The Apple Of God's Eye

May 1, 2011

Should A True Christian Admit Jehovah’s Witnesses?

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When the so-called “Jehovah Witnesses” come to the door of the true Christian, would it be discourteous not to admit them? How does God look at it?

God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8).

What does God Command?

“For many deceivers (including “Jehovah Witnesses”) are entered into the world … Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not (obeys not) in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God … If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (of Christ, and of God’s true Church), receive him not into, neither bid him God-speed: for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (II John 7-11)

These “Jehovah Witnesses” DO NOT OBEY GOD! They argue against God’s Commandments, and especially against the Sabbath. They will argue Scripture, in a spirit of contention, which your Bible forbids. “Jehovah Witnesses” especially will argue against God’s Law. They transgress God’s Law, and don’t abide in the doctrine of Christ. Therefore their deeds are evil. God says the true Christian also, is partaker with them of their evil deeds if he receives them into his home.

Should you, then, be discourteous or un-Christian? Of course not. When these people come to your door, just smile and tell them politely, but firmly, you are not interested — you do not discuss religion – and be closing your door as you say it, and be sure you do close it as soon as you have said merely that short sentence. Do not give them any chance to talk back, or continue the conversation, or get into an argument.

You can’t change them! You can’t talk them into the truth! If you already know the truth, they cannot deceive you with false teachings, or talk you into anything. Any further conversation with them are idle words.

April 7, 2011

Five Doctrines Which Identify The True Church Of God

WHY were you born? After death, then what? What is man’s destiny?

These are the most important questions of your life, yet they are often lost in the shuffle of most religious debates.

A cloud of superstition has crept over the main denominations of Christianity. This cloud of counterfeit doctrines prevents mankind from seeing the clear scriptures which outline God’s master plan for man.

In place of the five fundamental biblical doctrines which identify God’s true Church, man has concocted five false doctrines, which are commonly assumed to be in the Bible.

Following is a two-pronged presentation of each of the five fundamental doctrines: first an explanation of the true biblical teaching; then a study of the counterfeit.

1. The “Plan for All Seasons”

The plan of God, expressed in the four following doctrines, is pictured by the first doctrine: the weekly Sabbath (Ex. 31:13-17) and the annual holy days (Lev. 23), which picture that plan of God through seven steps and three annual seasons.

The “plan for all seasons” begins with the Passover in early spring. This solemn memorial service pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died to pay the physical and spiritual penalty for man’s sins. This initial holy day is immediately followed by the Days of Unleavened Bread, picturing sin (as leaven) being removed from the lives of newly baptized Christians.

The third holy day, Pentecost, comes during early summer. Just as the early summer harvest is a small foretaste of the great autumn harvest, Pentecost pictures the relatively “small flock” of called-out Christians who receive God’s Holy Spirit during this 6,000-year age of man’s rule.

There are four more holy days clustered in one month of autumn. The first is the Day of Trumpets, representing the trumpeted end-time warning to the world and Christ’s subsequent return to earth at the “last trump.” The Day of Atonement follows nine days later, picturing the Christian’s resurrection to sonship (being “at one”) with God the Father.

Five days later is the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles representing the millennial fall “harvest” of human beings and the rule of God for 1,000 years.

The last holy day, called the “Last Great Day,” represents the time following the millennium when every human being who has ever lived (not having a chance for salvation in this age) will be resurrected to life and given his first chance to live the way of life God intended — on a beautiful, rebuilt planet earth. (more…)

February 5, 2010

Why Religious Denominations Are Anti-Scriptural!

God's ONE true Church on earth is united under one covenant.

There are literally thousands of religious denominations claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ. Millions attending these denominational churches believe God approves of all the conflicting dogmas, doctrines, edicts and various confusions of interpretation. Yet most have never examined the word of God to determine if denominationalism is scriptural.

The word “denomination” signifies a part of a whole, a class, or division. When one searches the Scriptures he finds that no where is it suggested that the one true Church of God is made up of divisions. There are some very good reasons for this:

First, our Lord prayed for unity on the behalf of His followers, saying,  “that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (Jn. 17:20-21). Nowhere does this prayer even remotely suggest a clutter of various groups at odds with each other and teaching conflicting doctrines under different names.

Second, Christ’s teachings advocate unity and condemn division, such as that among the Corinthians brethren (1Cor. 1:10-13). The Scriptures state Christ’s church is His body and that there is only “one body” (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4) . Yet the denominations say there are many religious bodies that make up the church. Either the bible is correct, or they are. Should we believe God or men?

True Christians are members of the ONE body of Christ, simply titled the “Church of God” throughout scripture. They serve, and worship God the way the early disciples did (Acts 2:41-42), keeping the law and governmental structure the way God intended.

June 17, 2009

Door To Door Preaching: A Doctrine Of Deception

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1Your doorbell rings. You open the door to find a man and woman standing there, him with a briefcase, her with several magazines, both of them with well-rehearsed smiles. You know them at a glance: they are the door-to-door disciples with their own peculiar brand of doctrinal interpretation. Ten minutes trying to rid yourself of unwanted religious advances begins…

From a quick reading of Acts 20:20, one might assume that the apostle Paul went from house to house in order to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the unconverted. But when we read the entire paragraph, beginning with verse 17, we can understand the intended meaning.

The apostle Paul “sent to Ephesus, and called the ELDERS OF THE CHURCH” and said to them “I … have taught YOU publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:17-20). Paul was teaching the LEADERS OF THE CHURCH in their own homes. He was not going from house to house attempting to teach whomever opened the door.

Another misunderstood scripture is Act 2:46: “And they (the twelve apostles and other disciples), continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness.” Notice that these people were all in harmony. They continued daily with “ONE ACCORD.” They were ALL of the SAME belief. This is simply talking about people who ATE TOGETHER as one might have close friends over to his home. It says nothing about preaching to strangers.

In this instance, many had congregated at Jerusalem from many nations in order to attend one of God’s annual festivals, Pentecost. Because they had traveled a long distance, and because they had no home in Jerusalem, the brethren who lived there invited them to come to their homes and eat. (Eating an ordinary meal is referred to as “breaking bread” in the King James Version.) The converted brethren ate in the homes of other converted brethren — they were not preaching in the homes of the unconverted.

The apostle Paul had his own hired house at Rome where he “received ALL that CAME IN UNTO HIM, preaching the kingdom of God” which Jesus had commanded His true servant to preach (Acts 28:30-31). The apostle Paul was taught the Gospel personally by Jesus Christ Himself (I Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:11-2:2). One of the teachings of Jesus was that we should not force the Gospel upon anyone (Matt. 7:6). Therefore, it is evident that Paul did not go from house to house trying to convert people. When Paul preached publically, it was primarily in the synagogues of his day.

We should NEVER attempt to force God’s truth on anyone. In Matthew 7:6, Christ showed that the truth is too precious for that. We might turn the question around and ask, “Should we invite into our homes just anyone who is going from house to house trying to persuade us to accept his form of doctrine?” Here is God’s instruction:

“If there come any unto you, and bring NOT this doctrine [the truth of God’s Work], receive him NOT into your house, neither bid him God speed” (II John 10).

In conclusion, true Christians are not to go preaching from house to house. Neither are they to accept into their homes any peddlers of religion who might show up at their door. This is the example of Jesus Christ, the twelve apostles, and the apostle Paul.

June 11, 2009

Is Smoking A Biblical Sin?

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contendearnestly.blogspot.com

All churches – meaning Protestant and Catholic – do NOT take their religious beliefs and doctrines from the Bible. Rather, they attempted to read THEIR ideas and beliefs INTO the Bible – by twisting and distorting the Holy Word of God, and by taking verses out of context. So if we want to find the answer to the question about smoking, we have to find it IN the Bible.

Many people have strong opinions about the subject. Almost every time you ask someone who smokes about quiting, you get some negative feed. Generally, the comments are:

1. The Bible has nothing to say about it.
2. It only hurts me and no one else.
3. I need to smoke because it calms my nerves.
4. It gives me pleasure and hurts no one else.
5. I know someone who smoked all their lives and did not get cancer.

But there is a principle of sin we have to consider, because “sin is the transgression of law” – meaning God’s laws. There is a SPIRITUAL law based on the principle of outgoing LOVE. There are also physical laws God has set in motion within our human bodies to control our state of health.

God’s spiritual law is first of all outgoing love. Next it is magnified into the two Great commandments – love toward God, and love toward human neighbour. The Ten Commandments state the broad principles of love toward GOD (the first four of the Ten), and love to fellowman (the last six commandments).

II Corinthians 3:6, explains that the ministers of the NEW Testament are ministers NOT of the strictness of the letter of the law, but of the Spirit – that is, the obvious intent, meaning or principle involved. The Ten Commandments explain the general principle of the direction, attitude and purpose of the law.

Principle applies to smoking

So we can apply the principle of God’s law defining sin to smoking. What is the obvious intent, meaning and principle of the law? It is the principle of outflowing love toward others, toward God and toward neighbour.

Ask yourself: “Why do you smoke? Is it to express outgoing love to God?” Most likely not! “Are you smoking to express outgoing love and concern for the welfare of other people?” Again, the answer is probably negative because smoking is obnoxious and objectionable to nonsmokers.

Now asked yourself, “Is it injurious to me?. Your lungs filter out impurities from the blood passing through the lungs returning to the heart. Inhaling smoke into the lungs is harmful, and is known to cause a host of health problems.

Exodus 20:13 commands that “Thou shalt not kill.” Smoking is certainly killing one’s self which is a form of suicide. Hundreds of thousands of  people die annually from cigarette and cigar smoking and that is only in the United States. Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is proven to cause cancer, heart disease and hormonal problems. Smoking is also linked to pulmonary diseases and cardiovascular disease.

The opposite of, or transgression of, the law of outgoing love to others is coveting or lust — self-desire. Smoking is a self-desire, breaking — at least in some measure — the Tenth Commandment! In this context, smoking is a spiritual sin.

Is it also a physical sin?

But what about being a physical sin — harming the physical laws that God set in operation in our bodies? We know now,  that it is a cause of lung cancer, which can be fatal. So smoking is coveting what is harmful to yourself and your fellow man.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The word used for “temple” is naosvv “naos” nah-os’ which means a shrine. The word is the one used of the temple at Jerusalem that contained the Holy place and the Holy of Holies which was the dwelling place of God. Paul was teaching that a true Christian’s body should be free of sin and separated to God’s service, because it is the dwelling place of God through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9).  Our bodies are to be clean and free of any sinful habit, wholly dedicated unto Him.

Second hand killing

Some people die of lung cancer having never smoked a cigarette in their life. Second hand smoke will do that over many years. If a husband or wife smokes, they may be responsible for killing their mate.

Second hand smoke from cigarettes also harms not just the smoker, but family, friends and co-workers. The Bible says we are to love our neighbor. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was next to loving one’s parents “Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 19:19 ). Romans 13:10 teaches us that “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour.” It’s certainly not an act of love to smoke around other people exposing them to the proven deadly effects of the ensuing smoke.

We are also to love our children, but smoking potentially harms them. Many studies have shown that in the first two years of life, babies of parents who smoke at home have a much higher rate of lung diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia than babies with non-smoking parents. Infants and children have tender tissues and are more susceptible to passive smoke. Acute respiratory illnesses happen twice as often to young children whose parents smoke, and can aggravate symptoms of asthma or trigger asthma episodes. Further children exposed to secondhand smoke can develop middle ear infections, suffer from wheezing, coughing, and worsen asthma conditions. It is quite contradictory for a parent to love their children and yet expose them to cigarette smoke and by their example teach them to smoke (and sin) also.

Conclusion

The only sacrifice acceptable to God is one without spot or blemish. How can we presently ourselves as a sacrifice that is holy, meaning separated from sin, if we are addicted to tobacco and destroying our health? How can we attempt to be transformed by the renewing of our minds when we have no regard for our testimony, our personal health or the health and spiritual welfare of others? How can we prove what is God’s good, acceptable and perfect will of God with pack of cigarettes in our pocket?

Is smoking a sin? You bet it is! Some argue against this view by pointing to the fact that many people eat unhealthy foods, which can be just as addicting and just as bad for the body. Others are helplessly addicted to caffeine. While this is true, how does that make smoking right? Christians should avoid gluttony and excessively unhealthy eating. They should not be hypocritical by condemning one sin and condoning another.

As a Christian, go to a private place and on your knees tell God you have cleaned your life of tobacco and confess that using it is a sin and you are committed overcoming smoking for the rest of your life and that you trust in Him. Then get up and go and sin no more.

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).

June 8, 2009

Do Nicolaitians Have A Connection To Santa Claus?

“Nicolaitan” means “a follower of Nicolas.” It comes from two Greek words — “nikos” and “laos”. “Nikos” means “conqueror” or “destroyer,” and “laos” means “people.” The original Nicolas was a conqueror or destroyer of the people! That was Nimrod — the original archrebel, who conquered the people and founded a man-made civilization within two centuries after the Flood!

While he was alive, Nimrod put himself in the place of God. When he died, his admirers continued to WORSHIP him as a divine hero. They called him “Baal,” a name found throughout the Old Testament, meaning “master” or “lord.”

Nimrod also had other names. One, commonly used throughout Asia Minor, was “Santa.” (See “Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary”). “Santa Claus” is but a shortened form of “Santa Nicholas” or “Saint Nicholas.”

Many unknowingly honor this Nicholas even in our day by by observing customs associated with December 25th. Christmas originally was the “Saturnalia” or birthday of Nimrod. Of course, these customs handed down from ancient paganism have been renamed and made to appear innocent and good!

Nicolaitans in modern times

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says:

  • nik-o-la’-i-tanz Nikolaitai: – The Sect: A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Re 2:14,15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Re 2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Re 2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Re 2:20; compare 2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture. The Nicolaitians were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, and perhaps elsewhere.

Irenaeus identifies the Nicolaitans as a Gnostic sect:

“John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith (the deity of Christ), and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word” (see Irenaeus Against Heresies iii 11.  1; ANF vol. 1, p. 426) There is also historical evidence of a Gnostic sect called Nitolaitans a century or so later.

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans appears to have been a form of antinomianism: a belief that is based upon a recognition of the mercy of God as the ground of salvation. However, it goes astray in the mistake that man can freely partake in sin because the Law of God is no longer binding. It held the truth on the gratuitous reckoning of righteousness; but supposed that a mere intellectual “belief” in this truth had a saving power.

James 2:19 refutes this error:

“The devils also believe, and tremble”; reminding us that belief of and by itself is not enough for salvation, especially when held to the light of James 2:20, which says: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

No one will argue that salvation is a free gift, based upon God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). but from there we have to go on and do something, as the very next verse admonishes us.  “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).  The faith of God produces action; leading to a desire for holiness and obedience. (1 John 3:18, Titus 2:11-15, 1 Peter 1:15-16, Revelation 14:12)

There are certain religions  today which still teach the heretical doctrine of holding to the freedom of the flesh and sin, and teaching that the deeds of the flesh have no effect upon salvation. But is this biblical?

The Bible teaches that Christians are supposed to “die” to sin and the deeds of our “flesh”: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)  “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6:11-13)

Today, the doctrine is now largely taught that the gospel of Christ has made God’s law of no effect: that by “believing” we are released from the necessity of being doers of the Word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned in the book of Revelation.  “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)

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.

February 23, 2009

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.

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