The Apple Of God's Eye

May 1, 2011

Should A True Christian Admit Jehovah’s Witnesses?

apologetics315.blogspot.com

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

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

What does God Command?

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

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

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

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

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The Fallacy Of Seventh-Day-Adventist Doctrines

bibleprobe.com

Why do Seventh-day Adventists believe the 1,000-year reign of Christ will be in heaven? And that the earth will be desolate and uninhabited by humans?

That Satan and his demons will be the sole inhabiters of the earth during the 1,000 years? And that Jesus’ feet will not stand on the Mount of Olives until after the 1,000 years?

Whereas the Bible plainly says the saints shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10) and that “men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (Zech. 14:11).

That Satan and his demons are to be shut away from humans — bound as prisoners — so that Satan “should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” (Rev. 20:3).

And that when Jesus Christ returns to set up the Kingdom of God for 1,000 years, “his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives … And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zech. 14:4, 8-9).

Seventh-day Adventists, as a denomination, know what the Bible prophecies say about the establishment of the Kingdom of God. They simply do not believe them! Why?

As a group, they observe the Sabbath, which is a biblical doctrine. And more than 120 years ago they had fellowship with the people of God, whom we know later in history as the Church of God (Seventh Day).

The great Adventist movement

The year was 1831. Excitement was in the air, both in Britain and the United States. It was generated by expectations of the Second Coming of Christ and an ensuing 1,000 years of peace.

This excitement was related, for the most part, to the preaching of ministers who had come to believe the proclamation then being made, beginning 1831, by a prosperous New York farmer, William Miller. That year, it should be observed, was 18 centuries, exactly, after the founding of the New Testament Church of God in A.D. 31. (more…)

April 6, 2011

What Is A Christian’s Business?

time-warp-wife.blogspot.com

When Christ was 12 years old He asked His parents after they had been searching for Him for three days, ” How is it that ye sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

What was that business and why did no one else grasp the deep meaning of this sentence? Even today, the world is unaware of the living, resurrected Christ’s preoccupation and concern for His Father’s business.

Christ came to do His Father’s work, and true Christians must know what this means and how they can be involved in their Father’s business – their real livelihood. Here is the biblical meaning of what Christ meant:

“My meat (food or substance) is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

God’s work is of primary importance to Him. True Christians today are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). They are called not just for salvation, but to support the work of God, which Christ died for.

This is no small incidental or half-hearted matter to God, as He states in John 5:17: “My Father works hitherto, and I work.” If we are to follow Christ, we have to work also because God works through human instruments. That means supporting the true body of Christ in prayers, study, meditation and financial means.

Those who argue this concept fail to understand  God’s government because their hearts are not in His work. They resort to selfish arguments to back up inconsequential and spiritually lacking efforts. They look only to their own interests, exhibiting few fruits in their life to enable spiritual growth. God says:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:21).

If Christ lives in the true Christian (Phil. 2:5), then whatever Christ is excited about, the Christian will also want to be doing. This requires the power of the Holy Spirit, without which we can do nothing (John 5:30).

March 5, 2011

Spiritism: Fraud Or Fact?

Can men actually communicate with departed spirits? What about the witch of Endor? What does the Bible say of spiritism?

Granted, there is trickery and deception. Houdini, one of the greatest trick artists of modern times, exposed numerous frauds. So also have Thurston, Walsh, Gearson and many others. Some leading spiritists have been convicted of plain dishonesty or common fraud and imprisoned. Yet not all spiritism is fraud or sleight of hand!

When all the frauds, the tricks, the deceptions are carefully and scientifically sifted out, there remains something to be accounted for—some real supernatural events that cannot be explained away!

Wicked spirits in control

Whether or not human beings like to admit it, the Bible plainly teaches that supernatural powers control and operate this world. The apostle Paul was inspired to write that human beings must struggle “against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, Authorized Version, marginal reading).

Jesus Christ never contested Satan’s claim that all the nations of the world were his. Said Satan: “All this authority” —the control of the nations—”I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be yours” (Luke 4:6-7). Little wonder, then, that spiritism should be manifest in a world controlled and operated by spirits in high places!

Modern spiritism had its birth at Hydesville, N.Y., in 1848. It began with the famous Rochester knockings heard by the Fox sisters. Now, spiritism has obtained millions of followers. It is a religion masquerading under the name of Christianity. (more…)

February 1, 2011

Does Ephesians 2:6 Indicate That Christians Go To Heaven?

Filed under: Heaven(s) — melchia @ 7:44 am
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samanthaparton.blogspot.com

Let’s understand exactly what this verse means.

Ephesians 2:6 in the Authorized Version of the Bible says God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

This verse is speaking of Christians now. Certainly we are not in heaven right now. Yet the verse says we are now sitting together in “heavenly places,” whatever those are.

The word heavenly in this verse is translated from the Greek word epouranios, which refers to something high or lofty. It does not have to refer specifically to heaven.

Notice also that the word places is in italics. That means the word was not in the original Greek text, but was later added by translators. The verse literally says that we have been made, now, to “sit together in heavenly [or heavenlies] in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:6 is saying that with God’s Spirit leading us, we look at things from God’s point of view, setting our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). We become “ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20), called out of this world as “a royal priesthood… His own special people” (I Peter 2:9), to teach and set the example of God’s perfect way of life, which is so different from the way this world lives.

We are, even now, in a relationship of high and lofty terms and conditions — we have indeed had the “heavenlies” opened to us!

Ephesians 2:7 refers to what will happen in the future — “in the ages to come.” When God’s Kingdom is set up, we shall reign as kings and priests with Christ on earth (Revelation 5:10). Christ promises that we shall actually sit with Him on His throne on earth at that time (Revelation 3:21).

Ephesians 2:6 in no way contradicts John 3:13 and dozens of other scriptures that prove conclusively that Christians do not go to heaven.

Source: The Good News, August 1985

April 1, 2010

Days Of Unleavened Bread: More Than Mere Symbolism

Leaven pictured as sin

Leviticus 23 outlines part of God’s law, where we find commanded the holy days of God (v. 2).  Rehearsing these holy days (the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day) reinforces understanding of God’s master plan of salvation. They are to be honored and observed for eternity.

God also directs us to remove all leavened products from our homes during the one week period of the Days of Unleavened Bread (D.U.B.) , and conversely to eat unleavened bread to remind us of the haste in which Israel fled Egypt. On the two Holy Days at the beginning and end of the festival, God forbids Christians to continue in regular work because attention is to be focused on Him. The days are holy and an offering is to be taken.

The D.U.B. teach us that we should strive for perfection in obedience to the law of God at all times(Leviticus 23:6-8). God’s law is extended through the New Testament to help Christians build character in their lives. Christ taught, “But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). If we are to enjoy eternal life in God’s Family, we must obey the law. (more…)

December 22, 2009

Does Luke 16:16 Prove God's Law Is Abolished Today?

http://www.hem-of-his-garment-bible-study.org - The link between the Old and New Testament is the law of God!

Many make long and eloquent arguements to prove that Luke 16:16 means God’s law has been done away.

“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”

Some say the “law and the prophets” is a clear reference to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and that the New Covenant is dramatically different from the ‘ministration written on stones. So here, critics of God’s law wish to separate the Ten Commandments from what they say is a new moral code of the heart. But this is not what Jesus meant at all.

What, then, did Jesus mean by the statement, “The law and the prophets were until John?” When Jesus spoke of the “law and the prophets,” He was referring to the Old Testament, and meant that, until the coming of John the Baptist, the Old Testament scriptures were all that was available. The New Testament had not yet been written. It says nowhere that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God does away with the law of God. In fact, Christ says in the very next verse:

“And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail”  (verse 17).

Have the starry heavens or the planet earth passed away? Jesus said it would be easier for them to perish or be destroyed than for even one tiny part of God’s law to pass away! THAT is the clear interpretation, and this is backed up by very clear scriptures throughout the New Testament – scriptures which are conveniently ignored by critics.

Christ is indeed talking about obedience to the law of God. Those who disagree say the Old Covenant is no longer in force, which of course by their interpretation nullifies God’s law through the New Testament covenant. No one can deny that the Old Covenant is dead, but that does not mean the law of God is dead. Let’s explain!

Which laws are in force today?

How can you know which laws are no longer binding today? Which laws are we to observe?

The Bible is a book about law, and even a cursory read of this book shows that Jesus Christ did not come to do away with His Father’s law! You can find many references in the Bible to the Ten Commandments, but you can also read a lot about the statutes and the judgments. Then there are the ceremonial rituals and offerings. But which laws are we supposed to observe today?

The mistake lies in assuming the Ten Commandments make up the Old Covenant and that when Christ came, the New Covenant did away with the Ten Commandments and established only grace and promises.

Another mistake is to assume that the Ten Commandments didn’t even exist until God gave them to Moses on tablets of stone; that are simply part of the ritualistic law of Moses.

To begin to understand the truth about the laws discussed in the Old Testament, we must first establish the fact that God’s law existed long before Moses at Mount Sinai! In fact, God’s law existed long before Adam and Eve. Few people realize this fact.

Statutes and Laws Prior to Moses

Abraham was commended for obeying God’s commandments. But it also said he kept God’s statutes and laws. What was this referring to?

Webster’s Dictionary defines statute as, “an established rule or law.” God’s statutes usually command or forbid certain things, in addition to the Ten Commandments. Gesenius’ Lexicon says this about statutes: “An appointed law, a statute, an ordinance…used of the laws of nature [as prescribed by God]…a custom observed as though it were a law.” God’s statutes are based upon the Ten Commandments.

Judgments are binding decisions by judges based on God’s previously revealed law. These decisions are used to settle similar future disputes and to render a sentence or verdict.

God gave statutes and judgments for the general well-being of the people—for the protection of everyone’s legal rights. They are all based on the principle of love toward God and love toward your neighbor.

The difference between them is summed up in these terms: “In general, the Ten Commandments apply to individual conduct, the statutes to national or church affairs, and the judgments to decisions rendered according to the principle of the Ten Commandments and the statutes.”

Law in effect prior to Moses

God’s law was very much in effect prior to the establishment of His covenant with Israel. God revealed His commands and laws to Israel because during their captivity, Israel had lost much of the knowledge of God’s way. They were in bondage to an idol-worshipping nation (Exodus 16:28). This was said before the nation even reached Mount Sinai! God gave them His truth at Mount Sinai because they had lost it. God had to reveal His law to them again before entering into His covenant with them.

“And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exod. 16:28-30). God had to remind them that this was holy time and they weren’t to violate it by looking for manna. They had lost the knowledge that it had been established long ago (Gen. 2:2-3). Again, this instruction occurred before the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai.

The commandments were NOT instituted at Mount Sinai and were NOT part of the Old Covenant. So once the New Covenant arrived, it cannot annul what was never ratified under the Old Testament. In other words, the dissolving of the Old Covenant could not destroy what it did not bring into existence! The Ten Commandments, which God gave in written form to Moses on Mount Sinai, were not new. Only the codified form in which God wrote them was new.

What is the law of Moses?

The Bible, on several occasions, refers to the law of Moses, but it never says the law of Moses is the Ten Commandments. The law of Moses comprises the statutes and judgments God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites. The difference between the law of Moses and the law of God is that God spoke the Ten Commandments. Moses delivered the statutes and judgments.

Yet we read in Luke 2:22, 39 that the “law of Moses” is called the “law of the Lord.” This is because all law comes from God. He is the lawgiver. Remember that these statutes and judgments had no sacrifices with them originally. The sacrifices were added later. The law of Moses then had two parts: civil and ritualistic. The part given before the sacrificial laws we are to keep and never forget (Mal. 4:4).

When Christ defined the two great commandments in the law in Matthew 22, He quoted out of the “book of the law” (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5), which we are told to remember. Christians are told to obey these two basic laws which God gave to Moses for the people. The civil law of Moses expounds how the Ten Commandments are to be applied. We are to keep this part, not in the letter only, but now in the spiritual intent, as brought out in Matthew 5-7.

Then why are we told in Acts 15 that the Gentile converts do not have to observe the law of Moses, except for four points? (Acts 15:5, 28-29). The answer is cleared up in Acts 21:21. The law called into question involved the customs, mainly circumcision, which were instituted long before the law of Moses. The spiritual intent is not done away today. Just like the Ten Commandments, they are still in force; but like the Passover, the manner of circumcision has been changed. It is now of the heart (Rom. 2:29).

This controversy did not involve the spiritual intent of the civil law of Moses, but the ceremonial additions to it. These scriptures are not saying that adultery or murder is okay now. The Ten Commandments are not being discussed or done away with here.

The four points mentioned here were originally part of the civil law; but they were also added to the ceremonial law to prevent these pagan customs from being practiced by Israel with their sacrifices. The Gentiles ate their sacrifices with the blood. They strangled their animals, presented them to their idols and committed fornication in their religious ceremonies. Because these four points were also included in the ritual laws, some new converts may have thought they were abolished along with the sacrifices when Christ fulfilled them. So the four points mentioned in Acts 15 had to be specifically declared to still be in effect. They remained binding after the abolition of the physical sacrifices and washings.

The civil laws regulating tithing, clean and unclean meats, sexual cleanliness and the annual Sabbaths, for example, are still in effect for the New Testament Church because they help explain what sin is.

Conclusion

God’s spiritual laws describe God’s character and enable us to know what God is like. Since the character of God is unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), God’s spiritual law is unchanging. God has lived by this way of love for all eternity.

The only laws that are no longer binding are the ceremonial laws, fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1-2) in obedience to God’s eternal spiritual law.

We can’t ignore what Christ told a young man seeking the way to eternal life, “If thou wilt enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS” (Matt. 19:17). How clear!

December 10, 2009

Are God's Promises Sure?

Filed under: God — melchia @ 9:13 am
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pastorterryblog.wordpress.com/

Many Christians lead a life of wanting to please God, yet are never able to take Him at His word – literally. But there is a lot riding on the words of God and He gives hundreds of sure promises throughout the Bible – from food, shelter, protection (physical) to eternal life (spiritual) promises. He says it is through faith and patience that Christians inherit the promise of eternal life – Heb. 6:12. Those over the centuries who died in the faith have not yet received this promise (Heb. 11:13). That is because they are still in their graves to this day (Acts 2:29) and await the resurrection of I Cor. 15.

God’s  promises (too numerous to mention here) are called exceeding great and precious, “by which we might be partakers of the divine nature….” (II Pet. 1:4). And God emphasizes them by saying he is not slack (slow, tardy, late – JFB Commentary) in delivering what he says He will do (II Pet. 3:9).

Believing God is a matter of faith. This is not blind faith, as some atheists claim, but the faith of Jesus Christ – the same faith He possessed in believing that God would raise Him from the dead again. I have personally claimed promises too numerous to mention from God over the years and he has delivered when I have believed and not doubted.

There is a wonderful set of scriptures in Mat 6:31-33 which encapsulates this thought beautifully:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?……for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Do you see the connection? God asks us to first seek those things which are spiritual (faith in what He says and obedience to His law) and then he will give us whatever we need. If we lack the faith to believe what God says, we are “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed (Jam. 1:6). That would be too bad, because true Christians may claim any promises of God without fail.

October 23, 2009

Parables Of Jesus: The Kingdom

As Jesus sat in a small fishing craft just offshore on the Sea (or lake) of Galilee, He began to address the large crowd assembled on the shore. He spoke in parables about the Kingdom of God.

In this first group of parables, Jesus gave to the people six parables without any explanation. Later, He privately explained the meaning of all these to His own disciples. He also gave the disciples four additional parables, which were self-explanatory. These last four parables contained a special message within the overall theme pertaining directly to the disciples’ future apostolic ministry.

It is important to realize that the parables were doctrinal in nature: “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine” (Mark 4:2).

A doctrine is a biblical principle, teaching or truth that is accepted as authoritative. It constitutes part of the dogma of real Christianity. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of seeking understanding of the parables of Jesus!

The first parable Jesus gave is of special significance because it is a pacesetter of sorts. It is typical of all such parables, and the method of explanation also follows the same basic pattern. Jesus said to His disciples: ” … Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13.)

The parable of the sower

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:3-8).

This first parable is a simple story liberally laced with local color. It is found in three of the four gospel accounts — Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each gospel mentions a point or two not found in the other accounts. We will use Mark’s more concise gospel as our basic reference.

Jesus describes a scene very familiar to His audience: A sower went out to sow grain in his field. The seed falls on four different types of ground: 1) the wayside, 2) stony ground, 3) among thorns and 4) good ground. Each represents a different category of person who hears the Word of God at some point in his life. Each responds differently.

We are not told who the sower is, but it is explained that “the sower soweth the word” (verse 14). We must assume that whoever disseminates God’s Word (God or one of His human instruments) is the sower. The seed in the parable, then, represents the Gospel message and all that it includes.

Each person who hears it reacts differently. Not everyone responds with equal enthusiasm. Nor does the Word of God bear the same fruit in each individual it touches.

Those by the wayside

The people in this first category hear the Gospel message, but they are immediately dissuaded from doing anything about it. God’s truth is never allowed to take root in their lives. They are easy prey for the devil, who subtly convinces them to disbelieve what they hear. ” … Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (verse 15).

There are many ways by which this happens: A snide remark about the message from a “friend” who is supposedly in the know about such things. A sudden change of personal circumstances may lead to a temporary diversion — which becomes permanent.

A minor disagreement about a small point can lead the prospective Christian to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” It could be any number of things, but the result is always the same! The person rejects the Gospel of the Kingdom of God before it gets a chance to take root.

On stony ground

These persons advance somewhat further than those in the first category. Their initial reaction to the Word of God is enthusiastic. They are happy to hear the truth preached. They may even become baptized. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized … ” (Acts 2:41).

But unfortunately, their enthusiasm soon wears thin. They ” … have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

These babes in Christ never allow their spiritual roots to go down quite deeply enough to draw on the pure, nourishing water of God’s spiritual power (John 7:38, 39; Acts 1:8). When persecution comes along, they are not strong enough to withstand. They have no persevering power in the face of the ridicule and derision of those who do not share their beliefs.

Such people are only willing to obey God as long as it does not cost them anything in terms of personal prestige and respect. They are willing to compromise the Word of God rather than suffer for it.

Did not Jesus say in another place: ” … If any man will come after me, let him … take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)?

Among thorns

The third type of person progresses somewhat further. He too begins to bear fruit and live a life of obedience to Christ. His life changes as he yields to the Word of God. But he too has a hang-up. At some point in his Christian life, “… the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

In order to become unfruitful, he must have at one time been fruitful. Here is someone who has actually begun to bear substantial fruit as a result of God’s Word. He has made spiritual progress. He may have been in the Church for some time. Others may even consider him well established in the Body of Christ.

But sooner or later, plain old materialism or sensuality creeps in and smothers his spirituality.

Perhaps it is a craving for material success in the world of business or industry. A desire to be at the top of the financial heap can divert a person’s focus of attention from spiritual to material things.

For this reason, the apostle Paul warned the Colossians about drifting into materialism: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). He also said that “… to be carnally [physically] minded is death …” (Romans 8:6).

There are many pitfalls that can tear a person away from the abundant life to which God has called him. It could be money, the desire for financial success, another woman or man, a job or an inordinate desire of any kind. It could be a craving for liquor or food (not that eating and drinking are wrong, but drunkenness and gluttony are) or possibly even narcotic drugs.

Whatever it is, it diverts one from his life in Christ — choking out the influence of God’s Holy Spirit and any further bearing of good fruit.

On good ground

This category describes people who are converted and who make continual growth and progress in the faith. They bear the good fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

But not all bear the same amount of fruit. Some are much more productive than others. Many do not realize their maximum potential as Christians — they merely get by with a modicum of effort.

Yet it is Christ’s will that we bear much fruit. Those who are closest to Jesus Christ bear the most fruit. Jesus said: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Which category are you in?

The wheat and the tares

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servant said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30).

The second parable is also taken from a description of rural life in the province of Galilee. Any farmer of the day would have known about tares (darnel). They were weeds that grew with the wheat and looked much like it as long as the wheat remained in the blade stage. When they grew to maturity, however, they were readily distinguishable.

This is a simple illustration pointing out that both the converted and unconverted have to coexist in the same society until the time of the great harvest of lives at Christ’s return. During that time Jesus Christ will make a separation between those who are His and those who are not.

The best account of this parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30. (The explanation is given in verses 36-43.) Each element has vital meaning. Notice Matthew’s explanation:

“The field is the world; the good seed [true Christians] are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [Satan — compare John 8:44, I John 3:8]; The enemy that sowed them is the devil [the god of this society, II Corinthians 4:4]; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world [Greek: aionos, meaning age].”

This parable graphically shows the fate of those who insist on following the devil when they know better! Those who are incorrigibly wicked will be thrown into a lake of fire and be burned into ashes (Malachi 4:3).

John spoke of this in the book of Revelation: “And death [the dead] and hell [the grave — hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). In order to die twice, one must first live twice. This means a resurrection must occur.

This is not immortal life as a “soul” in an ever-burning hellfire — it is complete extinction and oblivion forever! And this is doctrine!

The Good News, April 1979

October 21, 2009

What Does The Hebrew Word "Elohim"(God) Mean?

Filed under: God — melchia @ 3:47 am
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“”In the beginning God!”  The Hebrew word from which this word God is translated is Elohim and it occurs 2,570 times. The one which occurs most frequently is the word in the King James Version translated Lord [LORD], and in the American Standard Version, Jehovah.” (Translated from the tetragrammaton [YHWH], sometimes called Yahweh or Jehovah.)

Elohim, pronounced el-o-heem’, is translated “gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: -angels, exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), and (very) great judges, and mighty (Stone, p. 10)”

Family Name

Elohim is a collective noun. It is similar to such English words as group, church, crowd, family, or organization. Take, for example, the word “church.” We find in 1 Corinthians 12:20 that there is only one church-the “one body” yet composed of “many members.” Even though it takes many persons to constitute the church, it is not many churches-it is only the one church! A family is made up of more than one person, yet it is only the one family.

In like manner, God is not merely one person, but a family. God is the supreme divine family which rules the universe! The Gospel Jesus brought to mankind is the good news of the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is a family-a ruling divine family into which humans may be born!

September 19, 2009

Did Jesus Hide The Truth About Salvation?

1When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world.

Contrary to what many have been taught, neither did Christ come to earth to call everyone to salvation. Rather, He came to deliver His Father’s message – the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That message included salvation through Christ. But Jesus did not try to get everyone to believe this wonderful message.

Notice the New Testament proof: Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables to make hide the meaning of what He was saying, so the public would not understand.

” And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand”  (Matt. 13:10-15, Mark 4:11-12).

Christ was plainly speaking ONLY to His disciples, not to everyone else. This point is made clear. In case there is any confusion about the point, the scripture says Christ spoke to the general public ONLY in parables (Matt. 13:34). It was NOT to clarify, but to confuse the issue to the masses. Why? Because it was not the time for most to be forgiven their sins and converted.

” And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?’  (Mark 4:10-13).

Even His disciples had problems with some of the parables and needed explaining. Those “without” means those not called at the present time – the masses. Christ preached the Father’s gospel to the masses as a witness. But He worked with only a few purposely called and chosen disciples, or students. They were the ones Whom He really wanted to understand the truth about salvation and His coming government on earth. And as it was then, it is so now – the message was only to His chosen people – His one true Church. It was not to a mass of confusing religions, of contradictory doctrines and squabbling denominations.

In fact, Jesus often tried to avoid the crowds that followed Him daily (Matt. 5:1, 8:18, 13:36, Mark 3:13, John 5:13, 7:10). He often told those whom He had healed not to tell anyone who healed them (Matt. 8:4, 9:30, 12:16, Mark 5:35, 36, 41-43, 7:35-36.  He did not want everyone to know who He really was (Matt. 16:20, Mark 3:1-12).

This is a point most of mainstream Christianity does not understand. For most of His ministry, Jesus actually avoided publicity. It was not God’s will for everyone to understand who Jesus was. Spiritual understanding will not be granted to the world until Christ removes Satan from earth’s throne.

It may freely be accentuated that Jesus Christ was successful in avoiding publicity, as after 3 1/2 years of preaching, and after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, only 120 disciples remained with Him (Acts 1:2-4, 15). The New Testament Church of God was started with these few disciples who would be trained so that they could teach and train others. Christ at first needed only a few teachers, so God called only a few at that time.

Remember, one can only come to Christ if God the Father purposely selects and calls him (John 6:44, 65). Now I know that some will ask, “What about one who really wants salvation – wants to believe in Christ – is willing to truly repent and come out of this world and be led by god’s spirit in a true commandment keeping Christian life. Do you mean this individual cannot come to Christ unless God calls him?”

Answer: That’s exactly what the scriptures say. Such a person is being called by God, otherwise he or she would have no such desire. However, most who think they are in that category have followed a false gospel, a false teaching and are deceived. They have a false idea of what salvation is, a false concept of repentance and a false idea of what God’s way is.

God foretold that He would indeed only call a few into His Church, and that His Church would continue to be small, and even persecuted (Luke 12:32, Matt. 10:16-17, 7:13-14, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12).

So it is that from Christ’s human ministry until His return to earth, God has called only a small minority of people. God’s Church through the centuries has continued to be small – an “embryo” of God’s  new civilization yet to come. That Church is in training to teach the world with and under Christ in the World Tomorrow.

The Feast Of Trumpets Signals Christ's Return

barrettswanderings.blogspot.com

barrettswanderings.blogspot.com

Well, the annual Feast of Trumpets is upon us again, falling on September 19 on the Roman calendar this year (2009). This is one of God’s appointed Feast days, yet most of Christianity believes that God’s Holy Days were “done away with” — that they have no relevance today. But nothing could be further from the truth!

Is God’s law outdated?

It’s unfortunate, but some who consider themselves Christians are under the impression that God uses “planned obsolescence” when it comes to His law and His plan for mankind! Millions believe that Christ’s crucifixion “did away with” the need to keep God’s commandments, including God’s Holy Days, which outline His plan.

It’s true that God no longer requires certain acts of His people. For example, Christ’s sacrifice eliminated the need for God’s people to perform animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:1-6).

But man has taken it upon himself to declare obsolete other areas of God’s instructions that God definitely has not (Mark 7:6-9). Christ Himself said:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18).

God’s law, including those instructions that concern God’s Holy Days, is in force today.

One of the festivals God commands us to keep is the Feast of Trumpets. Most professing Christians have not even heard of it. They have been blinded to this important Festival of God, though the Feast of Trumpets is designed to have important meaning for us in the 20th century.

Christ’s death did not at all do away with the need for us to keep the Feast of Trumpets today. This Holy Day of God is relevant now, and very much so.

Origin of the Feast of Trumpets

God first introduced the Feast of Trumpets to ancient Israel after the dramatic Exodus from Egypt, commanding them to keep this day as a Sabbath, a holy convocation (Lev. 23:23-25).

Notice that the Israelites were to mark this particular day as a memorial of the meaning trumpets had for their nation, both physically and symbolically.

God instructed them to use silver trumpets to gather the tribes for assemblies and to signal when it was time to move during their migration to the promised land. The Israelites were to blow the trumpets when they were preparing to attack or to defend against an attack. Moreover, trumpets were blown during God’s festivals and at the beginning of each month. Each use of the trumpets gave added meaning to the festivals as the Israelites understood them (Num. 10:1-10).

Since the Israelites, awestruck and trembling, had already experienced God’s tremendous use of a blaring trumpet when God gave them the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:19), they were familiar with the use of trumpets in correlation with momentous events in their lives!

Meaning of this Feast

This special Holy Day also forecasted the greatest event ever to take place. At the time of the Exodus, it was thousands of years away. But today, it’s just a precious few years ahead.

It will be a day of reckoning for the world. The Feast of Trumpets symbolically refers to a day of great black clouds and gloominess. And finally, the rending of those clouds, signaled by the ear splitting, bone penetrating blast of silver trumpets, and the blinding atomic lightning in the skies, flashing from the eyes of Him that sits astride a great white stallion. It’s the King of kings and Lord of lords, ready with His saints to make war on Satan and those deceived nations he has brought to this very day! This war will finally be the conflict that ends all wars!

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:11-14).

Conversely, it will also be a day of great jubilation for God’s true saints. The saints will be resurrected into the God family. “For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Christ] came also the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:21).

Notice verse 23: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”This great Feast of Trumpets is only 14 days from the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast day can be, if we are not careful, mentally and spiritually relegated to a lesser status than that of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Trumpets is only one day and seemingly doesn’t have, to some perhaps, the significance of the seven-day festival.  However, we have to eagerly look forward to the Feast of Trumpets, because it tells us of Christ’s very return.

Without instruction on that day, we won’t be able to be “AT-ONE-MENT” with God just nine days after the Feast of Trumpets. Nor will we be able to fully partake of the great eight days of feasting starting five days after Atonement.

The Feast of Trumpets is the KEY that unlocks the millennium. It begins the sequence of events that put us at one with our God and removes the destroyer. It ushers in the government of God and His Spirit-ruling family. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned” (Rev. 11:15-17).

The Feast of Trumpets is a vital link in the prophetic fulfillment of God’s plan for His bride and for all who will be born into His family. It is the fourth Holy Day out of seven for the year. Four is the number of new beginnings. The Day of Trumpets sounds the beginning of the new age of the rulership of Christ and His wife—the family of God. All of His great saints of the past will be resurrected on that day (I Thes. 4:16). On the day of Christ’s return, all of our beloved teachers of the past who taught the word of God will be there: Moses, David, the prophets, the apostles—and all the loyal saints of God.

The Feast of Trumpets represents the greatest day in the history of this earth; the day of Christ’s return and the resurrection of His saints:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thes. 4:16-18).

Source: Good News, August 1982

September 15, 2009

The Power Of God In Universal Vastness

starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov

starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov

It was just before dawn on July 16, 1945, and the world’s first atomic bomb was about to be tested in the desert of New Mexico.  It worked! In a split second, the world’s first atomic weapon released the power of 20,000 tons of conventional explosive.

Three weeks later, a second bomb was exploded. But this was no test. It was dropped over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and in a flash of heat and light, the city was destroyed and 100,000 people were killed or injured. Conquered and conquerors alike were awed by the power of this terrible new weapon.

The power of the atom

What man did was turn a small piece of uranium — about one gram, or a 30th of an ounce — into raw energy. Scientists had long suspected that it was possible. It took the urgency of war for them to discover how.

But when they did, even those who worked on the project were sobered by the implications of the power they could unleash. U.S. President Harry Truman summed it up in a warning to the people of Japan the day after Hiroshima was destroyed. “It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power…”

President Truman was right. Man had indeed harnessed the power of the universe, the very force from which the sun draws its power.

The atom bomb that devastated Hiroshima was a mere firecracker compared to the weapons of today. Now we measure their destructive power in megatons — one megaton is the equivalent of a 300-mile-long trainload of conventional explosives! But we have become so accustomed to such figures that they no longer impress us.

We should look again at the power of the atom. It is indeed the force by which mankind will bring himself to the edge of destruction. But there is also an encouraging and reassuring side to it. By splitting the atom, we learn — or could learn, if we were willing — a little more about the awesome power of God.

Before nuclear physics

For most of his approximately 6,000 years on earth, man has been surprisingly ignorant about the true nature of his surroundings. The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome made some progress in science. But after the fifth century, man’s knowledge hardly advanced for 1,000 years.

During the Dark Ages, science, magic and witchcraft were considered to be much the same thing. Such scientists as there were wasted their time trying to find the elixir of life or a way to turn lead into gold. They thought the earth was flat and that angels pushed the sun and stars around it. Superstition rather than science guided men’s thinking.

Then, in the middle of the 16th century, knowledge began to expand rapidly again. Navigators discovered that they could sail around the world without falling off. Copernicus showed that the earth was not the center of the universe, but just another planet in orbit around the sun. Galileo’s experiments in astronomy and physics challenged some ideas that had remained unchanged (and wrong) since the days of Aristotle.

The English scientist Sir Isaac Newton demonstrated how physical phenomena could be measured and quantified. He made it possible for scientists to build on their discoveries, rather than conduct isolated experiments. Newton realized there was a system of law governing gravity, mass, force, acceleration and motion. This laid the groundwork for the advances that made our modern world possible.

For two centuries nobody seriously questioned the validity of Newton’s laws. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was considered indisputable that physical matter (the elements) and energy (heat and light) were separate entities that could neither be created nor destroyed. The amount of matter and the amount of energy in the universe were presumed fixed.

Matter could change its form through chemical reaction. Energy could also change — heat into light, for example. But matter could not turn into energy or vice versa. Or so they thought.

The theory of relativity

It was Albert Einstein who first understood that this was not totally true. He put forward a theory that predicted that physical matter and energy were not separate — that they were, in a sense, interchangeable. Matter could be transformed into energy, and energy could be transformed into matter.

This “theory of relativity” rocked the scientific world. This article is no place to try to explain in detail these incredibly complicated ideas. But Dr. Einstein summed them up with the now famous equation E = mc2 (where E = energy, m = mass and c = the speed of light, which is about 186,000 miles a second). What this means is that if you can transform physical matter into energy, the amount of energy produced is equal to the mass of the matter times the speed of light multiplied by itself (i.e., 186,000 x 186,000).

You don’t need to be a genius to realize that if this line of reasoning is true, even a small amount of matter can produce an astonishing amount of energy.

Splitting the atom

But how do you turn matter into energy? To do this, you would have to literally split the atom — or, to be specific, the nucleus of the atom. And that is easier said than done.

Scientists had shown that the atom, once thought to be the smallest possible particle of matter, is composed of even smaller, subatomic particles — neutrons, protons and electrons among them. The protons and neutrons make up a central core or nucleus of an atom, while the electrons whirl around the nucleus rather like the planets orbit the sun, only much faster — billions of times in a millionth of a second. (The makeup of the atom is actually even more complex than this, but this will serve to make the point.)

These components of the atom each have an electrical charge — negative, positive or neutral. The electrons whirling around in orbit have a negative charge. The nucleus is made of neutrons, which have a neutral charge, and protons, which have a positive charge.

Think of these charges like the opposite poles of a magnet and you’ll get the idea. If you have played with magnets, you’ve discovered that like poles repel each other, while opposite poles attract. It’s the same with electrical charges.

So, since the nucleus of an atom is made up of neutral neutrons and positively charged protons, what stops the protons from repelling each other — or, in other words, why doesn’t an atom’s nucleus fly apart? (Again, think of it as trying to hold the like poles of two powerful magnets together. It takes a surprising amount of strength, and as soon as you let up, the magnets immediately push themselves away from each other.)

There must be a force that counteracts the repelling power of the protons and binds them together in the nucleus. Physicists call this the “strong force.”

It is indeed so strong that, for centuries, nobody even suspected its existence. So firm was its grip on the core of the atom that no force available to man could even begin to persuade it to let go. Thus it was hardly surprising that scientists thought the atom was the smallest possible division of matter.

In the 19th century it was discovered that some elements had a strange property. They gave off radiation — or, as we say now, were radioactive. Physicists realized that the atoms of these elements were slowly disintegrating. It happened very slowly — so slowly and unobtrusively that for thousands of years nobody even suspected it.

Strange, isn’t it? For millennia, alchemists had wasted their time trying to turn one element into another, yet here it was happening naturally under their noses all the time. Uranium, for example, given enough time, will decay down to lead, a nonradioactive element.

Experiments showed that when one element is transformed into another, not all of it is changed. A very small percentage of matter is changed into energy.

But if Einstein was right and E really did equal mc2, that still meant a lot of energy would be released as an atom decayed. Just before the Second World War, scientists learned how to speed up the decay by splitting the atom with a nuclear reactor, releasing the power in the atom.

When a radioactive element decays in nature, a small amount of energy is produced. For example, one pound of radioactive uranium gives as much energy as is produced by 5,000 pounds of gasoline. But it needs a thousand million years to do it. In a nuclear reactor (or a nuclear bomb) the atom is literally split in two. Much greater amounts of energy are released, suddenly and violently.

In the reaction that caused the devastation at Hiroshima, only about 1/1000th of the uranium was transformed into energy — about a 30th of an ounce.

Think of the power that was locked into that speck of matter, when it was transformed into heat and radiation! And that was a very small bomb.

A hydrogen bomb is many times more powerful than an atomic bomb. It takes an atomic explosion to produce enough energy to start the reaction.

But when the reaction does take place, it is with a flash of light brighter than the sun. Millions of degrees of heat are generated. That is why it is called a thermonuclear reaction. With the making of the hydrogen bomb, man has actually succeeded in duplicating the force that drives the sun.

The incredible sun

Look up at the sun. What you are seeing is a continuous chain of nuclear explosions in a reaction of unimaginable power. The sun is actually a giant thermonuclear reactor. It is composed mainly of hydrogen that is gradually changing into helium. Deep inside the sun’s core tremendous gravitational forces, 250 billion times those of earth, compress hydrogen atoms until the heat and pressure force a thermonuclear reaction to take place.

Energy released is thrust toward the surface, but the sun’s great mass pulls it back. It may take up to 15 million years for the energy to jostle its way through to the surface and escape as heat and radiation.

Scientists estimate that nearly four million tons of hydrogen are transformed into energy every second in the nuclear holocaust on our sun. (Remember, it took only a 30th of an ounce to destroy Hiroshima.)

And then stop and think about this: Our sun is only one star in our galaxy of 100 million stars. And there are probably 100 million other galaxies, each with another 100 million stars. That makes — oh, never mind. The point is that there is an almost inconceivable amount of power locked up in this awesome universe that surrounds us.

God made that universe by and out of His own power. “For He commanded and they were created,” the Bible tells us (Psalm 148:5).

The power of God

How can we even begin to comprehend the power that God has available? How much energy had to be held together to forge the atoms of even the most commonplace and seemingly insignificant of God’s creations — a sparrow, a spider or a leaf?

If all the energy compacted in a gram of matter could be released, it would supply as much energy as the Hoover Dam produces in about 18 and a half hours. Put another way, the matter in a 150-pound person, if converted completely to energy, would supply as much energy as Hoover Dam could produce in 144 years.

Yet God made giant stars 1,000 times the size of our sun! Can we ever begin to appreciate just how great God is? No wonder He could never allow mortal man to see the full power that radiates from Him. Nothing made of flesh and blood could survive that experience.

But God has, through His creation, given us hints, mere suggestions, of the immensity of His power. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [those who don’t or won’t believe in God] are without excuse,” wrote Paul (Romans 1:20).

The physical things God has made can teach us — if we have eyes to see. But, sad to say, many scientists today have rejected the very idea of God.

Never before have they known so much about the universe. Never before has there been more reason to believe in a Creator. Not so long ago, sailors were afraid to sail over the horizon for fear they would fall off the earth. Now we travel into space routinely, discovering, measuring, analyzing and quantifying. And every breakthrough leads inexorably toward one conclusion — that there must have been a time when all that we see began.

But that implies a Creator, and that is something that many scientists cannot — or will not — admit. And so they “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (verse 21).

Perhaps if scientists had been willing to acknowledge the awesome power of God, they would never have dared tamper with those forces that bind the universe together.

In God’s hands, those forces are under control and are used only to do good. He has carefully regulated the inferno on the sun so that it makes life possible on earth.

But what has man done with nuclear power? Certainly there have been numerous peaceful industrial applications, although some argue that even these are hazardous. But our potential to split the atom is also lurking in the warheads of the weapons that will destroy all life if they ever are used.

Those weapons may be even more destructive than we dare think. President Truman threatened a “rain of ruin” on Japan. He didn’t know then that those relatively little bombs were paving the way for a possible nuclear winter that would eventually eliminate those who survived the initial blasts of nuclear bombs.

While the human heart is ruled by anger, lust and greed, it would be wiser to leave the “basic power of the universe” alone.

But it’s too late now. Once the first atomic bomb went off successfully, the die was cast. A chain reaction began. The bombs got bigger, and Bible prophecy tells us that man will use the principle of E = mc2 to batter the earth to the point where it can no longer sustain life.

Then, and only then, will the people of this world look out to the heavens and ask once again, “My God, what have we done?” 

Psalm 19

King Davis stated in Psalm 19: “The law of God is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure… the statutes of the Lord are right… the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes… by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

David knew that God rules His Kingdom and regulates His power with the great law of love. Before humans can inherit God’s Kingdom, they must show that they will live in obedience to that law. Only then can God be sure that the great reserves of power will always be used for good and peaceful purposes.

So God watches us now, while we are still relatively powerless, to see how we live. He expects us to take seriously even the smallest details of His law, which is far more binding than even the strong force that holds the earth together, or the power that constrains the energy locked in the stars. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away,” said Jesus Christ (Luke 21:33).

King David believed that. And so, when this righteous king looked into the heavens, he was filled with longing for the time when he could share that splendor as a born child of God. But he knew he had to qualify, and he knew he needed help. So he prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

God did help David. He gave him power — not the power of the atom, but the even greater power of the Holy Spirit. He began the greatest reaction process of all — the transformation of the very nature of David. One day, David will be resurrected in power and glory.

God will do the same for you. He will share His Spirit with you — just a little, for now. But you must use it properly — to overcome, to obey God’s law, to do good and serve others.

Then one day, you, too, will be welcomed by the great Creator God into His Kingdom, to live with Him in full brilliance and majesty and share His awesome power forever.

Source: Good News, 1985

August 31, 2009

Was Jesus Striving To “Save Souls” While On Earth The First Time?

Was Jesus striving to “save souls” while on Earth the first time?  Let’s notice just a few verses that show Christ was not trying to save every soul He could find. Matthew 5:1: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.” Christ had a tremendous opportunity to preach His message before the multitudes. But notice, instead of speaking before them, He went up into the mountains so He could teach just His disciples.

Despite this, Christ did attract great crowds, mainly due to the miracles He performed. But even when He did attract great crowds, He spoke in parables. Not so the multitudes could understand—but that they would not understand! “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:10-11).

Can you imagine Christ intentionally allowing Himself to be misunderstood if He was only concerned about saving as many people as possible? Not once in the teachings of Jesus do we ever find Him pleading with or begging individuals to be saved! Why not? Because Jesus knew, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …” (John 6:44). If Christ had been coming to save the world, that is precisely what He would have done.

So why exactly did He come? Jesus came with a message to proclaim—that of the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14).

August 19, 2009

Twelve Reasons Why Jesus' Trial Was Illegal

The trial of Jesus was without legal precedent. He was fraudulently convicted by the courts of His day. He was executed by crucifixion even though His judge found Him innocent!  Why?

It is time we understood what was behind Jesus’ crucifixion and learned the 12 outstanding reasons why the arrest, trial and conviction of Jesus were illegal.

Atheists and agnostics today try to prove that Jesus was legally crucified. Here are surprising statements from a book entitled The Prosecution of Jesus, by Richard Wellington Husband.

Concerning the trial of Jesus, he charges on page 281: “The arrest was legal … The hearing by the Sanhedrin was legal … The course of trial in the Roman court was legal … The conviction was legal, and was justified.”

The author, a lawyer, was undoubtedly sincere in his convictions. He was a professor of classical languages at Dartmouth College. Here is how Mr. Husband justifies his beliefs:

“The arrest” of Jesus “was legal, for it was conducted by the proper officers, acting under instructions from the Sanhedrin. There was no illegality in the circumstances under which the arrest was affected. The hearing by the Sanhedrin was legal, for it was merely a preliminary hearing, and was not a formal trial. The course of trial in the Roman court was legal, for it harmonized with the procedure shown in the sources to be pursued by governors of provinces in hearing criminal cases.”

Pilate conducted himself as other judges did, contends Mr. Husband. That made it legal! It is a strange way of reasoning. Now here is Mr. Husband’s final conclusion:

“The conviction was legal, and was justified provided the evidence was sufficient to substantiate the charges, and the records,” he writes, “do not prove the contrary.”

Here a former professor in one of America’s leading colleges contends that there is insufficient evidence in the Bible to show that any reversal of Jesus’ conviction was justified. Here is a man who, if he had sat on the Sanhedrin, might have sincerely said, “He is guilty.”

The Jewish point of view

I have another book before me. It contains the traditional Jewish point of view. The book is entitled The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth. It is by Max Radin. He was a professor of law in the University of California. From page 229, I quote the following: “If he [Jesus] had said only a tithe (tenth) of the things credited to him it was enough to make an indictment.”

From page 109 of this same book, I quote the following about the trial of Jesus. Mr. Radin says there is “no clear statement of how the knowledge of the trial came to those who reported it.” Mr. Radin has been taught to believe that neither Matthew, Mark, Luke nor John had any personal evidence because the trial was private, a secret affair.

What he does not discuss, of course, is the possibility that Jesus, who was condemned — the One who heard everything, who was there on trial — rose from the dead and told the disciples what occurred so that they could report it to us that we might know today.

But let us continue with Max Radin’s point of view. On page 231 you will discover the following statement as to what a trial in Judea was like in Jesus’ day:

“We are, most of us, familiar with the procedure of criminal investigations. The accused person is arrested, arraigned before a committing magistrate, specifically accused and formally tried. He may, and he generally does, appeal to a higher court, if he is convicted. All these things take time, and there is almost necessarily an interval of weeks and months between the later stages of the procedure. But above all, the procedure is strictly regulated by law, and any serious deviation is not merely an irregularity but will probably prevent punishment from being inflicted.”

Notice that most trials involving criminal procedure take weeks, if not months. Jesus’ trial was completed in less than nine hours after His arrest. And it was all done in private so that there would not be any witnesses who could testify on His behalf. How does Mr. Radin reconcile these conflicting sources of evidence?

On page 241, he reasons: “Mark’s version, even by his own testimony, cannot be more than a guess. Instead of a hurried night meeting, a harsh and brief interrogatory, a disregard of established rules of evidence and procedure, the trial may have been formally correct, and the judgment even from the point of view of an upright judge just though severe.”

Mr. Radin assumes that Mark was guessing. Then he assumes it could have been conducted in an entirely different manner. Yet the only extant sources of evidence for the trial come from the Bible. There is no other record to justify another point of view.

Limits on Jews’ authority

What legal authority did the Jews have to try Jesus?

“According to the common view,” reports Mr. Husband in his book, page 210, “the right to try capital cases,” that is, cases involving death penalties, “and even the right to pronounce sentences, still rested with the Sanhedrin, but the actual penalty could not be inflicted until the governor” — that is, the Roman governor, in this case Pilate — “had given his sanction.”

But this view is hardly true. The Jews not only had the power to try certain crimes, but they had the power to convict and the power to execute in all but cases of treason or sedition against Rome and Roman authority.

The assumption that Jesus’ opponents had no power to execute is incorrectly based on John 18:31-32. Here the Jews had said that, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” Lifting it out of its context, critics have assumed that the Jewish nation had no lawful right whatsoever to put anyone to death. But this does not happen to be the case.

Have we forgotten how Stephen died? His enemies said, “He blasphemes,” and they stoned him to death. The Romans didn’t disapprove. When Jesus first preached His sermon the day of Pentecost in Nazareth, the Jews sought to stone Him to death. If it were illegal, they wouldn’t have tried it. The Romans would have pounced on them.

The elders of the nation on one occasion brought to Jesus a woman who was committing adultery. They said: “Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

If they had no right to stone any to death, Jesus could have said simply, “Don’t you know under what law you are living?” And what would they have felt like before the Romans if that would have reached Pilate’s ears? But Jesus didn’t say any such thing. Jesus accepted the fact that the right to execute adulteresses and other criminals existed. He told the guiltless to cast the first stone.

Paul was stoned in Asia. Not only in Judea, but in other areas of the Roman world, wherever the Jews were settled, it is plain the Jews had the legal right to execute the penalty of their law. The Romans allowed it. But why did the Jews make the statement that we find recorded in John 18:31-32?

Here is the answer: “From the earliest period the Roman governor took cognizance of all matters that had any relation to the public security or the majesty of the Empire. Consequently there was no time at which the Roman magistrate would not step in when a charge of treason was made, or a seditious movement begun. The case against Jesus is one especially in point, for the charge against him [treason] could under no circumstances be tried by any tribunal except that of the governor.”

Only when it came to treason, civil disobedience, incitement to revolution or attacks against the majesty, that is, Caesar, did the Roman government decide that it was proper that its governors or representatives should intervene. Otherwise, all local administration was carried on by the people and the regular, constituted courts of the conquered nations, of the provinces or of the allies of Rome.

The opponents of Jesus accused Him of blasphemy. But they did not want to execute Him. So they charged Him with treason before the Romans.  What the religious leaders had to do was create charges of treason against Jesus in order to bring it up to Pilate so that they would not be responsible for His death.

Summary of events

After the last supper on Passover, Jesus went out and prayed. Then Judas came with a mob. Accompanying that mob were the high priest, the judges and jury, inciting the mob as they went out to arrest Him.

After Jesus was arrested, Annas examined Him alone. He was ex-high priest.

They next took Him to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, before sunrise while it was yet night, where He was informally condemned. After sunrise, the Sanhedrin quickly condemned Him formally to make legal their previous conduct.

Then they took Him to Pilate on different charges. Pilate wanted to wash his hands of the whole affair. When Pilate found Jesus was of Galilee, he sent Him to Herod. After Herod saw Jesus and could not get anything but silence from Him, Herod decided to let Him go back to Pilate. Then, at the second time before Pilate, the Roman governor, under pressure, gave sentence — even against his own will.

These are the six steps through which Jesus went from after midnight to nearly 9 o’clock. And at 9 o’clock He was crucified. At 3 o’clock that afternoon, He was speared in the side and killed (Matt. 27:49, Moffatt). Shortly before sunset, He was carried to the tomb. That’s how quickly the world got rid of the Savior!

Judas’ betrayal

“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. Then he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:3-6).

Judas’ treachery developed as a result of Jesus’ rebuke for having condemned the woman who anointed Him with oil. Judas had said to Jesus, “Why didn’t you give that to the poor?” Judas wanted that money himself. He would have taken the oil, gone out and sold it, then claimed he gave it to the poor and pocketed the money. That is what he wanted to do, for he was a thief (John 12:1-8).

So he went to the chief priests and the captains, who bribed him to deliver Jesus in the absence of the crowds who listened to Jesus. The idea was to have Jesus seized privately, so the public, especially the Galileans, would not know until it was over. The plan was to get Jesus at night, try Him at night, sentence Him just after sunrise, to make it look legal, take Him to Pilate, incite a mob to get Pilate to condemn Him, have Him crucified, if possible, in the morning, before those favoring Him would be about.

Who made up the mob that arrested Jesus? The answer to this question brings us to the first error in Jesus’ conviction. We should now examine, point by point, the 12 primary reasons why the arrest, trial and conviction of Jesus were illegal.

First reason

The principle on which any trial may be considered illegal is that it is prejudicial against the man who is tried — that it does not allow him to have full recourse to law so that he might present his part of the case.

Now notice the steps in Jesus’ arrest, trial and conviction. The first point is that Jesus was arrested illegally.

Consider John 18:2-8: “And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place” — where Jesus was that night — “for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore … went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas, who betrayed Him [by a kiss], also stood with them. Then — when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ — they drew back and fell to the ground. Then He asked them again, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way.’ ”

Now continue with Luke 22:52: “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs?’ ”

Those who went to have Christ arrested included the priests and elders — His judges! Among them were the very ones who bribed Judas!

Jesus was arrested secretly, by night. He was not arrested on the formal charge of any crime. There was no charge presented here. There was no warrant for His arrest, no statement of what He had done. They just simply took Him.

Contrary to what Mr. Husband said in his book, The Prosecution of Jesus, there was no legal basis on which Jesus was arrested. Nobody had presented testimony or evidence of guilt to the Sanhedrin whereby they could have requested His arrest.

Here is what Jewish law declares. Mendelsohn says in his Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, page 274: “The testimony of an accomplice,” that is, Judas, “is not permissible by Rabbinic law … and no man’s life, nor his liberty, nor his reputation can be endangered by the malice of one who has confessed himself a criminal.”

The very fact that Judas took a bribe from the judges was certainly proof that Judas was guilty of a criminal offense.

Second reason

The first step in Jesus’ trial was a preliminary examination in a private night proceeding before Annas (John 18:12-14, 19-23).

Notice the Jewish law on this point from Dupin’s book, Jesus Devant Caiaphe et Pilate (a French work): “Now the Jewish law prohibited all proceedings by night.”

Salvador in his Institutions de Moise, pages 365-366, declares, “An accused man was never subjected to private or secret examination.” Yet Jesus was.

According to the law, as stated in the Jerusalem Talmud, the Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice. And Lemann says in his book, Jesus Before the Sanhedrin, page 109, “No session of the court could take place before the offering of the morning sacrifice.” No night meetings were permitted.

The law permitted such an investigation only upon daylight.

Third reason

The indictment against Jesus was itself false and therefore illegal.

According to the law of the Jews, declares Edersheim in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Volume I, page 309: “The Sanhedrin did not, and could not, originate charges.” But in Jesus’ case, it did.

Here was the proper procedure, as stated by Innes in his book, The Trial of Jesus Christ, page 41: “The evidence of the leading witnesses constituted the charge. There was no other charge; no more formal indictment.” In Jesus’ case there at first had been no witnesses presented. Opponents simply arrested and started to accuse Him.

Continuing: “Until they [the witnesses] spoke, and spoke in the public assembly, the prisoner was scarcely an accused man. When they spoke, and the evidence of two agreed together, it formed a legal charge, libel or indictment, as well as the evidence for its truth.”

Next consider that Mendelsohn writes, page 110: “The only prosecutors known to Talmudic criminal jurisprudence are the witnesses to the crime. Their duty is to bring the matter to the cognizance of the court, and to bear witness against the criminal” — after he is arrested. “In capital cases, they are the legal executioners also. Of an official accuser or prosecutor there is nowhere any trace in the laws of the ancient Hebrews.”

In the case of Jesus there were no witnesses who presented their evidence to the court. The court took it upon itself to secretly arrest Jesus; then they had to find false witnesses.

Fourth reason

The Sanhedrin court illegally proceeded to hold its trial of Jesus before sunrise.

Notice that the preliminary investigation before Annas brought forth no evidence whatsoever. Instead of dismissing the case they proceeded to hold an illegal court.

Why was it illegal? Mendelsohn states: “Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during day time only, and by the Lesser Sanhedrins from the close of the morning service till noon, and by the Great Sanhedrin till evening” (page 112).

The trial of Jesus was begun at night in the hours of early morning, without any witnesses to defend Jesus.

Here is what Maimonides writes in Sanhedrin III: “The reason why the trial of a capital offence could not be held at night is because … the examination of such a charge is like the diagnosing of a wound — in either case a more thorough and searching examination can be made by daylight.”

The Mishna says, Sanhedrin IV, 1: “Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night.” Once more the opponents of Jesus violated their law in order to rid themselves of Jesus and His teachings.

Fifth reason

In the case of Jesus, the Sanhedrin was illegally convened to try a capital offense on a day before an annual Sabbath.

Notice why: “They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on any festival,” says the Mishna, “Sanhedrin” IV, I.

In Wise’s Martyrdom of Jesus, page 67, we read the following conclusive — and shocking — evidence: “No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold sessions on the Sabbath or on any of the seven biblical Holy Days. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be commenced on Friday or the day previous to any Holy Day, because it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than overnight, or to continue them on the Sabbath or Holy Day.”

The opponents of Jesus even violated their law by arresting Jesus on the day before an annual Sabbath. They arrested Him at the beginning of Wednesday in A.D. 31; the first annual Sabbath that year was Thursday.

Sixth reason

The trial of Jesus was illegal because it was concluded in one day.

We read from Jewish law: “A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began. But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it cannot be concluded before the following day” (Mishna, “Sanhedrin” IV, 1).

This was to allow sufficient opportunity for any witnesses in support of the accused to present themselves.

The court did not want to allow Jesus this opportunity.

Seventh reason

The indictment against Jesus was false and its use illegal because it was founded upon Jesus’ uncorroborated statement. The court pronounced sentence on Jesus with no supporting evidence whatever.

Consider: The only evidence presented by witnesses to the court was given by two false witnesses. But their testimony was not even used by the court in sentencing Jesus to death. Here is what happened:

Two false witnesses testified that Jesus said, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands” (Mark 14:58).

The Jews used this belated statement as an indictment against Jesus. But this piece of evidence was not what Jesus said. He never said the words that is made with hands. Jesus was not referring to the physical Temple of Herod erected by human hands, but to His body (John 2:19, 21), which would be raised in three days.

Then “the high priest arose and said to Him, ‘Do You answer nothing? What is it that these men testify against You?’ But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God’ ” (Matt. 26:62-63).

The question the high priest asked Jesus had nothing to do with the indictment! Jesus was indicted on the false charge that He would destroy the physical Temple and rebuild it in three days’ time. But the court condemned Him on another matter altogether.

Notice the facts. They asked: ” ‘Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.’

Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?’

They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death’ ” (verses 63-66).

Jesus was indicted on one charge, tried on another and condemned on His own testimony.

Jesus was not condemned because He said, “Within three days I will build this temple.” He was immediately condemned on the charge of blasphemy.

Here is what the Jewish scholar Maimonides wrote in his book: “We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence, that no one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make confession of guilt before a legally constituted tribunal, such confession is not to be used against him unless properly attested by two other witnesses” (“Sanhedrin” IV, 2).

Jesus was condemned on His own testimony, even though His testimony was not proved blasphemous. The court didn’t even examine Him according to the law to see whether His statement was blasphemy. They only demanded, “Are you the Son of God?” And He responded: “You’re going to see the son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Was this blasphemy? Of course not! Jesus did not even refer directly to Himself. He merely said: “the son of man.” The court did not seek to prove who the “son of man” was.

They knew, of course, that Jesus meant Himself. For all through His ministry, they came and purred in front of Him, and asked: ” ‘How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe.’ ”

But as soon as Jesus even gave an indirect statement at the trial, they did not doubt whom He meant by “son of man.” On this testimony Jesus was condemned despite the scripture in Psalm 110. Even Mr. Radin admits that Jesus’ testimony was not blasphemy. On pages 248 and 249 he says:

“The ‘blasphemy’ which the Pentateuch mentions is a literal cursing of God or a direct defiance of him. The only pentateuchal reference makes this clear. It is in Leviticus, chapter 24, and the incident which gave rise to the statute indicates the character of the offense of blasphemy in Jewish law. The half-Egyptian had cursed God — the Israelitish God — as under the circumstances of the quarrel there described, he would have been likely enough to do. No such thing could have been charged against Jesus by his most inveterate enemies.”

Yet the religious leaders did this very thing! Now consider another violation of law in extracting this testimony from Jesus:

“No attempt is ever made to lead a man on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a voluntary confession on his [the defendant’s] part is not admitted in evidence, and therefore not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of witnesses minutely corroborate his self-accusation” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, page 133).

Eighth reason

The condemnation of Jesus was illegal because the merits of the defense were not considered. When they heard Jesus’ statement, the high priest shouted, “He has spoken blasphemy!” But the law in Deuteronomy 13:14 says, “Then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently.”

The law in the Mishna says, “The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience” (“Sanhedrin” IV, 5).

Ninth reason

The condemnation of Jesus by part of the Sanhedrin was illegal because those who would have voted against the condemnation of Jesus were not there.

Notice what took place at Jesus’ trial before dawn, according to Mark 14:64: ” ‘You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.”

It was unanimous. There was no investigation, no examination to see if He did or did not blaspheme. They just used His testimony against Him without further investigation. They all did it immediately, instantaneously, simultaneously. It was mob spirit that condemned Jesus!

Here is what Mendelsohn states of such a procedure: “A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial has the effect of an acquittal.”

The verdict against Jesus was simultaneous and unanimous, although the law required at least one of the council to serve as a defense counsel.

The proper method of voting was to have “the judges each in his turn absolve or condemn” (Mishna, “Sanhedrin” XV, 5). “The members of the Sanhedrin were seated in the form of a semicircle at the extremity of which a secretary was placed, whose business it was to record the votes. One of these secretaries recorded the votes in favor of the accused, the other against him,” states the Mishna, “Sanhedrin” IV, 3.

“In ordinary cases the judges voted according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital case, the reverse order was followed. That the younger members of the Sanhedrin should not be influenced by the views or the arguments of their more mature, more experienced colleagues, the junior judge was in these cases always the first to pronounce for or against conviction,” says Benny, in Criminal Code of the Jews, pp. 73-74.

Furthermore, the high priest rent or tore his clothes at the trial (Mark 14:63, Matt. 26:65). In Leviticus 21:10 the high priest is forbidden to do so: “And he who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes.” See also Leviticus 10:6. He tore his outer garment to stir up emotion, to prejudice others.

The high priest should have remained calm so that no mistake in judgment would be made. In Jesus’ trial none of these requirements were followed.

Let Wise’s book, Martyrdom of Jesus, page 74, explain the law on this point:

“If none of the judges defend the culprit, i.e., all pronounce him guilty, having not defender in the court, the verdict guilty was invalid and sentence of death could not be executed.”

Jesus was condemned contrary to the law! Now notice which members of the Sanhedrin were missing during the trial.

Take the case of Joseph of Arimathaea. After Jesus was crucified, we read from Luke 23:50-51, Authorized Version, “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just.” The word counsellor is admitted by all hands to represent a member of the Sanhedrin. “The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them” — and neither had Nicodemus.

In Mark’s account we learn that all those present condemned Jesus instantaneously and unanimously.

But since the night meeting was illegal, Joseph of Arimathaea was not present. The opponents of Jesus wanted to make sure he could not defend Jesus. Think of the utter lack of any fairness in this trial!

Tenth reason

The sentence against Jesus was pronounced in a place forbidden by law.

After the mob seized Christ, they led Him away, after having been at Annas’, and brought Him into the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The trial of Jesus wasn’t held in court! Read Luke 22:54: “Then, having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house.”

The court building wasn’t legally to be opened until after sunrise.

According to the law, “A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place,” says Maimonides, in his book, Section XIV.

The Talmud says, “After leaving the hall Gazith [the court] no sentence of death can be passed upon anyone soever” (From Bab. Talmud, “Abodah Tarath” or “Of Idolatry,” ch. 1, fol. 8).

A sentence of death may be passed only in a legal court, not in some private home, as occurred in Jesus’ case.

Eleventh reason

Most Sanhedrin members themselves were legally disqualified to try Jesus.

According to Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, page 182, “The robe of the unfairly elected judge is to be respected not more than the blanket of the ass.”

Some of the judges were elected unfairly. We have the names from the Bible and from Josephus of most of the men who were on the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus.

Such men as Caiaphas, Eleazar, Jonathon, Theophilus, Mathias, Ishmael, Simon, John, Alexander, Ananias and many others were, according to Josephus, recipients of bribes and appointed by members of the family who themselves had no right to sit on it, bought their offices and were disrespected by their people.

There were 12 ex-high priests living at this one time, all part of the Sanhedrin. The Bible expressly requires a man to be high priest throughout his lifetime, at the end of which another took his place. But under the Romans, high priests could be voted into office year by year.

The whole official arrangement — the whole choice of offices — was wrong.

But there was another reason that disqualified almost all Jesus’ judges. It is this: “Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation, or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or the accuser,” writes Mendelsohn, page 108.

Many of the judges were Jesus’ enemies. They even paid bribe money to betray Him.

In Benny’s work, Criminal Code of the Jews, page 37, this surprising statement is found: “Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among his judges.”

Everybody knew that the Sadducees and Pharisees were at outs with Jesus. Yet they were permitted to try Him.

Twelfth reason

The court illegally switched the charges against Jesus from blasphemy to sedition and treason before Pilate. Observe how it was done!

The next step in Jesus’ trial was to take Him to the legal court for a mock, private trial at sunrise.

“As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council” — now that they had already condemned Him of blasphemy, they were going to take Him to court for a mock trial! — “saying, ‘If You are the Christ, tell us.’ ”

Notice that they repeated the same questions over again.

“But He [Jesus] said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.’ ”

They had to make this trial look legal.

So “they all said ‘Are You then the Son of God?’ And He said to them, ‘You rightly say that I am.’ And they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.’ Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate” (Luke 22:66-71, 23:1).

This meeting probably didn’t last any more than a few minutes! Now their trial, which was illegally conducted in the private home of Caiaphas, was outwardly legalized.

But instead of taking Jesus out to be stoned for blasphemy, they switched the charges after the court was dismissed!

They took Him to Pilate, and here is what we read in John 18:28-31:

“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium [hall of judgment], and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’ Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ ”

Pilate was difficult to convince. He didn’t want to be bothered at this hour in the morning. But the enemies of Jesus replied, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” Why wasn’t it lawful? Let Luke give the surprising answer:

“And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2).

Notice that the Jews did not charge Jesus with blasphemy. Had they done so, Pilate would have told the Jews not to bother him, but to deal with Jesus according to their own law by stoning. The religious leaders were afraid of their own people! So they trumped up other and new charges against Jesus before Pilate.

Pilate now had reason to be surprised. The only cases for which the Jews could not try a man involved sedition or treason.

“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew?’ ” He didn’t like the Jews, did he? ” ‘Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?’ ”

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants [the disciples] would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here’ — not of this time, not of this world order.

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ ” Jesus chose not to answer that.

Pilate finds Jesus innocent

“And when he had said this, he [Pilate] went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all’ ” (John 18:33-38).

When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he told the Jews to take Him to Herod: “And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time” for the Passover (Luke 23:7).

After an interview with Jesus, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. To frighten the Roman governor, the opponents of Jesus stirred up the mob outside.

Pilate began to see that there was trouble brewing. He had a mob on his hands. This was trial by mob rule! So Pilate took Jesus, terribly scourged Him, let the soldiers plait on Him a crown of thorns and array Him in purple.

Pilate brought Jesus out again and shouted to the mob: ” ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him… when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.’ ”

The opponents answered and said, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die” — and now for the first time they reveal to Pilate why they condemned Him — “because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:4-7). They were getting very angry.

Pilate became frightened. He didn’t want to have anything happen for which he would be held responsible by the Roman gods. Upon this, Pilate definitely sought to release Him (John 19:12), for there were no witnesses whatever in this trial before Pilate. The mob had commenced accusing Jesus without proof, without witnesses, without testimony.

Then the ignorant mob cried out: “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.” They were threatening Pilate with loss of his office.

Matthew 27:24-26 picks the story up:

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.’ ”

The ignorant mob responded: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

What they were really saying is: “You execute Him. We don’t want to stone Him; we want you to execute Him.”

Then Pilate “scourged Jesus, [and] he delivered Him to be crucified.” The purpose of scourging was to prepare a criminal for death.

But notice — Pilate did not even give a formal decision against Jesus Christ. He just turned Him over to the soldiers to do what the mob wanted.

Jesus was crucified, though found innocent by Pilate

That is where the trial of Jesus abruptly broke off. No justice here! An innocent man condemned by mob violence! The dastardly act of crucifixion followed. Yet some today would still falsely claim, in the face of all this evidence, that Jesus’ trial was legal, and His crucifixion justified.

Most of us have not really examined the trial of Jesus before. Just look at this trial. What a mockery of justice it was! Can you imagine what it would be like if you had been on trial, to be spitefully treated as these thrill-seeking soldiers treated Jesus? What consideration, what fairness would have been given you?

All this suffering Jesus endured to pay the penalty of sin for you! Yet not you only, but to pay the penalty of the sin of the whole world. It is time you personally were made to look at the last hours of Jesus in mortal flesh to see what a miscarriage of justice led up to the crucifixion — what a mockery was made of trial — and to understand the reasons why the conviction of Jesus was an utter fraud — all voluntarily endured by Christ to pay the penalty of your sin in your stead!

Source: The Good News, February 1983

August 9, 2009

The Three Resurrections Explained!

Resurrection - From Mortal To Immortal

The 1st Resurrection - From Mortal To Immortal

Throughout history, man has had a fascination with death and the afterlife. Will you and your loved ones live again? Do you have an immortal soul, as so many professing “Christians” believe?

The biblical teachings on life and death have been primary targets of Satan the devil from the beginning. The first recorded lie was that man would not die, (Gen. 3:4) and man has believed the “immortal soul” lie ever since.

Consider the domino effect of this one lie. If man has an immortal soul, he cannot die; if he cannot die, he cannot be resurrected! Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote that if we deny the resurrection of the dead, we deny the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, leaving us totally without hope (I Cor. 15:13-14, 19).

The Immortal Soul Lie

When Satan told Eve that she “would not surely die,” she was deceived. Both Eve and Adam subsequently chose to reject the revelation that God had given them. Mankind refuses to accept God’s revelation about death and resurrection to this day, relying instead on his own human reasoning. Modern “Christianity” commonly accepts the immortal soul lie without a shred of evidence and with plenty of proof to the contrary!

Gen. 2:7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This word soul in no way implies immortal life. The word is nephesh in Hebrew and is translated “a breathing animal.” It is used throughout the Old Testament to describe creatures such as cattle, fowl, whales — and man. Ecclesiastes 3:19 shows that man dies just as the animals do.

The soul is physical, composed of matter and it can die. We see this point emphasized throughout the Bible. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Our temporary physical existences are also compared to withering grass that is blown away by a gust of wind (I Pet. 1:24; Ps. 103:13-16).

The Bible shows that all who die — which is everyone –, will eventually be resurrected. The question is not if a person will be resurrected, but when.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order” (I Cor. 15:22-23).

Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected. He is the “firstborn among many brethren,” (Rom. 8:29) and has made the resurrection of everyone who ever lived possible. A careful study of God’s word reveals that there are three resurrections yet to come.

What follows is a brief overview of the biblical teachings concerning the resurrections.

The First Resurrection

The first resurrection is reserved specially for a) the dead in Christ and b) those that are Christ’s at His coming. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17). These are those that belong to Jesus Christ; those who have repented and received the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). These people will live forever and reign with Christ throughout the Millennium, as shown in Revelation 20:5-6.

The Second Resurrection

Revelation 20:5 shows when the next resurrection will take place: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” As we can see, at the end of the 1000 years, two things will happen. Firstly, Satan, who will have been imprisoned throughout the Millennium, (v.3) will be released from his prison and, secondly, everyone else who has ever died will be resurrected. Most of humanity will be brought back to life in this resurrection, as described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. They will then finally have God’s truth revealed to them and be given their chance to become a part of God’s Kingdom. This period of time is called the Great White Throne Judgment.

Only one passage reveals the duration of the Great White Throne Judgment: Isaiah 65:17-25. In verse 20, we read, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” From this point on, no more infants will be born. There will then be two classes of people: “the child” and “the sinner.”

“The child,” in this instance, refers to a person who is righteous. We are to enter the Kingdom of God as a little child (Luke 18:17). Why, then, does the prophet Isaiah say that the child will die?

Because it is given to all men to die once. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). The temporal, physical existence of the righteous will end. Those that fall into the category of “the child” will become the spirit-born sons of God, just as those that were Christ’s at His coming did in the First Resurrection. They also will be “changed in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51-52).

The Third Resurrection

The Third Resurrection is a resurrection to the second death. The prophet Daniel spoke of this resurrection: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus Christ calls it the resurrection of “condemnation” (John 5:29).

Everyone will be given the opportunity to repent and become a part of God’s family, but not everyone will accept it. Those that are not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, ending their existence forever (Rev. 14:10). Malachi 4:3 adds that in the end the ashes of the wicked will be under the feet of the righteous. The incorrigibly wicked will have died the second death, from which there will never be a resurrection (Rev. 20:14-15). This is a merciful act on the part of their Creator. These people would be miserable eternally if they had immortal life, so God mercifully end their lives, leaving only the “smoke of their torment” to ascend forever (Rev.14:11).

Incredible Human Potential

When the resurrections have finally taken place, those left alive will have an immortal soul — one composed of God’s Holy Spirit rather than dust. The resurrections are, in fact, the fulfillment of our incredible human potential. In his book, The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote about that awesome future:

“When born of God, we shall be Spirit, no longer human flesh and blood. We shall be given power! As Daniel revealed, the saints then shall take the kingdoms of earth’s nations and rule them for the first thousand years — establishing world peace and Divine government under Christ.

“And after that? The passage in Hebrews 2 shows that then, again under Christ, we shall be given power to rule over the entire vast universe — literally all things. For that is the power that has been given to Christ and will be ours as joint inheritors with Him!

“Yes, there is a life after death for those obedient to God — a Spirit life of incredible potential beyond our wildest dreams! Can we humans grasp the awesome portent of these astounding truths? Attaining immortal life should be our all-encompassing goal. For that is the gift and desire of our merciful Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”

What a glorious vision of the future!

August 4, 2009

Does God Condemn Christians For Blood Transfusions?

Nowhere in the Bible does it give any condemnation for having a blood transfusion. Some religious groups have misinterpreted God’s command against eating blood (Lev. 3:17) and have mistakenly extended it to receiving blood by transfusions. Ingesting blood and receiving it into the circulatory system are not the same thing.

Christians do at times go to the medical profession for various surgeries, vaccines, medical drugs, chemical or radiation therapies, etc. But God made a means whereby those having faith, and who wish to be obedient to God, do not have to rely on any procedure of man, but rely instead on God’s promise and benefit of healing (Psalm 103:1-3).

The Bible teaches that God is our Healer (Exodus 15:26). We can rely on the stripes of Jesus Christ for healing (I Peter 2:24) because disease is the result of broken laws and only God can forgive the transgression of law and therefore heal.

Nevertheless, we need to live within the laws of health to avoid illness. The seven laws of health are: 1)fasting and correct food, 2) cleanliness and appropriate dress, 3) sunshine and fresh air, 4) proper exercise, 5) the right amount of sleep and rest, 6) avoiding bodily injury, and 7) maintaining a tranquil mind.

When we do not live by these laws of health and thereby get sick, we must call upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (remembered annually at the Passover) to heal us in faith (James 5:14-15).

Relying on God and His promise for healing is an important means that God gives His people for spiritual growth by requiring the exercise and growth of obedience and faith. This is the development of holy righteous character needed to enter into the Kingdom of God.

We hope this letter will encourage you to grow in faith and obedience to God. Whenever we may assist you further in the study of God’s Word or in points of Christian living, we hope you will let us know.

July 31, 2009

Did Jesus Hide The Truth About Salvation To The World?

When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world.

Contrary to what many have been taught, neither did Christ come to earth to call everyone to salvation. Rather, he came to deliver His Father’s message – the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That message included salvation through Christ. But Jesus did not try to get everyone to believe this wonderful message.

Notice the New Testament proof: Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables to hide the meaning of what He was saying, so the public would not understand.

“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matt. 13:10-15, Mark 4:11-12).

Christ was plainly speaking ONLY to His disciples, not to everyone else. This point is made clear. In case there is any confusion though, the scripture says Christ spoke to the general public ONLY in parables (Matt. 13:34). It was NOT to clarify, but to confuse the issue to the masses. Why? Because it was not the time for most to be forgiven their sins and converted.

And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? (Mark 4:10-13).

Even His disciples had problems with some of the parables and needed explaining. Those “without” means those not called at the present time – the masses. Christ preached the Father’s gospel to the masses as a witness. But He worked with only a few purposely called and chosen disciples, or students. They were the ones Whom He really wanted to understand the truth about salvation and His coming government on earth.

In fact, Jesus often tried to avoid the crowds that followed Him daily (Matt. 5:1, 8:18, 13:36, Mark 3:13, John 5:13, 7:10). he often told those whom He had healed not to tell anyone who healed them (Matt. 8:4, 9:30, 12:16, Mark 5:35, 36, 41-43, 7:35-36.  He did not want everyone to know who He really was (Matt. 16:20, Mark 3:1-12).

This is a point most of mainstream Christianity does not understand. For most of His ministry, Jesus actually avoided publicity. It was not God’s will for everyone to understand who Jesus was. Spiritual understanding will not be granted to the world until Christ removes Satan from earth’s throne.

It may freely be accentuated that Jesus Christ was successful in avoiding publicity, as after 3 1/2 years of preaching, and after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, only 120 disciples remained with Him (Acts 1:2-4, 15). The New Testament Church of God was started with these few disciples who would be trained so that they could teach and train others. Christ at first needed only a few teachers, so God called only a few at that time.

Remember, one can only come to Christ if God the Father purposely selects and calls him (John 6:44, 65). Now I know that some will ask, “What about one who really wants salvation – wants to believe in Christ – is willing to truly repent and come out of this world and be led by God’s spirit in a true commandment keeping Christian life? Do you mean this individual cannot come to Christ unless God calls him?”

Answer: That’s exactly what the scriptures say. Such a person is being called by God, otherwise he or she would have no such desire. However, most who think they are in that category have followed a false gospel, a false teaching and are deceived. They have a false idea of what salvation is, a false concept of repentance and a false idea of what God’s way is.

God foretold that He would indeed only call a few into His Church, and that His Church would continue to be small, and even persecuted (Luke 12:32, Matt. 10:16-17, 7:13-14, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12).

So it is that from Christ’s human ministry until His return to earth, God has called only a small minority of people. God’s Church through the centuries has continued to be small – an “embryo” of God’s  new civilization yet to come. That Church, as we learned, is in training to rule and teach the world with and under Christ in the World Tomorrow.

July 23, 2009

Simon Magus: The Real "Peter" Of False Christianity!

Simon was the Samaritan sorcerer who professed conversion to Christianity and sought to buy an apostleship. The Bible records this historic event in Acts 8:9-24.

In spite of Peter’s stinging rebuke (verses 20-23), Simon presented himself as an apostle. He invented a new religion by blending his own version of the doctrine of grace with elements of the old Babylonian mysteries and attaching Christ’s name to it. This false religion swept the world and became the visible “Christian” church — incredible as that may seem.

There are veiled references to Simon’s false Christianity in the New Testament. Jude 4, for example, is rather pointed against Simon’s principal doctrine — the heresy that one does not have to obey God’s laws after conversion. John, the apostle who completed the Bible, placed great emphasis on Christians keeping God’s commandments (I John 2:3-6).

Persecution against God’s Church

Much of the early persecution against God’s true Church came as a result of Simon Magus. Acts 8 is the earliest record of the true Church/false church conflict that was to rage through the centuries. Let’s first get an overview of this chapter.

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

The chapter opens with the final comments related to the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8:1 shows that Saul (or Paul) consented to Stephen’s death. Verses 3 and 4 show that Paul led the Jewish persecution against the Church, personally imprisoning many men and women. Rather than stop the preaching of the Gospel, this action advanced it to other localities (verse 4).

Now verse 5 begins Simon Magus’ history. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

Luke gives us an incredible amount of detail concerning Philip’s activities in Samaria. He performed many miracles there, causing much joy among the people because they were heavily oppressed with demons (verse7).

“But there was a certain man, called Simon which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God” (Acts 8:9-10).

Verses 8 and 9 reflect an extraordinary encounter with a man professing conversion to Christianity. Luke gives more detail about this man than he does concerning some of the other ten apostles not mentioned in the book of Acts. Why?

That man was one of the greatest religious figures in Samaria at that time. He is know in secular history as Simon Magus. The surname “ magus” reveals that he was a member of the priestly caste of ancient Persia, or in other words, a pagan priest. (See any encyclopedia or dictionary ).

Simon Magus Exposed

So Simon was nothing more than a priest of the Babylonian mystery religion, who used used sorcery and magic to bewitch the people of Samaria. He actually believed he was “some great one,” because the whole population of Samaria believed him and worshipped him as the “great power of God.” He had been doing this for so long, they believed that he was God in the flesh. “And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries” (Acts 8:11).

But Philip’s preaching also had great impact on the people of Samaria. Many believed and were baptized by him. Even Simon was impressed: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13).

So great was Philip’s success in Samaria, that news soon reached Jerusalem. “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy [Spirit]: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 8:14-17). The news from Samaria was so exciting that the chief apostle, Peter, went to observe the events. He also took the apostle John with him.

Peter’s Prophecy

When Peter and John arrived in Samaria, they had to complete the work that Philip started. Even though most of Samaria believed Philip and were baptized, the Holy Spirit had not been given to any of them (v. 16). Peter and John prayed for God to give the Samaritans the Holy Spirit.

Simon, ever watchful, noticed this powerful demonstration of the giving of the Holy Spirit. Although he had been a highly respected magus, Simon continued to be impressed by the remarkable powers of the apostles and their ability to heal and to manifest miracles. When he saw Peter and John baptizing people by the laying on of hands, he asked that he might be taught the power of transferring the Holy Spirit to others. Eagerly, Simon offered to pay the apostles a fee to teach him how to manifest the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:9–24).

However Peter severely rebuked him for trying to buy his way into God’s Church. “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:21-23).

Peter recognized that Simon’s heart was not right with God and that he had plainly revealed his true intentions. It is evident he was never converted because he tried to buy access to God’s Spirit and the office of an apostle because he was obsessed with the idea of power.

Looking at verse 23 a little closer, we see that Peter revealed what this man would do in the future to God’s Church.

“For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” Lange’s Commentary says of verse 23, “Peter’s words, literally mean: ‘I regard you as a man whose influence will be like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness], or as a man who has reached such a state’” (vol. 9, p. 148).

Peter not only understood the twisted thinking of this man’s mind, he knew that Simon was to become a great adversary of God’s true Church. Simon did not repent of his grave sin.

“Then answered Simon and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me” (Acts 8:24). He only asked Peter to intercede for him, for forgiveness. But he never actually repented and “after this incident, appears no more in the book of Acts. Later literature shows him reappearing in Rome in the time of Claudius in a new movement of his own, curiously combining Christian and pagan elements, and in which he figures as a god” (p. 927, New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language).

The book of Acts was written about around a.d. 62, and Luke took great pains to record much about Simon Magus for us, because of the man’s fame and danger and the damage he had done to the true Church of God. Even the letters of Paul reflected much of this trouble. Luke showed that Simon Magus was not part of the Christian Church, and recorded the prophecy that Simon Magus was to become the founder of Mystery, Babylon the Great—the great false church of Revelation 17. Simon formed a unique league with the government in Rome, which proved to be very deadly for many of God’s true people throughout history.

Interestingly, the term “simony” to describe the ecclesiastical crime of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church has come down through the ages.

“The intertwining of temporal with spiritual authority in the Middle Ages caused endless problems with accusations of simony. Secular rulers wanted to employ the educated and centrally organized clergy in their administrations and often treated their spiritual positions as adjuncts to the secular administrative roles. Canon Law also outlawed as simony some acts that did not involve the sale of offices, but the sale of spiritual authority: the sale of tithes, the taking of a fee for confession, absolution, marriage or burial, and the concealment of one in mortal sin or the reconcilement of an impenitent for the sake of gain. Just what was or was not simony was strenuously litigated: as one commentator notes, the widespread practice of simony is best evidenced by the number of reported ecclesiastical decisions as to what is or is not simony.” (Wikipedia)

Simony was a serious moral problem of the Roman Catholic Church, the very same church whose “Peter” is the Simon Magus of biblical history.

Additional information about Simon Magus can be found in these reference works:

  • The eleventh edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica”
  • Schaff’s “History of the Church”
  • Hastings’ “Dictionary of the Apostolic Church”
  • Hastings’ “Dictionary of the Bible”
  • “Dictionary of Christian Biography”
  • The “Encyclopaedia Biblica.”

July 14, 2009

Where Is God When We Suffer?

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If God truly loves His spirit-begotten children, why does He sometimes permit suffering and pain? Perhaps we have failed to understand just HOW God expresses His divine love.

IF GOD is wiser than we, His judgment must differ from our own on many things. What seems right to us may be wrong to God and vice versa. We are told by Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the manner in which God expresses His love is not always what we might expect.

A Grandfather — Or a Father?

Humanly speaking, we tend to wish for a God who is a kindly grandfather type, rather than a father. We would like to believe that God is more of a “senile benevolence,” as C.S. Lewis expressed it, who is concerned only that we all have a “good time” here below. We would like God to express His love for us by merely extending kindness (by which we really mean indulgence) as opposed to outgoing concern and involvement. Carnal man would like God to keep him out of painful situations and to bless him with “goodies” and spiritual bon-bons. Human inclination tends to resist too much direct involvement on the part of God.

A plaque in a gift shop reads, “God is not dead — He just doesn’t want to get involved.” This is a shallow slogan reflecting a tragic misunderstanding of God’s nature — typical of most of humanity. Yet when we look around at the world, how much of God’s direct involvement do we actually recognize?

We do see endless suffering and pain. We see injustice of every type. But where is God in all of this?

Who Has Rejected Whom?

The problem, of course, is not that God does not want to “get involved.” Rather, it is that man does not want God to be involved unless it is on man’s terms.

Historically, when God thundered to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai, the people shrank back in fear. This was no kindly, senile grandfather! Rather, the powerful rock-shattering voice of the living God penetrated to the depth of their consciousness! Here was power! Too much power for puny men to cope with. “Let the man Moses speak on behalf of God,” the people pleaded. They wanted to deal with someone who was vulnerable — flesh and blood like themselves. God’s direct involvement was too much for them to handle.

Later, when the children of Israel asked the Prophet Samuel to arrange for them to have a human king like all the surrounding Gentile nations, God clearly framed the real problem. He said: “… they have not rejected thee [Samuel], but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7).

And humanity has been rejecting God ever since. It is man who does not want to get involved with his Creator! Isaiah was inspired to write: “And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee …” (Isa. 64:7).

God’s Love

To extend His love toward His creation, it was necessary for God to make the first move. We are told by the Apostle John that Christ said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …” (John 6:44).

It just isn’t in us to automatically love our Creator. God must first express His love toward us before we are able to reciprocate. We are told in Scripture that “God is love” (I John 4:8). He personifies it. He is the ultimate source of all love.

John further states, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us…” (I John 4:10). Man does not by nature love God. In fact, we are instructed that the natural human mind is animosity and enmity toward God! (Rom. 8:7.) How then does a human being ever come to love God? John answers: “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

But how is the love of God expressed? And how may it be reconciled with the suffering and pain we sometimes are allowed to endure?

God, in His revealed Word, makes several analogies which help throw light on this problem.

The Artist and His Creation

Perhaps the least profound example which may be used to illustrate God’s love for his human creation is the love of the artist for the artifact.

Jeremiah used an illustration from the arts in chapter 18, verse 6 — “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Have you ever seen a landscape or portrait artist lovingly labor over a painting? He plans it, draws it in with loving care, and applies the pigment with careful diligence. Each stroke is significant. All the elements are painstakingly weighed against each other. Color, value, hue, light and shade, intensity and chroma are all evaluated and considered. The artist exults in the rendering and rejoices if the result is what he set out to achieve.

A sculptor may set out to sculpt a magnificent marble piece. He goes to great lengths to select the material with which to work. He may oversee the quarrying of a fine marble monolith. He examines it closely for quality and purity. He makes sure it is carefully protected as it is shipped to his studio. There he begins work by careful planning and measuring. Each stroke of the hammer is cautiously yet authoritatively executed as the chisel does its creative work. Soon the piece begins to emerge. The more it looks like what the sculptor envisioned, the more he delights in his work.

God is a great Artist who is lovingly involved in a great work of art. He is the Master Architect and Builder who is producing a great spiritual house. Peter used this analogy in I Peter 2:5. “Ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house … acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Paul also used this analogy: “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we [Christians] …” (Heb. 3:6).

God is also a Master Potter who will not be satisfied with the clay until it has achieved a certain character. Of course, any artist or artisan has to manipulate the materials with which he works. He does so with care and devotion. He pays attention to detail. He plans, he tests, he probes. He works with the end product in mind. So it is with the great Artist of the universe. He lovingly works with man and his environment to produce a glorious product that will give both Himself and the product immense satisfaction upon its completion. Great art glorifies the artist who produced it!

God intends that His children be brought to glory — a condition of spiritual perfection and maturity. This in turn will glorify the Creator Himself. And all of this expresses God’s great love for His human creation.

The Shepherd and the Sheep

A second analogy of God and His people is that of the shepherd and the sheep. Asaph spoke of humanity as “… thy people and sheep of thy pasture …” (Ps. 79:13). This type is used throughout the Bible. Jesus is spoken of as the “good Shepherd.”

This analogy is somewhat more sophisticated than the previous one. The relationship of a shepherd to his sheep — a man to his beast — illustrates some rather important points. Man is responsive and intelligent, yet decidedly inferior to God, as is the sheep to the shepherd. Yet even a human shepherd, far above the intellectual plane of his sheep, is deeply concerned with their welfare. He will fight off bears, wolves and other carnivores who attempt to rob him of his sheep. He will comfort them when they are frightened. He sees that they have adequate pasture and water. The good shepherd goes to great lengths to see that his sheep are well taken care of.

Think of a man and his dog. Why does a man train his dog? Primarily that he may love it, not that it may love him! But in addition, his training also makes the animal better able to serve him, not that he may serve it.

Man does not extend himself to the same degree to train a roach or a rat. The man takes pains with a dog — or a horse — because they are high on the intelligence scale of irrational creatures. A rat or a roach would hardly be worthy of such time and concern. A dog is more naturally lovable. And the man works at making it fully lovable — at least as much as is fitting between a human being and a brute beast.

No ridiculous anthropomorphic analogy should be made of this, of course. This is a limited analogy. But nevertheless God does make it. And we may learn from it.

God takes such pains to express His love to man because man alone is worthy of such concern. He is the apex of God’s creation. God is naturally able to love man quite readily — and yet He strives to make man fully lovable!

Now ask yourself this question. Could a dog who was being house trained or corrected for some social indiscretion possibly conclude that its master was “good”? (I speak facetiously of course, since a dog is incapable of such rationality). Even so we sometimes fail to see the goodness of our Master, His purpose and methods.

Husband /Wife

We may now proceed up the metaphorical ladder. God further explains His love to man by the analogy of the marriage relationship. This very expressive analogy is frequently used in the Bible to depict yet another aspect of God’s divine love for humanity.

Physical Israel was depicted as an abandoned baby girl left to the mercy of the elements. God found her, cleaned her up, reared her and espoused her (Ezek. 16). But when she reached the full flower of her beauty she betrayed her divine husband.  This was spiritual adultery.

The same kind of spiritual marriage relationship is also used to illustrate Christ’s relationship to spiritual Israel — the Church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify” — set apart or separate — “and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

Now think about this. When a man enters into a love relationship with a woman, does he cease to care about her beauty, her appearance and cleanliness? Of course he doesn’t! He becomes more acutely concerned with such things. Love is more sensitive than hatred to every blemish, every line or wrinkle in one’s beloved. Hatred is disinterested, but love is extremely interested and highly involved. Love pays attention, but hatred ignores.

God, too, is highly concerned with every spiritual wrinkle or blemish a member of His Church may have. His concern and love may be expressed in a way that we do not recognize as love, however.

When God purges us of spiritual blemishes by whatever means He may choose to use, we all too often interpret His correction as undeserved suffering. Did Job take it kindly when God showed His love to him by allowing him to suffer so intensely? Not at all. Job writhed in self-pity. He claimed undeserved suffering. He argued with God and even accused Him! But finally he saw what God was doing and his reciprocal love to God grew even greater and deeper. His latter end was greater than the beginning.

Christ is a loving, concerned husband. He wants a wife who is spiritually healthy, morally clean and deeply affectionate toward Him. He will have such a wife by CLEANSING her in advance of His marriage (Rev. 19). While this cleansing may be painful — much like “grandma’s lye soap” — now, it will be much appreciated later when Jesus comes in His Kingdom!

The Father/Son Analogy

Perhaps the greatest and most profound analogy used by God to illustrate His great love for mankind is the father/son analogy. This reflects the very relationship between God and Christ.

When this analogy was originally made and recorded as scripture, paternal authority stood on a much higher plane than it does today. Today the image of paternal authority is somewhat tarnished. But in biblical times it meant much more.

In this analogy — love between father and son — paternal love is essentially authoritative and the son’s love is that of obedience.

A son is a reflection of the father. Naturally the father wishes that reflection to be favorable. He wishes the son to be honorable — to glorify rather than besmirch the family name. The father uses his authority (if done correctly) to make the son into what the father in his superior wisdom realizes he should be.

God chastens and corrects His children in like manner, to strengthen their quality of character. This chastening is an expression of divine love. If God neglected to do this we could not consider ourselves His children.

My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Prov. 3:11-12).

Discipline is grievous to him who forsakes the way, he who hates reproof shall die (Prov. 15:10).

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8).

Of course we do not rejoice in correction at the time we are receiving it! It is not until later that we realize the good fruit of it. Then we are able to appreciate the love which was extended our way when the punishment was meted out (Heb. 12:11).

Why We Were Created

Was man created so that he could love God? Quite the contrary!

Man was primarily created so that God could take pleasure in and express love toward him. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

God does not exist for the sake of man. Nor does man exist exclusively for his own sake. He exists as an object of God’s outgoing love!

As a great Master Artisan or Craftsman, God takes pains to ensure that His product is of the finest possible quality and beauty. God expresses His love to His sheep by protecting, feeding and caring for them as a concerned shepherd. As a loving husband strives to enhance his wife’s beauty and comeliness, so God purges the Church of blemishes and moral uncleanness. And as a kind, concerned, yet firmly authoritative Father, God chastens and corrects His spiritual children.

All of these biblical analogies can aid us in comprehending the love of God for His human creation. But none of them is truly adequate to convey a really profound understanding of God’s love.

Humanly we are limited. We see as if through a darkened glass. The whole of God’s tremendous love is much greater than we can understand. But we can indeed be grateful God is not limited, and that neither is His boundless love and concern for His human creation — especially His spiritually begotten children.

Source: The Good News, 1973

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