The Apple Of God's Eye

May 23, 2010

Pentecost In God's Master Plan


Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits, one of God’s seven annual Holy Days, pictures an important step in God’s master plan of salvation! This Holy Day helps explain the different times when salvation will be offered to different segments of mankind.

God’s annual Holy Days are laid out according to the seasons in Palestine. And God uses two harvests of Palestine to symbolize His two separate harvests of all human lives. The earlier, much smaller harvest begins with Pentecost, and the latter, much larger harvest begins with the Feast of Tabernacles and ends with the Last Great Day.

This earlier harvest is being planted now. I’ll use one of Jesus’ parables to help explain: “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way’ ” (Matthew 13:24-25).

In this parable Jesus likens God’s plan of salvation to a physical harvest of grain or wheat. (more…)

January 31, 2010

How To Count Pentecost

The first of the firstfruits wave offering was made on the day after a weekly Sabbath – always on a Sunday. This was the Sunday that occurred during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:11).

The date for the Feast of Weeks must be counted beginning on the day the first of the firstfruits was offered (Lev. 23:14-16, Deut. 16:9-10).

The authorities in the Church of God are to count the days towards Pentecost, not “from,” but “beginning with” the starting point, as per the original Hebrew wording of Leviticus 23:15-16. The English word “from” is therefore misleading. The New American Bible (1970) makes the correct method of counting very clear: “Beginning with the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day,” you shall keep the feast of firstfruits (Lev. 23:15-16).

The day of the wave offering, the Sunday during the feast of Unleavened bread, was day one. Day seven would be the next weekly Sabbath. Day 49 would be the seventh Sabbath, and the 50th day would be a Sunday, the day after the seventh week, or seventh sabbath. This is how the original Hebrew and the authorized version state it. Thus, Pentecost always falls on a Sunday.

July 28, 2009

Why Did Jesus Curse The Fig Tree?

gbcdecatur.org

gbcdecatur.org

Why did Jesus curse a fig tree in Mark 11:12-14?

“At a distance, Jesus saw a fig tree WITH LEAVES, and, being hungry, He approached it hoping to find some fruit, for figs will quite often appear EARLIER than the leaves. Upon reaching the tree, all He found were leaves; the tree had produced no fruit. Mark, the author of the book, added the comment that “the time of figs was not yet” (verse 13). This statement is somewhat puzzling — until we understand the growing and fruiting cycles of fig trees.

Notice the following interesting information about the fig season in Palestine: “It has been asked, ‘How could our Lord expect to find ripe figs in the end of March?’ Answer, Because figs were ripe in Judea as early as the PASSOVER. Besides, the fig tree puts forth its fruit FIRST, and afterwards its leaves. Indeed, this tree, in the climate which is proper for it, has fruit on it all the year round, as often seen” (Clarke’s Commentary).

Fruit tree growers know that ordinarily a small amount of fruit ripens prior to the main crop. It is referred to as the first ripe fruit or the firstfruits. When Jesus approached the tree, it was the time of the firstfruits of figs, but it was not yet time for the main harvest. Mark 11:13 must mean that the particular tree on which Christ expected to find figs was barren, because it had no figs on it at all. It did not fulfill its purpose, and, as any diligent orchardist would do, Jesus simply eliminated an unproductive tree, not with an axe or a saw, but by faith.

Please compare Luke 13:6-9. Jesus used this incident to teach His disciples — and all Christians today — that the outward appearance does not count with God. Instead, what really counts is whether or not one produces godly fruit in his or her life (Luke 13:6-9; Gal. 5:22-23; John 15:8, 16).

July 8, 2009

What Does Predestination Really Mean?

alpha and omegaDoes God know ahead of time whether an individual will be saved or lost? Has God foreordained that some would be saved, while others are destined to be lost? Does one have any choice at all regarding his or her own salvation?

It stands to reason that if God knows beforehand how we are going to decide, then all is predetermined. And if that is the case, then why try at all?

On the other hand, if God knows we will repent, accept Christ and be saved, we’ll have to do it in the end anyways, whether we try or not. Our ultimate fate is already determined in advance. If that is so, then we are simply not free moral agents – we have nothing to say about it.

The subject of predestination has often puzzled and worried many people simply because they have accepted, without question, the teachings of their religion.But predestination has nothing to do with any particular decision one makes, or their fate – it has only to do with the time of their calling. There is not one word in the Bible about anyone being predestined to be lost.

Rom 8:28-30 says:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Notice the hopeful language on the subject. Our calling is for a very special purpose; that of becoming sons in the family of God. Eph 1:4-5 verifies this:

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

These scriptures reveal that God foreordained, from the beginning, to call out a group of people to become rulers and teachers in His Kingdom when He will set His hand to call and bring salvation to all mankind.

From before the foundation of the world, God had formulated this plan – it was not hastily composed. God is not reacting to Satan – He knew that Adam and Eve were likely to sin, and had His entire plan formulated before that time.

However, there is no indication that God knew those He would call individually, thousands of years in advance. This would be impossible, as it is only those who endure to the end who will be saved (Matt. 24:13). God cannot possibly know what decision those called out will make because He made them free moral agents – able to choose for themselves whether they will live God’s way or not. The choice is clearly given to them. (Deut. 30:19)

What is the reason for predestination?

God has predestined that some would be called at certain times for a specific purpose. The rest will be called by God to understand the way of salvation later. God planned from before the foundation of the world to establish His Church to train the future kings and priests of His Kingdom – to have a part in teaching the way of salvation to the masses during the illennium. He knew far in advance that leaders, teachers and governmental administrators would be needed for His Kingdom, so He planned ahead – predestinated – that He would call some to this training, especially in this age.

Predestination actually proves that God is not trying to save the world now, but that He purposed to call only a small group as firstfruits, according to His plan, so that he can ultimately offer salvation to all!

June 4, 2009

Life after Death: It's Not What You Think!

yinvsyang.com

yinvsyang.com

Few things have intrigued mankind as much as the concept of an afterlife. After about 75-80 years, death is the surest thing in anyone’s life. Eventually, everyone has to face that fact, but what follows death? The popular belief is that an immortal soul continues to live on, either in heaven or hell. Yet is that what the Bible teaches?

Return from the afterlife?

Let’s review what happens when a man dies. First, some people claim that they have experienced “life” after they had supposedly died and returned to tell about their unusual experience.

Though many of these happenings are understandably astounding and seem to contradict what the Bible says about
death, the whole idea of this so-called “life after life” experience is based on the premise that these people died.

According to the medical profession, these individuals were clinically dead. However, medical science has not yet agreed on what constitutes actual death in a human being. Real death, according to the Bible, is total and complete unconsciousness — without memory, feeling, knowledge, or perception (Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ps. 6:5). Therefore, it is evident that those who were revived to relate their experiences were not actually dead, but simply in an unconscious state.

Furthermore, science has discovered that the human brain and nervous system are actuated by electrical signals and impulses. The brain is dependent on a steady supply of blood and oxygen to function properly. When circulation and respiration are impaired or interrupted for even a few minutes, the brain begins to malfunction, and will eventually cease functioning altogether.

It is thought by some researchers that the strange lights, sensations, perceptions, and the like, associated with “coming
back from death” may be attributable to the electrical malfunctions of the brain and nervous system associated with the
trauma of nearly dying.

The fact is: we don’t really know, but there is one undeniable truth – these people did not come back from the dead.

The truth about death

In Romans 6:23, we read that “the wages of sin is DEATH,” not everlasting life in either heaven or hell. Real death, as we have already seen from the Biblical account, is a total and complete unconsciousness — without memory, feeling, knowledge, or perception. Why does it say this? Because the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the doctrine of going to heaven after you die is complete and utter nonsense:

  1. “And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven” (John 3:13).
  2. “For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.” So we see that David also, a “man after God’s own heart” is still in the grave. Surely, he deserves a place in heaven if there was such a place to go after death?

The commentaries (as well as critics), get all convoluted about this verse. Because of the inherent belief of heaven for the saved, they cannot come up with a unified conclusion. They reason that this verse merely means t is the body that is in the grave, but not the soul. But they reason around the plain language of the Bible.

No immortal soul

Death is the effect, or “wages” earned, for living the way of sin. The reason man has to die is sin. Sin causes death. Every man is subject to death because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thus every man is destined to die.

But when he is dead, God informs us: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Note that there is no work, no device, no knowledge and no wisdom in the grave. The dead know nothing — they are simply dead! Solomon was also inspired to write, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing…” (verse 5, Revised Standard Version).

Those in the grave cannot do anything and their souls don’t praise God, as many believe. That is reserved for those living (Isaiah 38:18-19). The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which simply means a living, breathing creature. When God created mankind, man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). He didn’t possess an immortal soul, but became a living, breathing creature. The same Hebrew word is used to describe the life of animals — “every living creature” — in Genesis 1:21, 24 and 2:19. Like the animals, man does not possess an immortal soul.

When an individual dies, his body simply returns to dust (Genesis 3:19) — just as an animal does when it dies (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). When God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness. In the Creator’s great wisdom, He created man with a temporary physical existence — subject to decay and death — so that, should he reject God’s way of life, man would mercifully cease to exist for all eternity.

At the re-creation, recorded in Genesis, God created two physical trees — symbolic of two ways of life — two choices (Genesis 2:9). God then clearly instructed man regarding which choice he should make (verses 16-17). He told him that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to death! But man did not believe his Creator. Instead, Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie that they would not die — that man is an immortal soul — that they already had eternal life (Genesis 3:4-6). Disobeying God, they incurred the death penalty. Twice God records in the book of Ezekiel that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

A change after death

But there is an actual life after death. No, I’m not contradicting myself. The patriarch Job posed the question: “If a man die, shall he live again?….” He then answers his own question by stating, “…all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14). Job was expecting a change — a change to what?

The Bible reveals that, ultimately, everyone dies physically. The Apostle Paul stated: “[l]t is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). All men die physically — all suffer the first death. As all die physically, all will, at some time, be judged. God will judge all humans according to a plan — a time order — at different periods of time. Each of God’s judgment periods is followed by a resurrection. The Bible shows that all mankind will be resurrected in one of three resurrections.

The first resurrection

God records in 1 Corinthians 15, also known as the resurrection chapter, that “as in Adam all DIE, even so in Christ shall ALL [the same “all”] BE MADE ALIVE. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (verses 22-23). At this time only God’s people are being judged (I Peter 4:17). Following this present period of judgment, all “they that are Christ’s at his coming” will be resurrected or changed (1 Corinthians 15:23, 52). These verses refer to the first resurrection, that of the saints, or firstfruits, called out of the world now, to be changed to spirit life at the return of Christ. This is the change Job awaited.

The second resurrection

But what about the rest of humanity — those not called and being judged now? I Corinthians 15:24 focuses on another resurrection — the second resurrection — that will occur at “the end” of Christ’s millennial rule on Earth. In contrast to the first resurrection, this is a resurrection to physical life and a 100-year period of judgment (Isaiah 65:20) for all those cut off from a relationship with God during Satan’s 6,000-year reign on Earth.

We find a more detailed description of the nature of this resurrection in Ezekiel 37. God is not a respecter of persons and will provide every human with the opportunity to get to know Him, choose to and learn to live by His laws, and — after a period of growth and overcoming — be born into the Family of God. This will be the greatest resurrection in terms of numbers. At this time, the billions who have lived cut off from God during Satan’s dominion will be given their opportunity to learn and become a part of God’s awesome plan for mankind.

The third resurrection

Following the second resurrection and judgment of those in it, is another resurrection — the third resurrection, also to physical life. This resurrection is reserved for the willfully disobedient who cling to the way of sin. They are resurrected to be condemned to death. Only a loving God would devise such a merciful plan that prevents man from living in eternal misery and causing misery to those around him.

All three resurrections are described in the 20th chapter of the book of Revelation.

Born again produces change

So the change spoken of in the bible can only be undergone if we are born again. What does it really mean to be born again? Christ made it very plain: “That which is born of the flesh IS flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit” (John 3:6). And physical flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). We must be born again, or changed to immortal spirit.

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