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Sunday, August 30, 2015, 3:23 AM
Though most everyone who thinks of eschatology may immediately bring to mind the NT Revelation and the OT Ezekiel and Daniel, serious students recognize that there are many other OT and NT references that teach on these last day teachings. There are also many non-recognized writings that may contain some valid points, but in general should be held as suspect pending authentication of the author and the verification of truth of such authorship. Many of these apocalyptic and eschatological writings were soon dispelled by the early church fathers because of teachings clearly contrary to the teachings of Christ. It would be absurd for anyone to call himself a Christian (Christ-like), and then to go out and teach anything that is not in unison with Christ’s very words. This does not mean that every writing could be dispelled, but we live by faith that God has handed down to us what He would have us to know in advance. It requires much study, wisdom, and discernment, and even then, true understanding can only truly come by enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
In this short study, I wish to consider some of Christ’s words. Though you may see they are paraphrased, I believe you can see that the meaning and Spirit of His words are intact. He said that in the last days people would say in effect, “Look! I have found Jesus! Go see, He is over there”; or “Come see! I have found the Christ. He is over here.” Jesus said don’t go look, because when He appeared again, no one would have to say, “Go look!” because His next coming would be immediately and recognizably obvious to all, everywhere.
The prophet taught that those who sat in darkness would see a Great Light. Jesus taught that He is the true Light. The NT teaches that Satan has the power to pretend himself to be an angel of light and his demons to be ministers of mercy. As Satan is the prince of the power of the air and ruler of this world, is it not easy to see that there are myriads of spirits in this world who pretend to reflect the false light of Satan and pretend to teach people in the enlightenment of mercy? That is why the OT warns people not to do business with the spiritists and spirits in this world! Now if I told people that I were a Christian (seeking to be Christ-like), wouldn’t people see how stupid and delusional I were if I didn’t believe in the teachings of the One I said that I wanted to be like?
So if someone comes and says, “Look! I have found the light and enlightenment. It’s over there, or over here.” Don’t even think of looking there. When the true light returns to this world, I guarantee you, He will be immediately and recognizably obvious to all, everywhere.
My own paraphrase of Yirmeyahu (modern English- Jeremiah), “You will find Adonai Ha’Elyon (Yahweh, the Exalted), if you search for Him with all your heart”. A word of caution here, when many people search for “God”, they search for their own concept of what they believe God to be, or they search for a god who is what they want him to be. A search for the true God means searching for someone who is all knowing and all powerful and certainly beyond human ability to fully comprehend. It means search for Him, for Who He is.
To be Christian (to seek to be Christ-like), please avoid writings that have been determined by the early church to be heretical and anti-Christian in nature. Though the true nature of the Church is to search for Truth, and the true church does not ban the study of certain writings (I don’t believe the true Church to be book burners).
In the NT, there were people who had studied mystical teachings then became Christians who burned their mystical teachings. This is not to say that ‘material world’ paper with ‘material world’ ink as physical property is evil or wicked. That they burned these writings was significant in that it was a public display that they had abandoned their earlier beliefs and had embraced Christianity. It also removed the temptation that may be if they should ever look back into them and lose their way in the Christian walk. But this is in no way an injunction for Christians to go out burning books in a public display. It is not necessarily evil to read words that may be anti-Christian, but it is too easy for Christians to be tempted to stray into a wrong path. So please try to study that which is nourishing for the soul and helps to spread the True Light and Enlightenment of Christ. Don’t listen to those who say, “Look, I have found the light: it’s over there.” Search in the true Word to find the true God.
Saturday, August 29, 2015, 8:08 AM
Saturday, August 29, 2015, 3:29 AM
The title of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes derives from a Greek root. From that Greek word comes the word ecclesia, which refers to a group or gathering and also the moderator or main speaker at a gathering. The Hebrew title was originally the Quoheleth. From the root of this word also comes gathering and, also, the moderator or main speaker at the gathering. This main speaker was also called the preacher, which is why you may find ‘The Preacher’ as a sub-title to the book. The group or gathering or the words of the speaker/preacher seemed to be focused on contemplating the meaning of life. This would have been included in the canon (Jewish and Christian) to encourage people to consider that God did not create us without meaning, but it is part of our nature to seek out that meaning and have faith that whether we understood or not, believers do have a purpose and a Redeemer. This word, ecclesia, was used in the New Testament to refer to the gathering that we now call the church (from the German ‘kirke’).
Jesus taught that a house divided against itself would not stand. When people consider the many denominations that call themselves the Christian church, some would suppose that the church is divided against itself, therefore it is doomed to fall. I propose that we can demonstrate both through the words of Christ, and the major theological concepts of every true denomination of Christ’s church that it is a fallacy to suppose that His church is divided.
The church is a term that developed to refer to Christian followers of Jesus. Jesus taught that His followers were ‘one’ (meaning ‘not divided’) in the Spirit. Jesus taught that His followers would be known by their love, which is consistent with all the law of God. This love would bind true Christians to one another into His church in service to Him and one another and in reaching out in service to those who don’t know Him. Reaching out to those who don’t know Him means we are to love and show mercy even to wicked people, without participating in their wickedness, and we are to even love and care for our enemies, and those who would despitefully use and abuse us.
If you study the fundamental theology of most (if not all (I haven’t studied all)) denominations, I believe you will find that their scholars and theologians attest to the fact that not everyone who claims membership in their denomination are true Christians, and therefore not true members, of His church. Also, I believe you will find that most scholars and theologians attest to the fact that there are members of most every denomination who are saved members of Christ’s true church. The corollary being that, though the denominations may be divided, the consensus of the scholars and theologians of most every denomination is that Christ’s true church is not, and never can be divided.
Thus, there are members of many church denominations who are not true members of Christ’s true church; also, there are members of many denominations who are members of Christ’s true church. So what are the differences? For the most part, there are differences in details about how Christ’s ministry (His service) is to be implemented (or performed). Christ may be worshiped and served (actually the service to Christ is a form of worshipping Christ) in many ways. The factor that makes Christ’s true church “ONE” is in that faith that we obtain our salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and that we are to live out our lives in that service of love which is the foundation of our Creator’s law.
Friday, August 28, 2015, 7:12 AM
Salvation to a Christian means God’s mercy providing forgiveness for man’s sinful condition. Christians are to understand that all are sinful. ‘Man’s righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord.’ It is this condition that separates sinful man from the Holy Creator, the Mighty God of the universe. In the third chapter of John’s gospel, we are told that in God’s love for man, His only Begotten Son came so that any who believed on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel he taught that any who believe on the name of this One sent from God had the power to become a child of God. In the fifth chapter of John’s letter (epistle) he reiterates that whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God becomes God’s child (sort of an adopted brother to the Only Begotten Son).
Prepositions in the Greek may be translated in different ways, but it is important to understand a few concepts. To the Greeks, believing ‘in’ or ‘on’ someone is more than simply believing that they existed, or they were real people, or believing something ‘about’ them. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ means: believing that He is the ‘Lord’ (Master); and He is ‘Jesus’ (from the Hebrew which meant ‘Yahweh is Salvation’); and He is the ‘Christ’ (from the Greek word which translated the Hebrew word Messiah which meant that He was ‘anointed’ by God to deliver sinful people from this wicked world).
Satan knew Jesus, and recognized Him as God’s Son. This is shown in the recorded temptations of Jesus. Why did Satan attack Jesus with temptations? Satan knew that Jesus was there to save people from Satan’s grip, and defeat Satan’s purposes. How could Satan tempt Jesus by offering Him dominion over the earth if God already had dominion over all creation? God had given dominion over the earth to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve relinquished that dominion to Satan when they submitted to Satan’s temptation. That is why the New Testament teaches that ‘Satan is the prince of the power of the air’ and ‘ruler of this world’. This is why Satan’s offer of ruler-ship of this world to Jesus is valid as a temptation. So simply believing that Jesus was Who He was or believing ‘about’ Jesus wasn’t enough to save Satan, or anyone else.
Believing in Jesus meant believing in Who He was, and all that He taught. We have to believe that He was sent from God to save us from this wicked world. But why would we believe that someone was sent to save us, if we didn’t see that there was a reason or need for us to be saved? So naturally we would have to recognize that we had no rights to stand before God on our own merits, because our ‘merits’ were woefully lacking because of the sin that separates us from God.
Believing in Jesus meant believing in all that He taught. Jesus taught, among many other things, that He was the Son of God, that He came forth from God, that He and His Father (God) were One, thereby making Himself equal to God. He also taught that no man can come to God except through Him. So believing in what Jesus taught means believing that there is no other way to come to the Heavenly Father except through Him: no other teaching; no other religion; no other ritual; no other way.
Aside from ‘believing’, is there anything else we must do to find salvation? Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus what ‘works’ they must do to be saved. Jesus answered them that the ‘work’ that they were to do was to ‘believe on Him’. Paul, John, Peter, and the early church fathers taught that it was not our works that save us, for it is only by His grace in accepting our believing in Jesus that we could be saved. People are sometimes confused by James’s statement that ‘faith without works is dead’. Careful study of the grammatical construction of what James was saying (even in the English translations) show his meaning. It is one thing to say that you believe in something. It is quite another that what you believe shows up in your way of life.
Jesus said that He had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Jesus told His disciples ‘a new commandment (a law) I give you- that you love one another’. Now the Jewish leaders knew that the greatest commandments of the Torah (Law) were to ‘Love God with all that is in you; and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus taught (and Paul reiterated) that all the law rested on these commandments of love. So why was this commandment of Jesus, ‘that they love,’ one another a new commandment? Jesus offered a different and stronger love than was previously realized in the old commandments of the Torah. Jesus taught that the Torah commandments had been handed down as the prophet had said before ‘as though they were simply rules of rote, taught by the precepts of man.’ The love that Jesus empowered His disciples with was a love that didn’t need to be learned, but a love that was seeded, nourished, and blossomed in the believers’ hearts.
For me to see myself as the unworthy and undeserving recipient of the love that Christ showed for me by going to the cross, and suffering the shame, temptations, stripes, suffering, and death of this world so that He could save me from my sinful estate, then it would ill-behoove me not to realize that such love is to be shared with others, regardless of my personal opinion of who ‘I think’ might be deserving of that love, because I am so undeserving myself. What James was teaching was that true faith would be demonstrated by those works which come from that love. If you truly love someone, then you wish to serve that someone, and to serve someone means ‘doing works’ for someone. So Peter’s works would demonstrate that love that came from his personal belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. John affirms this in the fifth chapter of his first epistle.
Thursday, August 27, 2015, 7:32 AM
The First Principle of Bible Study- Part 2
Another point that carnal minds view as an absurdity are imprecatory psalms. In the book of Psalms are many prayers to God that the enemy be treated with extreme harshness. These types of psalms are called ‘imprecatory’ psalms. The scoffer would say that this went against the teachings of Jesus to love your enemy and pray for those who despitefully use you. Who on earth has never been hurt to the point that at some point you wished the worst on your enemy? God knows the hearts of people. The Psalms are honest accounts of men’s hearts before God. The Bible was intended in part to be an honest picture of man’s thoughts and feelings to show man how far we are from what God intends for us to be. Anyone (carnal or otherwise) who needs more understanding than that, I’ll leave it to your prayers for the Holy Spirit to better explain.
Next to the last issue that the carnal mind may consider to be absurd has to do with a few things that Jesus said. Before Jesus ascended the mount on which He was transfigured he had told His disciples that some of them would see Him in His power and glory. Another time Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders and told them that many of them would see His kingdom with their earthly eyes. When Peter was told how his life would end, Peter asked about another man, and Jesus told him that if He wanted him to live until He returned, what is that to Peter.
The man whom Jesus said about what if He willed till He should return. Many scholars believe that He was referring to the Apostle John. It could be said that John lived till he saw the return of Christ, after all, he wrote all about the events surrounding that coming in the book of Revelations. Imagine that! And Revelations teaches that Christ (the Only Begotten Son) was the Lamb that was slain from the foundation (very beginning) of the world. Does not God know the end from the beginning?
When Jesus was transfigured there were disciples with Him who witnessed His Kingdom power and glory. Many then and today see Christ’s Kingdom in His followers, because Christians make up Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus did not tell Peter that the man would live until He returned. He only told Peter that if Jesus willed him to, what was that to Peter; Peter should not concern himself with God’s plans for that other man, but with God’s plans for himself. (Someone with a spiritual mind recognizes that all things are possible with God; so if Jesus willed for that man to live till He returned, then I could be willing to believe that he was still here somewhere.) The deacon, Stephen, saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God. Paul encountered the glory of our Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul also spoke of a man (most scholars believe Paul was referring to himself) who was carried up to the third Heaven.
This brings us to the last issue: what is the third Heaven? It doesn’t take a great deal of cultural understanding to see this. When we lift our eyes to the ‘heavens’, what is the first thing we see? The sky with the clouds and birds, or the first heaven. What is the next thing we see? How difficult is it to observe that the sun, moon, and stars are certainly in a heaven beyond our first heaven, the sky? So where would we see the second heaven to be? Then when someone lifts their eyes to the ‘heavens’ in prayer to God, where would anyone suppose the third heaven to be?
The Scriptures cannot be understood by the carnal mind but by the spiritual mind. If you encounter anyone who claims that the Bible is flawed, imperfect, or contains absurdities (foolishness), then please realize that you are dealing with a carnal mind. Love that person. Pray for that person. Witness to that person. If possible, try to reason with that person. (Such reasoning to Christian scholars is known as ‘apologetics’. But to a carnal mind, apologists will seem foolish. Remember, God’s wisdom is foolishness to the carnal man.) If this person does not accept the Spirit, then I suggest following Jesus’ instructions to shake the dust from your shoes as you leave that person’s house.