The Apple Of God's Eye

February 28, 2009

What Is A 19 Year Time Cycle?

A brief comparison of the Gregorian and the Hebrew calendars will help us understand the 19 year time cycle. The calendar commonly used today is of Roman origin. It is based on the solar year. That is, it contains about 365 1/4 days. And though the word “month” means “moon,” the months are not governed by its phases. They are of arbitrary beginning and length.

On the other hand, the Hebrew calendar is based on both the sun and the moon. The length of the year differs significantly, and the months are directly related to the phases of the moon. In the Hebrew calendar, 12 lunar months result in a year that has about 354 days (about 11 days shorter than a solar year). Such common years, as they are called, are regularly balanced by leap years, which contain 13 months each. Leap years are about 384 days in length (about 19 days longer than a solar year). Notice how these lunar months are related to the solar year.

Every 19 solar years the moon revolves around the earth 235 times. In other words, 235 lunar months equals about 19 solar years. This remarkable astronomical relationship makes it possible to combine 12 common Hebrew years (of 12 months each) and 7 leap years (of 13 months each) together every 19 years. This means that the solar (Roman) calendar and the lunisolar (Hebrew) calendar very nearly coincide as the sun, moon and earth return to their approximate position of alignment with each other every 19 years.

Nineteen-year patterns can also be seen in history. For example, ancient Israel spent 38 (19 x 2) extra years wandering in the wilderness (Deut. 2:14; Num. 14:33-34).

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Does I Peter 4:6 Say The Gospel Was Preached To The Dead?

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The key to understanding I Pet. 4:6 is in knowing the identity of the “dead” spoken of by Peter. At the time Peter wrote this epistle (about A.D. 67 to 69), multiple thousands of Christians had already been living according to the way of life that was preached by the apostles. In the span of time after the apostles’ preaching began, some had lived a Christian life and had died. Many had suffered martyrdom at the hands of unscrupulous religionists or pagan civil leaders.

When did these dead have the Gospel preached to them? Obviously, they had the Gospel preached to them while they were yet alive. The Bible shows that “the dead know not any thing” and that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Eccl. 9:5, 10). Clearly, the dead cannot receive any communication whatsoever. Preaching is for the living, not the dead.

There is one other sense in which the Gospel is preached to those who are “dead.” In this case, the term “dead” is used in reference to people who have not repented, and thus have not been forgiven by God. They are still “dead” in their trespasses — they have not yet received God’s Spirit, which is the down payment of eternal life. Jesus mentions such people in Luke 9:60. Paul explains further in Ephesians 2:1 by saying that such people are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Some who exist physically are dead spiritually because they have not yet heeded the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Church of God has been commissioned to preach the Gospel as a witness to the world (Matt. 24:14). Yet, most people have not yet been called by God and do not heed that message. They remain both in ignorance and in sin. They continue to live and be judged by the standards men devise, rather than “according to God in the spirit.”Each of these individuals will ultimately be given an opportunity to receive salvation.

February 27, 2009

Proof: Jesus Christ’s Killers Found

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heartofwisdom.com/.../

If I asked you straight out who killed Jesus Christ, would you be able to give a correct answer? Some say it was the Jews, others argue it was Pilate. Certainly no one involved would argue anything but their innocence. But as you read, let me throw a startling statement at you. There is evidence that you the reader killed Christ as surely as if your hands were on the spear that pierced His side. Not you alone of course, but every one of us is guilty. Here’s how!

Definite Proof

In Acts 2:5-36, it states that men from every nation dwelling gathered in Jerusalem (verses 9-11), to witness a great event. Most still talked about the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ; the great earthquake at the time of His death, and the rent in the great veil of the Temple. These were no ordinary circumstances. Indeed, some even said they had seen dead men, risen from their graves, walking the streets of Jerusalem.

So the buzz was in the air and the rumours were flying, until that Pentecost morning of June 18, 31 A.D., when a great rushing of wind sounded about the city. Running to the source of the sound, a crowd began forming around a house with an upper room. The door opened and the eleven plus one stepped forth — and others with them. There was a eerie silence as everyone held their breath waiting for an explanation.

Then, as those that came forth from the house began to speak, an amazing thing happened — every person, regardless of his nation or language, heard them in his own native tongue. You can guess that there was a lot of amazement and wonder at this? What did it mean? Between the confusing din, some even began to accuse the apostles of drinking too much wine — of being drunk!

It was time for an explanation and the man called Peter held up his hands, stilling the crowd. His voice, strong and powerful, boomed out to the crowd the first recorded sermon of the New Testament. He explained the circumstances and denied their accusations by preaching the Word of God, under special inspiration from God.

But do you suppose he tried to calm the crowd with soothing words? No, in fact, he started out by accusing the large group of crucifying Jesus Christ (verses 22 and 23). What a beginning, considering that these people from all over the earth had not participated physically in the crucifixion! Yet Peter said under inspiration, “You have taken, and [you] by [your] wicked hands have crucified and slain. He repeated himself for good emphasis in verse 36.

It doesn’t matter if we are not directly descended from these people, just as it didn’t matter to Peter that those gathered in front of Him had not physically participated in the killing of Jesus Christ. We are all just as guilty as the High Priest who blasphemed and condemned Jesus Christ to death (Mark 14:63-65); just as guilty as those who spat on Him; or as those who struck Him with fists, bludgeoning His face until it was raw and swollen. Yes, even as guilty as the man who scourged Jesus Christ with a cat-o’-nine-tails (Matt. 27:26) until His skin was ruptured and torn and His bones were exposed (Ps. 22:17), leaving Him just short of death.

At this point, Jesus Christ was not even recognizable as a human being. The scourging was preparatory to the most vicious death yet devised by man. Christ was nailed to a cross by nails that drove deep into the red, raw flesh, pinning His hands and feet to that stake. We also cannot escape blame for this act, nor the final indignity of thrusting the spear in Jesus Christ’s side. Then we helped raise the cross and dropped it into the hole, as Christ’s flesh tore on the nails when it hit bottom.

Are you confused as to how you and I individually participated in an event that happened roughly 2000 years ago? Let me explain. Are you a Christian, an atheist or something in between? Do you practice the faith of Islam, Judaism, Taoism or other religions? Or are you someone “morally” upright, yet never attend a church service? It doesn’t matter. Most people the world over, irregardless of religious leanings, beliefs, faiths and so on literally curse Jesus Christ every day of the year when they trample on God’s Holy Days, or His weekly Sabbath. They mock Jesus Christ when they fail to keep the law of God and spit in His face by trying to do away with the Ten Commandments altogether. Everyone, through their actions and words, is guilty of crying out “crucify Him” in a thousand different ways (Mark 15:13).

We have helped put to death the only Saviour this world has ever known! We have despised and rejected “… a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed. All we [all of us] like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:3-6).

Disobedience to God’s laws caused His excruciating death. Yet here is the love of God, that while we are going about our despicable deeds and evil behaviour, Jesus Christ was commending His love toward us. He died for us (Rom. 5:8). This sacrifice applies to all people, of all times. Can we comprehend what Jesus Christ – the former Word who was with God for all eternity (John 1:1) – endured? The God who had lived from eternity without beginning or end, without mother or father, without pain, and the very express image, brightness and character of the Father and His power. He sat down with the Father and made the plans to come to this earth and suffer that we might live!

This God of majesty, power and awesome splendour took the job willingly, predetermining to endure the cross that we might live (Heb. 12:2). He was made a mortal man to suffer death for you and for me! Think of how humbling it would be to come in the same weak flesh and blood as your creation, but with the ultimate purpose of destroying death, pain, sickness, disease and misery (Heb. 2:9, 14).

And while doing so, this great being was tempted just like we are tempted — conquering the downward pull of the flesh perfectly without sin (Heb. 4:15). It wasn’t without effort either, as He prayed and humbled Himself before His Father for strength, “… and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44)

Those who deny Him fail to understand that all “nations [on earth] are as a drop in a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance ….” (Isa. 40:9-15). Think about that. What is your net value to God? When all nations in totality are only a drop in a bucket, how significant are we, who are counted as specks of dust? Yet this great God sacrificed Himself for us! That is almost incomprehensible.

What’s Your Reaction?

So how concerned are you, or am I, over this terrible death? We have a responsibility which must be taken literally. God says it is He who calls us (John 6:44), and desires we realize the seriousness of our crimes, repenting of them (Acts 2:38). This does not apply to those who sin or drift along, nor to the scoffers and those full of pride and vanity. Not if we keep sinning! Not if we just drift along, or are filled with pride and vanity!

God desires humbleness (I Pet. 5:5-6) and will resist all other forms of character. When we exercise true repentance of our past misdeeds and are properly baptized and, by God’s Spirit put into the true Church of God, the living body of Christ — then we have God’s complete forgiveness.  He is able to blot out our sins, our transgressions — no matter how wicked we have been (Ps. 51:1). And yes, this despite all having participated in the killing of Christ. We indeed have a God of love and deep concern.

February 25, 2009

History Timeline Of World Religions And Its Founders

History Timeline Of World Religions And Its Founders

By: LetUsReason


2,085 BC. Judaism-Abraham

1,500 BC. Hinduism- no specific founder

560 BC. Buddhism- Gautama Buddha

550 BC. Taoism – Lao Tzu

599 BC. Jainism, Mahavira

30 AD. Christianity –Jesus Christ

50-100 AD. Gnosticism-

150-250 AD. -Modalism (Monarchianism)–Sabellius, Praxeus, Noetus, Paul of Samosata

325 AD. -After being persecuted for almost 200 years Constantine made the Church becomes a legal religion,  compromise begins to enter.

590 AD.-Roman Catholicism- Developed after Constantine; Pope Gregory?

610 AD.- Islam- Mohammed

1400 AD.- Rosicrucians-Christian Rosenkreuz  (1694 US) Rosicrucians- Master Kelpius, Johann Andrea

1515 AD.- Protestantism- (Reformers) Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin

1650 AD.- Tibetan Buddhism-Dalai Lama

1700 AD.- Freemasony- Albert Mackey, Albert Pike

1760 AD.-Swedenborgism- Emmanuel Swedenborg

1784 AD.- Shakers – Mother Ann Lee

1830 AD.- Mormonism – Joseph Smith

1830 AD.-Cambellites-Alexander & Thomas Cambell, Barton Stone

1838 AD.-Tenrikyo- Miki Maegawa Nakayama

1844 AD.-Christadelphians- John Thomas

1840-45 AD.-Millerites 2nd day Adventists –William Miller then became 7th Day Adventists

1844 AD.-Bahai- Baha’u’llah (Abul Baha)

1845-1870AD.- 7th Day Adventists-E.G. White

1848 AD.-Spiritualism – Kate and Margaret Fox

1870 AD.-Jehovah’s Witnesses- Charles Taze Russell

1875 AD.-Theosophical Society- H.P. Blavatsky, Henry Olcott

1879 AD.-Christian Science-Mary Baker Eddy

1889-1924 AD.-Unity School of Christianity- Myrtle Fillmore

1900 AD.-Rosicrucian Fellowship-Max Heindel

1902 AD.- Anthroposophical Society –Rudolf Steiner

1906 AD. -The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World

1914 AD.- Iglesia ni Cristo- Felix Manalo

1914 AD.- Oneness Pentecostalism- Frank Ewart, G.T.Haywood, Glenn Cook

1917 AD.-True Jesus Church. Founders Paul Wei, Lingsheng Chang and Barnabas Chang

1930 AD. -Black Muslims (Nation of Islam) –Wallace D. Fard

1927 AD.- Mind Science- Ernest Holmes

1934 AD.-World Wide Church of God- Herbert W. Armstrong

1935 AD.-Self Realization Fellowship- Paramahansa Yogananda

1954 AD.- Unification Church- Sun Myung Moon

1945 AD. -The Way -Victor P.Wierwille

1948 AD.- Latter Rain –Franklin Hall, George Warnock.

1964 AD.- Eckankar The Ancient Science of Soul Travel (Eck).  Founded by Paul Twitchell

1968 AD.- Hare Krishna (US)- Swami Prabhupada

1968 AD.- Children of God- David (Moses) Berg

1945 AD.-United Pentecostal International- Howard Goss, W.T. Witherspoon (can be traced back to 1914)

1944 AD.- Silva Mind Control –Jose Silva

1950 AD.-Urantia Book- Dr. Bill Sadler

1950 AD.-Lafayette Ronald Hubbard published his book Dianetics-SCIENTOLOGY

1954 AD.-Atherius Society (UFO’s)- Dr. George King

1955 AD.- Scientology- L. Ron Hubbard

1958 AD.- Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research- Henry Kinley

1958-1970 AD.- Church Universal and Triumphant –Mark and E.C. Prophet

1958 AD. -Henry Kinley begins (IDMR) the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research

1959 AD.-Unitariarian Universalist

1960 AD.-Transcendental meditation- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

1960 AD.-Enkankar- Paul Twitchell

1961 AD.– Unitarian Universalism was officially formed.

1965 AD.-Assembly of Yahweh-Jacob Meyer

1966 AD.- Church of Satan –Anton LaVey

1970 AD.-Findhorn Community –Peter and Eileen Caddy –David Spangler

1970 AD.- Divine light Mission- Guru Maharaj Ji

1973 AD.- CARP was established in the United States.  [The Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles] to introduce the teachings of un Myung Moon.

1974 AD.-Assemblies of Yahweh-Sam Suratt

1979 AD.-Church of Christ International – Kip McKean

1980 -1982 AD.- Tara Center-Benjamen Crème

1980 AD.- House of Yahweh (Abilene) Jacob Hawkins

Why Are There So Many Denominations In This World?

This is one of my pet peeve topics. Why are there so many denominations today? Does anyone question the legitimacy of all these quarrelling and bickering sects founded by men? None agree with each other and most teach different things, yet all proclaim to teach the truth. Your mother can go to the Catholic church and your brother may attend a Protestant church down the road with his wife, even though he is Lutheran. Is this what Christ sanctioned when He started His Church? Did he found many denominations? Listen to His words: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

He did exactly that built one true Church, which was commissioned to preach and to publish His Gospel — the Message He brought from God — to all the world!

How Was The Church To Grow?

Most people believe that God’s true Church is probably a huge, powerful organization, exerting powerful influence on the world. Nothing further could be true! Rather, Jesus called it the “little flock” (Luke 12:32).

In His final prayer, Jesus prayed for His Church, not for the world. In fact, He said that the world would hate those belonging to His Church (John 17:9-16). Members are described as being strangers and foreigners in this world — ambassadors, yet never being “of” the world! The true Church of God was to be persecuted and scattered (John 15:20, II Tim. 3:12).

That’s a hard concept to swallow in the civilized portions of the world that pride themselves on tolerance. But Jesus Christ said after He was smitten (crucified), the “sheep” — His Church — were to become scattered! (Mark 14:27, John 16:32).

This persecution and scattering began early in the Church’s tenure (Acts 8:1) and continued throughout history. Despised and scattered by the world — it was never separate and always spoke the same thing. It was never made up of many differing sects, a fact overlooked by historians because they never knew where to look for the true Church — for they didn’t even know what the true Church is.

Most Of The World Is Deceived

You might argue with my last point, but in the Bible, all the prophecies foretold apostasy, deception, and division. Christ himself said “…many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4, 5.)

Did you notice that? It was the many who were to be deceived, and the few who were to become true Christians, not the other way around! This condition is again pictured by Christ saying, “”Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

It’s not up to you to believe me, but if you’re a Christian, you had better believe your Bible. All humanity has become deceived by Satan (Rev. 12:9), the god of this world. He appears, not as a devil, but as an angel of light, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ. “Believe on Jesus and you will be saved,” is the common altar call. But what about the Bible admonition of repentance, and being baptized for the remission of sins to be saved? (Acts 2:38). Why is this scripture lost on much of Christianity?

World’s Influence Into God’s Church Foretold

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul delivered to the elders (ministers) of the Church at Ephesus a final message. He told them that immediately after he left Ephesus, there would come within the local Church congregations false ministers to make a prey of Christians. And even from those elders already in the Church congregations some would pervert the doctrine of Jesus to secure a following for themselves. Peter also warned the churches about this problem (II Peter 2:2).

Although numerous deceivers, called Gnostics, left the Church, drawing away disciples after them, there was an even more dangerous apostasy which infiltrated the true Church. Paul told the Evangelist Timothy, that there would be congregations which would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts” — would do what they please and elect ministers who for the sake of money would preach fables of mysticism and sun-worship that were engulfing the Roman Empire(II Timothy 4:2-4). The letters of Paul were twisted by them to give another meaning than intended (II Peter 3:15-16).

Here’s the odd part. Instead of leaving the local congregations and forming their own sects, as some Gentiles did at first, the false preachers remained within the congregations and soon began to expel the true Christians (III John 9 and 10), who alone comprised the true Church. They were being put out of the visible, organized congregations. They were the scattered ones of whom John said: “Therefore the world knoweth us not” (I John 3:1).

Where Historians Get Confused

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the deaths of the apostles, something incredible happens. The true Church almost disappears from history, and false churches arise! Historian Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, in his book The Story of the Christian Church, page 41, says: “We would like to read of the later work of such helpers of St. Paul as Timothy, Apollos and Titus, but all these… drop out of the record at his death. For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D., with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of peter and Paul.”

So what happened to the true Church which was lost out of sight by most historians? It did not disappear, but continued to exist from the time of Christ until the present. This is a promise from Christ Himself: …I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

You can find it by looking for a small Sabbath keeping Church which keeps ALL of God’s commands, faithfully preaches about the Kingdom of God, as well as warning the world through prophetic vision. That should be no mystery, but yet it is!

February 24, 2009

What Is The Biblical Name For The True NT Church Of God?

Have you ever noticed that churches in this world are often named after men, a devised system, or a kind of church government? The name may even offer insight into a significant doctrine they emphasize, or what men hope to make it — all-encompassing, universal or catholic. But is this the correct way to identify the true Church of God? After all, there is only one true Church of God – not thousands comprising a babble of confusing religions, beliefs, or doctrines!

So what are we looking for? I mean, the Bible should help us identify the name of God’s Church, right? Of course it does! Wherever that one true Church is, it will be named the “Church of God.” Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:11, 12: “…Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me…. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name.”

A person’s name is important. When one acts in another’s name, one acts in his stead — by his authority. The name designates the source of the authority — it designates who the person is for whom one acts. It’s clear from the scripture above that the true Church is to be kept in the name of the Father, which takes the authority of His name. Since the name of the Father is God, the Church is simply named the Church of God. You can see why it would be important not to name it after a man or any other man-devised idea.

Twelve times in the New Testament, the Church is named the Church of God. In five such passages where the true name of the Church appears, the entire Body of Christ — the Church as a whole — is indicated. Thus, when speaking of the entire Church, including all its individual members on earth, the name is “the Church of God.” Here are these five passages:

1. Acts 20:28: The admonition to the elders is to “feed the Church of God.”

2. I Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.”

3. I Corinthians 11:22: “…or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not?”

4. I Corinthians 15:9: Paul wrote: “I persecuted the Church of God.”

5. Galatians 1:13: This verse repeats the one last given — “I persecuted the Church of God.”

Where one specific local congregation is mentioned, the true Church is called “the Church of God,” often in connection with the place or location. Here are four more passages:

6. I Corinthians 1:2: “The Church of God which is at Corinth.”

7. II Corinthians 1:1: “The Church of God which is at Corinth.”

8. I Timothy 3:5: In speaking of an elder in a local congregation, Paul wrote Timothy: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?”

9. I Timothy 3:15: “…Behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God.”

In speaking of the local congregations collectively, not as one general body, but as the total of all local congregations, the Bible name is “the Churches of God.” Here are the final three verses of the twelve which name the Church:

10. I Corinthians 11:16: “We have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.”

11. I Thessalonians 2:14: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.”

12. II Thessalonians 1:4: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God.”

In some New Testament instances, a descriptive adjective is added to the name, as the Church of God at Corinth, or the Churches of God in Judea. But that is not all. Many have appropriated God’s name (the Church of God), but are not proclaiming the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Neither are they teaching obedience to God’s Ten Commandments or repentance of transgressing that Law. They pervert nearly all of the doctrines found in the Bible to suit their own agendas, so by their fruits we understand that they are not representative of God.

While this is not an exhaustive study into the matter, it does provide oversight into the subject and gives a clear analysis from scripture into which direction we have to look in identifying His Church.

What Does The Bible Say About The Thousand Year Reign?

God’s 1,000-year millennial rule will be ushered in by the second coming of Jesus Christ. As to the exact date of this event, Christ said that no man knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24:36). But He did give us very clear and definite prophetic events to watch for as signs or warnings of His imminent return. Christ predicted religious deceptions, wars, famines, diseases, and earthquakes on a global scale immediately preceding His return (Matt. 24:3-35).

The present turmoil, escalating wars and strife now occurring on this earth will eventually develop into a total global conflict of such a magnitude that unless God were to intervene, no human flesh would be saved alive (Matt. 24:21-22). At the very climax of the events described in the 24th chapter of Matthew (also Luke 21; Mark 13), Jesus Christ will return as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). This time He is coming in power as divine God (Matt. 24:30) to establish a world super-government and rule all nations “with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5; 19:15).

As Christ is returning to this earth, the dead in Christ — including all the prophets of old (Luke 13:28) — will be resurrected from their graves as immortal spirit beings (I Thes. 4:14-16). Those then living who have the Spirit of God shall be instantaneously changed from mortal to immortal (I Cor. 15:50-54) and, together with those resurrected, shall rise to meet the descending glorified Christ (I Thes. 4:17) in the air.

Christ Himself will return to this earth where His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4-5) in the same manner that He left (Acts 1:11). Those changed, converted saints, made immortal at the resurrection, will then assist Jesus Christ in ruling literal physical nations made up of human beings — nations of mortals left alive at Christ’s return — for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4; 3:21; Dan. 7:22, 27).

February 23, 2009

Is Door To Door Preaching A Biblical Practice?

Everybody has seen people on busy street corners and in large public buildings zealously attempting to hand out religious literature to all passersby. And you yourself may have even had a person with a “Christian message” knock on your door. These are common, everyday occurrences; and most people, even if they don’t necessarily agree with their views, passively accept these door-to-door evangelists as part of Western Christianity.

But did you know that long before the coming of Jesus Christ, the pagan world had its door-to-door representatives? The ancient pre-Christian world teemed with different religious sects, all vying with one another for converts. Many of them were attempting to spread their doctrines and win new adherents by preaching from house to house. Plato remarked that “mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power … of making an atonement for a man’s ‘own … sins … at a small cost” (Republic, 364 b-c). Not only did these zealous pagans preach, they also distributed a variety of tracts of a religious and moralizing nature.

Werner Jaeger, an authority on the influence of pagan culture on early Christianity, observes that “we have to reckon with the existence in Hellenistic times of religious tracts as a means of propaganda fides [propagandizing their faith] of many sects” (Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, London: Oxford University Press, 1969, p. 8). Members of such a sect would actually distribute their propaganda literature from house to house. This practice was widespread already in Plato’s day, some four hundred years before Christ. Plato reports about these door-to-door evangelists in no uncertain terms: “And they produce a host of books [tracts] written by Musaeus and Orpheus … according to which they … persuade not only individuals, but whole cities” (Republic, 364e). This was nothing other than the same door-to-door high-pressure evangelism so common among us today.

In fact, so ubiquitous had this practice become among the pagans — and so obnoxious and repulsive to the average individual — that the pagan author Plutarch felt it his duty to denounce it in his writings. In his Precepts for Newly Married People, Plutarch advises wives “not to admit strangers by the back door who try to smuggle their tracts into the house advertising a foreign religion” (Jaeger, p. 8). This denunciation demonstrates how common door-to-door tract evangelism had become. “Let them [the door-to-door preachers] be exterminated from her outermost threshold!” Plutarch thundered (Conjugal Precepts, c. 19).

All this goes to show that the distribution of religious tracts was an obnoxious pagan means of winning converts — and it antedated Christianity by as much as four hundred years! Such a way of “winning souls,” needless to say, is diametrically opposed to the practices and teachings of Jesus. Christ never preached from door to door. He did not hand out one religious tract. He specifically instructed His disciples, “Go not from house to house” (Luke 10:7).

John, the last survivor of the original twelve apostles, admonished the followers of Christ: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [which John preached and which only the one true Church of God preaches], receive him not into your house” (II John 10). No truth could be learned from the preachings or the writings of these disseminators of error. Paul warned about the type of fellow Plutarch wrote about. “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (II Tim. 3:6).

True Christians know and understand that God is the One who calls and converts people (John 6:44). They recognize, therefore, that it would be completely futile — and actually contrary to God’s will — to go out and attempt to win converts by force. The pagans of old, on the other hand, did not serve an active, living God. They had to do the converting themselves in order to gain followers, because their “god” was nonexistent, and the real God was not calling anyone to their religion. And, furthermore, they were not supported by God financially.

That is why, in the words of Plato, the mendicant preachers performed their services “at a small cost,” meaning they charged “a small fee.” Jesus Christ, who supports and finances the dissemination of His message so that it can go out without cost, said “freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). True Christianity does not go “door-to-door and so is uniquely different from the ways of the pagans!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, July/August 1970

What Constitutes Godly Music?

The arts nearly always reflect the culture and society from which they spring, and by nature tend to strengthen and stabilize trends. Studies into the psychological reactions of people to music have demonstrated its unusual power to stir the emotions. Music in the hands of a clever artist can evoke any desired emotional response. For example, motion picture producers are well aware of the power of music to command strong reactions in their audiences. If they want the movie-watcher to tremble in stark horror, they put suspenseful, trembling music behind the terrible scene.

The principles to follow in judgment are these: music should bring enjoyment, right emotional response, and should reflect good quality. Such characteristics bring honor and glory to GOD, and thereby characterize good music. Of course, even the finest music can be put to wrong uses, making it wrong, not of itself, but because of its wrong context.

If for any reason music detracts from the perfect way of life God has revealed for our good, then it is wrong, and should be avoided. I personally look forward to a renaissance of great music in Tomorrow’s World — because then the Creator of music will be in charge.

Seven Rules To Right Decisions

by Albert J. Portune

Tomorrow’s World, June 1969

How many times has your life, your happiness, your self-respect been upset and disturbed because you’ve made a wrong choice, or an unwise decision? Looking back on our past all of us can remember choices we had or opportunities that presented themselves – and we wish we could go back and CHANGE what we did.

How would you like to be able to make the right choice – EVERY TIME? You can, you know, if you apply the right principles EVERY TIME! The principles for making right and wise decisions are available to you. If you are willing to diligently apply them each time, YOUR LIFE can become a series of successes in the decisions you have to make. Are you willing to learn these principles?

Life Is Choice

Life is a series of decisions. You can’t begin a day without making choices. What time to rise, what clothing to wear, what to have for breakfast, what course of action for the responsibilities of the day, etc., etc. The majority of our decisions are routine and dictated by routine and preset requirements of job, school, weather and environment. Most of us do well enough in these routine decisions. It is the bigger, more unusual decisions that affect our lives where we become vulnerable and need to make the RIGHT decision. Decisions like: Whether to buy a new car and which kind – whether to quit your job and move to another area – whether to go into business for yourself – whether to add a room to your house or buy new furniture – whether to go to college, or take a trip to a distant place.

Sadly enough, many have faced major decisions in life, chosen unwisely and found their lives in a shambles which took time and tears to remedy. Making wise decisions is not a matter of chance. Some people are not just “lucky” while others are unlucky. Success in choices depends on basic factors. Those who are “lucky” have their luck in accidentally or intentionally using the right principles in making their choices. If you KNOW the right principles and apply them, you eliminate most of the elements of chance. Success is assured because you have eliminated the risks.

The Right Source

Most people, faced with important decisions make the same fundamental ERROR! This error is common to man because man is basically a self-centered creature. He usually depends on himself for the inherent ability to arrive at a conclusion. The Word of God – the Bible – which is the book about man, but inspired by man’s Creator – God who knows man intimately, most accurately describes this basic fault in man.

“Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is NOT IN HIMSELF: it is NOT IN MAN that walketh to direct his steps.” These words were written, under the inspiration of God by His prophet Jeremiah, chapter 10 verse 23. The fundamental, underlying basis for making right decisions lies OUTSIDE the pole of the man making the decision. This seems remarkable, but it is nonetheless true.

Whenever we have a decision to make, the first thing we usually do is to ASSUME WE have the basic ability to come to that decision. In reality, God’s Word makes clear we ought NOT to rely upon our own abilities alone. True, we may have to use the abilities God has given us, but directed by God – not ourselves.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine OWN understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Wisdom is truly realizing the basic nature in man. Few people have discovered this basic nature. Most people feel they are benign creatures, basically good, gentle, having outgoing concern for others, generous, kind, considerate. Hence, being all this, they certainly could be relied upon to make a decision which would take all factors into consideration. But, unless God’s spirit has opened their minds most people don’t know they are inherently by nature selfish, covetous, greedy, full of vanity, deceitful, proud and wicked. It is true, you know.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:” and “the carnal mind is enmity AGAINST GOD: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be” (Jer. 17:9 and Rom. 8:7). Those who have come to know God have learned this about themselves and have come to the first point of wisdom which is NOT to depend on this source for a decision.

Leaning to this source for a decision will ALWAYS tend to lead us to a wrong decision. This source of wisdom will always tend to a decision or a choice that flatters self, looks good to others, makes the “big splash,” satisfies lust or exacts revenge. Truly the Proverbs describe this end: “There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12 and 16:25).

Rule One: Ask God FIRST For His Wisdom

So, the first rule in the SEVEN RULES to wise decisions is to GO OUTSIDE of self to God to get the wisdom. Any other first step would be foolish. God alone knows just the right course of action you should take ! No one else does! He should be the first source.

You will have other steps to follow, but unless they are guided by God they may avail you nothing. In fact following all six other rules could lead you to ruin without God directing them.

“…. the Lord is a God of knowledge and by HIM actions are weighed” (I Sam. 2:3).

When you are confronted with an important decision in your life, go to a private place and pray to your Father in heaven. Tell him about your decision – how it affects you, what are the alternatives that lie before you. Admit to him in prayer that you LACK the ability and wisdom you need and want His omniscient help and wisdom.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it [wisdom] shall be given him” (James 1:5). Admit in your prayer that without God’s help you would tend to choose the course of vanity, lust, pride, envy and retribution. Tell Him you want His mind and attitude – an attitude of service, concern for others, love, patience and mercy. If the decision is profound enough, add fasting to your prayers so God sees that you truly care and want to be guided by Him.

Solomon an Example

When Solomon became King of Israel after his father David, he knew he was faced with many momentous decisions. The responsibility of ruling a mighty nation and making all the decisions that are part of being a monarch weighed heavily upon him.

What was the first thing Solomon did? His actions are an EXAMPLE for us – recorded in the Word of God. “And Solomon said unto God, Thou has shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead … for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can JUDGE [decide for] this thy people, that is so GREAT?” (II Chron. 1:8-10). Because Solomon sought God FIRST and acknowledged Him as the source of RIGHT DIRECTION, God granted him wisdom and knowledge to make right decisions and choices. God blessed him and the nation Israel over which he ruled (verses 11:17).

No matter how large or small a decision we have to make, we should always go to God FIRST and acknowledge Him as the source of direction, wisdom and knowledge to make the right choice. Even if we must make a quick – rapid-fire – decision, we always have time – even if it is only an instant – to pray within ourselves, “Father, help me to see Your will.”

Rule Two: Get Examples From the Bible

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His LAW [the Bible] doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and WHATSOEVER HE DOETH SHALL PROSPER” (Psalm 1:1-3) .

The Bible — God’s Word – is an instruction book for man and a history of man’s mistakes, successes, rewards and punishments. It runs the full gamut of human experience. In the Old Testament, when God was bringing Israel out of Egypt, the people had to make many decisions. Some were right – many were wrong! These examples are priceless in helping us avoid making similar mistakes in decisions we must reach.

Some of the wrong decisions which led to disaster for the people are recorded a second time in I Corinthians in the 10th chapter. Notice what the apostle Paul says about these occurrences: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for OUR ADMONITION, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (verse 11).

By a deep knowledge of God’s Word – through constant study and meditation – we have a backlog of experience to draw upon. We certainly can profit by the mistakes others have made, and also from their wise decisions. Seek in your knowledge of God’s Word, or by meditating further on it, to find a basic principle that relates clearly to your choice or decision. Try to determine how your reasoning may be similar to a specific example in God’s Word.

Jesus’s Example

Jesus, under severe temptation from Satan to make a wrong decision, knew this principle well. When the Tempter sought to entice Jesus to choose immediate world rule – showed him alluring world kingdoms to tempt Him – Jesus said: “IT IS WRITTEN, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus also said twice more “IT IS WRITTEN !”

We should follow His example! Jesus knew God’s Word. He drew heavily upon it to make His choices. The unjust judges of this world follow this principle even if their choices may be wrong. No judge presiding over a court case ever comes to a decision without knowing the decisions that have been rendered previously in similar cases. Lawyers always rehearse previous court cases for what has happened in the past.

We have literally hundreds of “court cases” upon which God has rendered His verdict – IN THE BIBLE. Yet far too many of us neglect to seek that knowledge from God’s Word and apply it to our decisions. Far too many of us just do not know God’s Word well enough.’ Therefore we make wrong decisions on points for which there are direct examples in the Word of God.Your best insurance to guiding your steps through your changing pattern of life is a deep and profound knowledge of God’s Word. “Thy Word is a LAMP unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Rule Three: Get all the Pertinent Facts

In most decisions you will have time to carefully consider all the factors. Too many times when a decision needs to be made we “leap before we look.” This is another universal error most people make – they don’t take enough time to consider all the facts!

Basic “high-pressure” salesmanship is designed around this human weakness and natural human lust. Ninety percent of purchases made are “impulse buying.” People go “shopping” without a factual study of the type, quality, price, performance and need factors already clearly defined. Therefore they are prime targets for the fast talking line of the high-pressure salesman – and in HIS backyard – where his glittering gadgets have you spellbound.

Not that we’re specifically talking about decisions on buying, but it is an excellent thing to remember that the item you are tempted to buy will still be there tomorrow or the next day or next week. Only your desire to HAVE IT makes you feel like you must get it NOW. The salesman knows that too.

One key which will save you many headaches and pocketbook pains is learning to “wait 24 hours” especially in reference to impulse buying. Every salesman knows a person is most apt to buy on the spur of the moment after he has been pushed “off balance” by his basic desire to possess plus the strong “pitch” he has just been given. But if you will say, “I’ll think it over” – leave the store – go home and wait until tomorrow – most likely many factors will come to you which you were unable to consider under the pressure of the moment.

This key also applies to any choice you have to make. We are always “off balance” until we have carefully weighed ALL the facts. Whatever time you have before you must decide, use it to weigh carefully all the alternatives that lie before you and the costs or actions they demand. It is always good to accumulate a written list of all the pros and cons. It will serve two purposes. One: you won’t forget the unpleasant aspects which we are so often prone to nullify or treat lightly. Two. it will force you to take the time to consider the factors in detail, which, again, we are usually reluctant to do. Be sure you get the FACTS. Don’t be satisfied with guesses and assumptions. If there are FACTS to get, get them. It’s your life!

Rule Four: Seek Wise and Abundant Counsel

In getting the facts, we should again remember not always to lean to our own knowledge of the subject. We should seek those who have the most accurate information relative to our choice. Let us suppose you are considering a change from one area of the country to another. This involves a change of job – change of home – change of school for children – change of climate – change of cost of living – and many, many other things. A wise decision cannot be reached without learning what these factors are like in the new area. One way to learn these facts is to ask or counsel with someone who is an AUTHORITY on these factors in the new area.

In every case seek wise counsel from a reputable authority or sources you can rely on. Don’t rely on backyard advice or “water-cooler wisdom” for a decision in your life. Don’t be satisfied with one opinion only! A primary principle from God’s Word shows us to seek wise counsel: “WHERE NO COUNSEL is, the people fall: but in the MULTITUDE OF COUNSELLORS THERE IS SAFETY” (Prov. 11:14).

Many times we feel it is a sign of weakness to ask for help and opinions. This is again vanity and self-centeredness. Even in the largest corporations the wisest executives seek out advisors and counsellors to help them make wise decisions.

Rule Five: Make a Definite Decision

In applying the preceding rules, we will have come to the place where we are ready to make a definite decision: Now is the time! We have asked God for wisdom and direction; we have searched His Word for examples and lessons. We have gathered and weighed all the facts and eventualities. We have sought authorities, wise and abundant counsellors. The choice or decision should now be CLEAR. Make that decision DECISIVELY – POSITIVELY! Don’t vacillate! Don’t waver!

Again God’s Word gives us the example. “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed … A double minded man is UNSTABLE in all his ways” (James 1:6, 8). This brings us to the sixth rule.

Rule Six: Have Faith in the Decision

Faith is one of the most powerful forces we can employ to cause circumstances to turn out right. Once we have come to a decision based on God’s principles we can have FAITH it will work out correctly. We should EXPECT our choice – to turn out RIGHT and GOOD. We can have ABSOLUTE FAITH that it will!

“Faith is the substance of things [or conclusions] HOPED FOR, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Believing is now our part! The whole eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a testimony of those who made choices and decisions in their lives toward an ultimate goal and they attained them THROUGH FAITH! Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, ALL THINGS are possible to him that BELIEVETH”! (Mark 9:23). Trust your decision. Trust the God who led you to it. Believe it will turn out as planned. Expect it to! HAVE FAITH.

Rule Seven: Work Diligently for the Desired End

The last rule is where many fall down. The right conclusion to a decision is NOT AUTOMATIC! We must go all out to bring the desired end to reality. In the course of obtaining all the facts and getting wise and abundant counsel we will have discovered many things to DO !

Now that we have made our choice and have faith that it will work out, we need to roll up our sleeves and GET TO WORK! Another basic principle from God’s Word will help. Wise Solomon learned from God: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccl. 9:10).

Here is where many of us fail. We do not diligently and systematically go step-by-step through every phase of effort toward the desired goal! Resolve, in every choice or decision, to thoroughly and judiciously do your part.

There is never a time in your life when you can afford to NEGLECT these principles. Write them down on a card and carry them with you. Learn them – make them a part of you. Put them into practice in your life.

Between The Testaments, Part 3

From: The Good News Of Tomorrow’s World

September 1971

By Ernest Martin and Harry Eisenberg

In the last installment, we saw how a majority of people were weaned away from their observance of God’s laws by the pressures of the Hellenistic culture. Under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies, they became interested in the education and culture of the surrounding nations. Later, under the domination of a cruel Seleucid Syrian king, the Jews revolted against Syria. The revolt was successful, and Hellenism, as a culture of which the Syrians were great exponents, was now discredited.

The priests (those descended from Aaron), many of whom had been leading Hellenists, were looked upon with distrust by many. Now laymen were beginning to make their voices heard in religious disputes. This was the rise of the Pharisees. It was a layman’s party, though some priests also belonged to it.

The Sadducees

No one questioned the right of the priests to officiate in the Temple. But the priests pointed to Deuteronomy 17:8-13 as giving them, and not the lay teachers, the authority to teach and to decide questions pertaining to religion. They and their supporters organized themselves into the party of the Sadducees (name taken from Zadok, the High Priest in Solomon’s day).

The priests as a whole were wealthy. This and their previous support of Hellenism caused the people to mistrust them by and large. Josephus tells us, “The Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side” (“Antiquities of the Jews”, XIII, x, 6).

Lay Teachers Justify the People’s Errors

And yet the main reason for the popularity of the Pharisees and the rejection of the Sadducees was neither the tainted past nor the wealth of the priests. It was in the teachings of the Pharisees themselves. During the period of religious anarchy under Hellenistic rule, the continuity of official teachers of the law had been broken. Hellenism had made its inroads.

Consequently, when the Maccabean War came to an end, and some teachers did think of returning to God’s Law, it was found that “many new customs and practices for which there were no precedents in the traditions of the fathers, and not the slightest indication in the Book of the Law, were observed by the people and considered by them as a part of their religious laws and practices” (Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays”, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati, p. 195).

In short, the people had adopted many customs and ideas which were in truth clearly pagan. The best example of these is the belief in the immortality of the soul already mentioned. “The difficulty was to find a sanction in the Torah (the Law) for the new customs and practices which had established themselves in the community …” (Herford, “Talmud and Apocrypha”, Soncino Press, London, 1933, p. 66). The teachers should have shown the people they were sinning (Isa. 58:1). Instead they chose to justify them. This should not seem strange. It was done in Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 23:21-22) and in Isaiah’s (Isa. 30:10).

Pagan Customs Called Jewish!

And yet the Scripture plainly states: “Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jer. 10:2). Consequently, the teachers taught that the new customs the people had adopted were not really pagan — they were actually Jewish!

They reasoned this: “It is hardly possible that foreign customs and non-Jewish laws should have met with such universal acceptance. The total absence of objection on the part of the people to such customs vouched for their Jewish origin, in the opinion of the teachers” (Lauterbach, p. 211). These teachers told the people that it simply was not possible for them, being Jews, to have inherited any heathen custom or practice. They furthermore taught that since the customs were “Jewish,” then they must have been taught by Moses himself. (This is no different from today, when churchgoers by the millions assume that the original apostles observed Sunday, Easter, Christmas and the like.)

“Accordingly, the teachers themselves came to believe that such generally recognized laws and practices must have been old traditional laws and practices adopted by the fathers and transmitted to the following generations in addition to the Written Law. Such a belief would naturally free the teachers from the necessity of finding scriptural proof for all the new practices” (ibid.).

In other words they claimed that these customs, since they were not WRITTEN in the Old Testament, must have been handed down ORALLY from Moses — by word of mouth. Actually, these traditional laws — these oral laws — were not from Moses nor any of the prophets. There is not a single reference in the Scripture that Moses gave the Israelites any oral or traditional laws that were to be transmitted to posterity along with the written Word. The Bible states just the opposite. It plainly says that Moses wrote the whole Law in a book. Notice. “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were FINISHED …” (Deut. 31:24). There is no such thing as an “oral law of Moses.”

Oral Law Gains Acceptance

The theory of the “oral law” was accepted only gradually — a matter of a few years, rather than months. “The theory of an authoritative traditional law (which might be taught independently of the Scriptures) was altogether too new to be unhesitatingly accepted … the theory was too startling and novel to be unconditionally accepted” (Lauterbach, p. 211 ).

The greater opposition to the so-called “oral law” came from the priests who, as a whole, declared that the Scripture was the only necessary code of laws to obey. “This apparently simple solution offered by the priestly group in the Sanhedrin did not find favour with the lay members of that body” (ibid., p. 209). And, with the passage of time, the lay teachers ultimately came to constitute the majority of representatives in the Sanhedrin. These Pharisaic lay teachers succeeded in convincing the people that they were right and that the priests were wrong.

Some of the people’s fears concerning the priestly Sadducees were apparently valid, however. Many of the priests did become worldly minded and they found worldly politics far more interesting than religion. The Sadducees eventually adopted the belief that there was no resurrection and that angels did not exist (Act 23:8). This was probably a result of the influence of the Greek Epicurean philosophy. It taught that there was no future life of any kind and that man should therefore seek as many physical pleasures in this life as possible, since that was all there was.

New Laws of the Pharisees

Many of the Pharisees came to believe what they were doing was God’s will. “It is certain that they (the Pharisees) regarded themselves as the successors of the prophets, and not merely in fact but by right” (Herford, p. 71). Based on this claimed authority, they adopted a method of teaching what they believed to be laws of God, without any initial reference to Scripture for authority. “Finding no convincing proof for such laws in the Bible, they taught them independently of scriptural proof, i.e., in the MISHNAH-form” (Lauterbach, p. 229).

MISHNAH-form was the name given for laying down laws to be observed, apart from Scripture. This is not to say MISHNAH-form avoided Scripture altogether. But it was only AFTER a law had already been accepted that the Scriptures might be checked for corroboration. Sometimes “affirmation” of a new law was forced from Scriptures totally unrelated to the particular subject. The word MISHNAH is related to the Hebrew root meaning “second” and “study.” MISHNAH-form was the SECOND form that the Pharisees adopted for “STUDY” as opposed to the original form of properly expounding the Scriptures, which was called MIDRASH-form. This older, original form was known as “teaching after the manner of Moses” (“Talmud”, Temurah 156, “Yebamoth” 72b).

MIDRASH-form is based on deducing laws, teachings, legends, etc., from the Scripture. As time went on it too became perverted. “Whenever there was the remotest possibility of doing so, they would seek by means of new hermeneutical rules (rules pertaining to Biblical interpretation) to find in the words of the Torah support for these traditional laws” (Lauterbach, p. 212).

Thus the Pharisees were able to “find” the traditions they were now approving of by twisted interpretations of Scripture. In doing this they still claimed to be using the MIDRASH-form. Ezra is said to have taught in MIDRASH-form when he, and his helpers “read in the book in the law of God distinctly and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8).

There was, however, one major point which Ezra was aware of, but which the Pharisees missed. It is this: God, in the Bible, never contradicts Himself. Malachi, a contemporary of Ezra was inspired to write: “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3: 6). But many of the traditional laws the Pharisees approved of did contradict Scripture. What’s more, many of them even contradicted one another. With the introduction of the new MISHNAH-form, Scripture came to be less relied on than before. New laws, which were not even necessarily traditional, could be enacted.

The Pharisees found the MISHNAH-form to be an important weapon in their conflict with the Sadducees. Laws that were accepted after being handed down in the MISHNAH-form tended to enhance the authority of the Pharisees, since it was SOLELY on their authority that the law was accepted. The very first individual of whom we have any record who began to teach new commandments in the MISHNAH-form, apart from the scriptural basis, was Jose ben Joezer of Zareda.

Jose laid down three new commandments. The first concerned the eating of a certain locust; the second, the blood of slaughtered animals; and the third, the touching of a dead body. In doing this he became known as “Jose the Permitter” (“Talmud”, Abodah Zarah 37b). “Furthermore, Jose is called ‘the Permitter,’ evidently because in all three decisions he permits things that were formerly considered forbidden” (Lauterbach, p. 219).

These new laws of Jose were not customs the people had inherited from Hellenism. “It is therefore evident that these Halakot (rules) … were not older traditional laws transmitted by Jose as a mere witness, but Jose’s own teachings. He was the one who ‘permitted’ and he deserved the name (the Permitter)” (ibid., p. 218). These commandments of themselves were not earth-shaking violations, but they did set a precedent! Eventually others began to set down all sorts of new laws. These are what Jesus called “the commandments of men” (Mark 77).

The Prosbul of Hillel

Many others ultimately followed in the steps of Jose. If the majority of Pharisees agreed on a new decision, it was accepted as the Word of God — even if Scripture taught just the opposite. Of the myriad of new laws laid down, perhaps the best example and the best known is the Prosbul of Hillel. Hillel the Old headed a Pharisaic school in the days of Herod. He was noted for his gentleness and was greatly beloved among the people, but his decisions, nonetheless, were not always in keeping with the Word of God.

For example, “All private loans are automatically remitted at the end of the Sabbatical Year (Deut. 15:2) and hence it became difficult to obtain loans immediately before the onset of that year. In order to avoid hardship and encourage lending, Hillel instituted the “Prosbul” (Greek: “for the court”), which is a declaration made before a court of law by the creditor, and signed by witnesses, stating that all debts due him are given over to the court for collection. Since the remission of loans during the seventh year applies only to individuals but not to public loans, the effect of the Prosbul is to render the individual’s loan public, and it is therefore not remitted” (Werblowsky and Wigoder, “The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion”, art. “Prosbul,” p. 312).

Hillel’s motive was apparently quite practical. And yet the Bible clearly states: “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD (Eternal) against thee, and it be sin unto thee” (Deut. 15:9).

Rather, God says: “Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when you givest unto him: because that for this thing the Eternal thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (verse 10). It was because of rules like the Prosbul that Christ told the Pharisees, “Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:6).

Hillel saw that the poor were unable to obtain needed loans and was trying to remedy the situation, but he was not doing it God’s way! God says: “Trust in the Eternal with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). There were many such instances where the Pharisees enacted many new laws, based solely on their own human reasoning in an attempt to make what they thought would be a better way of life. Yet God tells us: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).

Cause and Effect

The Pharisees’ error was a classic one. Seeing wrong situations, but relying solely on themselves, they attempted to treat the EFFECT rather than the CAUSE. Notice the case of Hillel’s Prosbul. God plainly tells us that the CAUSE of the problem was in the HEARTS of the people (Deut. 15:9). Today too many see the problems besetting mankind. Governments have their solutions and the revolutionary activists have theirs. But all attempt to treat ONLY THE EFFECTS of the problems. None gets at THE REAL CAUSE — which is to be found for the most part in carnal human nature with its greed and pride.

Today, God is treating the cause of man’s ills in some individuals. He is presently changing the hearts of a few. “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them an heart of flesh” (Ezek. 11.19). God’s Law as revealed throughout all of Scripture is indicative of God’s CHARACTER. It is a giving, serving, sharing, concern for the other person as well as the self, and can be summed up by the word LOVE — love first of all toward God and then towards fellowman.

God’s Law shows us exactly how He would live if He were a human being. And this is precisely what Jesus did when He emptied Himself of His divinity and took on human flesh — He never once broke a single law of God. The rise of Pharisaism in the period between the Testaments represented an attempt on the part of these people to keep the Law. But they lacked a clear understanding of their own human nature as revealed in the Scriptures. Notice God’s deeply felt near-lament in Deuteronomy 5:29: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever”!

But “such an heart” was not in them at that time. They had only the human nature that we all naturally possess — the heart that is “… deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9.) Joshua told his generation, “… Ye cannot serve the Lord nor is it in ours.

But man was not left without hope. There was a promise of better things to come. “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deut. 30:6).

The Pharisees as well as the other sects of the period wanted to serve God and keep His commandments. They had, as the Apostle Paul (who well knew) put it, “… a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). Not aware of the necessity for a change in their own human nature, they found it necessary to change God’s Law. Not that this was done outwardly, but rather by forced interpretations, rationalizations, attempted codifications of laws that are all-encompassing, and new laws that were not admitted always to be new.

By changing the Law, they made it of “none effect.” That is, it did not have the effect that God’s laws should have on those who keep them. Inasmuch as the Pharisees did keep SOME of the laws correctly SOME of the time, it did have SOME good effects. But the overall results that come by living in total harmony with the laws the Creator set in motion simply were lacking. Pharisaic society did not abound with the love of God. You could never convince the Sadducees (with whom they often disputed) that it was otherwise. Nor could you convince the Romans. Nor could you convince the unlearned Jews of that day, whom many of the Pharisees thumbed their noses at with the epithet “am-ha-aretz” (“people of the land” — the term is used in a derogatory sense throughout the Pharisaic writings).

Pharisaic society was filled with strife. When Alexander Jannaeus, one of the Maccabean kings, ruled, the Pharisees were virtually at WAR with him and there was much bloodshed. The Talmud itself is a record of the Pharisees striving among themselves, one with another in religious DEBATES, each one trying to convince the others of the correctness of HIS particular idea, rather than all working harmoniously to seek GOD’S will.

Today, professing Christianity is treading down the same well-worn path the Pharisees mistakingly took. Where is the sect that has not attempted to read its own ideas into the Bible which it professes to obey? And where is the denomination that is truly bearing the fruits of God’s Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance? Indeed which one even knows what true love is?

Don’t YOU follow the crowd. DON’T be led down the garden path into religious deception by any who would warp, distort and twist the scripture to their own destruction. As you peruse the pages of your Bible, we encourage you to search the scriptures daily WHETHER THESE THINGS BE SO (Acts 17:11). But by the same token we also ask that you apply the same criterion to all who claim to represent God! Remember, “… if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).

Between The Testaments, Part 2

From: The Good News Of Tomorrow’s World

September 1971

By Ernest Martin and Harry Eisenberg

After a series of battles with the Syrians, Ptolemy I, the Greek king of Egypt, took firm control of Judaea in 301 B.C. His descendants retained that control for over ONE HUNDRED YEARS, until 198 B.C. This one-hundred-year period of Greek-Egyptian domination is very important in the religious history of the Jews. This is the period in which many great and significant changes first began to take place in Jewish religious life.

“During the comparatively quiet rule of the Ptolemies, Greek ideas, customs and morality had been making peaceful conquests in Palestine” (Charles Foster Kent, “History of the Jewish People”, page 320). There was little resistance to these inroads. We are informed by Dr. Jacob Lauterbach, a learned Jewish scholar, that Jewish tradition knows of no religious teacher who taught any form of religion from the death of Simon the Just (270 B.C.) until about the year 190 B.C. (Jacob Z. Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays”, Hebrew Union College Press, Cincinnati, 1951, page 196).

“This would have been impossible,” Dr. Lauterbach says, “if there had been any official activity of the teachers in those years” (ibid.). But there was none. In fact, whole generations came and went, offering no great resistance to the new customs which were encouraged by the commercial and educational intercourse taking place between the Jews, Greeks and Hellenistic Egyptians. In fact, thousands of Jews migrated to Egypt during this period. By the end of the Ptolemaic period, there were over a million Jews in Egypt, out of a total population of about seven million.

A prime example of Hellenistic influence is the PAGAN concept of the immortality of the soul. This doctrine was widely publicized in the writings of the pagan Greek philosopher Plato.

The Coming of the Seleucids

In 198 B.C. the Seleucid kingdom of Syria conquered Judaea and drove out the Egyptians. Like the Ptolemies, the Seleucids were also of Greek origin and equally Hellenistic in culture and outlook. At first, conditions in Judaea were pretty much like what they had been under the Ptolemies. The Seleucid ruler, Antiochus III, was favorably inclined toward the Jews.

Conditions rapidly changed, however, with the coming to the throne in 175 B.C. of Antiochus Epiphanes. Shortly after he ascended the throne, there was a contention among several of the priests in Jerusalem for the office of High Priest. Jason, the brother of the reigning High Priest, persuaded Antiochus to transfer the office to him, by offering a large sum of money to the King.

Jason was Hellenistically inclined and was followed in this by many of the people. “A passion for Greek costumes, and Greek names (Jason’s Hebrew name was Joshua) seized the people. Large numbers were enrolled as citizens of Antioch (the capital of Syria). Many even endeavored to conceal the fact that they had been circumcised …. To demonstrate that he had left all the traditions of his race behind, Jason sent a rich present for sacrifices in connection with the great festival at Tyre in honor of the god Hercules” (Kent, “History of the Jewish People”, pp. 324-325). Of course, not everyone in Judaea went this far, but by and large, most people are inclined to follow their human leaders, at least to a certain extent.

About three years after Jason assumed office, Menelaus (Hebrew name “Onias”), a man most believe to have been of the tribe of Benjamin (not a descendant of Aaron and therefore not truly a priest) offered Antiochus a larger bribe than Jason, and he was named High Priest instead. Because of this, Jason fled beyond Jordan to the Ammonites for refuge. (See McClintock and Strong, “Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature”, Vol. I, pp. 271-272; and II Maccabees, Chapter 4).

Many of the Jews thought Jason had been unjustly deprived of becoming High Priest. Many of the people began to take sides — some for Jason, some for Menelaus. Fighting broke out between the two groups, both of whom were led by outright Hellenists.

Jason’s forces won out and Menelaus fled to Antioch. There Antiochus became infuriated to learn that many of the Jews had taken sides against his appointed official or, in effect, against his government itself! At that time Antiochus was planning to conquer Egypt. When that failed, due to the intervention of the Romans, he decided to take out his anger on the rebellious Jews at Jerusalem. He planned not only to subdue the Jews but to put an end to their religion once and for all.

Antiochus, feigning peace, proceeded to take the city. He polluted the Temple by burning swine’s flesh on its altar, and erected a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the Holy Place. This had been prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 11:29-31). He plundered the Temple of all objects of value and then issued a decree forbidding the Jews to worship God or in any way to exercise their religion.

Despite the severity of this decree, there were many Hellenistically inclined Jews who nonetheless accepted it without protest. Many of these Hellenists were priests and Levites. On the other hand, for many other Jews, the majority of whom may have been only slightly interested in religion previously, this decree forbidding such basic practices as circumcision and requiring idol worship was simply too much.

The Maccabean Revolt

In the small village of Modi’in, the head of a priestly family, Mattathias, and his five sons, stood up to oppose Antiochus and his decree. “If anyone zealous for the laws of his country and for the worship of God, let him follow me,” he proclaimed (Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews”, Book XII, Chapter VI, Part 2).

Thousands flocked to his banner and a full revolt was under way. Just before his death, Mattathias made his third son, Judah (called Maccabee), general of their army. After a long series of battles with his forces greatly outnumbered, Judah defeated the Syrians and their Samaritan allies. In 165 B.C. he went up to Jerusalem and purified the Temple, restoring the true ritual of God. Judah was killed in a later battle.

Finally Simon, the last survivor of Mattathias’ sons, was able to proclaim an independent nation with himself as High Priest. The nation was now, at last, free of foreign domination. But the years of religious anarchy and Hellenistic influence had taken their toll. Dr. Lauterbach states: “During the seventy or eighty years of religious anarchy, many new practices had been gradually adopted by the people” (Lauterbach, page 205).

The British scholar Travers Herford adds: “In the absence of authoritative guidance, the people had gone their own way; new customs had found a place among old religious usages … new ideas had been formed under the influence of Hellenism which had permeated the land for more than a century, and there had been no one to point out the danger which thereby threatened the religious life of the people” (Herford, “Talmud and Apocrypha”, pp. 64-65).

The Sanhedrin

We are now at the point where the Pharisees first make their appearance in history, some time after the Maccabean wars. But before we note this, we need to examine briefly the rise of the Sanhedrin, the body which they dominated during much of its existence.

While some sources would lead us to believe that the Sanhedrin was the direct successor to the Great Assembly, this was not the case. It was not until about 196 B.C. after a hiatus of some eighty years that the Sanhedrin was first established. This is shown by an ancient manuscript found today in a text called “Fragments of a Zadokite Work”. This text points to 196 B.C. as the year the Sanhedrin first met. This body is said to consist of “men of understanding from Aaron” (that is, priests), and “from Israel wise teachers” (that is, non-priestly teachers) (Lauterbach, “Rabbinic Essays”, page 203).

This is significant! The writer mentions there were both priests and lay teachers in the new Sanhedrin. This was an innovation. Until this time only the priests, with their assistants, the Levites, were considered to have the authority to teach religion to the people.

This would not have been permitted while the Great Assembly, the successor of Ezra, was in authority. This is clearly shown from the writings of Malachi, who was contemporary with Ezra, Nehemiah and the early days of the Great Assembly. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he (the priest) is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts” (Mal. 2:7). The law of Moses, which God had directly commanded him, dearly enjoined that the priests and Levites were to perform the functions of teachers, not just any layman who would presume to do so. (See Deut. 18:1-7, 33:10 and also Ezek. 44:23.),

Lay Teachers Reject Sole Authority of Priests to Teach

Why this radical change? Again we must briefly go back to the period of religious anarchy when the Egyptian Ptolemies ruled Judaea. Both the Ptolemies and the later Seleucid rulers looked upon the High Priest as the head of the Jewish nation. In turn, it was the High Priest, with his assistants (other priests) who dealt with the Hellenist rulers on behalf of the nation.

Outstanding among these were Joseph, the son of Tobias, and his son Hyrcanus. In order to be successful diplomats at the Hellenistic court in Alexandria, they felt it necessary to adopt Greek ways. And these they brought back with them to Judaea. Thus, it was the priests, the ones who should have been teaching the people God’s Law, who became the chief proponents of Hellenism.

From 206 to 196 B.C. a series of battles between the rival Hellenistic kings of Syria and Egypt devastated many parts of Judaea. Some blamed Hellenism for this trouble and began to seek to return to the laws of their fathers. But to whom could they turn?

The priests as a whole had become thoroughly Hellenized. In fact, different priests were taking sides in the wars and were even raising up armies to help either the Syrians or the Egyptians. The only ones who had studied God’s Word and remained committed to it in any form were a few laymen and some minor priests. These sat in the new Sanhedrin.

What Was God’s Way?

Prior to and during the Maccabean revolt, the outwardly Hellenistic priests and their followers supported Antiochus Epiphanes. The lay teachers and the Sanhedrin as a whole supported the Maccabees. Religiously speaking, the major result of the Maccabean victory was the TOTAL DISCREDITING OF HELLENISM in Judaea. The High Priesthood was given to the Hasmonean (Maccabean) family itself, which descended from minor priests. No one was an outright Hellenist any longer. Many were desirous of following God’s way. But whatever religious unity there might have been was short-lived.

The question basically was one of determining just what was God’s way. There was, of course, the written Bible (the Old Testament). But how were the people to apply its teachings to the various problems and events that arise in daily life? The Jews, remember, had just emerged from a period where the teaching and practice of God’s Law had been forbidden. And this had been preceded by an era of some eighty years during which Hellenism had made great inroads into the daily lives of the people; and all this while there had been no organized body directing religious life.

Hundreds of years before, Ezra and those priests and Levites assisting him had “… read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and (had given) the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8.). Through the ages, God’s servants have been responsible to show the people (with His guidance) how His Law applied in various situations in their lives. This was never the prerogative of anyone who wanted to choose “the ministry,” “the priesthood” or “the rabbinate” for a vocation, but only those whom God specifically chose. And in ancient Israel, under the Old Covenant, God chose the priests, primarily, with the Levites to assist them, for this purpose of teaching.

The Pharisees Come on the Scene

Following the Maccabean victory there were many priests who were ready and willing to resume their ancient, God-given role as teachers and expounders of the Law. But there were also the lay teachers who had come to sit in the Sanhedrin and had made a notable contribution to the Maccabean cause at a time when many priests were outright Hellenists and supporters of Antiochus Epiphanes. Lauterbach says that the lay teachers “refused to recognize the authority of the priests as a class, and, inasmuch as many of the priests had proven unfaithful guardians of the Law, they would not entrust to them the regulation of the religious life of the people” (Lauterbach, page 209). It was these lay teachers who organized themselves into the party of the Pharisees.

Although many of the priests had indeed become Hellenized, this did not necessarily give the lay teachers the right to usurp some of the priests’ God-given authority. But, sadly they insisted on following the way that seemed right to them (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). However, two wrongs did not make a right in that day any more than they do today.

Between The Testaments, Part 1

From: The Good News Of Tomorrow’s World

September 1971

By Ernest Martin and Harry Eisenberg

Just who were the Pharisees and where did their religious doctrines originate? In the Old Testament? If so, why did Christ so strenuously oppose their ideas? Is the Bible — both Old and New Testaments — a house divided? An examination of the period “between the Testaments” shows that while men may be divided — the Bible is not!

Much of the professing Christian world today suffers from the mistaken notion that Christ came to do away with His Father’s religion — the religion of the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus Himself said, “Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (fill to the brim)” (Matt. 5:17).

Christ plainly said that He did not come to do away with His Father’s religion but to COMPLETE God’s revelation. Then why are so many confused on this point? Why do some mistakenly preach that the Law was “done away”?

One of the major assumptions in this connection is that most theologians ASSUME that the Pharisees and the other religionists of Jesus’ day were the representatives and the exponents of the revelation given to Moses — God’s Old Testament religion. But the Bible shows that the One who later became Jesus Christ was the Lord of the Old Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1, 3, see also Eph. 3:9 and Heb. 1:2). Just where and when did the Pharisees get their practices which Jesus condemned?

The Return From Babylon

Chronologically speaking, the last three authors of the Old Testament are Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi. These three men all worked among the Jewish community that had returned to Judaea after the Babylonian captivity. They were largely successful in bringing the people an awareness of God’s true religion. A body of priests (Aaron’s descendants whom God had ordained to be the religious leaders) was set up to guide the people in matters of religion. This company of men was known in history as the “Great Assembly” or “Synagogue” (“Knesset Hagedolah”). Due to the work of this body throughout the period of Persian dominance the Jews were living for the most part in accordance with God’s Law (Heinrich Graetz, “History of the Jews”, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1894, Vol. I, pp. 406-407).

Because of this, God granted them special protection and privileges by a series of miracles, at the coming of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. This is described in Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews”, Book XI, Chapter X, Parts 5-6.

A New Way of Life

At his death, Alexander’s empire was divided into four parts (Dan. 8:22). Judaea first passed under rule of Ptolemies of Egypt and, later, the Seleucidae of Syria. Both of these were Macedonian (Greek) dynasties and were great exponents of the pagan, Gentile way of life known as “Hellenism.”

The basic philosophy behind Hellenism was this: Every man had the right to think for himself on any matter as long as there was not a real departure from the customs that were essentially Greek. This philosophy — freedom of thought or individualism, which is SEEMINGLY altruistic in-principle — resulted in myriads of confusing and contradictory beliefs among the Greeks in every phase of life. Every man was allowed his own ideas about the sciences, the arts, law and about RELIGION.

So varied were the opinions among the Greek scholars in the various fields of study that individuals took pride in contending with one another over who could present the greatest “wisdom” and “knowledge” on any particular subject. With the encouragement of the rulers, Hellenism spread rapidly in the Ptolemaic Empire. Judaea was by no means exempt.

Great Assembly No Longer in Authority

Within a score of years after the coming of the Greeks, the Great Assembly disappears from history as an organized body having religious control over the Jewish people. It is not known how the Greeks dismissed this authoritative religious body from its official capacity as teachers of the Law. But it is obvious that the authority of the Great Assembly was eroded and the Greek leaders forbade them to teach. Without the religious guidance of the Great Assembly, many Jews began to imbibe the Greek customs and ideas which were inundating the land.

“With the change from Persian to Greek rule (the Ptolemies were Greeks, remember), Hellenism made its influence felt, and came pouring like a flood into a country which had known nothing of it. There was no escape from its influence. It was present everywhere, in the street and the market, in the everyday life and all the phases of social intercourse” (R. Travers Herford, “Talmud and Apocrypha”, Soncino Press, London, 1933, page 77).

Much of this Hellenistic influence came from the numerous Greek cities which were established under the Ptolemies. Most of these were on the Mediterranean seacoast or on the east side of Jordan. With the Great Assembly removed from the scene and this new culture substituted for the Law of God, the Jews began to absorb many elements of Hellenism. The Jews had no one to guide them in understanding the Law except a few isolated teachers here and there who lacked the official authority of the Great Assembly.

After a few years of this influence, the people literally came to a state of religious confusion. Some endeavoured to keep a form of the Scriptural teachings, but with Hellenism everywhere, it became almost impossible to adhere to the true form of the law of Moses. Almost everything the Greeks brought to the Jews was antagonistic to the laws of God, and, without the religious guidance of the Great Assembly, many of them began to tolerate these innovations and even, as time progressed, to take up many of the Greek ideas and customs themselves.

There Can Only Be One True God!

There are thousands of religions in this world, with the eight major ones comprising Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism. Besides these, there are hundreds of sects, cults, beliefs, practices and man-devised idols of bizarre appearance.

For many people, religion is a system involving one supreme God. Other religions have a number of different gods, while some have no specific deity to be worshiped. There are also those who practice their religious beliefs in their own personal way, largely independent of organized religion.

Regardless of participation in a religion, only one God IS God. Therefore 99.9% of all worship is wrong because they abound with homespun ideas of God. Men prostrate themselves before carved stones, wood or even photographs – anything to which mankind has affixed the label “God.” None understand that their practice falls far short of the God of the Bible!

Now, you won’t hear many of them call their practice pagan, but neither did ancient Israel when they worshipped a molten calf at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exod. 32:1). They called it a feast to God (verse 5), even though this golden calf was a mere idol! How did the real God feel about this? Read it yourself:

“Thus they changed my glory into the similitude of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:20).

So that biblical occasion was prophetic of what mankind has done ever since. Modern religion is not much different from the ancient Israelites. There are thousands of gods called the true “God, with myriads of pagan idols, worships and practices running contrary to the Bible. Can all of them be right, or is it as Jesus Christ said: “ I will build My (singular) Church…(Math. 16:19). He does not speak of multiple churches or practices. Someone (or most) have to be wrong. Jesus Christ cannot be wrong!

Which God?

So here’s an analogy. If we have two objects (one true and one false), and call both by the same name, does it make both objects identical? Of course it doesn’t! In the same way, if people worship another god, he is still a false god, no matter if the name of the true God is affixed to him.

The Bible shows that we have to look behind the label “God” to see if the religion we practice is of the true God. He has to be defined, just as Moses had to define the true God from Isis, Osiris or Ra to the Israelites, all which all had the label of “God” (Ex. 3:13). This cuts through the bewildering array of denominational ideas of “God.” You need to be sure you have the right God — your Creator!

Creating Gods

The Bible describes the process of man creating his own gods.

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship” (Isa. 46:5-6).

Now Christians may argue with this, but don’t they believe that their Saviour has long flowing hair and soft features? Don’t they know that the Bible states that it is a shame for a man (their Saviour) to have long hair? (I Cor. 11:14).

Where do they get their ideas associated with the term “God”? It isn’t from the Bible! Rather, it was formed from childhood Bible stories, from what parents and friends said, from what was read. People don’t question what they have learned; what they have absorbed from their environment, observed about them at home from parents or heard spoken from the pulpit. Religious prejudices, loyalties and various teachings grow up with them, according to what other people in their lives have come to believe. Religion is also identified with social customs and taboos, so what is religion to one is nonsense to another.

Though a person may adopt a totally different set of convictions later in life, such changes are often based principally on the emotional knowledge that they contrast to former ideas. Few approach scripture with the attitude of correcting their misconceptions. Rather, they simply “choose new gods” (Judges 5:8). Yet, though people change, God says “I change not” (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).

A different god for different circumstances

Each nation creates its own gods and they always resemble their creators in emotional makeup, power structure, image and patriotic leanings. The earth has a long history of gods who were revengeful, savage, lustful, and ignorant — partial to the people who created them by assisting in robbing and destroying others. Their concept of God can be nothing but their own personal human ideas — unless they know where to go to find the real answer.

Others – free thinkers – have looked at history and spotted this flaw, ultimately concluding that there is no God. But this is an erroneous assumption based on faulty research. They did not look past the false gods that man created, and rejected their merciful, living Creator!

Is God Like Man?

If you really want to know if your “God” is God, then study the Bible, which describes His personal characteristics. God possesses feet (Gen. 3:8), hands (Ex. 31:18), ears (Isa. 59:1), and has a mouth (Isa. 58:14). Various other scriptures show God has feelings, emotions, reason and will. Man is created in the bodily shape and form of the real God (Genesis 1:26-27), with a creative mind like God’s for the vital purpose of being born into the family of God (I John 3:2; Ps. 17:15). Most of this world does not understand this plan of salvation and actually rejects it. But man is wrong in ascribing his wrong motivations to God:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

Though man resembles God in physical form, he has much to learn about the characteristics of God’s mind, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22, 23). The Bible describes the characteristics of the natural human mind as adultery, fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, murders, drunkenness, and similar things (Gal. 5:19-21).

This is important to understand as man has used his false religions to justify covering the earth with blood. Torture, killing, rape and other atrocities were perpetrated for service to this “god.” Great churches were built for worship false images, while dungeons housed prisoners in filth. Clouds were said to be filled with angels, while the earth was stocked with slaves. These acts of evil were done in the name of false gods; as were mistakes in astronomy, in geography, in philosophy, in morality. In other words, their gods were as wise or dumb as their creators, and had the same doctrines (a cruel hell fire or eternal torment) and values (many times murderous) as their creators.

Even today, many people continue to deny their Creator as an infinite fiend because of false assumptions. These belie the truth of God which states, “Love your neighbour” (Lev. 19:18). In fact, any man that hates his brother cannot love God, (I John 4:20). How then can most major religions today, which have a long and bloody history, claim to be guided by God? They are deceived by imputing their own evil nature onto their Creator.

The True Christian Approach

The teaching of the Bible states that a man must acquire God’s divine nature (II Pet. 1:4) and mind (Phil. 2:5) — and give up his own nature. Christ is the Captain and example of our salvation (Heb. 2:10, I Pet. 2:21), and He was  stamped with the very character of God, and with the mind of God (II Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-7; Heb. 1:3). Any opinion of the nature or character of God that conflicts with this example is of our own creation! How unlike what we have just read.

God’s mind comes by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which requires repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). It also requires us to discard our own thoughts and ideas of what God loves or hates, what He will do or won’t do. Everything else is invalid unless backed by God’s Word, the Bible! Otherwise, we are as guilty of creating God in our image as any pagan idol maker. Do we perceive the glory of the true God:

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).

Why settle for an inferior product? If you want to know if your “God” is the true God, then search the scriptures and find the truth.

February 22, 2009

Is The Wearing Of Jewelry Forbidden In The Bible?

Some wrongly apply 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to mean that women are not allowed to wear jewelry. But that is not what the scripture implies. Please note:

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” I Peter 3:3 also discusses “plaiting the hair.”

These scriptures refer to a Greek custom of intertwining gold strands through the hair. Today, this could be applied to many of the outlandish hairstyle we see. It has nothing to do with women normally braiding their hair.

Further, neither do these scriptures forbid the use of jewelry. Paul is merely condemning the wrong use of clothes and jewelry, not the items themselves. A woman who places her primary emphasis on her physical attire, while neglecting her spiritual character, fails to grow in humbleness.

Many scriptures such as Exodus 3:22 show that God allowed the use of jewelry, where He instructed the Israelites to take away jewels of gold and silver from the Egyptians and to put them on their sons and daughters. In Ezekiel 16:11-13, God says that He figuratively bedecked Israel with earrings, bracelets, a crown and other jewelry.

So, modest use of jewelry is not condemned in the Bible; only such use of jewelry as detracts from a woman’s character should be rejected. Real beauty is in the heart, and radiates outward in modesty, with proper clothing and jewelry of good taste and quality. This is right and proper in God’s sight and reflects the real jewel, which is a humble spirit, a contrite heart and virtuous character.

Does The Bible Give Guidelines On Clothing Standards?

Christians should always use the Bible as a guideline for how they represent themselves. Scriptures tell us God’s true Christians are the light of the world (Math. 5:14), and as such are ambassadors for God in conduct and appearance.

Looking to scripture, there are three principles which can applied when selecting clothing:

1) Is it modest apparel? (1 Timothy 2:9). Christian women should never wear clothing that might be arousing to the opposite sex. This includes miniskirts, overly revealing bathing suits, and dresses that expose cleavage or are too tight. These are not appropriate — their intent is to cause arousal, which does not express good taste or wisdom.

Modest apparel should also not reflect extremes in fashion. Tongue and nose rings, excessively high heels, an inordinate amount of jewelry, overly baggy pants and outlandish hairstyles all reveal an attitude of immodesty. On the other hand, clothing which goes against all conventions of style would also be a wrong extreme. The Christians’ life should be one of balance and moderation, never (Philippians 4:5).

2) Is the clothing of good quality? Being modest does not mean we have to dress in a drab fashion. Rather, we should maintain high standards by buying the highest-quality clothing within the limits of what we can afford. Being a light to the world means setting an example for others to follow. Therefore, our clothing should be sharp, reflect balance and good taste.

3) Is it appropriate for the occasion? A formal dinner requires a different outfit than a more casual event, to avoid standing out. In addition, many denominations allow people to attend services dressed any way they want. So one will come in shorts, while another wears jeans or coverall. Casual clothing is never the standard God expects from His true adherents at Church services — after all, they are appearing before the God of the universe.

Are The Resurrected Saints Of Matthew 27:52 Immortal?

As of this time no man, except Jesus Christ, has been resurrected to immortality. However, the Bible does state that at the resurrection at His Second Coming (I Thes. 4:13-17; I Cor. 15:50-53), the saints of God will be given eternal life.

So let’s explain Matthew 27:52, where we actually find a recorded instance of a multiple resurrection:

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.”

Notice, that the scripture specifically says their [physical] bodies arose. Further, in verse 53, we see that they appeared unto many. This was a physical resurrection, not a spiritual one. These saints lived out their lives, died again and now await their spiritual resurrection at Jesus Christ’s return, as do all of the saints who have died.

Did God Allow Polygamy In Ancient Times?

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Though the Bible does show numerous examples of polygamy, there are is never an example of God condoning this type of relationships. From the beginning, marriage was designed as a union between one man and one woman. The first command of marriage is found in Genesis 2:24:

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The sanctity of marriage is protected by the Seventh Commandment (Exod. 20:14).

Notice that the scripture above says, his “wife” [singular]. God specifically forbade the kings to practice polygamy, saying, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away” (Deut. 17:17).

Still, the Old Testament gives many examples of kings marrying multiple wives; in rank defiance of God’s law, which resulted in punishment incurred for this sin. One specific example is that of King David, though he later repented of this sin and put away his wives and his concubines, except one (II Sam. 20:3). These women lived in widowhood for the rest of their days.

Looking to the NT, we find in I Timothy 3:2, that one of the qualifications for a minister is that he be the husband of one wife. A polygamist can’t even serve as a deacon in God’s Church (v. 12). Why is this point so important? Because your Bible states that the marriage relationship is a type of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. He will marry only one Church:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife [singular] hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

Christ will marry only one wife, and seeing the multiple examples of Biblical instruction, we can easily deduce that polygamy is a sin in God’s eyes. It was never condoned in Old Testament times, and it is not condoned today.

Is the Eating Of Unclean Meat Condoned In NT Times?

In I Corinthians 10:27 it says, “If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” For many, this seems to clearly indicate that God now allows the eating of unclean meats. But if you carefully observe the context of the subject under discussion, you will find that this verse is actually addressing whether it is appropriate to eat meat that has been offered to idols.

We have to understand that Paul was speaking to newly converted Corinthians, whose daily ritual comprised sacrificing to various idols. The sacrificed meat from the pagan temples was usually eaten by the person who brought it. But if any was left over, the priests would sell to the local butchers.

Paul was teaching the Corinthians to abstain from these pagan sacrifices to devils (I Cor. 10:20), which was a sin. But, as he told them, there was no special significance to either the idols [made of wood or stone], or the meat that was being offered to them (v. 19). Therefore, the Corinthians did not need to ask if the meat they were buying at the market, or eating at the home of a non-believer, had been offered to idols. In fact, Christians were admonished not to ask, “for conscience’ sake” if the meat they were served had been sacrificed to an idol, as then eating it made them appear to compromise their beliefs.

Paul deemed the history of the meat, tied to pagan idolatry, as irrelevant, not the eating of unclean meats. This distinction must be made clear, as God’s dietary laws of Leviticus 11 are still applicable today.

February 21, 2009

Are Christians Allowed To Participate In Armed Conduct?

The Bible does not condone any participation in the armed forces, whether combative or non-combative. While it is true that ancient Israel fought in many wars, they did not do so with God’s approval. Yes, you read that right! There was simply no need to fight because God promised unequivocally to protect Israel from all their enemies in exchange for their obedience:

“If thou shalt indeed obey, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries” (Exod. 23:22).

God wanted Israel to rely on Him solely for protection. He specifically led them around the land of the Philistines because He did not want them even to see war, much less participate in it (Exod. 13:17). The choice to participate in war was made by the Israelites themselves, not by God.

In one account, God protected the Israelites from a million-man Ethiopian army because King Asa relied on His protection. There was absolutely no need to fight. But even so, King Asa did not continue to rely on Him. He hired an ally—the Kingdom of Syria (II Chron. 16:1-3). Here’s what God thought of the situation:

“And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa King of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the King of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, He delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” (II Chron. 16:7-9).

Of course, some will point out the fact that there were times when God instructed Israel to take lives by force. But, did God do wrong, in using the Israelites to drive out these murderous pagan nations? No, because God alone has the right to take human life, since He alone is the giver of life. Israel was war-determined and because of their faithlessness and disobedience, God used them as His instrument in taking life. Israel had chosen the way of sin in going to war. Even then, they could have changed their decision.

Christians should remember that the commandments state: “Thou shalt not kill.” A true Christian of God is a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and no longer a citizen of their own country. They are considered “strangers and sojourners.” Being led by a government that is fighting a war means they are led by that physical government, rather than following the government of God Almighty. If man followed God’s law of love, there would be no war.

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