watch their tongue, to seek the wisdom that is from above, to resist the Devil and the ways of the world, to not trust in earthly wealth, and to pray. The underlying theme of his message, which is seen in his opening and closing remarks, is patience in the face of suffering. While the principle of growth and maturity through adversity is true in any age, James had a special reason to write these words at that particular time.

Being Jews, his readers would have been very familiar with the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning “terrible times in the last days” of their nation. That they were also Christians meant they would have been keenly aware of Jesus’ teachings about those times coming during their generation. With that background James said in chapter 1:2-7, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” He went on to explain how that would ultimately lead to their becoming more mature in Christ, then in verse 12 he said, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

James returned to this same subject in his final chapter. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:7-9).

He then gave examples of patience in suffering. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10-11).

James said:

Be patient until the Lord’s coming.

The Lord’s coming is near.

The judge is standing at the door.

Such language was very familiar to those Jewish Christians concerning the coming judgment of God on a nation. Remember what Isaiah said about the approaching judgment of God against Babylon. “See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless” (Isaiah 13:9-11). They had read dozens of similar passages of Scripture their entire lives.

James’ point was for those first century Christians to be patient because “the Lord’s coming was near.” The message was not to be patient because we have no idea when the Lord will come, rather just the opposite, to be patient because the Lord’s coming was SOON…at hand. That is exactly what the text says. Compare the words James used to those of Jesus in Matthew 24:33-34, “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

The context, as seen in James 5, was the persecution the saints were facing in “the last days” of Israel. They were living in those “last days.” The Lord was not going to let them remain in their pain and suffering. He was going to return just as he had promised and fulfill all prophecies and bring the kingdom to fruition. The point of the farmer analogy was to look at the signs. They knew to wait patiently for the fall and spring rains and the harvest would come just as sure as the sun rises and sets. In the same way, the first century disciples were told to “watch for the signs” of the Lord’s coming. Yes, they were facing many trials and temptations at that time, but the Lord was faithful. He had not abandoned his promises. Just as surely as the farmer knows the rains will produce a crop, they could depend upon Jesus to come as he had promised to put an end to their suffering. And just a few short years later the very last words Jesus said to anyone on earth were, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).

There has been considerable effort by many religious teachers to ascribe various meanings to some words in the Scriptural texts to support a future, universe-ending interpretation. For instance, some versions of the Bible translate Revelation 22:20 to say, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” They explain that “quickly” means his coming will be swift, but does not necessarily have an associated historical date. Once again, let’s examine the Scriptures to see what the Bible teaches.

There are three different Greek terms often associated with the Lord’s coming. These same words are also used in many other passages of Scripture. It is sometimes helpful to look at the words and the ways in which they are used in context to get a better understanding of the intended meaning: Engus – translated “near” or “at hand,” Tachu – translated “quickly” or “soon” and Aiphnidios (adjective) or exaiphnes (adverb) – translated “suddenly.”

Below is a sampling of Bible passages that use the word “engus.”

Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

John 6:4, “The Jewish Passover Feast was near.”

Matthew 26:18, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, `The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ”

Matthew 24:32, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.”

Matthew 24:33-34, “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

Luke 21:20, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”

1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near.”

James 5:8, “The Lord’s coming is near.”

Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

Revelation 22:10, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.”

The word “near” carries the same meaning in each of these verses. The event under discussion was close at hand, not in the distant future. Revelation 22:10 is particularly apparent when compared with Daniel 8:26 where the prophet was told, “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” Daniel’s prophecy would not be fulfilled for 490 years. That was not near. John was specifically told not to seal his vision because the time was near. It makes absolutely no sense that God would tell Daniel something almost 500 years away was the distant future and tell John something thousands of years off was near. Whatever God was revealing to John had to be coming soon…in that generation.

The second term “tachu” is found in the following verses:

Matthew 5:25, “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”

John 11:31, “When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.”

Matthew 28:7, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Revelation 22:20, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”

While this term indicates something to be done rapidly, it does not mean it will be done in the distant future. It carries with it a sense of urgency. One can hardly say the “coming” to which John refers in Revelation might be thousands of years in the future and be true to the original meaning.

The Greek adverb “aphno” or “exaiphnes” or the adjective form “aiphnidios, occurs in the following passages.

Luke 2:13, “And suddenly (exaiphnes) there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying…”

Acts 2:2, “And suddenly (aiphnidios) a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”

Acts 9:3, “Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly (exaiphnes) a light from heaven flashed about him.”

Luke 21:34, “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly (aiphnidios) that day be instantly upon you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:3, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly (aiphnidios), as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

This term does refer to something that happens unexpectedly. It does not mean there are no signs that it is coming. The analogy of labor pains is the given example. A woman who is pregnant certainly knows the pains are coming, and she knows approximately when by counting the months. She does not know the exact day and hour they will begin. That is precisely what Jesus said about his coming and the destruction of the temple. He gave them the signs for which to watch. He told them it would be in that generation. But he also said they would not know the day or hour it would actually happen.

It is interesting to note all of these terms are used in connection with the “last days” coming of the Lord and the consummation of the ages. That day would come suddenly, so the disciples and early Christians were told to watch and wait. It would also come quickly, rapidly. But it was also near at the time of their writings. No possible Biblical definition of these terms allows any interpretation of the coming of the great day of the Lord beyond the generation in which the apostles lived.

Not only James, but all the New Testament writers believed the Lord’s coming was going to happen “soon.” Jesus Christ said, “This generation will not end until all these things have happened.” One of “these things” was the Son of Man coming in the clouds. The language cannot be mistaken. Since they were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, the belief in an imminent coming must have also been “Holy Spirit inspired.” Yet, according to many modern theologians, Jesus has still not come. Were the early Christians mistaken in their belief? Did the Holy Spirit misguide the writers of Scripture?

Atheists are quick to point out the inconsistency in our theology and denounce Christianity as a false religion and Jesus as a fake. Even many Christian writers publically say the apostles misunderstood Jesus and were mistaken in their belief about the timing of his coming. In his essay, The World’s Last Night, the renowned Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote the following in 1960:

“Say what you like, the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proven to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

Lewis is correct in his assessment of what Jesus said and what his disciples believed. The imminent return of Jesus is a consistent, recurring theme throughout the entire New Testament. The doctrine of a “delayed coming” that is so prevalent today has done more damage to the believability of the Christian message than perhaps any other false doctrine. Those who espouse this view of Jesus’ future return are completely helpless to explain the inconsistencies between their teaching and what the Scriptures actually say. Many Christians, in utter confusion, have completely abandoned any study of these end time events.

The confusion does not lie with the Scriptures. The Lord’s coming, about which James and the others wrote, is not difficult to understand if we will simply believe what the Bible says. James was not mistaken about the timing of the Lord’s coming. Jesus did know what he was talking about. James said the Lord’s coming was near when he wrote his letter.  It was. He came!

Religious Fiction

  The rapture…been there, done that!

In the best-selling Left Behind books, what got left behind was truth. There is a good reason these books are in the “Fiction” section of the book store.  By definition they are imaginary stories not based on fact.  In other words, they are totally FALSE.

The Apostle Paul wrote two short letters to the church in Thessalonica. He began the first by complementing them on their faith that was well known in the region. He said the churches in Macedonia and Achaia had given glowing reports of their understanding of Scripture. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 he said, “Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” As we already know from his other writings and will soon discover in this letter as well, Paul was speaking of the same coming Jesus predicted and the same time of wrath that was to have greater consequences than anything that had ever happened before or would ever happen again (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) .

We learn in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 of their concern about those faithful disciples who had died before the coming of the Lord. What would happen to them? Paul said, “Brothers, 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. 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 own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Jesus had said earlier to the disciples, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). Paul knew some Christians to whom he was writing would be “…left till the coming of the Lord” and live to see these events unfold. Verse 16 continues, “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.” This is the same coming, the same trumpet sound, that Jesus said would come before that generation passed (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). It would signal the consummation of the ages and that the mystery of God has been accomplished (Revelation 10:7).

Then Paul explained what would happen to those who live beyond those last days. “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. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (vs. 17-18). Paul did not say all those who remain would be immediately caught up to heaven in a worldwide “rapture.” The question he was answering was what will happen to the dead. His answer was simple. Those who died prior to the coming of the Lord, all the way back to Adam, would be raised and be with him at that time. Those who die “after that,” those who live beyond that event, will actually never die. When they experience physical death, they will simply be caught up to be with the Lord and all those who have gone on before. That is exactly what Jesus said in John 11:26, “…and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Remember, in the context of redemption, Scripture is always speaking of spiritual death and spiritual life. Death has been destroyed. We will still leave our physical body one day. But we have eternal life NOW. We will never again be separated from God. We will never die.

It is interesting to notice the difference between what one hears in a typical Sunday sermon and what the same preacher may say at a funeral. There is one theology for Sundays and a completely different one for funerals. On Sunday, the Lord is yet to come, the resurrection is in the future, and “someday,” when the Lord returns, the dead will rise to be with him. At a funeral it is usually said that the deceased has gone on to be with the Lord and is now in a much better place in heaven with Jesus. Our funeral theology is correct. May God help us understand that on Sunday.

Having answered the question about what happens to dead people, Paul turned his attention to the coming day of the Lord. Paul used the same analogy Jesus did about this day coming like a thief in the night. Jesus specifically said they would not know the exact day and hour. However, both Jesus and Paul said it should not surprise believers because there was a whole litany of signs for which they should be watching. Paul said in chapter 5:4-11, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day…for God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Those who were watching were not surprised.

In his second letter to this church in Thessalonica Paul continued to encourage them to remain faithful and watchful for the Lord’s coming. We read in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” Paul did not change the subject to some other coming. Earlier he told them not to worry about Christians who had died, or who would live beyond this time. Here he described the fate of those who had refused to believe and obey the gospel and accept the atonement sacrifice of the Lamb of God who could have taken away their sin. Just as the blessings of eternal life with Jesus await the saved, all who will ever live and refuse to obey the gospel have but one destiny. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord. Once again he was speaking of spiritual death the same as Adam and Eve experienced, being separated from God, banished from his presence.

As in every generation since, there were those in the first century who misunderstood the teaching of Jesus concerning his second coming and the day of the Lord. There were scoffers who had decided that, because it had been almost three decades since Jesus was crucified and he had not yet returned and destroyed the temple as he said he would, he must have been a false prophet. The Apostle Peter explained to the early Christians that God neither forgets nor fails to keep a promise, but would indeed come in that generation (2 Peter 3). There were others who, perhaps in an effort to defend what they had believed and taught, were saying the day of the Lord had come and the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. Paul addressed this false doctrine in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day 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.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

Paul identified two of these false teachers in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.”

A third, and equally false, doctrine about the second coming and the day of the Lord is prevalent in the church today. Failing to properly understand the importance of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the significance that event had in the atonement for sin and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven, many today believe and teach the day of the Lord and the resurrection have still not occurred. If Jesus and the apostles actually taught the coming of the Lord and the resurrection was to be the end of the entire universe, how could anyone in the first century have been deceived into believing it had already happened? The fact that Paul addressed this as a serious concern obviously meant neither he nor any first century Christians held this view of the second coming and the resurrection of the dead. They all understood exactly what Jesus had said about these things happening during their generation. And, just as Jesus had said would happen, there were false teachers, some claiming to be the “returned Christ” and others attempting to capitalize on their own imaginary version of his coming. Sound familiar?

Paul explained to the Christians in Thessalonica the Lord would not come until after the “…man of lawlessness is revealed” who will “…set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” Compare this to Daniel’s prophecy of these same last days when he says in Daniel 9:26-27, “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary…And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” We know for absolute certain from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that the “…abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” would immediately precede the destruction of the temple. The Apostle Paul could be speaking of no other event in history.

Paul did not identify by name the “man of lawlessness,” but said the day of the Lord would not come until “the rebellion” occurred at which time this man would be revealed. In his historical account of the destruction of Jerusalem, Wars of the Jews, Josephus described the Jewish rebellion against Rome just prior to the city’s destruction. According to this personal eyewitness of the events that unfolded, there was a man named John of Gischala who, with the help of the Idumaeans whose assistance he had requested, became the leader of the Jewish Zealots who were opposing the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Ananus, the High Priest at the time, favored making peace with the Romans to spare the temple. Titus, the Roman General, intended to preserve the temple in Jerusalem as a monument to Roman conquest. Josephus personally pleaded with John of Gischala to surrender to the Romans.

Instead of listening to Ananus or Josephus, John of Gischala ordered the murder of the High Priest and set up his military defense in the temple. He deceived the Jews into believing they could defeat the Romans and brutally murdered anyone who attempted to escape. He melted down the temple utensils and defiled everything that was sacred to the Jews. He literally exalted himself “…over everything that is called God or is worshiped” and set himself up in God’s temple in the place of God. It was his resistance that forced the Romans to destroy the temple. He was captured and condemned to life in prison by the Roman government. Paul had said Jesus would overthrow the man of lawlessness and destroy him “…by the power of his coming.” That is exactly what happened.

At the time of Paul’s writing, the fulfillment of these last days had not yet come. The man of lawlessness was yet to be revealed. The abomination of desolation set up in the temple was still a few years in their future. But it did come. It came before that generation passed away, just as Jesus said it would. Every writer of the New Testament is in total agreement on this subject. The second coming of Jesus Christ to affirm the completion of the atonement sacrifice, to fully accomplish the mystery of God, to bring an end to the Law, and to completely destroy the temple is a consistent, fully understandable teaching throughout God’s word. All we have to do is study.

The Teaching of Peter

     NO…time is NOT flexible with God!

Before Jesus left his apostles and ascended back into heaven he promised the Holy Spirit would come to guide them. In John 16:12-14 he told them, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” The Holy Spirit’s role in the lives of these early disciples was to help them remember what Jesus had taught and continue to reveal God’s will to them, including things that were yet to happen, so they could write it down for our benefit.

Peter was keenly aware of the importance of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in God’s revelation. In 1 Peter 1:20 he said, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter was one of those men from God who would speak and write as he was guided by the Holy Spirit.

In his first letter, following his usual salutation, he began to explain some things about salvation that may seem a bit strange. He said in verse 3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Here the apostle was writing many years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus speaking of the coming of the salvation that is (not was) ready to be revealed in the last time. What was there about salvation that was still to be revealed? To what time period was he referring when he said “the last time”? Remember this was the same apostle who preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost. In that sermon he was the one who identified these times as the ones spoken of by the prophet Joel when he said, “In the last days God will pour out his Spirit…”

Throughout the New Testament letters there is expressed time after time the concept of salvation being present, yet still coming. We see this in Hebrews 12:28 in regard to the kingdom where the writer says, “…we are receiving a kingdom.” Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrifice for our sin. His blood was shed for our atonement, which made possible our salvation. The sacrificial lamb had been slain. But there was more to come.

Continuing in verse 10 of the same chapter, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” Not only did the prophets predict the sufferings of Christ, but also the “…glories that would follow.” There must have been more to these “last days” than the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter also understood the consummation of the ages. He knew Jesus had been sacrificed for the sins of the world. He was at the trial. He also knew, by divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, that there was more to be accomplished. Peter knew the ritual the High Priest went through in sacrificing blood for sin. He had taken many animals to the priest and waited anxiously for his emergence from the Holy of Holies to know his sacrifice was accepted by God.

In 1 Peter 4:7 he said, The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” Is it even remotely logical that he was speaking of the end of the physical universe? If so, Peter and the other New Testament writers were sadly misguided by the Holy Spirit in regard to the timing. Are we still waiting for salvation to be revealed? In keeping with what Jesus and Scripture says on the subject, salvation was to be completely revealed in the last days of Israel. Once all the things the prophets had foretold and Jesus said would have to happen were fulfilled, the atonement would be complete and our Great High Priest would appear signifying not only God’s acceptance of his blood for our sins, but the end of the old covenant. Then the physical temple would be forever removed from the earth. This was the “end of all things” necessary to complete God’s wonderful mystery of salvation. A few of these things were still to be revealed at the time of Peter’s writing. If they have still not yet happened, our salvation is not yet complete.

In his second letter, Peter continued with a much more detailed account of these final things that remained to be revealed concerning this salvation. In 2 Peter 3:1-2 he said, “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 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. He said he had written both of his letters to remind his readers of what the prophets said and what Jesus taught.

Peter began this chapter telling them what he was saying was nothing new. It could be found in the Old Testament prophecies and in the teachings of Jesus. One of the primary principles of Bible study is to let the Bible interpret itself. In verse 3-4 he said, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ ”

Who had predicted scoffers and false teachers? Jesus. These people were now taunting the first century Christians with Jesus’ own words. “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” Everyone understood exactly what Jesus had said, that this generation would not pass away until all these things happened. They were some thirty years beyond the death of Jesus and it had not happened. Jesus must have been a fake.

Peter began to answer their argument with a comparison to the days of Noah. Verses 5-6, “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” Imagine the scoffers in Noah’s day. You are building a what? The entire earth is going to be flooded? Yeah, right! After about a hundred years of listening to Noah, I can believe a lot of people were saying, “Where is this flood he promised?” But they were wrong. God did exactly what he said he would do. Notice Peter said the “…world of that time was destroyed.” He was now telling them the “world of this time” is about to be destroyed.

Peter repeated precisely what Jesus had taught in verse 7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth (world) are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” In Matthew 25:31-33 Jesus had said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Jesus continued, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (vs. 41).

In one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible, Peter explained to them why they should not listen to the scoffers. In verse 8 he said, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Many Christians today have been taught that one cannot take God literally when he makes a statement about time because God doesn’t keep time like we do. Time is flexible with God. A day is like a thousand years to God, so when God says he will do something in forty years, he may mean forty thousand years. And, in this case, when Jesus said all these things will happen in this generation, he may have meant a thousand generations. This is utter nonsense and is the complete opposite of what Peter was saying.

When God makes an explicit time statement, he means it and he keeps it. When he told the Israelites they would have to wander in the desert for forty years, he meant exactly forty years. And forty years to the day they crossed over the Jordan into the promised land. When God said forty years, he meant forty years.

Daniel started praying to God to deliver Israel from Babylonian captivity and return them to their own land in the seventieth year of that captivity. Why? Because in Jeremiah 25:11-12 God had said, “ ‘This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever.’ ” It is no accident that in Daniel 9:2 we read, “In the first year of his (Darius) reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” Daniel knew that if God were true to his word, the captivity was almost over because it was the seventieth year. God is not slow keeping his promise! He never has been, he never will be, and he wasn’t in the days of Peter.

Peter’s message to the first century Christians was clear. God can remember a thousand years as easily as he can remember one day. God does not forget over time, nor does he forget what he says about time. AND TIME IS NOT FLEXIBLE WITH GOD! He had not forgotten Jesus’ promise. He said he would come in their generation to destroy Jerusalem and its temple…HE DID!

Then Peter proceeded to explain how the end would come and again chose the same terminology used by Jesus. 2 Peter 3:10-13, “But 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 in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Peter used the Greek word “ouranos” which is translated “heavens” to denote that which would be destroyed. This is the same term Jesus used in Matthew 24:33 when he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away…” Had either of them meant the physical universe, they would have used the word “kosmos.” It is the same terminology from the prophecy of Isaiah 67:17, speaking of the time when the physical nation of Israel would find her ultimate fulfillment in the eternal kingdom. The prophet said, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” The Scriptures contain numerous similar passages referring to the old kingdom of Israel as a world that would pass away, replaced by a “new heaven and earth.” Remember that Peter said he would bring to mind the things spoken by the prophets and what Jesus had taught. This is one more example of just that.

He also said the “…elements will melt in the heat.” The word “elements” is the Greek word “stoicheion” and appears seven times in the New Testament. Twice in Galatians (4:3 & 9) and twice in Colossians (2:8 & 20) it refers to the basic principles of this world to which we die when we become Christians. Once in Hebrews 5:12 it refers to the elementary truths of God’s word. The other two times the word is used is here in 2 Peter 3:10 & 12. The word means the principles upon which a society is built. It refers here to the basic principles or “elements” of that world which was passing away, the world of physical Israel, the Jewish world. Never does this word refer to trees and dirt. There is nothing in these verses that teach the physical universe would be destroyed. Actually the opposite is true. The universe was going to undergo a “consummation” or changing of the ages. Something imperfect (physical Israel) was going to be destroyed and the perfect spiritual kingdom would replace it, which is exactly what happened. What a blessing that was to the kosmos!

No wonder Peter’s next comment in 2 Peter 3:14 was, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” It is difficult to see how a cataclysmic destruction of the universe would be something to look forward to, but the revealing of God’s salvation and the establishment of his eternal spiritual kingdom…now that was something to get excited about!

Before leaving this subject Peter had some interesting words to say about the Apostle Paul’s writings and those who would distort the teachings about these matters. In verses 15-16 he said, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as 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.”

Through the prophesies of the Old Testament, the preaching of John the Baptist, the teachings of Jesus and the letters of the New Testament, the subject never changed. The kingdom of heaven was coming. It came.

Chicken Little Gospel

   The gospel according to Chicken Little.

What do the majority of Christians today have in common with Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey? In the more modern version of the ancient fable, an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little. Terrified by the experience, she mistakenly assumes the sky is falling and runs to tell the king. Along the way she encounters each of the other characters to whom she excitedly relates her belief that the sky is falling. She tells them, “I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!” They all believe her story and join the frenzy. After all, how could they question her personal experience? Foxy Loxy, being the cunning fellow he is, seizes the opportunity for a meal of banquet proportions and offers to “show them the way to the king.” With the wise Foxy Loxy now leading the way, they are all proclaiming the most important and urgent message the world has ever heard; “The sky is falling!” Foxy Loxy is not about to tell them otherwise.

In 1970 Hal Lindsey wrote the bestselling book of the century entitled The Late Great Planet Earth. Based on the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 he claimed Bible prophesies indicated the world was on its final countdown to the end of time. It immediately caught the attention of many in the Christian world and sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Without a doubt he was the greatest influence of the twentieth century on the modern church in molding its doctrine of eschatology. He has often been referred to as the “dean of prophecy.” Although Lindsey did not claim to know the exact dates of future events with certainty, he suggested that Jesus’ return would be within “one generation” of the rebirth of the state of Israel. Lindsey asserted that “in the Bible” one generation is forty years, indicating that the Tribulation or the Rapture would occur no later than 1988. In his 1980 work, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, which was essentially an updated version of his former book, Lindsey predicted that “…the decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”

Countless preachers and authors jumped on this doomsday bandwagon. Despite the fact that every prediction Lindsey made proved to be false, this philosophy continues to be the primary eschatological doctrine among Christian churches. Beginning in 1995 authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins launched the Left Behind series of books that have eclipsed Lindsey’s record, having now sold over fifty million copies. Even though these books are officially classified as fiction, their end-time scenario has been embraced by virtually the entire Christian community on almost the same level as inspired Scripture. Sadly, the vast majority of Christians know more about the Left Behind philosophy than they do about the Bible version of these events.

Proponents of this doctrine, which include some of the most prominent names in religion today, teach that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt, the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel is still future, that we are living in the “last days” of the “end times,” the “great tribulation” is just around the corner, and Jesus is coming…SOON! This doctrine has allowed “men of God” to bilk hundreds of millions of dollars out of innocent believers who have not been taught the truth about Biblical eschatology. In his nationally televised Spring ’94 Praise-A-Thon, televangelist Paul Crouch declared, “We are in the last moments of grace before the wrath of God is revealed. We don’t have much time left. If Jesus hasn’t come back by the year 2000 A.D., then we (he and his guest preachers) have misread the Scriptures.” Of course this was followed by an urgent plea for money in the face of impending doom.

Televangelist Pat Robertson said on CBN’s The 700 Club, “All signs point to the end of the world and the end of life as we have known it. What this means is we are coming up on the time of the end. Now the time is urgent to bolster the resources of CBN. Your dollars may not do any good in five years or so” (1995 CBN fundraising telethon). As we now know, all the predictions leading up to the year 2000, over which they had the Christian world in a frenzy, proved to be totally false. They had, however, successfully proven just how financially profitable this emotionally charged doomsday philosophy can be.

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” Instead of these men being flatly condemned and rejected by the Christian community as the false prophets they have proven themselves to be, the majority of preachers and churches have actually accepted and now teach this same false doctrine.

It is time for Christians to stop listening to Foxy Loxy and read the Bible for themselves!

This “chicken little” message that the sky is falling is one of the primary hindrances to the acceptance of Christianity by non-believers today. Every decade since Lindsay’s has seen a multitude of books written and prophecies proclaimed by well known “Christian” theologians about the end of the world. Every flare-up in the Middle East starts a new round of prophecies and books. And even though every such prophecy, including Lindsey’s, has been proven false, the “Left Behind” doctrine attracts an ever increasing following. How many false prophets do we have to hear before we begin to question the validity of their message? By his own admission, Paul Crouch and his associates “misread the Scriptures.” But the same failed misinterpretation keeps getting repeated over and over like a broken record. The world has heard the church cry “wolf” so many times they have begun to dismiss the entire Christian message as a hoax. Who can blame them?

Instead of proclaiming the good news of hope and redemption to a lost and dying world, these doomsday prophets are spreading a message of gloom and despair. According to them everything is terrible and going to get much worse until everything and everyone is finally destroyed by a revenge-seeking Jesus on a white horse. Why would anyone be concerned about the condition of the world when it is all going to be destroyed “in just a little while?” The church’s urgent message to a lost world, the good news, is NOT, “The sky is falling!”

This is why Jesus left no doubt how everyone could tell he had returned. Jesus linked the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the former Holy of Holies to that event. “This is how you will know…when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand” (Matthew 24). “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” (Luke 21)! They both go on to say, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” 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!

If the Lord did not “come again” as He promised and the Gospel writers predicted during their generation; if we are still awaiting his return, then the sacrifice of the High Priest was not accepted and our redemption is still not a reality. A careful study of 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.” 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! Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of all people; and was to appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who were waiting for him. This is the same “appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ” of whom Paul, Peter, James and all the other New Testament writers speak. We are NOT still waiting for salvation!

Hebrews chapter 12 concludes this concept with the explanation of God’s “shaking the earth” to take away the physical kingdom so “…what cannot be shaken may remain.” In verses 26-29 it says, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

To understand what the Hebrew writer is saying we must know the prophesies from which he is quoting. In Isaiah 2 the prophet describes a coming time during the “last days” of Judah and Jerusalem when the Lord would establish his new eternal kingdom. At that time, in verse 19, he says, “Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.”

So as not to leave anything to speculation, God set up a graphic demonstration to show what he meant by “shaking the earth.” In 586 B.C. God brought the Babylonians to bring his judgment against Israel because of their disobedience just as he had warned them in Habakkuk chapter one. Jerusalem was overrun, the temple was desecrated, and they were carried off into captivity. Their world was indeed shaken. Then in Isaiah 13 the prophet tells what was going to happen to the Babylonian kingdom.

“See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger” (Isaiah 13:9-13).

Notice in this description the prophetic language that was used to describe God’s judgment against a nation. The heavens tremble; the earth shakes. The stars and constellations do not shine; the sun and moon are darkened. This was the description of his coming judgment on Babylon. The Medes came and overthrew their empire, and it was never rebuilt.

Then in Haggai 2:6-9 the Bible says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Haggai lived after the Babylonian exile and was predicting the ultimate outcome of the kingdom of Israel. This “shaking of the earth” would result in a new house into which the desired of all nations would come. He also says the glory of the former house (temple in Jerusalem) would be replaced with a house far more glorious. To what else could the prophet be referring than the removal of the physical kingdom of Israel and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God? That is also exactly what Isaiah had originally predicted.

Not surprisingly, Jesus quoted from some of the same verses and used the same imagery when telling his apostles about the coming destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:29-30. “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

Luke leaves no doubt when he explains this same discussion to his Gentile readers. Luke 21:20-28, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near… There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 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.” Given the prophetic history and background of this coming event, why would anyone be surprised to see the destruction of Jerusalem in the New Testament described in these very same terms? If it were not, how would we know it was the fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures? One must have a lot of help to twist these Scriptures into a future coming of the Lord.

During the first century, between the first and second appearance of Jesus, they were receiving (present tense) a kingdom. It came! God indeed “shook the earth,” removing what could be shaken (the earthly kingdom of Israel) and leaving only that which cannot be shaken…the eternal kingdom, the church. We are not still awaiting the kingdom. The writer of Hebrews, as well as the other New Testament writers, understood the consummation of the ages. The Kingdom came!

As for all the Christian Chicken Littles, Henny Pennys, Ducky Luckys, Goosey Looseys, Turkey Lurkeys, and especially the Foxy Loxys…an acorn fell. It is called gravity. The sky is not falling!

 

For a more complete explanation of the mystery of God and the consummation of the ages, please read Mystery Accomplished, The Hope of the World (link on this page).

The Breath of Life

  GOD BREATHES LIFE!

The Bible says in Genesis 2:7, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” God breathes life! Everything was great until Satan convinced Eve that the knowledge of evil would actually be a good thing, resulting in the plague of sin and death. The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for doctrine (teaching), rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Scriptures are the breath of heaven through which we learn of the curative, atoning blood of Jesus which will, once again, give us life. We have all smelled the stench of Satan’s sewer long enough. It is time for a breath of fresh air!

The Bible is not a collection of short stories about many different topics. It is a collection of the writings of many different inspired authors over centuries of time, all telling the same story. There is one overall theme in the entire Bible; the redemption of man from the consequences of sin. The Old Testament contains prophesies of God’s plan for redemption as well as physical examples showing how this great mystery would be accomplished. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old in which we see the reality of what was promised. This redemptive plan of the Creator of the Universe was the mystery of the ages. The mystery is revealed in his Word. God wants, more than anything else, to breathe life back into his most beloved creation. Take a deep breath!

There are three fundamental principles of Bible study:

Let the Bible interpret itself.

Keep Scripture in its context.

Understand the historical time frame. 

These fundamentals are critical to the proper understanding of any communication, written or oral. Although very simple and just plain common sense, the basic standards of Biblical interpretation are being largely ignored today, resulting in much confusion. The application of these three principles opens God’s will in clear and understandable terms. The Psalmist said, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). In Ephesians 5:17 Paul wrote, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Remember, the Bible is God’s revelation to enlighten us. We can understand it!

Let’s look at a few examples of how these principles help us understand what the Lord’s will is. The Old Testament ends with a prophecy that the prophet Elijah would come before the great day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). Who was this “Elijah” and when would he come? The Bible tells us. Jesus said in Matthew 11:14 that John the Baptist was this Elijah who was to come. If it were not for this verse in Matthew, one can only imagine what modernday “prophets” would be saying about a coming of Elijah! Other obvious examples of how the Bible interprets itself are seen in what we call parallel passages. This is especially helpful in reading the Gospels. Comparing how different writers recorded the exact same teachings and events can answer a lot of questions. The Bible is a self-interpreting book. Our job is to study.

The second principle of proper Bible study is context. A statement in any language or setting means little without knowing the context. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says it is better if one does not get married. In verse 27 he says if one is not married, “Don’t look for a wife.” Does the Bible teach that marriage is not a good thing…even though in the beginning God created Eve for Adam and said, “It is not good for man to live alone?” If we study the context of the apostle’s teaching to the Corinthians his message will become clear. They were living in some terrible times that were only going to get worse. Paul knew this because it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. In verse 26 of that same chapter he plainly says, “Because of this present crisis…” it is better not to marry. Without the context the Bible seems to contradict itself. Read in context it all makes perfect sense, and, once again, the Bible properly interprets itself.

The third principle critical to a proper understanding of Scripture is recognizing the historical time in which it was written and the Biblical time in which we are living. With all the evil in the world today, why is nobody building a boat? We properly understand that Noah’s ark was a one-time event, and we are not living in the days of Noah. No boat is needed. Why do we not offer animal sacrifices today? Because, taking the Bible’s message as one entire story, allowing God’s Word to interpret itself, and keeping sacrifices in their proper context, we correctly understand we are not living in the days of Moses and the Old Law. Jesus was the once and for all, perfect sacrifice. Thus, no more animal sacrifices are needed.

Failing to apply these fundamental principles of Bible study will only lead to confusion and a myriad of Biblical “interpretations” that are simply false doctrines. Many Christians today have fallen victim to modern philosophies based on erroneous explanations of certain passages resulting from the failure to understand the historical time frame for many of the events described in the Bible. By taking Scriptures out of context and not allowing the Bible to interpret itself, preachers today are confusing people about the times in which we are living and proclaiming messages that are far from the truth.

As important as studying and understanding the Bible is, it should be stressed that teaching one particular issue should not become an obsession, nor should it detract from the primary mission of the church. Certain subjects, particularly those that are difficult to grasp and likely to have widely differing viewpoints, should be handled carefully and in situations where everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and express a different understanding. Only through open discussions in a non-threatening atmosphere can we hope to reach a more common understanding. If Christians are to move from the milk of the Word to meat, churches must provide opportunities for such open discussions, and all viewpoints should be evaluated in light of Scripture.

While we wrestle with a better understanding of the more difficult issues in Scripture, we must never take our attention off the primary mission of the church, which is the proclamation of the gospel to save lost souls. Jesus explained His second coming to His apostles in a private session, not during the Sermon on the Mount to the multitude. Even though the Apostle Peter quoted the prophet Joel in his first gospel sermon (Acts 2), he did not make Joel’s predictions of the coming wrath and judgment of the last days the subject of his message. He had a more urgent message that day, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins…” His message that day was to the lost. Several years later he wrote two letters explaining what Jesus had taught concerning His coming and judgment.

All of the apostles followed this same pattern of teaching. Their primary mission was to proclaim the gospel to the world, and they never lost sight of that. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Later, in personal visits and letters, he and the others explained more difficult concepts. We are fortunate to have both their example of evangelism, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles, as the primary mission and their letters of instruction on the “weightier matters.” As we in the church today discuss and learn the latter, let us never forget the primary mission.

It is precisely because the focus of many churches has been misdirected that the issue of eschatology needs to be studied. “Jesus is coming soon” has virtually replaced “Repent and be baptized” as the current proclamation of Christianity. Because the world has witnessed hundreds of failed prophesies concerning Jesus’ coming and the end of the world, this message has undermined the primary mission as well as the message and credibility of the church. All Christians need to remember that the most essential message to a lost and dying world is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other issues belong in Christian study groups in which we can move from infants to maturity in our knowledge of God’s will.

The “good news” of the Gospel and the Revelation of Jesus Christ is not about an angry, jealous God who is fed up with the world and is soon going to “rapture” a few holy people and destroy everyone else, along with the entire universe, with fire. Rather it is that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Salvation, not destruction, is the hope of the world.

As you study His Word, breathe deeply and savor the fresh air!

 

Communion: The Christian Passover

communion  The Lord’s Supper:

Being born into a faithful Jewish family, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Passover. We read in Luke 2:41-42, “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.” This was the year he stayed behind and discussed the Scriptures with the Rabbi’s in the temple. It was at His last Passover meal that He taught how this ancient Jewish celebration would find new meaning (fulfillment) in the Kingdom of Heaven, the church which He came to establish. To properly understand His teaching and how we should view and practice this today we need to study the origin and practice of the Passover among the Jewish nation.

We know the first Passover was celebrated while the Israelites were still in Egypt. The blood of the Passover lamb was put over the door of each house so the death angel would “pass over” that house and not claim the firstborn of that family. That very day, because of the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, they were set free from bondage and left Egypt. The Passover became a lasting celebration for generations to come as the people of God remembered their deliverance from bondage. Many Old Testament passages give instructions for this celebration. In Deuteronomy we learn how the Passover was to be celebrated in the Kingdom of Israel. The Passover lamb was slain at twilight on the 14th day of the first month followed by eating the Passover meal which consisted of the lamb’s meat, bitter herbs, unleavened bread and wine. Deuteronomy 16:3 explains why unleavened bread was still used. “Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.” In verses 5 and 6 one additional condition for this annual celebration is added. “You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the Lord your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name.”

When the children of Israel left Egypt, they were on a divine course to the land promised to Abraham and the establishment of a new nation, the Kingdom of Israel, through which the Messiah would come. After David became king of Israel, he conquered a Jebusite fortress located on Mt. Zion and built a city around that area. It was called the City of David and later, Jerusalem. Zion came to designate the entire area of Jerusalem and later became a metonym for Solomon’s temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the entire concept of God’s presence among his people. Jerusalem became known as the City of God. It was “the place He chose as a dwelling for His name.” This is very important to understand the fulfillment of the Passover celebration in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The physical kingdom of Israel was a type of a future kingdom which God would establish. This new kingdom would be a spiritual one which would include people from all nations. The Old Testament Kingdom of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, with its magnificent temple, became symbolic for the future Kingdom of Heaven and a new temple not made with hands. The Law of Moses, which governed that physical kingdom, would be fulfilled and God would make a new covenant with all nations. The writer of Hebrews makes this abundantly clear in chapter 12:18-29 when he compares the covenant that was represented by Sinai to the new covenant in Jesus Christ represented by Mt. Zion. “You have not come to a mountain (Sinai) that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Regarding the promised fulfillment of the Passover in the Kingdom of God, Matthew 26:26-28 says, While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” And in Mark 14:22-25 we read, While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’” 

Looking back at the Passover, from the crossing of the Red Sea to the time of David, the celebration was not only a remembrance of God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage, but also a looking forward to the time when it could be celebrated “in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” Jerusalem was that chosen place. As we see in Ezra 6, when the Israelites were taken captive, they longed for a time when they could return to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Even today, since the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, every faithful Jewish family celebrates the Passover meal (Seder) and ends the ritual with the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem.” It has always been understood by faithful Jews that Jerusalem is the place where the Passover should be celebrated. Of course, orthodox Jews do not accept Jesus as the Son of God, their Messiah, so they are still waiting for Him to come.

Christians accept Jesus as the promised Messiah and should also understand the Kingdom of God is no longer headquartered in the old city of Jerusalem, but in heaven, the New Jerusalem. The destruction of the Jerusalem temple was the sign Jesus gave that His sacrifice as our High Priest was accepted by God in heaven and His mission to establish the Kingdom of Heaven was complete. We understand that we also are to celebrate our Passover meal (Lord’s Supper) “in the place that bears His name.” That place is no longer the physical city of Jerusalem, but the Heavenly Jerusalem, the church.

One interesting verse concerning the Lord’s Supper is found in 1 Corinthians 11:26; “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Just as with the original Passover, when the Lord’s Supper was instituted and celebrated by the first Christians, the kingdom was not fully established. It would take several more decades for the New Covenant to be revealed and recorded, for all prophesies to be fulfilled, and the kingdom to be brought to fruition. Jesus knew everything concerning the change in the covenants could not be fulfilled immediately upon His crucifixion, so he said to His disciples, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.And Paul, writing between the crucifixion and what he called the “consummation of the ages” (1 Corinthians 10:11) said the communion “proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes.” The coming of which Paul spoke was the same “coming” he and all the New Testament writers discussed; specifically the time when Jesus would return to confirm the fulfillment of all things and destroy the Old Covenant Temple, which was the sign given by Jesus that “all these things” would be fulfilled (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).

When the early first-century Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper they not only remembered their deliverance from the bondage of sin, but also looked forward to the “coming kingdom.” As the writer of Hebrews said, “For in just a little while, He who is coming will come and not delay” (10:37) “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God with reverence and awe” (12:28). They proclaimed the Lord’s death “until He came.” Christians today still partake of the Lord’s Supper. However, we have the blessing of eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper “new in the Kingdom of God” with Jesus. We do not “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” because He has come. The Kingdom is fully established. The old physical temple was removed from the earth. We do not say, as the Jews who do not believe their Messiah has come, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We are not still waiting for our King to come. We celebrate the Supper in the New Jerusalem, the church, with our King, Jesus. 

Another question that has been debated for centuries is how often Christians are to observe the Communion. Obviously, the original Passover celebration was celebrated once each year In Jerusalem. Why? God had told Moses to instruct his descendants to observe the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month because “on that very day” they were delivered from Egyptian bondage. Their deliverance was symbolic of mankind’s deliverance from the bondage of sin through the death of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb.  As we read in John 1:29, John the Baptist exclaimed when he saw Jesus coming toward him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Some Christians believe we are to observe the Communion, the Christian Passover celebration, annually. Others believe it makes no difference when or how often it is done.

If the Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of the Passover celebration, why change it from an annual celebration observance on the fourteenth day of the first month to the first day of the every week? Perhaps we should look for the underlying reason for the date chosen by God for both the original Passover celebration for the Jews and the fulfilled version for Christians today. Why did God specify the Israelites celebrate the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month of their year? He clearly stated it was because “on that very day” they were freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Since the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt is representative of the bondage of sin that holds all mankind hostage, our answer lies in determining “the very day” we were set free.  Israel was held captive in Egypt. The very day they were set free was the day they left Egypt.

Since the Garden of Eden, the penalty of sin is death, from which there was no escape. Because of sin, all mankind was held captive in death. A lot of Christians think we were set free the day Jesus was crucified. The sacrificial Lamb that enabled us to go free was killed that day, but the proclamation of our freedom from the grave did not come at Jesus’ death, rather his resurrection. Paul, speaking of the sacrifice of Jesus, said in Romans 1:4, “who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead.” And in Romans 6:3-10, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” It was in the resurrection of Jesus, His victory over death, that we were finally set “free to go!”

It is because of the resurrection that we are set free from the bondage of sin and death. As Peter said when he was discussing how Baptism saves us; It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ(1 Peter 3:21). When are we free from sin? When we are raised from the watery grave of baptism. Lest one think Peter is teaching salvation by our works, he plainly says in this passage it is not the mere washing of water, but the “pledge of a good conscience toward God.” It is not the act of baptism itself, but what that baptism symbolizes; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Just as Paul taught, our personal freedom from sin and death begins the moment we are raised with Jesus.  But it was His resurrection that made our freedom possible. The “very day” death no longer had control over us was the day Jesus rose from the grave. On that very day He overcame death!

Paul constantly emphasized the importance of the resurrection in his gospel message. In 1 Corinthians 15:13-22 he said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Paul concludes his lengthy discussion of the resurrection by quoting from the Old Testament, “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.” We have victory over death by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The importance of what Jesus told Martha in John 11:25 cannot be overstated; “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” Death was overcome by Jesus the day he arose from the grave.  In Matthew 28:1-7 says, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week. Christians meet together to celebrate our deliverance from the bondage of sin and the chains of death on the very day Jesus overcame death…the first day of the week. Is it Scriptural to observe the Lord’s Supper on other days? No more than it would have been to observe the Passover feast on some day other than the fourteenth of the month. The “day of delivery from bondage” is central to the meaning of the supper. They cannot be separated.

On the first day of the week disciples of Christ meet together for a celebration of deliverance. We are not remembering the Lord’s death “until He comes.” We are not still waiting for the kingdom of God to be fully established. We are communing with Him, and with each other, eating and drinking “new in the kingdom of God.” We meet to celebrate what He told Martha; “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!” Hallelujah!