The Apple Of God's Eye

April 14, 2011

God’s Holy Days In The New Testament

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What do you mean, “New Testament Holy Days”? Weren’t the “Holy Days” Old Testament, Jewish observances, done away with at the cross?

It is logical to begin at the beginning, so we must check to see what days Christ observed. There was no record that He ever observed any of the well-known holidays observed by this pagan world.

What did He observe, then? When Jesus was 12 years old His parents took Him to Jerusalem to observe the Passover:

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast” (Luke 2:41-42).

Notice here that His parents traveled to this Feast annually; therefore, Jesus had been to this Feast several times before. He continued this practice with His parents as He was subject to His parents (verse 51).

And not only did they stay for the Passover day alone, but “fulfilled the days” (verse 43) — the seven Days of Unleavened Bread associated with the Passover (see Leviticus 23:4-6).

Why did His parents do this? Because they were devout Jews who “performed all things according to the law of the Lord [God’s law]” (Luke 2:39). Most Jews of that time were really not devout in their religious worship, but the parents God the Father chose to rear His own Son were.

About 18 years later, when Jesus was about 30 years old, we find that He was still continuing His parents’ practice as prescribed in the law of the Lord.

Notice John 2:13: “And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Some people wonder why this is called the “Jews’ passover” when it is one of the feasts of God (Lev. 23:2). Two possible reasons exist: 1) Only Jews observed these days (gentiles did not), and 2) the Jews had made some changes regarding Feast observance since it was given to Israel in the time of Moses. (more…)

February 22, 2011

Historical Proof: Jesus Christ Really Lived!

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Is there evidence, apart from the Bible, that Jesus really lived? Actually, the accounts in the Bible, which are God’s inspired revelation to humanity, are proof enough. But extrabiblical sources also amply attest that Jesus lived, that He was born of a young virgin, preached the Gospel, performed miracles, and was condemned to execution.

Justin Martyr, a second-century theologian, wrote: “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, 35 stadia from Jerusalem, in which Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registries of the taxing under Cyrenius your first procurator in Judea” (“First Apology,” Chapter 34).

Justin Martyr was referring to public records that existed in his day to demonstrate that Jesus was born in Judea. Of course, one would expect that a religionist such as Justin Martyr would naturally support Jesus’ authenticity as a historical person. But what about a historian who despised Christians?

Cornelius Tacitus, Roman historian, senator, consul, and governor of the province of Asia, wrote this concerning Jesus and His followers: “Nero … punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. But in spite of this temporary setback, the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome” (“The Annals of Imperial Rome,” XV, 44).

The fourth-century Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (named this because he turned from Christianity after being brought up in it) wrote a major work against Christianity in which he said this: “Jesus, whom you celebrate, was one of Caesar’s subjects. If you dispute it, I will prove it by and by; but it may be as well done now. For yourselves allow, that he was enrolled with his father and mother in the time of Cyrenius …. But Jesus having persuaded a few among you, and those the worst of men, has now been celebrated about 300 years; having done nothing in his lifetime worthy of remembrance; unless anyone thinks it a mighty matter to heal lame and blind people, and exorcise demoniacs in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany”(“Cyril Contra Julian,” VI, pages 213, 191).

These are reports from pagan Romans who despised Christianity. They had access to government records, and, if they could have disproved Jesus’ authenticity, they would have done so. But, they could not. Their writings are additional proof of Christ’s life.

What about the Jews? If Jesus did not exist, the Jews would have had no reason to reject Him! The Jewish historian Josephus admitted that Jesus, His disciples, and John the Baptist lived. He called John the Baptist “the good man” (“Antiquities of the Jews,” XVIII, 5, 2). Scholars recognize as genuine his account of the death of James, “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ” (Ibid., XX, 9, 1).

According to “The Jewish Encyclopedia” (1907 edition) and other sources, Jesus is also mentioned in the “Talmud,” the collection of Jewish tradition consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The sections of the “Talmud” which are said to be references to Jesus are Shabbath 104b and 116b; Sanhedrin 43a, 67a, and 107b; and Sotah 47a. You may also wish to read the article “Jesus of Nazareth” in “The Jewish Encyclopedia” (1907 edition), the article “Jesus” in the “Encyclopedia Judaica,” the articles “Jesus Christ” and “Talmud and Midrash,” which shows how the “Talmud” (Mishna) is organized, in “The New Encyclopaedia Britannica” (1981 edition), and the book titled “Jesus Christ in the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, and the Liturgy of the Synagogue,” by Gustaf Dalman (1973).

These facts, all from sources outside the Bible, clearly substantiate the existence of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not a myth. The Bible record is true.

February 3, 2011

Have The Original Bible Languages Been Accurately Preserved?

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God works through human instruments. He worked through a human, physical nation in preserving the Old Testament. That nation was the House of Judah, the people we call Jews today.

At Mt. Sinai, God gave the lively oracles to the “church [the physical national Israel] in the wilderness” through Moses (Acts 7:37-38, Authorized Version). Out of the 12 tribes of Israel, God chose and commissioned one tribe, the Jews, to preserve His Word. In Romans 3:1-2, Paul wrote: “What advantage then has the Jew? … Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”

The Jews have carefully preserved the original, inspired Hebrew Old Testament for us to this day. The basic reason, of course, is that only the Jews have kept an understanding of Hebrew. All the other tribes lost their language and do not speak Hebrew today.

But the Jews as a nation rejected both Jesus and the record of His message and life. Since the Jews would not preserve the story and message of God’s own Son, God led the apostles to use Greek, the most widespread language of their day, for the New Testament record. Greek was a highly developed, precise, accurate language, and was known throughout the Roman Empire. For centuries, the inspired original New Testament was copied and preserved in the Greek world for us today.

God has made it His responsibility to see that both Jews and Greeks have carefully copied the Scriptures from generation to generation. God has not left it to men to decide what is His Word.

Now, in this 20th century, God has raised up a work in the House of Israel — in the English-speaking world — to carry the. Gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations. Neither the Jews nor the Greeks were willing or able to fulfill that commission.

To carry out His work through His true Church today, God has had His Word translated into the leading modern languages from the original Hebrew and Greek. Now all may hear and, if God is calling them and they are willing, understand!

Source: The Good News, April 1985

February 15, 2010

Seven Proofs Of God's True Church, Part 2

Seven Proofs Of God’s True Church, Part 2

PROOF TWO: THREE DEFINITE SIGNS

This second major proof of God’s true Church is composed of three important sections.

1. Section one concerns the true name of the true Church
2. Section two is the understanding and observance of God’s seventh-day Sabbath
3. Section three is the understanding and observance of God’s annual Holy Days.

Section 1 — the True Name of God’s Church

Wherever Almighty God speaks of His true Church, identifying it by name — that name is almost always the same.

Jesus prayed, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world [but not of the world], and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). Jesus prayed the Father to keep His own true people in and through a particular name! Jesus prayed that name would be the name of the Father. (more…)

August 30, 2009

What Is The True Name Of God's Church?

1The Bible gives the true name of God’s Church in 12 different places.

In five 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 elders were admonished to “shepherd the church of God.”

2.  I Corinthians 10:32: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God.”

3.  I Corinthians 11:22: “Or do you despise the church of God…?”

4.  I Corinthians 15:9 — Paul wrote, “I persecuted the church of God.”

5.  Galatians 1:13 — here Paul repeats the statement he made to the Corinthians: “I persecuted the church of God.”

Nowhere is the true Church called after the name of some man or doctrine.

Where one specific local congregation is mentioned, the true Church is called “the Church of God,” often in connection with the place where the congregation was located. 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 a local elder in a local congregation, Paul wrote Timothy, “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?”

9.  I Timothy 3:15: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself 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:

10.  I Corinthians 11:16: “We have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.”

11.  I Thessalonians 2:14: “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.”

12.  II Thessalonians 1:4: “So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God.”

These verses prove the name of the true Church. Denominations not bearing this name could not be God’s true Church. And of all the churches that do bear the name, only one could be the true Church of God — that one that obeys all the commandments of God and maintains the faith delivered once for all time. All others are counterfeit, even though some know about the true name.

Since Christ is the Head of the Church, Paul also called the various congregations “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). But the actual name is “the Church of God.” It is kept in the name of the Father (John 17:11).

August 22, 2009

What Is God's Name?

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God’s name is important! We must not use it lightly or irreverently — but with a genuine sense of reverence and awe (Exodus 20:7). But what is the name of the heavenly Father? What is the name of His Son, our Savior, the Messiah? It is important that we know. For there is only one “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Must we, as some claim, use only Hebrew names when speaking of the Father and the Son? Is salvation based on the pronunciation of God’s name in a certain language, or on a certain set of sounds? Are we unwittingly transgressing the Third Commandment when we say “Jesus Christ,” “God” and “Lord” — because these are not Hebrew names? There is no need for confusion. Read on and understand!

Sacred names?

The notion that we must use only God’s Hebrew names is of no ancient origin. Actually, the Hebrew-names teaching had its beginnings less than 50 years ago, in the late 1930s. At that time, proponents of the idea began to claim that it is gross sin to say the name Jesus Christ, which is an anglicized spelling of the Greek words lesous and Christos. Likewise, they declared it a sin to utter the phrase God the Father, for the English word God was said to be linked etymologically with pagan worship.

The Deity’s name, they alleged, must be spoken only in Hebrew. This is an important prerequisite for entering God’s Kingdom, they claimed. These same few teach that the sacred personal name of our heavenly Father is Yahweh (or, in its contracted form, Yah) and that the name of His Son is Yahshua the Messiah. The word Elohim, too, must be used instead of our equivalent English word God. They declare that when we pray or speak about the Father and the Son, we must use only these Hebrew names. It is wrong, they say, to translate the names of the Deity into English or any other language. In other words, we may freely read and discuss the Bible as translated into the English language in all terms except the names of God or Jesus Christ. Then we must speak Hebrew. Using substitutes for the names Yahweh and Yahshua, we are told, could deny us salvation.

Are Hebrew names the only ones acceptable to God? Is He insulted by anything else?

The tetragrammaton

First, let’s examine the name Yahweh, said to be the personal name of the Heavenly Father. In Exodus 3:15, the Creator introduced His name — YHWH — to Moses. (In many English versions of the Bible, YHWH is translated as LORD, usually printed in capital letters.)

Unrealized by many, the text of the Old Testament consists of consonants, no vowels. The original Hebrew of the Creator’s name as written in the consonantal text of this verse is spelled simply YHWH, not Yahweh. YHWH is often referred to as the “tetragrammaton,” meaning the “four letters.”

The name YHWH is derived from a form of the Hebrew verb to be. It has the same meaning as the name I AM, mentioned in the previous verse (Exodus 3:14). Hebrew scholars say YHWH could mean “he exists” or “he causes to be.” The English equivalents of this word would be “the Ever-living” or “the Eternal.”

Though we cannot be absolutely certain what the missing vowels in YHWH should be, many scholars believe that YHWH was probably vocalized originally as Yahweh.

The Jews, thinking the name YHWH too sacred to be uttered, ceased to even pronounce it after the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Indeed, it was considered unlawful and blasphemous to utter it. When a Jew reciting orally came to YHWH in a scripture, he substituted the word Adonai (a Hebrew word meaning “Lord” or “Master”) instead. The name of God, in other words, was written YHWH, but pronounced Adonai.

But one thing is certain. The pronunciation of the Hebrew word YHWH was not “Jehovah.” This familiar but erroneous name is a comparatively recent invention, devised by Peter Galatin (the confessor of Pope Leo X) in 1520. Galatin interjected the vowels of the word Adonai (a-o-a) between the four sacred consonants YHWH, producing the hybrid monstrosity YaHoWaH, which later became “Jehovah” in some English Bibles. It is a totally artificial name, formed by adding alien vowels to the Tetragrammaton. It has no claim to legitimacy.

Yahshua is Yahweh!

The first point that must be made in answer to those well-intentioned but misguided advocates of “sacred names” concerns their labeling the Father Yahweh as distinct from His Son Yahshua (which means “Yahweh is salvation”). They claim YHWH is the Father, and that the Son later had to be revealed.

The truth is that the YHWH of the Old Testament is the very One who became Jesus or, in Hebrew, Yahshua! Yahshua, or Jesus, IS Yahweh!

Jesus was the Word (Greek, Logos, “spokesman”) who was with God the Father from the beginning (John 1:1). The Logos was the Creator — “All things were made through Him” (verse 3). That Logos — the Creator — later became flesh and dwelt among us (verse 14). He then declared the Father (verse 18), whom no man had heard or seen before (John 5:37).

Notice further: In Deuteronomy 32:3-4, we read that YHWH (translated “Lord” in many Bibles in verse 3) is “the Rock.” In I Corinthians 10:1-4, we discover that the Rock was none other than Christ. In John 8:58, Jesus reveals that He is the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. In Hosea 13:4, YHWH says there is no savior but Him. YHWH, then, clearly is Jesus (Acts 4:12)!

Jesus (or Yahshua) was the God of the Old Testament. He was YHWH. With this understanding, one of the major tenets of the sacred names doctrine falls flat! Now look, at another major error in this false teaching.

Evidence from Old Testament

Though the vast majority of the Old Testament was inspired in the Hebrew language, Daniel and Ezra wrote portions of their books in Aramaic or Syriac, the prevalent language spoken throughout the Persian Empire and elsewhere during their time. It had replaced Hebrew as the language of common speech of the Jews.

When these men of God referred to the Creator in those passages, did they use the old Hebrew names, or did they translate them into Aramaic?

Nowhere in the Aramaic passages do we find the names YHWH or Elohim. An examination of the manuscripts reveals that in dozens of places the writers rendered the Hebrew names for God into the Aramaic word Elah. And it is just as proper that the Hebrew El and Elohim should be translated into the English word God.

Moreover, it should be noted that the name El was in use among the pagan Canaanites long before Moses penned the Pentateuch. In the cuneiform religious tablets excavated at Ras Shamra (the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit in northern Syria), for example, El (El the Bull) is described as the head of the Canaanite pantheon, husband of Asherah and father of all the other gods. If it is a sin for us to use the English word God because pagan Druids used it to refer to their idols, then, by the same reasoning, it is also a sin to use the Hebrew words Elohim and El.

Also notice that the Hebrew word Elohim is used 240 times throughout the inspired Old Testament to refer to pagan, heathen idols (see Exodus 12:12, Deuteronomy 6:14 and Judges 11:24, for example). This usage shows that it is just as permissible to use the English word God today for both the Creator and for pagan idols.

Apostolic example

But what about the New Testament books? The original inspired language of the New Testament was Greek. Greek was virtually a universal language in the first century, widely understood by both Jews and gentiles.

Much of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul, the apostle sent to the Greek-speaking gentiles who did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. When Paul wrote in Greek to Greek converts, did he pause in mid-sentence and switch from Greek to Hebrew to write Yahweh or Yahshua when faced with a sacred name? Never!

Paul invariably used the Greek words for “God” (theos) and “Lord” (kurios). And he used the Greek name Iesous (Jesus). And so did the other writers of New Testament books, as inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. In 665 places in the New Testament, the apostles translated the Hebrew word YHWH into the Greek word kurios.

There is not one New Testament Greek manuscript with the names of the Deity written in Hebrew!

In the face of these clear facts, “sacred names” proponents have no choice but to deny the New Testament was originally written in Greek. They assert — wrongly — that the whole of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic (some even say Hebrew), and only later translated into Greek. At the time of this alleged translation, they claim, the sacred Hebrew names were wrongly removed and pagan Greek names substituted. The burden of proof is on them. The evidence? There is none — for it is a totally false notion, devised out of necessity to justify a false premise!

The Aramaic version of the New Testament available today is clearly a later translation from the original inspired Greek. The only copies of the original New Testament writings that have been preserved are in Greek — none in Aramaic or Hebrew.

More proof

Jesus said He came to reveal and declare the name of the Father to men (John 17:6, 26). Yet where do we find any discussion of its pronunciation? Where did Jesus say that Hebrew is the only name we must use? If pronunciation is so all-important, why did Jesus never say so?

Another point: Jesus prophesied that “many [deceivers] will come in My name” (Matthew 24:5). If the only proper form of his name is Yahshua, then Jesus’ prophecy has utterly failed — and He is a false prophet! Have many come in the Hebrew name of Yahshua? No — hardly any. But many deceivers have come in the name of Jesus Christ, which Jesus in this verse clearly calls His name.

In other words, Jesus was saying that false churches would use the true name. Jesus obviously is not concerned with the language in which His name is spoken; it remains His name. There is power and authority in Jesus’ name — the only name by which we may be saved.

Consider further: In John 17:11, Jesus asked the Father to “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” As we trace the history of the true Church through the ages; what name do we find it using? “The Church of God,” or the equivalent name in the native language spoken by members of the Church at any particular time! We do not find through history the name “Church of Yahweh” or some other Hebrew form. Either it is acceptable to use the non-Hebrew word God — or the Father failed to answer Jesus’ request!

What’s in a name?

What does the word name really mean, anyway? In Bible usage, a “name” signifies much more than merely a set of vocal sounds. Names convey meaning. They are given for a purpose. “Abraham,” for example, means “father of many nations.” “Israel” means “prevailer with God.” And Yahweh means “the Eternal.”

One’s name summarizes one’s authority, power, reputation and character. It is not merely a certain set of sounds or vocal vibrations that is important, but the meaning and power behind the name.

God’s name has profound significance. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament contains many divine names (some in Hebrew), each descriptive of some aspect of God’s character. Among them is El Shaddai, “almighty God,” as in Genesis 17:1, and Eloheseba’ot, “God of hosts,” as in Amos 5:27. The meaning of each of them is infinitely more important than its mere sound in Hebrew. God’s character remains the same — whatever the language may be.

Moreover, you need to understand that Elohim (God) is a family name (Ephesians 3:14-15)! It has a plural ending — allowing for more than one member in the one divine Family. We may also bear that name — the very name of God! We may enter the God Family by a resurrection.

Performance, not pronunciation

Salvation is not based on pronunciation! Those who would worship the sound of a name — treating it with superstitious and mystical reverence — make an idol out of that sound. Thinking they have some gift of greater knowledge, they actually miss the whole point and intent of the Scriptures, and engender needless strife and division.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Performance, not pronunciation, is of paramount importance to God. We honor His name by obeying Him, not by mouthing a certain sound. Do not be misled by the naive and misguided “scholarship” of those who would make a “show of wisdom.” Their teachings are not substantiated by the Word of God, but are based on a multitude of woefully misapplied scriptures. Speaking the names of God in Hebrew is not a prerequisite for salvation.

Take reassurance from the statement of the apostle Peter, who declared, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ [Christos in the original Greek], blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Peter 4:14).

Source: The Good News, January 1986

August 5, 2009

Illuminati, Bilderbergers, The Order: Will They Take Over The World?

There are many conspiracy theories. They allege that the bankers or the Jews or the CFR or the Trilateral Commission or the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers or The Order — or any of a number of other groups — are conspiring to take over the world.

By examining the various conspiracy theories, one will find them to be flawed and misleading. They make no serious effort to distinguish between unfounded speculation and the disclosure of verifiable information and facts. People will not benefit from studying deeply into such conspiracy writings or theories. These theories contradict both Bible prophecy and historical facts, and appear to be the devices of Satan. By offering supposed “hidden” knowledge, people are led away from God’s truth.

Indeed, “power centers” do exist within business and political organizations which have a strong opinion-shaping influence. Nevertheless, concrete PROOF that a secret conspiracy to take over the world exists is lacking. Those who teach such theories take the discoverable facts and weave into them a set of alleged motives.

Biblical prophecies clearly indict ALL SEGMENTS OF OUR SOCIETY — the common people as well as the leaders, whether political or religious — as being responsible for our national woes, sicknesses, and immorality. The only great master power behind it all is the diabolical deceiver, Satan the devil — whose goal it is to thwart the plan of God.

The Bible, however, clearly reveals that Satan will NOT succeed and that God is in complete control of the outcome of world events.

July 26, 2009

Was Jesus A Jew?

The word “Jew” is a shortened form of the old English word “Judean,” referring to the descendants of the patriarch Judah. In the New Testament genealogies, both Mary and Joseph are listed as descendants of Judah, through the line of David (Matt. 1 and Luke 3). Jesus was not only a descendant of Judah — He was not only a Jew — but He was of the Davidic — the kingly — line of Judah. Numerous verses refer to Jesus as the son of David.

The apostle Paul was inspired to write: “It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda” (Heb. 7:14). In Revelation 5:5,
Jesus is called the “Lion of the tribe of Juda.”  Long before His birth, it was prophesied that Shiloh — the Messiah, the Prince of Peace — would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10).

In His conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus said, “Ye [Samaritans] worship ye know not what: we [Jews] know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus used the pronoun “we” and clearly considered Himself to be a Jew. But the Jews rejected Him — He came “unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).

Paul wrote about God’s sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). Christ took on the flesh and blood of His physical parent Mary (Heb. 2:14). Jesus was born as a human being by a divine begettal into the nation, area, and family of Judah. Jesus was a Jew!

Was Abraham A Jew?

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Was Abraham a Jew? The answer is that he was not. Notice who the Jews were and where they originated.

The word JEW is a nickname for the Israelite tribe of Judah. It was first used in the Bible in II Kings 16:6 (King James Version), a time long after that of Abraham.

The tribe of Judah descended, as the name indicates, from the man named Judah. This man was one of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob (Gen. 35:23). Jacob, as you know, was a son of Isaac (Gen. 25:26). Isaac, in turn, was a son of Abraham (Gen. 21:3). We can see, then, that Judah, the progenitor of the Jews, was a great-grandson of Abraham. Thus, Abraham was not a Jew, but an ancestor of the Jews. Abraham is properly referred to as a HEBREW.

June 18, 2009

Mystery Of The Ages: Free Book Clarifies Life's Unanswered Questions!

1One of the best books I have ever read is called, “Mystery Of The Ages,” by Herbert W. Armstrong. It really clarifies the most important knowledge ever revealed from the supreme Source of understanding—about man, his origins, his identity, the world around him—knowledge that has mystified humans since mankind first appeared on Earth.

I highly recommend this book as it is written in a straightforward manner, with no twisted scriptures, no private interpretations – nothing but factual truth, straight out of the word of God.

If you have an open mind, then you are ready for the true biblical answers to seven of life’s most puzzling mysteries:

1. WHO AND WHAT IS GOD?

God reveals himself in his Word, the Holy Bible, yet almost no one has understood it. The Bible, as author Bruce Barton said, is “the book that nobody knows.” The Bible itself is the basic mystery that reveals all other mysteries.

2. THE MYSTERY OF ANGELS AND EVIL SPIRITS

Is the existence of spirit beings fact or myth? Is there a devil? Did God create a devil? If there are holy angels, what is their purpose? Do evil spirits influence humans and even governments today? Do they affect your own life?

3. THE MYSTERY OF MAN

What and why is humanity? Is man an immortal soul? Do the dead know what the living are doing? Is man flesh and blood being with an immortal soul within? Is there meaning and purpose to human life?

4. THE MYSTERY OF CIVILIZATION

How did civilization develop? Why does our world of awesome advancement and progress also have such appalling evils? Why can’t the minds that develop marvels of science and technology solve the problems of human helplessness?

5. THE MYSTERY OF ISRAEL

Are the Jews the ancient nation of Israel? Why did God raise up one special nation? Are they God’s favorites? Does God discriminate against other nations? Is God a respecter of persons? What is Israel’s purpose in the divine order of things?

6. THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH

Why should there be the institution of the Church in the world? Is it one Christ-originated Church, or does it consist of many differing denominations? Does it have government and authority? How could one recognize the true Church today?

7. THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus’s gospel message was “the kingdom of God.” Is the kingdom of God something within each person? Is it something that may be set up in men’s hearts? Is it the institution of the Church? Or is it something else altogether?

These are the seven great mysteries that concern the very lives of every human being on earth. The plain truth of all these mysteries is revealed in this eye-opening book, and it is yours FREE for the asking! It is given away here.

May 6, 2009

The Inquisition: A Study in Absolute Catholic Power

Editors Comment: I found this article, written by Arthur Maricle, Ph.D. at mtc.org. It has many points I believe are correct and easily provable about the Catholic Church. The author is right in saying there is a distinction between those who believe their Bible and those who allow men to be their final authority. That is exactly why there have been persecutions over the year. Don’t let the docile nature of this false church over the last century fool you. If she could, she would still be at her violent and forceful conversion game. Read this article, as it outlines irrefutable points in the history of the Catholic Church.

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“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” [Revelation 17:6]

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Those who classify themselves as Christians can be divided into 2 broad groups: those who have chosen to allow the Bible to be their final authority and those who have chosen to allow men to be their final authority. For sake of simplicity, I shall refer to the first group as “Bible believing Christians.” The latter group has always been best represented by Roman Catholicism, by far its largest, most powerful, and most influential component. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has always boldly stated that it is not dependent upon Scripture alone, but also accepts tradition as another pillar of truth — and where a conflict exists, tradition receives the greater acceptance. Being its own arbiter of what is to be accepted as truth, it accepts no authority as being higher than itself. This explains why the Catholic belief system has been constantly evolving over the centuries.

This also explains why a fierce antagonism has always existed between Bible believing Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Rome’s frequent spiritual innovations excites the passions of Bible believers, who react adversely to religious modifications that are at odds with the eternal, changeless Word of God. Harboring a supreme confidence in the Book, a trust which reflects their trust in the Holy Spirit who authored the Scriptures, the Bible believers boldly challenge the suppositions of the Catholic hierarchy. In the course of this spiritual warfare, Catholic people are frequently converted from trust in Rome’s complex religious system to a childlike faith in the Saviour and a simple reliance on His Word. Many such converts ultimately leave the Church of Rome to join local, New Testament churches. Frequently in history, the trickle of individuals who were making this remarkable transformation turned into a flood. Such ruptures cannot go unchecked by the Catholic hierarchy. As with any bureaucracy, its primary interest is its own protection and propagation.

The nature of its response to the inroads made by spiritual challengers is dictated by its cultural surroundings. The more Catholic the culture, the more severe the response. In past centuries, when Rome’s ecclesiastical power was virtually absolute throughout Europe, the intensity of the attacks by the papists upon their spiritual enemies could be equally absolute. Ignoring the injunction of II Corinthians 10:4 (“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal…”), Catholicism built its own philosophical system to justify the use of carnal (fleshly, human, physical) means to achieve spiritual ends.

Having divorced herself from Biblical absolutes, Catholicism adopted a theology in which she sees herself as the church founded upon the Apostle Peter by Jesus Christ, and alone empowered to bring salvation to the world. Further, she believes herself assigned the daunting task of bringing Christ’s kingdom to fruition on earth. With those dogmas forming her philosophical foundation, she seeks her power in the political sphere as well as the religious realm. To whatever degree she achieves political power, to that degree she feels compelled to use her secular influence as a weapon against her spiritual adversaries. Thus, down through the centuries, we see that in those countries in which Catholicism had achieved absolute power, the pope’s followers have not hesitated to brutally subdue the enemies of “the Church”. Although Jews, Moslems, pagans, and others have felt the wrath of Rome, her special fury has always been reserved for her bitterest and most effective challengers — Bible believing Christians. Only as the political climate changed in recent centuries did the Catholic hierarchy see it expedient to change tactics and appear to be more tolerant. Yet, to this day we see persecution continuing in those places on the globe dominated by Catholicism. The degree of the persecution is determined by the degree of control.

To what lengths is the Catholic hierarchy prepared to go in its drive to repress opposition and achieve its goal of instituting the kingdom of Christ on earth? To find the answer, one must look to the pages of history.

When the Roman Catholic Church was founded by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., it immediately achieved expansive influence at all levels of the imperial government. As Bible believing Christians separated themselves from the Church of Rome, which they saw as apostate, they represented a formidable potential threat to the official new imperial religion. Persecution in varying degrees of severity was instituted over the centuries following.

By the 11th century, in their zeal to establish Christ’s kingdom, the Roman popes (“pope” is an ecclesiastical office that is the very antithesis of the New Testament ideal of a local church pastor) began utilizing a new tool — the Crusades. At first, the Crusades had as their object the conquering of Jerusalem and the “Holy Land”. Along the crusaders’ paths, thousands of innocent civilians (especially Jews) were raped, robbed, and slaughtered. In time, however, the crusade concept was altered to crush spiritual opposition within Europe itself. In other words, armies were raised with the intent of massacring whole communities of Bible believing Christians. One such group of Bible believing Christians were known as the Albigenses.

[Pope] Innocent III believed that Bible believing dissidents were worse than infidels (Saracens, Moslems, and Turks), for they threatened the unity of … Europe. So Innocent III sponsored 4 “crusades” to exterminate the Albigenses. Innocent (what a name!) called upon Louis VII to do his killing for him, and he also enjoined Raymond VI to assist him.

The Cistercian order of Catholic monks were then commissioned to preach all over France, Flanders, and Germany for the purpose of raising an army sufficient to kill the Bible believers. All who volunteered to take part in these mass murders were promised that they would receive the same reward as those who had sallied forth against the Moslems (i.e., forgiveness of sins and eternal life).

The Albigenses were referred to in Pope Innocent’s Sunday morning messages as “servants of the old serpent”. Innocent promised the killers a heavenly kingdom if they took up their swords against unarmed populaces.

In July of 1209 A.D. an army of orthodox Catholics attacked Beziers and murdered 60,000 unarmed civilians, killing men, women, and children. The whole city was sacked, and when someone complained that Catholics were being killed as well as “heretics”, the papal legates told them to go on killing and not to worry about it for “the Lord knows His own.”

At Minerve, 14,000 Christians were put to death in the flames, and ears, noses, and lips of the “heretics” were cut off by the “faithful.”A

This is but one example from the long and sordid history of Catholic atrocities committed against their bitter enemies, the Bible believing Christians. Much worse treatment of Bible believers was forthcoming during that stage of bloody Catholic history known as the Inquisition.

It is vital, though, that we here define what is meant by the term “heretic”. According to Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary, this is a heretic: “One who holds or advocates controversial opinions, esp. one who publicly opposes the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic, Church.” Or, as one author has put it, “Heresy, to a Catholic, is anti-Catholic truth found in the Bible.”B Another summarized the official stance as this: “Every citizen in the empire was required to be a Roman Catholic. Failure to give wholehearted allegiance to the pope was considered treason against the state punishable by death.”C

From 1200 to 1500 the long series of Papal ordinances on the Inquisition, ever increasing in severity and cruelty, and their whole policy towards heresy, runs on without a break. It is a rigidly consistent system of legislation: every Pope confirms and improves upon the devices of his predecessor. All is directed to the one end, of completely uprooting every difference of belief… The Inquisition … contradicted the simplest principles of Christian justice and love to our neighbor, and would have been rejected with universal horror in the ancient Church.D

Pope Alexander IV established the Office of the Inquisition within Italy in 1254. The first inquisitor was Dominic, a Spaniard who was the founder of the Dominican order of monks.

The Inquisition was purely and uniquely a Catholic institution; it was founded far the express purpose of exterminating every human being in Europe who differed from Roman Catholic beliefs and practices. It spread out from France, Milan, Geneva, Aragon, and Sardinia to Poland (14th century) and then to Bohemia and Rome (1543). It was not abolished in Spain until 1820.E

The Inquisition was a terrifying fact of life to those who lived in areas where it was in force. That domain would eventually include not only much of Europe, but also the far-flung colonies of Europe’s Catholic powers.

The Inquisition, led by the Dominicans and the Jesuits, was usually early on the scene following each territorial acquisition of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the 16th and 17th centuries. The methods used, which all too often were similar to those used by Serra in California or the Nazi-backed Ustashis in Croatia, sowed the seeds of reaction and aversion that have proved to be a barrier for true missionaries ever since.

Albert Close writes of the Jesuit mission to Indonesia in 1559 that “conversion was wonderfully shortened by the cooperation of the colonial governors whose militia offered’ the natives the choice of the musket ball or of baptism.”

Everywhere it existed, the “Holy Office” of the Inquisition spread its tentacles of fear.

When an inquisitor arrived in an area he called for reports of anyone suspected of heresy, sometimes offering rewards to spies who would report suspected heretics. Those suspected were imprisoned to await trials. The trials were held in secret and the inquisitor acted as judge, prosecutor, and jury. The accused had no lawyer. It was often simpler to confess to heresy than to defend oneself, especially since torture was often employed until the accused was ready to confess.

Because church and state had not been kept separate, the church powers could call upon the government to use its power against the convicted heretics. Anyone who fell back into heresy after repentance was turned over by the Inquisition to the regular government to be put to death. Most of those condemned to death were burned at the stake, but some were beaten to death or drowned.

The Inquisition was called the sanctum officium (Holy Office) because the church considered its work so praiseworthy.F

Even after the death of a victim, his punishment was not ended. The property of condemned heretics was confiscated, leaving his family in poverty.

It is important here to emphasize Rome’s role in the brutality of the Inquisition. Roman Catholic apologists are quick to point out that it was the state that put heretics to death. This is an alibi meant to excuse the Vatican’s role in the atrocities. However, Dollinger, the leading 19th century Catholic historian, stated: “The binding force of the laws against heretics lay not in the authority of secular princes, but in the sovereign dominion of life and death over all Christians claimed by the Popes as God’s representatives on earth, as [Pope] Innocent III expressly states it.”G

In other words, the secular arm of the state acted only as it was pressured to do so by the popes. Even kings who hesitated to commit genocide on their own populaces were spurred into action by their fear of papal excommunication or subversive Catholic activities within their kingdoms.

Dollinger continues: “It was the Popes who compelled bishops and priests to condemn the heterodox to torture, confiscation of their goods, imprisonment, and death, and to enforce the execution of this sentence on the civil authorities, under pain of excommunication,”H

Will Durant informs us that in 1521 Leo X issued the bull Honestis which “ordered the excommunication of any officials, and the suspension of religious services in any community, that refused to execute, without examination or revision, the sentences of the inquisitors.” Consider Clement V’s rebuke of King Edward II: “We hear that you forbid torture as contrary to the laws of your land. But no state law can override canon law, our law. Therefore I command you at once to submit those men to torture.I

The methods used by the Inquisition ranged from the barbaric to the bizarre.

When the inquisitors swept into a town an “Edict of Faith” was issued requiring everyone to reveal any heresy of which they had knowledge. Those who concealed a heretic came under the curse of the Church and the inquisitors’ wrath. Informants would approach the inquisitors’ lodgings under cover of night and were rewarded for information. No one arrested was ever acquitted.

Torture was considered to be essential because the church felt duty-bound to identify from the lips of the victims themselves any deviance from sound doctrine. Presumably, the more excruciating the torture, the more likely that the truth could be wrung from reluctant lips. The inquisitors were determined that it was “better for a hundred innocent people to die than for one heretic to go free”.

“Heretics” were committed to the flames because the popes believed the Bible forbade Christians to shed blood. The victims of the Inquisition exceeded by hundreds of thousands the number of Christians and Jews who had suffered under pagan Roman emperors.J

This wanton slaughter of innocent people was justified by Catholic theologians such as “Saint”. Thomas Aquinas, who said, “If forgers and other malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for putting to death one convicted of heresy.” In 1815, Comte Le Maistre defended the Inquisition by advocating: “The Inquisition is, in its very nature, good, mild, and preservative. It is the universal, indelible character of every ecclesiastical Catholic Theologians, nstitution; you see it in Rome, and you can see it wherever the true Church has power.”K Such a viewpoint could only be expressed by one so brainwashed as to think that the cruel, torturous deaths of dissidents to Catholicism is preferable to the survival and propagation of those who would challenge the Vatican’s authority.

Yet, not all Romanists have been comfortable with the totalitarian nature of their “church”. Even Jean Antoine Llorente, secretary to the Spanish Inquisition from 1790-92, was to admit: “The horrid conduct of this Holy Office weakened the power and diminished the population of Spain by arresting the progress of arts, sciences, industry, and commerce, and by compelling multitudes of families to abandon the kingdom; by instigating the expulsion of the Jews and the Moors, and by immolating on its flaming shambles more than 300,000 victims.”L Historian Will Durant stated, “Compared with the persecution of heresy in Europe from 1227 to 1492, the persecution of Christians by Romans in the first 3 centuries after Christ was a mild and humane procedure. Making every allowance required by an historian and permitted to a Christian, we must rank the Inquisition, along with the wars and persecutions of our time, as among the darkest blots on the record of mankind, revealing a ferocity unknown in any beast.”M

Catholic apologists attempt to downplay the significance of the Inquisition, saying that relatively few people were ever directly affected. While controversy rages around the number of victims that can be claimed by the Inquisition, conservative estimates easily place the count in the millions. This does not include the equally vast numbers of human beings slaughtered in the various wars and other conflicts instigated over the centuries by Vatican political intrigues. Nor does it take it account the Holocaust wrought upon the Jews by the Nazis, led by Roman Catholics who used their own religious history to justify their modern excesses. As one secular history explains, “As the Germans instituted a bureaucracy of organized murder, so too did Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor, a worthy of predecessor of Heydrich and Eichmann.”N

Because her basic doctrinal premises remain in place, Rome can yet again rise up against her spiritual enemies at some future date when she again wields exclusive ecclesiastical control of a region. In fact, the “Holy Office” of the Inquisition still exists within the Vatican (known today as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), awaiting the day in which it can stamp out “heresy”. As recently as 1938, a popular Catholic weekly declared:

Heresy is an awful crime against God, and those who start a heresy are more guilty than they who are traitors to the civil government. If the state has a right to punish treason with death, the principle is the same that concedes to the spiritual authority the power of life and death over the archtraitor.O

The Inquisition proved how Catholicism will react when it has possession of absolute power. Is it any wonder that in the 1880s, Dr. H. Grattan Guinness preached the following:

I see the great Apostasy, I see the desolation of Christendom, I see the smoking ruins, I see the reign of monsters; I see those vice-gods, that Gregory VII, that Innocent III, that Boniface Vlll, that Alexander Vl, that Gregory XIII, that Pius IX; I see their long succession, I hear their insufferable blasphemies, I see their abominable lives; I see them worshipped by blinded generations, bestowing hollow benedictions, bartering away worthless promises of heaven; I see their liveried slaves, their shaven priests, their celibate confessors; I see the infamous confessional, the ruined women, the murdered innocents; I hear the lying absolutions, the dying groans; I hear the cries of the victims; I hear the anathemas, the curses, the thunders of the interdicts; I see the racks, the dungeons, the stakes; I see that inhuman Inquisition, those fires of Smithfield, those butcheries of St. Bartholomew, that Spanish Armada, those unspeakable dragonnades, that endless train of wars, that dreadful multitude of massacres. I see it all, and in the name of the ruin it has brought in the Church and in the world, in the name of the truth it has denied, the temple it has defiled, the God it has blasphemed, the souls it has destroyed; in the name of the millions it has deluded, the millions it has slaughtered, the millions it has damned; with holy confessors, with noble reformers, with innumerable martyrs, with the saints of ages, I denounce it as the masterpiece of Satan, as the body and soul and essence of antichrist.”P

Footnotes:

A Peter S. Ruckman, Ph.D.; The History of the New Testament Church (Bible Believers Bookstore; Pensacola, Florida; 1989)
B Ibid.
C Dave Hunt; A Woman Rides the Beast (Harvest House Publishers; Eugene, Oregon; 1994)
D J.H. Ignaz von Dollinger; The Pope and the Council (London, 1869); as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast
E Peter S. Ruckman, Ph.D.; op cit.
F Laura l-licks, editor; The Modern Age: The History of the World in Christian Perspective, Vol. 11 (A Beka Books Publications; Pensacola, Florida; 1981)
G J.H. Ignaz von Dollinger; op cit.
H Ibid.
I Dave Hunt; op cit.; quotations from Will Durant; The Story of Civilization, Vol. V (Simon and Schuster, 1950); and ibid., Vol. 4
J Dave Hunt; op cit.
K Comte Le Maistre, letters on the Spanish Inquisition, as cited in R.W. Thompson, The Papacy and the Civil Power (New York, 1876); as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast
L Jean Antoine Llorentine, History of the Inquistion; as cited in R.W. Thompson, The Papacy and the Civil Power (New York, 1876); as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast
M Will Durant; The Story of Civilization, Vol. IV (Simon and Schuster, 1950); as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast
N Ward Rutherford; Genocide: The Jews in Europe 1939-45 (Ballantyne Books, Inc.; New York, New York; 1973)
O The Tablet, November 5, 1938; as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast
P H. Grattan Guinness, D.D., Romanism and the Reformation; Focus Christian Ministries; Lewes, Sussex; as cited in Michael de Semlyen, All Roads Lead to Rome?

April 16, 2009

President Obama Denies His Country’s Foundation

21“We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation,” President Obama said while in Turkey last week. “We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” These comments were similar to those in his inaugural address, when Obama referred to the United States—the largest Judeo-Christian nation on Earth—as “a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus.”

But the fact that the U.S. president chose to make this point while in a Muslim nation was especially significant.

“I don’t know what ‘we’ consider ‘ourselves,’” David Limbaugh writes on Newsmax.com, “but I do think we ought to examine that statement and why Obama felt compelled to make it a part of his world apology tour. Can you imagine the Saudi king coming to America and bragging that his nation is not Muslim? I assure you that he’s not ashamed of the Islamic character of his nation, even though his nation is demonstrably less tolerant of other religions.”

Limbaugh continues:

So is (or was) America a Christian nation? … [I]f we are talking about the ideals that led to the very colonization of this land, our declaration of independence from Britain, and the formulation of our Constitution, then the answer is certainly “yes.”

In the words of Prof. John Eidsmoe, author of Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers, “If by the term Christian nation one means a nation that was founded on biblical values that were brought to the nation by mostly professing Christians, then in that sense the United States may truly be called a Christian nation.”

Why does this matter? Simply because our dominant secular culture delights in demonizing Christianity, distorting its character, conflating it with less tolerant faiths, and associating it with all our societal woes. History revisionists have convinced many that we mainly owe our liberties to secular humanist ideals and those borrowed from the Greeks, Romans and the French Enlightenment.

To the contrary, our freedom tradition can be traced to our predominantly Judeo-Christian roots. …

Our constitutional framework of government can be understood only in the context of the framers’ predominantly Christian worldview. Although they believed in man’s dignity, they also believed in his depravity and that it would be possible to establish a scheme of individual liberties only if they imposed limitations on government.

Much of our Bill of Rights is biblically based, as well, and the Ten Commandments and further laws set out in the book of Exodus form the basis of our Western law. Indeed, English legal giants Sir William Blackstone and Sir Edward Coke both believed the common law was based on Scripture. …

Our ruling class today is dominated by those who no longer believe that our rights are God-given or that our liberties depend on effective limitations on the state. They are so divorced from true history and American statecraft that they fail to see the irony in their dissociation with and apologies for our Judeo-Christian heritage, which is responsible for making this the freest and most prosperous nation on Earth for people of all races, ethnicities and religions.

Source: Trumpet.com

April 2, 2009

Is Hanukkah (Festival Of Lights) Of Biblical Origin?

gatesofrighteousness.blogspot.com/2007_12_01_...

gatesofrighteousness.blogspot.com/2007_12_01_...

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is observed in honor of the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in the second century B.C. It is an eight-day festival in which candles are lit, one on the first evening, two on the second, and so on until eight are lit on the last evening, symbolizing that the light of faith is certain to grow. 

Jesus, a Jew by human birth, was present at the Festival of Dedication (John 10:22). We learn from Christ’s example that it is not wrong to acknowledge certain national holidays, as long as they are not derived from paganism and do not violate God’s law. Thanksgiving, an American holiday, is an example. 

Modern Hanukkah observances are similar to Christmas celebrations. Many Jews, especially in the United States and Canada, have adopted Christmas customs and attached them to the celebration of Hanukkah. 

The reference to God as the “Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17) has no connection with the observance of Hanukkah.

March 17, 2009

Is The Law Of God Abolished In The New Testament?

Do the scriptures of Col. 2:14 and Eph. 2:15 describe the law of God being done away with, as so many believe?

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14)

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:15).

First, it should be understood that the word “ordinances” in these passages does not refer to God’s laws. It is translated from the Greek word “dogma” and refers to HUMAN LAWS AND DECREES — the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22).

These human ordinances included both the restrictive pharisaical decrees burdening the Jews and the ascetic, oppressive ordinances of “touch not, taste not” bound on the gentiles of Colossae.

Both sets of human ordinances contributed to feelings of prejudice, animosity, suspicion, and separation between the Jews and gentiles who were being called into God’s Church. These ordinances acted as a “middle wall of partition.” But, Jesus abolished that barrier through His supreme sacrifice: “For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:14).

In Paul’s day, many newly-begotten Christians continued to suffer from the burden of their former teachings. For example, at the Temple there was a literal wall which separated the court of the gentiles from that of the Jews. Death was the penalty for any gentile who dared pass it. Some converted Jews found it difficult to forget and change that deeply-ingrained part of their lives. It affected even Peter. See Galatians 2:11-12.

On the other hand, the gentiles were under the sway and influence of pagan philosophers, with their restrictive rules. Colossae was known for its ascetic society. The pagans judged their Christian neighbors for their freedom in eating the various meats ordained by God, for drinking wine, and for keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths in the joyous manner prescribed by God. Ascetics were taught that they could receive release from their guilt by doing penance — through abstinence, fasting, and even self-inflicted punishment.

All such practices had no spiritual power or benefit, and Paul spoke out against these human standards and judgments: “Beware lest any man spoil you through [human] philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Christ came to pay the penalty for all our sins — to release us from the penalty of death incurred through sin and to cleanse our conscience from all guilt.

Christ abolished the ascetic ordinances of the gentile philosophers as well as the Talmudic traditions, which all were yokes of bondage. He did not do away with any part of God’s law. In fact, He made it possible for both Jew and gentile to become spiritual Israelites, the children of God (Gal. 3:26-29), so they might live together in freedom WITHIN His perfect law (Jas. 1:25). He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).

Yes, to fulfill, to observe, to keep — to set us a perfect example as to how we ought to live. We are to “walk, even as he [Jesus] walked” (I John 2:6). The apostle Peter wrote that Christ left “an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

God’s law is good and for our benefit: “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever” (Deut. 4:40).

Jesus Christ did indeed do away with the ordinances of men, but the law of God is binding on us more than ever. We are to keep it in the spirit as well as the letter. Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).

March 9, 2009

Are The Jews God's Chosen People?

The Bible makes it clear that God chose Israel — not just Judah — to be His nation (Deut. 7:6). He made a covenant with them when He brought them out of bondage in Egypt. See chapters 9 through 24 of Exodus. Israel was to be an example to all nations of the blessings brought by obedience to the laws of God. They were His chosen people — not His favorite. God has no favorites (Acts 10:34).

Yet, Israel failed. They rebelled constantly and sinned. They split into two nations — the house of Israel and the house of Judah. God sent Israel into Assyrian captivity about 720 B.C. They became lost in history. He later sent Judah into Babylonian captivity, starting about 604 B.C. Their territory was occupied and the people transplanted en masse to Babylon in 587 B.C.

Seventy years later Judah began to return, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple was begun. However, the Jews again misapplied God’s commandments. They added many of their own laws under the influence of the Pharisees (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13).

Jesus said the Kingdom would be taken from them and given to others — to spiritual Israel, that is, to the Church (Matt. 21:43). The Church now comprises God’s chosen people (I Pet. 2:9). All who are converted are reckoned to be children of Abraham (Gal. 3:29). The Church is to marry Christ as His chosen bride at His return from heaven in this generation (Rev. 19:7-9).

Nonetheless, God has not given up on national Israel! Prophecies in Hosea 2, Ezekiel 36, and Zechariah 12-14 show that the people of Judah and Israel will repent and reunite and again become God’s people. They will be the leading nation in the world tomorrow (Zech. 8). Of course, the Church will then be immortal and under Christ will rule the physical nations (Rev. 2:26; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4-6).

In summary, Israel, that is, the house of Israel and the house of Judah united, will again be God’s chosen nation. In the world tomorrow they will fulfill the job God called them to do 3500 years ago.

February 23, 2009

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 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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