Where is the Temple? Part III

Tags

,

Where Is The Temple? (Part III … A New & Better Way)

As a rule, most people respond favorably to challenges in their life; as long as they are able to unscramble, manage, and otherwise adjust to whatever consequences or variations the challenges might bring. Whether adapting one’s lifestyle to include a new spouse, managing a sudden decrease in income, or just handling an unannounced visit from relatives, life is full of tests and tasks… of changes and conflicts.

The intriguing question posed in this article and the past two Eye of Prophecy articles relating to the fate of the Jewish Temples is designed as a challenge to explain what happened to them and why. To stimulate reflection about the repercussions of such a devastating time of Jewish history. To investigate the staggering impact on the entire Jewish faith WHEN Solomon’s Temple, then (hundreds of years later) Herod’s Temple, was destroyed. But also Gentile participation in this history pertaining mostly to religious systems that, to varying degrees, were patterned after and around the Mosaic Laws.

To once again come to terms with the rolling Premise of these articles: No Temple, no sacrificial offerings. No sacrifices, no atonement forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness, no redemption. No redemption, no right standing with God.

(1) Solomon’s Temple: God removed his very presence from this magnificent Temple; therefore, from among his people. Some six years before King Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and tore down the Temple, Ezekiel witnessed God’s glory depart from the Temple. “Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the door of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them” (Ezekiel 10:18-19). A short time later, “Then the glory of the Lord went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east” (Ezekiel 11:23).

The mountain to the east of Jerusalem is none other than the Mount of Olives. Amazingly—beyond mere coincidence—this is exactly where Messiah will step foot upon his spectacular (return) appearance to rescue Israel from annihilation during the Great Tribulation (Zachariah 14:4). Prophetically, Messiah will enter Jerusalem by the same Eastern Gate, currently sealed and impassable, through which God withdrew his presence. Thus, the Glory of the Lord that temporarily returned to the 2nd Temple in the form of Messiah Jesus will reappear permanently to Israel and the whole world.

(2) Herod’s (the 2nd) Temple: When this temple was razed to the ground by the Roman Legions, the Mosaic Covenant Sacrificial System ceased to function as the ongoing source of redemption.

1Temple

Depiction of Temple Worship & Offerings (Can you guess which Temple?)

The loss of God’s glorious presence among his people followed by removal of sacrificial shedding of blood for atonement of sin dealt devastating blows to the heart of Judaism and the soul of the Jewish people. By and large, they have never recovered from this dual discipline; administered as a result of their continuous disobedience to God and denial of their Messiah sent by God to reconcile and restore them back to God. But one day (soon) all that will change!

They will recover and rejoice, because all of Israel will be saved … individually and nationally, physically and spiritually.

Speaking to the Gentile believers in Rome, the Apostle Paul cautioned them optimistically: “I want you to understand this mystery … so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, ‘The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27, italics for emphasis).

Please remember … Paul was a Jew, who’s zealous die-hard ambition to defend the Judaic Law of Moses had consumed him. That is until Messiah Jesus supernaturally appeared to Paul (Saul), and challenged him to explain why he was persecuting the Christians, which was a direct attack on Messiah Yeshua, himself. Paul’s heart, life, and destiny miraculously changed. Then, Jesus consumed and compelled him. As is sometimes said: The rest is history.

Concerning the Jewish Temples, the historical evidence is undeniable: Since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, God’s Shekinah glory (his majestic presence) had been glaringly absent from the Temple. Then, the essence and substance of God’s forgiveness through the Atonement Sacrifices abruptly ceased with the loss of the 2nd Temple. According to the Law of Moses—which to varying degrees is still practiced or at least recognized by millions of Jews the world over—without the God-ordained place and procedure for shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin … no acquittal for the penalty for sin.

Where, then, is the Temple?

dstruct

Depicts Destruction of Herod’s Temple

Is There a Replacement Remedy for the Absence of a Temple?

God, in his supernatural sovereignty, would see to it that destructive removal of both Temples would be replaced with something and someone even better. Indeed, that was God’s plan from the very beginning—to provide a Messiah Savior who would restore the glory and presence of God because he, himself, is God. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

As the King of all kings, he would reestablish King David’s dynasty. “His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity….” (Isaiah 9:7).

And, as we shall soon see, he would assume the High Priestly Order of Melchizedek by offering himself as the final, perfect sacrifice for all mankind. Thus, the lamentable loss of both Temples was—like an intricate tapestry—providentially woven into God’s stunningly brilliant plan for his chosen people AND for Gentiles, who were not originally God’s people, but would become his people; Jew and Gentile … one new creation, one new man. A new universal Temple built by God himself, in the hearts of men, women, and children from nations the world over.

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

In this passage, God’s holy people are the Jews … with the word holy meaning set apart for a special purpose. We are his house (dwelling place) means both Jew and Gentile (We). And this new dwelling place is built equally on the foundation of the (Old Testament) prophets and (New Testament) apostles. Moreover, Messiah Jesus is the CORNERSTONE of this incredible building. This sensational spiritual structure has become a (the new) holy temple for the Lord. Both Jew and Gentile are part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

In times past, only the Jewish High Priest could approach God once a year in the Temple’s Inner Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. A Gentile could never enter the Temple itself; only in the Court of the Gentiles. But with the New Covenant God graciously changed all that: “Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other (between Jew and Gentile) was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us” (Ephesians 2:16-18).

This is all possible because the Old Covenant configuration of sacrificial atonement that took place in the earthly temple was completed, perfected, and replaced by the New Covenant’s heavenly standard whose Temple and ultimate sacrifice is Messiah himself.

The Perfect High Priest, After the Order of Melchizedek

We find only a brief record of Melchizedek in the book of Genesis, but a detailed account of this mysterious man in the New Testament. The book of Hebrews daringly, but logically explains how Jesus ultimately fulfilled the priestly order of the first High Priest, which was Melchizedek, not Aaron. How and why Yeshua was qualified to become and remain the Eternal High Priest.

It’s also vital to understand that Hebrews was written by a Jew (as were nearly all of the New Testament books) who fully understood and accepted the fact that, “…We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands” (Hebrews 8:1-2).

The Jewish writer of Hebrews unveils the mystery of this extraordinary Priest/King: “Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. Now the Law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel, who are also descendants of Abraham. But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed” (Hebrews 7:4-7).

The author of Hebrews then contends, “…Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on “(Verse 8, italics for emphasis). From all the Scriptural evidence about Melchizedek, but especially this verse, many Bible scholars and commentators (including me) firmly believe that Melchizedek was not only the ultimate prototype of a High Priest and King, but that he was actually the pre-Incarnate Messiah (Jesus), who made several appearances before his actual birth in Bethlehem.

Listen closely as the writer of Hebrews contests the enduring effectiveness of the Levitical system by clarifying the contrast between the Aaronic priesthood and the Priestly Order of Melchizedek: “So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law is based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11).

Then the author presents a conclusive challenge that justifies a New Covenant and a different, superior Mediator of that Covenant: “And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests. What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe. This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared. Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied, ‘You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 7:12-17). Psalms 110:4 is quoted here.

Next, “The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever” (Hebrews 7:28).

The author of Hebrews then explains the responsibilities of a high priest and The High Priest; why the functions of the earthly priests were meant only to be a shadowy prelude to the real (ideal) model. “And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning, ‘Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:3-5).

Thus, it’s profoundly clear that the original Tabernacle, then the Temples were types or shadows patterned after the perfect Temple in heaven. A Temple not built by human hands; rather the Temple of God, himself, contained in the very body of Yeshua … the Incarnate Messiah. “But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

In the following passage, we once again see the incomparable excellence of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant, the new Temple over the Old Temple, and the new Sacrifice over the old sacrifices.

“That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:23-26).

AMAZING! Permanent removal of sin, not just perpetual partial covering of sin. No need for continued animal offerings, nor an earthly temple in which to perform those sacrifices.

So, you see: God made something ultimately good and lasting out of the two greatest tragedies that ever befell the Jewish people … the horrific, humiliating destruction of the Temples. But that was his plan all along.

Why a New Covenant … A New Temple?

Because the Lord knew that his people (all people) never could and/or never would keep the first covenant at all times in all points. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious and holy standards and requirements (Romans 3:23).

The Lord fully understands the natural bent of mankind: That of trying to earn God’s favor, trying to merit salvation and eternal life by performance, by innate worth, by good works; instead of simply agreeing with God and accepting his grace … the wonderful, matchless gift of God’s own Son as a substitutionary sacrificial payment for all the wrong things we have done.

Thus, God gave the Law for two reasons: (1) as dependable as the conscience of man can sometimes be, it is not constantly adequate or endlessly reliable to unerringly distinguish right from wrong. Hence, it was necessary to establish universally objective moral and spiritual laws (summarized in the Ten Commandments) so that no one would excuse immoral behavior by saying they didn’t know it was (for example) wrong to steal. (2) To give men and women every chance possible to earn their salvation by obeying these laws perfectly. But because no one has ever kept the Law in every point, the Law ended up sentencing us to everlasting death.

How sadly ironic: the only thing earned is physical and then spiritual death (separation from God forever). “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23a).

As asked and answered by Paul, “Why, then was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised….” (Galatians 3:19) Paul goes on to identify this ultimate child of promise as Messiah Jesus.

Listen again to the words of Hebrews: “If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said (Then the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34): ‘The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people … And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” (Hebrews 8:7-10, 12).

A New and Better Way

What about this New Covenant, which was announced by the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah just a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple? Has the New Covenant arrived? If so, when? How? By whom?

Listen to these penetrating words spoken by Jesus to the Jewish Pharisees: “And haven’t you read in the Law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Matthew 12:5-8, Jesus quoted from Micah Chapter 6).

Astounding! Jesus refuted the unfounded allegations of the Pharisees that the disciples were breaking the Sabbath by eating some heads of grain still on the stalk … through the Pharisees legalistic interpretation that the disciples were harvesting the grain. With divine authorized authority, Jesus declared that he was greater than the Jewish Sabbath, greater than the Temple, greater than the Law of Moses. Jesus IS the Sabbath. Jesus IS the Temple. Jesus IS the Living Word of God (John 1:1).

There’s more: In answer to an argumentative question from the Jewish religious leaders as to who gave him the authority to drive out the money changers from the Temple, Jesus replied, “…Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of his body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19-22, NASB).

Remember the startling statement by Jesus at the last Passover supper with his disciples. He announced that the New Covenant was about to begin.

“After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you’” (Luke 22.20).

Here, I would like to quote an excerpt from my book, Out of the Abyss (pages 66-67).

Jesus proclaimed this unparalleled new covenant from Jerusalem, the God-ordained location of annual Passovers. In no uncertain terms, Christ explicitly announced that he himself would be the blood sacrifice required by God to start, satisfy, and seal the very covenant predicted by Jeremiah … The Son of Man who spoke these words would soon be nailed to a cross as the ultimate sacrificial Passover Lamb, exclusively selected and sent by God to redeem Israel and the whole world.

While he hung on the cross, the very Temple curtain that separated the sacrificial inner sanctuary (Holy of Holies) from the rest of the Temple was inexplicably ripped apart. Three days later Jesus arose from the dead to forever ratify the total efficacy of so great a sacrifice and so great a salvation that he purchased with his life’s blood. Those who have accepted his sacrifice and redemption can freely enter the very presence of God at any time from any place in the world. For not only is the Temple curtain gone, so is the Temple itself. Until the return of Messiah, the Temple of God is now the body of Christ. God the Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every believer. Those in Christ are the body and Temple of the living Triune God.

We love you Lord, because you first loved us! Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!

Some thirty years later, the Apostle Paul would write his last two epistles to Timothy. In keeping with the main purpose of Paul’s writings—to encapsulate the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus into the eternal tenets of the Christian faith—he states: “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

Hence, we have the incomparable, immeasurable, and irreplaceable New Covenant of Grace. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:7).

Christ became the Temple of the Living God. We, who have placed our trust in his awesome once-for-all atoning sacrifice, need not search for a temple built by human hands. For we are part of a better Temple. Listen to this affirmation from the Apostle Peter:

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (I Peter 2:4-5).

Equally remarkable are Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:16-17).

800px-Temple_Mount_(Aerial_view,_2007)_02

Temple Mount Today, But No Jewish Temple

Summary

Where is the Temple? The question must be answered because to dismiss it, to ignore it, to pretend that it doesn’t matter is to maintain that a person’s self-enabling obedience to God’s laws, meriting God’s favor through good works or charitable activities as the means of salvation, and earning a destiny in heaven can be achieved WITHOUT the parallel and equally significant mandated remedy for atonement of sin through the sacrificial offerings required by Almighty God. You simply can’t have one without the other.

So, does the question even have an answer? The answer to that question depends upon whether anyone earnestly and honestly searching for the truth will agree that a New Covenant is necessary and is in place. For, without the sacrificial offerings, the Law can only judge. Without a replacement to the Old Testament system of Atonement that ended with destruction of the Temple, the Law can only condemn.

However, for all who agree that Jesus is the Messiah who arrived on the scene of history as Biblically prophesied hundreds of years earlier saying Messiah would come before the (2nd) Temple would be destroyed; that he died and rose again as the ultimate perfect sacrifice for their sins; then place their complete trust in his redemptive atonement thereby entrusting their eternal destiny to his finished work on the cross, they will have positively answered the question.

The New Temple is Christ and Christ is in every person who accepts him as personal Savior.

Let’s get personal: If you prefer to stake your eternal destiny on your ability to keep the law, then you still haven’t answered the question. Indeed, there is no answer to your dilemma. Why? Because the Law of Moses demands perfect compliance—with continual sacrificial offerings as a divine solution for noncompliance, either willfully or carelessly.

Which is why, “…the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, ‘The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: You are a priest forever.’ Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God” (Hebrews 7:18-22).

Things to Ponder

God still gives us free will, the option to choose. But concerning atonement, redemption, salvation: forgiveness is available only through the shedding of blood. The Old Covenant was a temporary shadow. It is gone, along with the Temple. Will you choose the Old or the New?

Then: The Presence of God only in the Temple; withdrawn before the Temple’s destruction, because of disobedience.

Now: The Kingdom of Heaven residing and reigning in the hearts of believers in Yeshua.

Soon: The Kingdom of God resting and reigning on the earth from Jerusalem, with Yeshua, himself, living among his people.

Where is the Temple? Can you answer? Will you answer?


Answer to Photo Question: Solomon’s Temple, because God’s Shekinah glory is still present as shown near the top of the picture

Where Is The Temple? Part II

Tags

, ,

Where is the Temple? … Part II (Israel in Denial?)

Have you ever thought or said, “I feel so bad for her, she just can’t seem to accept reality.” Or, “he’s in complete denial.” Have you ever been in denial yourself? At one time or another, to varying degrees, I suppose we’ve all rejected the harsh reality of traumatic events or difficult times. We do our best (or worst) to suppress feelings that we don’t want to deal with … only to realize that the pain just won’t go away. The distressing death of a loved one, the lamenting loss of a job, a pitiful plunge into bankruptcy, or a brutal betrayal by a spouse or close friend. Things that are too agonizing to even think about.

Is it possible for an ancient race of people miraculously reborn as a modern nation to be in denial? For an entire religion to rationalize the reasons for and results of the foundational fragmentation of their faith?

That is exactly what has happened to the Jewish faith and Jewish people. Down through the centuries, even the most astute Rabbis and dedicated teachers of the Law have not been able to fully clarify why or how the God-given requirements for the sacrificial shedding of blood was so abruptly halted when the Romans ruthlessly destroyed the 2nd Temple. The most common substitutionary explanation for the loss of life-giving sacrificial atonement is that perhaps God would accept those who strive to be worthy of redemption, who faithfully recite the Sh’ma (Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One), and who commit to God’s commandments as faithfully as possible, including observance of Sabbath and Annual Festivals. In denial, however, that even the first High Priest, Aaron, had to offer sacrifices for his own sin before he could mediate between God and the people.

As detailed in last week’s article, the Law of Moses constitutes the heart and soul of Judaism. Yet, the Mosaic Law was based on two equal, co-existing foundations: (1) the laws, decrees, and regulations given by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as represented by and summarized in the Ten Commandments. (2) The Levitical Sacrificial System so absolutely vital for atonement and redemption. Had the Jews been able to keep God’s commandments, there would have been no need for the shedding of innocent animal blood as an atoning sacrifice for their sins.

Before Moses died, he predicted that his people would (soon) disobey and turn from God individually and as a nation; which is precisely what happened. Other than the Reign of King David and the early years of King Solomon, this departure from God became progressively worse until they fully exhausted God’s patience. First, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians; then the southern kingdom of Judah and the Temple were destroyed by the Babylonians.

Two Reasons for Building the Tabernacle, Then the Temple

  • A dwelling place for God’s glory, for his very presence among the Jews. First the Tabernacle: “Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). Then, the Temple: “…At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God” (II Chronicles 5:13-14).

Obviously, God did not need an earthly dwelling place built by man. His principal abode was and always will be Heaven. His presence in the Temple was for the benefit of the Jews; to demonstrate that he was able and willing to live among his people. Not unlike when God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. This is exactly what Messiah did when he came to this earth as a man; he tabernacled (dwelled) among his people. Immanuel … God with us! And will do so again at his magnificent reappearance on the Mount of Olives to rescue his people from annihilation. Then to set up the Kingdom of God on earth.

  • The prescribed place for daily, monthly, and annual sin and peace sacrifices as a redemptive offering for the sins of the individual and the nation; culminating in the Yom Kippur sacrifices (Day of Atonement) once a year. Although sacrifices were permitted in designated places throughout the Promised Land, the Tabernacle and then the Temple were the ultimate, central sites for offerings. Also, the men of Israel were required to attend three of the annual festivals in Jerusalem, all of which involved sacrificial offerings.

“Then Aaron must slaughter the first goat as a sin offering for the people and carry its blood behind the inner curtain. There he will sprinkle the goat’s blood over the atonement cover and in front it … Through this process, he will purify the Most Holy Place, and he will do the same for the entire Tabernacle, because of the defiling sin and rebellion of the Israelites” (Leviticus 16:15-16). Then in Verse 34: “This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the Lord once each year.”

To repeat the basic premise as set forth in last week’s article: No Temple, no sacrifices. No sacrifices, no forgiveness of sin. No forgiveness of sin, no redemption.

And, we can include one more principle: No redemption, no right relationship with God.

Jewish Adjustment to Loss of the Temple (Sacrifices)

Since the devastating destruction of their 2nd Temple and the disastrous Dispersion of Jews throughout the world, they have been trying to figure out a way to deal with and compensate for the required atonement offerings that were such an integral component of their faith in and relationship with the Lord God. Consequently, even more sects of Judaism have developed since the basic Biblical division between Pharisees and Sadducees.

To a large degree, today’s branches within the Jewish religion are predicated on diverse reactions and adjustments to the loss of the Temple.

In Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism, the Temple is frequently and fervently mentioned in their services and writings, including passionate preparation for the rebuilding of the third Temple.

Conservative Jews periodically talk about the Temple and its’ restoration, but pretty much exclude any reference to Temple sacrifices.

The Reform Movement of Judaism downplays the significance of the Temple and the need for any such thing as sacrificial shedding of blood.

Many liberal Jews actually resist the idea of a rebuilt Temple, citing adverse political and social repercussions with Arabs, but even among Israelis.

Likewise, the tenets of the Jewish faith expressed primarily through Halakha (the Jewish law, and the right paths to walk in that law) vary in intensity and observance based on the sect of Judaism. However, the common thread is that Mitzvah or good deeds through keeping Torah commandments revealed by God and Rabbinical interpretations and application of those instructions as found in the Talmud and Mishnah is really the only way to approach, appease, and otherwise please God. Yet, many laws pertaining to the Old Testament rules for holiness and purity are no longer practiced; because the Temple no longer exists and (therefore) neither do the Sacrificial Offerings that were irrevocably and unequivocally required by God, as the only means of cleansing and forgiveness—both ceremonially (externally) and spiritually (internally … the heart).

The 9th of Av

What happened on the 9th of Av, which is mid-July to mid-August on the Gregorian calendar? It is the exact day that Solomon’s temple was callously destroyed by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. AND, it was also the same exact day that the 2nd Temple was systematically demolished by the Romans under General Titus in 70 AD. The fact that the two worst events of Jewish history occurred on the same calendar day does not escape their contemplation and certainly not their attention.

Ironically, nearly all Jews are aware of and some 75% of Jews solemnly observe Tisha B’Av (literally the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av) in varying degrees of reflection and meditation. Thus, they are not so much in denial of the indescribable loss of the Temple itself; as they are in denial of the incredible consequence that cessation of the Temple sacrificial offerings caused in their relationship with God. There’s no getting around it: The individual and national Jewish interaction and standing with God was dramatically altered when the very presence of God left Solomon’s Temple; then the sacrificial altars and instruments were destroyed along with the entire 2nd Temple. Preceded by the mysterious, miraculous splitting in two of the Holy of Holies curtain as a Jewish Rabbi died on a cross just outside of Jerusalem.

Destruction of Jewish Temple

Destruction of the 2nd Temple

There are other catastrophic occurrences in Jewish history that took place on the 9th of Av or days very close to that date. For example, the return of the 12 Jewish spies sent by Moses to check out the Promised Land of Canaan; only for ten of the spies to adversely persuade the Israelites to disobey God and Moses by not entering the land out of fear of the enemy. In short, they simply refused to trust the same God who had already performed mighty miracles in their deliverance from slavery and escape from Pharaoh’s pursing army. God’s ensuing punishment included 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, one year for each day the spies were in Canaan.

On the 9th of Av in 1941, SS Chief, Heinrich Himmler, received approval orders for the Final Solution of the Jews, which began the worst genocide of all time … the Holocaust. Likewise, on that date in 1942, Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were deported to concentration camps.

The point is: Even Jewish Rabbis, especially rabbis, recognize God’s hand of discipline and punishment in these events. How could they not? As difficult as the concept is to grasp and accept, the fact remains that God, himself, predicted and authorized severe judgment on his people if they failed to obey his laws and keep the Sabbath or Sabbath years of resting the land, and also the sacrifice of innocent animals without true repentance of the heart.

This dire warning from God actually came first with the Mosaic Law cherished so deeply by the Jewish people. Still, hundreds of years of Jewish disobedience elapsed before God’s patience finally ran out. Please refer to the entire chapter of Leviticus 26 for a step-by-step description of the progressive phases of Israel’s discipline, culminating in being conquered by and exiled to foreign pagan nations.

These prophetic warnings were summarily repeated by God to Solomon after Solomon built the magnificent Temple. This Temple was one of the ancient wonders of the world. God said to Solomon:

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart” (II Chronicles 7:12-16).

Then God imposed legitimate and reasonable (from a human viewpoint, as God’s stipulations are always reasonable!) conditions on the continuance of Israel’s Davidic dynasty of kings and the continued existence of the Temple. Said God to Solomon:

“As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with father, David, when I said, ‘One of your descendants will always rule over Israel.’ But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshipped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them’” (II Chronicles 7:17-22).

The “One” descendant of David who (someday) will always (forever) rule and reign over Israel, indeed, the entire world, is Messiah. When he returns, he will bring the heavenly Temple with him … himself. Though temple sacrifices resumed when the 2nd Tempe was rebuilt, the Shekinah Glory of God never returned. That is, until the essence and image of God’s glory was placed in and on God’s Son, Yeshua HaMashiach—who walked, taught, prayed, and healed others in the 2nd Temple. When Jesus returns he will come in power and great glory (Luke 21:27). There will be a 3rd Temple in Jerusalem before Christ returns, but Messiah himself will be the center of attention and attraction.

Nearly all Jews, both religious and secular, long for the coming of Messiah. In fact, many Jews believe that the 3rd Temple won’t be rebuilt until Messiah appears. Orthodox Jews long for the resumption of redemptive sacrifices in the Temple, and return of the Shekinah Glory of God to the Temple. Even the Reform movement within Judaism recognizes that without a rebuilt Temple, the very essence of sacrificial atonement for sin has been compromised, if not lost entirely. Thus, they and the more liberal Jews downplay the importance of a rebuilt Temple; because to overemphasize the Temple’s significance would be to endorse the need for divine rescue from sin, which has been replaced almost exclusively with keeping the Mosaic Commandments as the only means of right standing with God.

Location of Third Temple

Preview of 3rd Temple on Temple Mount

Summary

The question must be asked and answered: If anyone’s belief system and life conduct is predicated on earning God’s favor or forgiveness by adhering to the Law of Moses (to whatever degree it is followed), then the ENTIRE Mosaic covenant must be kept. This includes animal sacrifices to cover sins and ensure an ongoing relationship with God. There’s no indication, whatsoever, in the Mosaic Law or anywhere else in Scripture that the Law itself could save even those who did their very best to keep it. Thus, God’s remedy of the shedding of innocent blood for remission of sin is the only answer to breaking God’s laws.

Yet, as we’ve seen, God, himself orchestrated the destruction of the Temples, just as he told Solomon he would do, and as he warned Israel through other prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

When the first and then the second Temple was destroyed, it’s conceivable the Jews could rightfully plead that the only recourse left to them was trying to do the best they could; hopefully God would accept good deeds over the wrong things they had done. But to fall back on that rationale is to deny the very reason that the Solomon’s Temple was destroyed: Israel’s “detestable sins” as so graphically depicted in Ezekiel Chapters 8 & 9.

Why would God drastically change the pathway of atonement and salvation that he made even before the foundation of the world, to accommodate the loss of the Temples? The fact is: He didn’t. What he did replace was the temporary, on-going covering of sin by the innocent blood of animals, with the actual removal of sin through the permanent, once-for-all greatest Sacrifice of all time: The shed blood of God’s very Son … The Perfect Sacrifice by the Perfect High Priest.

For those Jews who understood and accepted the reasons for destruction of the first Temple, the obliteration of the 2nd Temple was virtually unfathomable. Explanations such as disunity among 1st century Jewish groups, or a premature, poorly planned uprising against Rome led by disorganized zealots are frequently cited as reasons that led to the heart-rending loss of their 2nd Temple. Worse: the expulsion of Jews from Israel, scattered to the four-winds, living under suppression and oppression of Gentile nations for nearly two thousand years. With complete denial (Messianic Jews excepted) that this destruction was predicted by Jesus, himself, less than forty years before it happened. That this Great Dispersion was a resumption of God’s discipline of Israel, this time for rejection of her Messiah.

Still today, other than tens of thousands of Messianic Jews all over the world, Jesus is not recognized in Judaism as the Messiah. This, despite dozens of Old Testament prophecies that were meticulously fulfilled with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua. One of these prophecies spectacularly announces that Messiah was to arrive before the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Moreover, this amazing prophecy came from Daniel before the 2nd Temple had been built!

Read with me this phenomenal prediction: “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple” (Daniel 9:26a).

This verse and others in Daniel have been the subject of several past Eye of Prophecy articles, focusing primarily on the ruler whose armies would destroy the Temple. Here, the emphasis is on the Anointed One (Messiah) who would be killed (with obvious implication that he was alive) BEFORE the Temple was destroyed. The very birth of Jesus Christ separated time itself (BC … AD); then his death and resurrection around 32 AD, some 38 years before the Temple was utterly demolished by the Roman legions … which had been ordered specifically by the ruler (Nero) to crush the revolt in Israel.

Sadly, so many Jewish rabbis and teachers of the law have missed, dismissed, minimized, ignored, or denied these historical facts. Yet, if Messiah didn’t arrive when Daniel said he would, then the 2nd Temple wasn’t destroyed. It would still be standing. To say that the Temple is still with us would be an obvious illogical denial of what actually happened or that the Temple was even built in the first place. Which, in turn, would be a complete denial of Biblical, historical, and archeological evidence. Jewish scholars are among the best in the world. They see things that many of us don’t see. But when it comes to Jesus, they can only twist and turn the Torah to fit their ancient and modern rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

If they would only read the New Testament with an open mind, then match it and history with so many Old Covenant prophecies of Messiah. Then, as gut-wrenchingly difficult as it would be: To somehow set aside the horror of the Crusades, Inquisitions, and Holocaust—perpetrated not by true believers in Jesus; but by those who diabolically used the name of Christ or Christians to achieve their warped goal of persecuting and destroying the Jewish race or by replacing Biblical promises made exclusively to Israel with the Church.

Things to Ponder

Anyone who has read my books or Eye of Prophecy articles, will clearly see that I love and support Israel and her people. But in the vein of the Apostle Paul, this love for the Jews compels me to ask this poignant and probing question. Unless it is answered by both Jew and Gentile, the Jewish faith and trust in the Mosaic Law remains incomplete; indeed, inadequate to accomplish the ultimate goal of a redemptive relationship with God. This, of course, is also true for all peoples, but it was the Jews who were chosen by God to be a light to the Gentiles. As Jesus said to the Gentile Samaritan woman: Salvation comes through the Jews. (John 4:22).

Where is the Temple? Where is the God-ordained place of sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people and nation of Israel, for the whole world?

Would God allow the Temples to be destroyed and, thus, the very means of sacrificial redemption to be abolished, without remedy? To leave the Jews and all men and women without hope of eternal salvation?

Stay tuned for next week’s article. These questions will be answered by considering the following:

  • The sacrifices of animals was not designed to remove sin, only to cover it day-to-day and year to year.
  • The Tabernacle and later the Temple was a prototype reflection of the heavenly pattern, a temporary means to prepare the way for the real heavenly Temple.
  • There would be a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) to replace the old. A new and much better way of redemption … a once for all permanent removal of the penalty of sin.

In short, to fully realize that there was a Divine purpose, a providential sovereignty in making something good (better) out of something so devastating as the very destruction of the Temple and subsequent loss of half of the Mosaic Law … the means of atonement for sin.

The Old Covenant has been replaced by a New Covenant!

“So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

AMEN!

Where Is The Temple? Part I

Tags

,

Where is the Temple? Part I (Why This Question Must Be Answered)

Last week’s brutal killing of four Jewish Rabbis and an Israeli Druze policemen by two Arabs living in East Jerusalem generated outrage and condemnation from Israelis and from citizens and leaders of nations throughout the world. It was the subject of news reports and articles from a myriad of sources, including the Eye of Prophecy article entitled, And Justice for All. Sadly, the murders also produced celebrations by thousands of Palestinians who praised the killings and the killers.

In a general historical context, this merciless atrocity was yet one more manifestation of the deep hatred harbored by Arab Muslims in Israel and by Muslims the world over for the Jews, and for the very existence of a Jewish nation. Yet, there was a narrower purpose behind the murders. Like several other Palestinian lone wolf attacks against Jews in recent weeks, it’s all too clear that the incitement instigated by Palestinian leaders, not the least of whom was the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, motivated the assassins to strike.

Ostensibly the attack on the Har Nof Synagogue worshippers was in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian bus driver, because of lies disseminated throughout the West Bank and Gaza that Jews killed the man. This despite overwhelming evidence that the driver committed suicide. But there was a deeper underlying motivation: None other than President Abbas’ not-so-veiled threat against the Jews—by encouraging all Palestinians to do whatever possible to counteract Jewish “contamination” of the Al-Aqsa mosque complex on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Equally evident is that Israelis have absolutely no interest in setting foot inside the Dome of the Rock or otherwise contaminating Muslim shrines.

Abbas knows this; thus, his bellicose statement was intended to incite Palestinians to harass and even prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount for any reason whatsoever, certainly not to pray or worship. Despite recapturing all of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of June, 1967, the Israelis gave supervisory administration of Temple Mount back to the Jordanians, who detest any Jewish worship or prayer on this Jewish holy site.

For Americans reading this article, especially Texans, can you imagine Sam Houston, after reclaiming the Alamo, giving it back to Mexico for administrative purposes or any other reason? But even more presumptuously … Mexican authorities refusing permission for Americans to set foot in the Alamo? I think not!

Under those conditions why does any Jew, even the Orthodox, bother to set foot on Temple Mount? Their second Temple was destroyed long ago by the Romans. When they finish their ascent to Temple Mount, all they see are Muslim shrines. Even some Israelis including leading politicians discourage Jews from visiting Temple Mount, to appease those who seek their very destruction. Yet, the question is rhetorical: The religious and national heritage established and perpetuated by this ancient sacred site of the 1st and 2nd Jewish Temples is reason enough.

Neither is Abbas oblivious to the ongoing movement of the Jewish Temple Mount Faithful and other organizations that have gained momentum in recent months to reclaim this ancient Jewish Holy Site as belonging exclusively to the Jews. Knesset Members are listening more intently to those calling for annexation of Temple Mount as part of Jerusalem proper … with the ultimate goal of rebuilding the Third Temple.

Some Tough Perplexing Questions

Some, including me, have championed the Israeli/Jewish right to the Promised Land and also their authority to rebuild the most sacred edifice ever erected in Jewish history—Solomon’s Temple. Plus the Biblically predicted fact that a Third Temple will one day be rebuilt. Please see Eye of Prophecy posts, A Third Jewish Temple, Part I & Part II, published 4-26-14 and 5-3-14.

But with this article, a reverse twist meant to dutifully challenge (with consideration, courtesy, respect, and even reverence) the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with a poignant but probing question: Where is the Temple?

What happened to it? How can any Jew embrace and practice Judaism without the ancient sacrifices, which is the fundamental reason the Tabernacle and then the Temple was built in the first place? Did the loss of the Temple affect the very core of the Jewish faith? If so, how and to what extent? In light of clear Scripture evidence that God, himself, orchestrated the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (through a pagan nation, Babylon, to punish Israel for their grievous transgressions … likewise Roman demolition of the 2nd Temple because of Israel’s unbelief), has God also done away with the very heart of his redemptive plan for mankind through Israel—reconciliation and salvation by the sacrificial shedding of blood?

Please continue with me today and for the next two articles. I believe you’ll find this to be a fascinating journey beginning some thirty-three hundred years ago at Mount Sinai. We will closely examine and follow the hallowed unerring map of Scripture that will lead us to our destination. Then decide for yourself if the question has been answered and what it really means.

But first an (obvious) disclaimer: The question, Where is the Temple, isn’t meant to be answered by a literal location. Because we know that the Temple isn’t (anywhere). It’s gone. But why? Was there a more far-reaching purpose why God allowed the Temples to be obliterated? What was/is God’s ultimate purpose for the Temple? Can that purpose be fulfilled if there is no Temple? Who, if anyone; or what, if anything, has replaced the Temple for two thousand years?

In short, how can the Jewish faith function without adhering to the entire Mosaic Law; which clearly was an equally balanced two-tier foundation of: (1) Obedience to God’s Word … pillars of laws, commands, decrees, regulations. (2) Sacrificial Offerings … the cornerstones of atonement by, blessing from, and relationship with God. Moreover, the God-ordained location for the animal sacrifices was first the Tabernacle and later the Temple, which were built on Mount Moriah, the ancient site of today’s Temple Mount. Among other requirements, only the physical entrance into the inner sanctuary (Holy of Holies) once a year by the High Priest would ensure God’s ultimate forgiveness of Israel’s sins, individual and national.

Putting it bluntly: Keeping the Ten Commandments and other regulatory decrees is only half of what is required by the Law of Moses. There must also be strict observance of the Sacrificial System as a means of reconciliation to God for breaking his law. How can God remove or even cover sin without the required sacrificial offerings commanded by God through Moses? If the Temple is rebuilt, will the reinstated burnt offerings once again certify forgiveness of sin and restoration to God?

The entire Jewish faith hinges on the Law of Moses. But without the Sacrificial System that reached its annual peak on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to include the sacrifice of one goat in the Holy of Holies within the Temple itself for forgiveness of sins; then the release of the second (scape) goat into the wilderness to symbolically carry away the sins of the people, how can a Jew or anyone be reconciled to God.

Regarding the Day of Atonement: “On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the Lord’s presence from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30). Then a few verses later: “This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the Lord once each year” (Leviticus 16:34).

We will, therefore, begin with the basic premise of the Mosaic Law: No Temple, no sacrifices. No sacrifices, no forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness of sins, no redemption.

In the Beginning

God activated his extraordinary plan of salvation for the entire human race immediately after Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden. Because God is omniscient, he knew that the man and women he created would misuse the free will he gave them, by deliberately choosing to disobey him; thus, he conceived a remarkable remedy that would satisfy his attributes of holiness and justice. Because the very life of mankind is sustained by blood, the sacrificial substitutionary shedding of blood would be the source of a redemptive purchase from the penalty of sin … of restoration to God.

Many know the story. Shamed by the guilt of their sin, Adam and Eve suddenly realized they were “naked.” Before they ate the fruit of the one tree that God forbade them to touch, they thought nothing of wearing only their “birthday suit” in the Garden. But when they took the fruit from the tree and ate it, “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Genesis 3:7).

But from God’s vantage point, Adam and Eve’s choice of fig leaves or any other botanical covering was totally inadequate to hide their nakedness, which now was a source of culpability before God. Meaning that their nakedness was a whole lot more than skin deep. Their very soul and spirit had been exposed before God, an exposure that revealed the ugliness of their sin and accountability for their rebellion.

Do you remember what the Lord did? First, he pronounced the penalty on Satan, then Eve, then Adam. Only after sentencing Adam and Eve did the Lord make both a literal and symbolic provision to cover their dishonor and disgrace. “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (Genesis 3:21).

As many Bible commentators and teachers have correctly said: In order to provide the animal skins, God had to kill (shed the blood of) innocent animals. Thus began the fundamental source of and prerequisite to man’s redemption, which would subsequently become an essential, eternal life-giving principle and practice that began in the time of Moses—the substitutionary shedding of innocent blood in exchange for forgiveness of sin.

Not the warped child sacrifice that some depraved ungodly people have practiced down through the ages; rather the sacrifice of otherwise innocent animals. An absolutely vital truth that would eventually culminate in the greatest sacrifice of all time; one that would forever bridge the unbridgeable chasm between man and God. The sacrifice of lambs, goats, and bulls was only a temporary prototype depicting the once for all atonement of the Righteous for the unrighteous, the Just for the unjust.

“In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

Why shedding of blood? Because God through Moses said: “…the life of the body is in the blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible” (Leviticus 17:11).

First, the (Ten) Commandments

The entire Levitical sacrificial system was an inseparable facet of the meticulous Tabernacle design, construction, and function imparted by God to Moses. But first came the Ten Commandments … then more commandments, decrees, and regulations. Followed by detailed instructions of what to do about violations, both intentional and inadvertent, of these moral, spiritual, social, and ceremonial laws. Thus, the shedding of the blood of innocent animals accompanied with true heartfelt repentance of wrong things done constituted the remedy … the ongoing solution for breaking God’s laws.

If asked how and when the Ten Commandments were first given to the Hebrews, many Jews and even Christians who read the Bible on a regular basis would answer that the Commandments were written by the hand of God on two solid stone tablets during Moses’ forty day sojourn on Mount Sinai. And they would be correct. Well not quite, but almost!

No, it was not when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets, then smashed them on the rocks in anger at what some of the people had done in his absence … the golden calf. Only to return to the mountain for a second set of tablets. It was before that.

“Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai … Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel. You have seen what I did to the Egyptians … Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. This is the message you must give to the people of Israel’” (Exodus 19:1-6).

Moses then relayed God’s words to the people who agreed that they would, “…do everything the Lord has commanded” (Verse 8). But then God did something entirely unexpected. Up to this point, God had spoken audibly only to Moses.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will come to you in a thick cloud, Moses, so the people themselves can hear me when I speak with you. Then they will always trust you’” (Verse 9). Moses then relayed specific instructions to the people to get them ready for this spectacular encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the true and living God.

“On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply” (Exodus 19:16-19).

“Then God gave the people all these instructions: ‘I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind….’” (Exodus 20:1-4).

The passage continues with God’s majestic powerful voice naming each one of the Ten Commandments. Thus, the Israelites first received the Commandments directly from the voice of God. What was their reaction?

“And they said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!’” (Exodus 20:19).

“Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” (Verse 20).

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: You saw for yourselves that I spoke to you from heaven’” (Verse 22).

Following the Ten Commandments, many more instructions concerning their relationship with God and interpersonal relationships with each other were given to Moses.

“Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the Lord had given him. All the people answered with one voice, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded’” (Exodus 24:3).

All of God’s Covenants have been sealed with blood, including the Covenant with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. So, too, with Moses and the Hebrews. “Then Moses took the blood from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, ‘Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions’” (Verse 8).

Another incredible thing happened: “Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders climbed up the mountain again. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!” (Exodus 24: 9-11).

Amazing! More than once in Scripture, we are told that no one can look upon God and live. In this case, the Lord made an exception. However, I’m convinced that this face to face encounter with the living God was possible because God appeared in the form of the pre-Incarnate Messiah, the second Person of the Godhead, who made other appearances before he actually came to this earth, born of a Virgin.

Only after all these remarkable events did Moses actually receive the Ten Commandments in written form … the tablets. “Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18).

Then the Tabernacle

Not until the Law was given to Moses, then to the people, did God issue orders to build the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Yet even the Covenant of the Law had to be ratified with blood. This Mosaic Law was and still is the bedrock core essence of Judaism. It is practiced with a good deal of diligence and passion in today’s world, especially by Orthodox and Conservative Jews. Even liberal Jews innately recognize that being a Jew is more than genealogical; it’s identification with and (to varying degrees) participation in these sacred beliefs that ultimately define them as Jewish.

e862ac33-592b-4828-b176-8c780fd4e0a1

Photo Depicts Temple Mount. Plenty of Room for 3rd Temple!

The written Law of Moses is of vital importance to the Jewish faith; it is the heart of the Torah … the first five books of the Bible. Indeed, the Ten Commandments provide the most excellent moral foundation known to mankind. Strategic, enforceable laws are built on it. Time tested values and customs thrive on it. Healthy family and social relationships depend on it. But without the ensuing Festivals and particularly the Sacrificial Offerings, any spiritual interaction and relationship with God was impossible. Because no one could or can keep every point of the Law. You break one law, you break them all.

Then the Temple replaced the Tabernacle as a much larger, more glorious, permanent building in Jerusalem; that nevertheless possessed the same blueprint design consisting of, for example, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

But the question cannot be skirted or flippantly brushed aside: Where is the Temple? Which then begs the question: What happened to the Sacrificial Offerings sovereignly instituted by God?

If a Jew or if any Gentile is going to stake their eternal destiny on successfully keeping/following the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments, or even related man-made moral/religious rules of conduct, then they must comply with two cornerstone requirements articulated and demonstrated throughout Scripture by the true and living God who issued these decrees.

  • The laws must be kept perfectly and continually, without exception. (God’s Holiness)
  • If anyone sins by breaking even one law, then they must internally—from their heart— confess their sin, ask for forgiveness; and externally demonstrate their repentance by an appeal to the High Priest for a substitutionary shedding of innocent blood to remove the guilt and stain of these sins. (God’s Grace and Mercy)

In other words, the Law without Grace can only condemn. It cannot save. Right standing with God comes only through faith in God’s sacrificial provision for every man, woman, and child.

Anticipating the Hebrews’ questions on who would succeed their High Priest, Aaron, God told Moses: “In future generations, the purification ceremony will be performed by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as high priest in place of his ancestor Aaron….” (Leviticus 16:32).

But there was a High Priest who predated Aaron and Moses by hundreds of years—Melchizedek. A priest who gave Abraham the first High Priestly blessing ever given, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:18). A priest who was also a king, which superseded the Aaronic priesthood; because after Moses’ time priests could not be kings, nor could kings be priests.

Eventually there would come a High Priest who was sinless, who didn’t need to make a sacrificial purification offering for himself. Indeed, this High Priest was a descendant from the tribe of Judah because he is also the King of Israel, who would sacrifice himself for the sins of the people … ALL people, Jew and Gentile alike.

“And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God who said to him, ‘You are my Son, Today I have become your Father … You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:4-6).

Things to Ponder

Because the Temple and, therefore, the sacrificial system of sin and peace offerings were eradicated by the Romans in 70 AD, Halacha (keeping the Jewish law, the complete body of rules that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical and rabbinical commandments and binding customs) is the only viable facet of Judaism applicable to contemporary Jews.

But according to the Scriptures (Torah itself), this is not enough. God knew that no one could ever keep the law in its entirety, because every person is born with a sin nature and a nature to sin. Thus, the law was not meant to be the source of salvation. It was intended only to show us God’s perfect standard of righteousness, and how no person ever has or ever will live up to that standard. That trust in God’s marvelous plan of substitutionary sacrifice (first with animals and finally, for all time, with his Son) was the only way of salvation.

This was true long before God gave the Law and the Sacrificial Offerings to Moses and the people. “And Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6, italics for emphasis).

And Justice For All

Tags

, ,

And Justice for All

“Get down,” Doran pleaded with the people. They kept running. He trained his weapon on the terrorist, looking for an opening in the crowd.

“Allah Akbar!”

“No!” Doran screamed at the diabolical words, straight from the gates of Hades. His finger covered the trigger. Doran fired.

With exact duplication of time and space, the mujahedeen answered.

The detonation leveled nearly everything and everyone in a thirty-yard radius. Doran and his driver remained untouched. Many of his people had blocked the blast, absorbing it with bodies shredded by deadly shrapnel.

Dazed by the explosion, Doran slumped to the seat of his jeep. Within a few seconds his head cleared. His ears opened to the horrific screams of the injured. He stood and stared at his men as they approached the dead and dying with weapons raised. His eyes drifted to his hands, which still clutched the gun. His gut twisted at the blood and body tissue splattered on his hands and arms. He frantically wiped his hands on the seat of the jeep.

The haze of smoke and human debris settled over the ghastly killing field. He fell to the seat again, looked at his driver, and mumbled, “This is wrong. This is so wrong.”

Doran Zimmerman is an Israeli Defense Force Captain who and whose men were unable to prevent the 12th and final terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Some of the previous (planned) assaults had been thwarted, but not this one. Dozens of innocent Israeli civilians died in these horrific attacks. Stunned by the savage enormity of such evil, all Doran could think and say was that this inhumane cruelty was wrong, so very wrong.

Sometimes that’s all any of us can say. How else can we express our horror and sorrow for the brutal shootings, knifings, bombings, and ramming of cars into bystanders taking place in Israel on a far too regular basis?

The gruesome scene just described to you took place at Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Fortunately, it is fictional … as depicted in one of the early chapters of my first book, a novel entitled, O Israel … the end is the beginning for those left behind. (Published 2007, Pages 49, 50).

Unfortunately, what you just read is an all too real illustration of life in Israel, something that has taken place much too often in the market places, streets, schools, homes, and just recently synagogues of Israel. The fence barriers and increased security at Israeli checkpoint crossings have greatly diminished the incidents of suicide bombings, but terrorists determined to kill and maim totally innocent people are adept at adjusting and improvising. And missile launchings continue periodically from the Gaza Strip.

Permit me to quote another excerpt from O Israel; this from one of the main characters, Avram Levitt, a Jewish scribe; in one of his seven global email messages addressed to, All Who Have Eyes to See and Ears to Hear:

…May I begin with a tough question? What is it that drives someone to strap explosives around his waist, push a button, and detonate himself into eternity in order to maximize the killing of those who may look, think, and believe differently?

How can a mother proudly celebrate the death of her child who has taken his own life along with the lives of innocent people? Is it because her child has graduated from terrorist training and been given the label of shahid in order to accomplish shahada, the so-called sweet death for Allah? Or is it a demonstration of how much hatred the human heart can hold and parcel out through incomprehensible actions that only the hard of heart would not consider evil? (Page 57).

Fiction Becomes Frightening Fact

Fast forwarding to the news source, Ynet; which earlier this week reported a direct quote from parents of the two terrorists who stormed into a Jewish synagogue this past Tuesday (11-18). Said the parents in praising their sons who had just murdered four Jewish Rabbis and one Israeli Druze policemen and wounded (some seriously) other Jewish worshipers who were in the midst of morning prayers at the west Jerusalem Har Nof synagogue:

“They are both Shahids (martyrs) and heroes.”

One of the terrorist’s cousins, Allah Abu Jamal boasted, “This act occurred because of pressures exerted by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people in general, and a prolonged harming of the al-Aqsa mosque…. We responded with cheers when we heard of their death. People offered candy to those who came to visit us, and there was happiness for the Shahids.”

Shocking. Appalling. Grisly. Repugnant. Sickening. There aren’t enough adjectives in any language to describe the macabre mentality of a religion and people of that religion who express glee at the death of innocents and happiness at the loss of their sons and daughters who murdered the innocents.

What pressure is Abu Jamal referring to? What prolonged harming of the Temple Mount mosque is he describing? Those of us who keep our thumb on the pulse of Jerusalem and Israel and the Middle East, who know anything at all about the history of Israel, who know what’s really happening can say with a great deal of certainty and accuracy:

There is no pressure, but the pressure built by the Muslims bent on Israel’s destruction, on elimination of every single Jew in the Promised Land. There is absolutely no harm done to the Muslim Mosque on Temple Mount by the Jews. There is, however, a great deal of harm inflicted by Muslims to Jews who visit this Holy Site of Temple Mount, which has belonged to the Jews from Biblical times as given to them by God himself. Lately there has been a surge of rock throwing, Molotov cocktails, beatings, riots, perpetrated by Muslims on Jews who ascend Temple Mount.

A New Breed of Killers

Early Tuesday morning, two cousins from East Jerusalem, Ghassan and Oday Jamal shamelessly slinked into the Jewish synagogue and mercilessly killed the rabbis and policeman with a gun, ax, and meat cleaver. I wanted to include photographs of the bloody crime scene in this article, but decided at the last minute not to. The words of dismay and revulsion expressed in this post are enough.

What makes this assault and other recent incidents different from past homicide bombings or missile attacks is that the attackers were Arab residents of East Jerusalem. Whether they were actual Israeli Arab citizens is unclear, but East Jerusalem residency allows for many of the same privileges afforded to Israeli citizens … municipal voting rights, access to social security benefits and state health care, and issuance of Israeli ID cards. They were not Palestinian Arabs occupying the West Bank proper or Gaza Strip.

The recent weapons of choice have been cars slamming into children; knives and screwdrivers plunged into unsuspecting men and women; axes and meat cleavers butchering rabbis praying to God … the true and living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

These lone wolf attacks are extremely difficult to predict, prevent, or defend by even the IDF. Now days, it’s nearly impossible for a Palestinian from the West Bank or from Gaza to enter Israel carrying wrap around explosives or high-profile weapons. But not so with Israeli Arabs and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who enjoy the liberty so cherished in Israel—a great deal of freedom to travel through Israel as they choose.

We’re not talking about undocumented immigrants or unauthorized personnel walking the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Nazareth while stalking their Jewish prey. Now we have Arabs who possess some or all the rights of Israeli citizenship; using their freedom of movement and privacy to pounce on unsuspecting men, woman, and children. Innocent human beings who only wanted to accomplish their tasks for that day, go home to the welcoming arms of their family, and prepare for another day of the precious existence given to them by their Creator and their Country.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—snuffed out in a moment of indescribable horror. Their very presence on this earth unlawfully, immorally, unjustly, indiscriminately, and unfairly taken away by the hands of another. There aren’t enough adverbs in any language to express the wicked depravity of such men and their deplorable deeds.

This is wrong, it is so wrong.

Mideast%20Israel%20Palest_Schu(13)

Israeli Mourners for the Slain Rabbis

A Disgusting Celebration

What makes this horrendous crime different from any mass murder in the United States or anywhere else in the world is that thousands upon thousands of Arab Palestinians proceeded to celebrate the death of the innocent victims. And it’s understood that many Arabs who did not overtly celebrate, gave tacit approval to the carnage and death. Of course there are murderers all over the world. But do their relatives, friends, and compatriots rejoice over the death of the victims?

Just as Palestinians danced with delight in the streets over the shockingly unjust murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11, so there was rejoicing by both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs in Israel over the death of four Jews and the maiming of several others. They celebrated the brutal death of Rabbis, Moshe Twersky, 59; Aryeh Kupinsky, 43; Kalman Levine, 55 (all three US-born citizens who moved to Israel). Plus a British born Jewish Rabbi, Avraham Goldberg, 68. Together, the four left four widows, a total of twenty-six children, and multiple grandchildren to grieve forever over their loss. And not to forget the Druze policeman, who later died from his wounds.

Rabbi Kalman Levine grew up in Kansas City and moved to Israel in his twenties. His father, Bernard Levine still lives just south of the Country Club Plaza.

Born in Lawrence, Kansas and a resident of Kansas City, Missouri for many years, I have shopped at and driven through this plaza often. I’m sure I’ve driven by the Levine house on or near Ward Parkway hundreds of times. For all I know, I may have seen Kalman (formerly Cary) Levine outside his home at one time or another. This makes his and the violently tragic death of all who were slain even more (personally) heartbreaking.

Rabbi%20Kalman%20Levine

Photo of Rabbi Levine

Revolt with me in indignation at the vicious words of “praise” for the deaths of more Jews and “victory” of the Muslim “martyrs,” Again quoting the terrorists’ cousin, Allah Abu Jamal who claimed that the family was unaware of the men’s intentions: “The terror attack was a big surprise for us. Praise Allah, a man dying a Shahid is a great thing.” In the context of adulation for his cousins, Jamal’s choice of words “terror attack” was either a slip of the tongue or facetious sarcasm to mimic or scoff at, or a parody of the true nature of the crime, which indeed is terrorism—cold-blooded random murder of innocent victims.

Or the expected, but nevertheless insensitive, inconsiderate, and cruel statement of Hamas spokesman, Mushir al-Masri, who called the attack a, “heroic action.”

Palestinian social media has already been inundated with cartoons and graphics celebrating the murders and calling for other such actions. These malicious, hateful taunts followed a Palestinian song urging further use of their cars for terror attacks in what they are now labeling, Car Intifada or Autofada. Or social campaigns using animation to promote the murder of Jews in any fashion and with any weapon imaginable. To be more creative in killing Israelis.

Says another Hamas spokesman, Husam Badran, to all Arabs: “…Turn your weapons against your enemies and ours. Write your names in the true list of honor.”

Honor? Justice? Righteous Acts of Violence? I think not and so do you or anyone who embraces true honor, who longs for real justice, who understands that authentic righteousness precedes and follows Peace, not murder and mayhem of innocent people.

No place is a place for murder. But in a synagogue? At the most holy moment of the prayer service … Amida, the central prayer to God. Wrapped in their talits (prayer shawls) that would in a moment of terror be soaked with their life’s blood. I shed tears of sorrow, sympathy, and wrath as I write these words. And I’m a Gentile.

This is wrong; so very, very wrong.

What is God’s View?

Here is what the Sovereign Lord of Scripture says about murder: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6, NASB). This reference is to premeditated murder, not to the self-defense justified killing of someone to protect life. Or even the killing that goes with war.

Though God cannot tolerate any kind of sin, Scripture tells us that he particularly despises the following: “There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family” (Proverbs 6:16-19, italics for emphasis).

Muslim terrorists and the political and social leaders who support them (or any terrorist or murderer, but the vast majority of global terrorists are, in fact, Muslims) frequently plot evil and lie about anything and everything to achieve their warped goals. This includes rewriting Israel’s history, pouring out lies to the world about their rights to the Temple Mount and who instigates the violence there and elsewhere, and by inflaming their people, for example, to: “Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places.” (A recent quote from the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen).

Indeed, it’s the so-called moderate leader of the West Bank that has recently turned radical to ingratiate himself with his chief rival, Hamas of the Gaza Strip; who has incited the recent lone wolf attacks with such rhetoric as, “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they ever enter Al-Aqsa, we will protect Al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country.”

Their holy places! Really? Says who? The Koran? Not hardly. The Koran doesn’t even mention the city of Jerusalem … not once! The Bible references Jerusalem hundreds of times.

Holy places contaminated? What Jew would ever think or want to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque? Abbas is really saying that the Jews are contaminating all of Israel, a land that the Palestinians claim is rightfully theirs. But they have no ancient or contemporary deed to the land.

And just how do Arab Palestinians interpret these warnings from Abbas? No less than by entering a Jewish synagogue and murdering Rabbis at prayer. Is that how they keep the Jews away from the Arabs? Is that how they stay away from Israelis … by slaughtering them? Is that how they are supposed to protect Al-Aqsa and the entire country? Whose country is it anyway? There is no Palestinian State and never has been. There is no Palestinian people … only Arabs. There is no Palestinian language and never has been … only Arabic. The Arabs were not there first. The Jews were; at least 2,500 years before. Originally, Palestinians were Jews. Arabs didn’t refer to themselves as Palestinians until Israel became a State in 1948. Actually, not until the Palestinian Authority in the 1960s.

No, the Palestinian Arabs do not want peace, or to be left alone, or to co-exist with the Jews. They want one thing and one thing only: To be rid of all Jews in Israel and the entire world. That is precisely what is propagated in the Palestinian Charter.

Where is the Justice?

As in a previous Eye of Prophecy article, Bring Back Our Boys (published 6-28-14), this blog post contains some harsh language regarding Muslim atrocities in the name of Islam or Allah. Yes, I am angry over the needless, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking slaughter of innocent Jews—in our time and throughout the annals of human history. And, in more general terms, for all innocent people whose precious lives were extinguished by their fellow human beings for a myriad of motives; but particularly because of their race and beliefs. This also includes arbitrary killing of Jews and Muslims by the Crusaders, who were not true believers in Christ, but Christian in name only.

Is mine a righteous anger? Is yours? I’d like to think so … I believe it is. But only because my righteousness is God-given, imputed through and by the righteousness of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have no innate righteousness of my own. I have been declared righteous because of my trust in Yeshua as Savior. So, too, do I strongly believe in justice. As do many people throughout the world for thousands of years.

Yet, those who have not accepted the redemption found through Christ—purchased through his death, burial, and resurrection—often think more in terms of revenge than justice. The Bible speaks of justice in dozens of passages, and tells us that God loves justice … a pure justice. Indeed, that is one of his many attributes. Frequently, Scripture declares that God will avenge (with a holy, righteous justice) the innocent. Such as:

“For, I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed” (Isaiah 61:8-9). God’s love of justice is a universal, perpetual truth applicable to all peoples and situations. But the passage is also referring more specifically to the nation of Israel, to the Jews.

There is a special favor from God to those who pursue justice. “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

The two assailants that murdered the rabbis were shot and killed by Israeli police, who had no other choice in order to save more lives. And rightfully so … that was justice. It is also justness for the Israelis to demolish the houses of the terrorists, if for no other reason that a stern lesson and deterrent from future attacks. In some countries, particularly Islamic governments, the immediate family of the offenders might have been arrested, imprisoned, or even killed out of retribution. Thus, additional measures by the Israeli government are mild in comparison.

As in my follow-up article to Bring Back Our Boys, entitled Prince of Peace (published 7-5-14), I want to reaffirm that I (and I hope all who are believers in Christ) will not direct my reactions and emotions to hatred of the assassins; rather, only loathing of their actions. For one thing this deplorable behavior of terrorists and murderers all over the world is only an extreme expression of the sin that we all are capable of. This statement in no way condones what they have done. Rather, it simply highlights the fact that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God. As John Newton said, “I am a great sinner. And Christ is a great Savior.”

To once again emphasize that there will not be any real peace, no pure justice until Messiah Jesus returns to this war-torn, evil preoccupied, worn-out earth to establish his Kingdom of Righteousness, Justice, and Peace.

Listen to these majestic words of prophecy concerning the glorious second coming of Messiah Jesus: “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction” (Isaiah 42:1-4, italics for emphasis).

Not crushing the weakest reed or putting out a flickering candle refers to the poor, weak, downtrodden of the earth who, in spite of all their trouble, truly seek God. Messiah will treat these folks with tenderness and love. He will right all the wrongs that have been done to them.

Mideast%20Israel%20Palest_Schu(17)

Funeral Procession for Three of the Slain Rabbis

Things to Ponder

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Despite several recent legal challenges, one Nation under God, has withstood the misguided efforts to remove God from the US Flag salute. But I fear that one day, under God will be legally removed from this honored salutation, and perhaps from our seats of government and halls of justice.

I firmly believe that unless we and our leaders at least acknowledge the sovereignty of Almighty God in creating and blessing this great nation, there will no longer be liberty and justice for all. In fact, liberty and justice is already being twisted and tainted in, of all places, our courts of law. Judges are overturning referendums and laws passed by majority of citizens in several states on important moral issues such as marriage and abortion.

We all need Jesus in our hearts, lives, and relationships with family, friends, community, state, nation, and the world. Only the Prince of Peace can bring true justice and peace to this world.

“But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you. Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds. For he who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer” (Psalms 9:7-12).

WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Jesus is right, so very right.

The Seal of Approval

Tags

, , , ,

The Seal of Approval … Identity of Antichrist

It’s time to once again declassify and decode the identity of Antichrist. To once again lift the veil of secrecy and mystery that modern-day students of prophecy have imposed on this infamous figure; called a ruler and king by the prophet Daniel, the man of lawlessness by the apostle Paul, Antichrist by the apostle John, and a beast by John, the author of Revelation.

Although volumes have been written about this notorious tyrant, the prevailing premise is that the identity of the man who would dare be anti-Christ cannot be known until after the Rapture, at the outset of the seven-year Great Tribulation. As I have quoted in past Eye of Prophecy articles, some scholars have dismissed and even ridiculed the notion that the Antichrist’s identity was meant to be known before the Rapture with the statement: “If anyone thinks they know the identity of Antichrist, then they have missed the Rapture!”

But we can know … we should know! Why can I make such a bold assertion? It’s really quite simple: Because Scripture not only encourages such a discovery, it actually challenges us to figure out who the prophets and apostles are referring to. That he was not just a future tense despot to the prophet Daniel, but a present tense ruler during the Apostle Paul’s lifetime and a past tense Monarch shortly before the book of Revelation was penned.

This week’s article will revisit in summary fashion my book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666? As well as past Eye of Prophecy articles entitled: Modern Day Antichrist; AntichristIs He Alive Today; Reappearance of the Beast; The Number of the Beast; The Beast and His Name … published consecutively between 9-7-13 and 10-5-13. If you’re really interested, if you truly want to dig into the Biblical and secular references to this man of sin, then I would encourage you to get a copy of the book and read the Eye of Prophecy articles. Out of the Abyss is available on-line through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Let’s begin with a remarkable well-known verse sometimes quoted in my past writings on the beast of Revelation, but one that bears repeating: “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In ancient Greek manuscripts the number 666 is actually written out … six hundred, sixty-six.

What does this verse say and mean to you? Are there any restrictions identified or conditions imposed on the reader, whether a Christian reading it in the first century or in this current generation, that directly state or remotely imply that the calculation (through wisdom and understanding) of the meaning of the number applies only to those alive after the Rapture? The verse unambiguously challenges the reader of that time to, “solve the meaning of the number of the beast.” And when that is unscrambled, the identity of the beast will be revealed; because, “It’s the number of a man.”

As further evidence and incentive that the identity of Antichrist was meant to be known (solved) by first century believers and all believers thereafter, an extraordinary command was given by one of the angels at the very end of the phenomenal series of visions witnessed by John, as recorded in the very last chapter of Revelation. Says John, “Then he instructed me, ‘Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near’” (Revelation 22:10).

Hold that thought, as we will return to this captivating but puzzling command. First we need to examine identical instructions found in the Old Testament, but in reverse of the one give to John in Revelation.

The Angel to Daniel: “Seal up the book…..

Just one other place in the Bible do we find similar language of sealing prophecies … those given to Daniel. Only the directive is in reverse of what the angel told John. “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end….” (Daniel 12:4).

Since end-times prophecy made its resurgence primarily in the 1960’s, Bible scholars have frequently and accurately explained that the instruction to Daniel (seal up the book) was necessary because fulfillment of the vast majority of Daniel’s visions wouldn’t take place until the, time of the end. Several, but not all, students of prophecy correctly place the beginning of the time of the end as the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Messiah Jesus, i.e. the New Covenant that birthed the Church. Which will culminate in the Rapture, then the beginning of the Day of the Lord—Tribulation, Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, followed by the Millennium.

The first part of Daniel’s visions (the four beasts from the sea … a similar vision to the statue dream given to Nebuchadnezzar), actually began to unfold during his lifetime—referring to the Medes/Persian (2nd beast) conquest of Babylon (1st beast). Yet, it would be hundreds of years before the third and fourth beasts emerged as world powers … Alexander’s Greece and the Roman Empire. After Alexander’s empire was split into four parts, then before and during the rise of Rome, some (partially or fully) of Daniel’s prophecies came to pass … those found in chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11. But the most important, the most prominent, and the most spectacular prophecy came to pass when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was hailed as the Messiah. (Daniel 9:24-25). Daniel’s prophecy of this event came to pass on the very day predicted by the Word of God.

Then shortly after Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection, the ruler of Daniel 7 & 9, the one whose armies would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:26-27), arrived on the scene of history. As carefully detailed in Out of the Abyss, this ruler was the Man of Lawlessness depicted by Paul, and would be the beast of Revelation who would reappear from the Abyss during the Great Tribulation.

For more dramatic effect in my book Out of the Abyss, and as progressively developed in the Eye of Prophecy articles on Antichrist, I intentionally delayed naming the Antichrist to build both a historical case and contemporary suspense as to his identity. But now, as a reinforcement to those who have read the book or articles and to any reader of this article who has not, I will plainly state his identity.

The Ruler of Daniel, the Man of Lawlessness, and the Beast of Revelation most often referred to as the Antichrist is the Roman Emperor, NERO.

Intrigued? Puzzled? Surprised? Amazed? Dumbfounded? So was I when I first realized that the Antichrist had already lived and died before John saw the spectacular visions of Revelation. That, however, the beast-king would reappear from the Abyss at the outset of the Tribulation.

Why Seal Daniel’s Visions

The reason that Daniel was told to “seal” his book was because nearly all of the prophecies weren’t germane to his generation, nor to many generations after Daniel. Obviously, the sealing of Daniel’s book wasn’t meant to be a literal fastening commonly used in those days, especially by kings and officials who wanted their documents to be tightly guarded for both privacy and safety until they were to be opened (unsealed) and read. For one thing, much of Daniel’s book was a journalistic record of past and present events that occurred during Daniel’s decade’s long sojourn in Babylon.

Rather, the sealing of Daniel’s visions was a metaphorically practical way of saying that it would do Daniel and those keenly interested in his prophecies no good to try to figure them out until the majority of the prophecies had been fulfilled. And did you know: Nearly all of Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled by the end of the first century. In fact, the only ones not yet fulfilled were those pertaining to the ruler (little horn) and the ten horns/kings of the tribulation period, which are presented in remarkably similar fashion in Revelation 17. Once the majority of the prophecies came to pass, then the remaining (Tribulation) predictions would be much easier to grasp, particularly when expanded upon later by Paul and by John of Revelation.

Thus, after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and certainly following the book of Revelation, Daniel’s prophecies were effectively unsealed.

Yes, the sealing of Daniel’s book has been an oft-quoted and elucidated passage by modern Bible scholars. But not so the similar, yet opposite instructions to John in Revelation. The command to, “not seal up the prophetic words in this book…” has seldom been mentioned or explained by Bible teachers (including me at one time). Yet, it has as much, if not more, significance than the directive for Daniel to seal his book.

The Angel to John: “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book.”

Paraphrasing, Daniel was told to place his writings in storage. John was instructed to do just the opposite. Why would the angel even mention such a thing, i.e. advising John not to seal up the prophetic words of this book (Revelation)? There had to be a reason for such a command. First century believers, especially Jewish believers who were well-versed in the writings of the Old Testament prophets, would have immediately made the connection of the angel’s admonition to John as a striking contrast to the instructions given to Daniel.

To identify the association between Daniel’s sealing and John’s no-sealing is to fully grasp the meaning of and reason for the angel’s warning to John. And what is that meaning?

The astounding significance of and for the need not to seal (withhold, keep to himself, temporarily set aside, or postpone for a later time) ANY PART of the book of Revelation is that all of the revelations given to John were immediately appropriate to the believers of that day. In fact, we can with a great deal of assurance and authority carry this a step further and state: The revelations and understanding of the visions were applicable first and foremost to the Christians of the first century. Because if Jesus could/would imminently come for his bride (the Church) at any time, then all of the end-time Biblical prophecies would begin to unfold immediately. Therefore, ALL of the revelations given to John were applicable to all Christians of that time and should be openly read, taught, and disseminated throughout the Roman Empire.

With, however, the need to codify references to the Antichrist to protect Christians from further persecution and death; hence, the encoding of the beast’s identity through the Hebrew method of counting and numbering with their alphabet (Gematria) in Revelation 13. Also to partially obscure the identity of the beast (Nero) in Revelation 17, by what effectively was a puzzle or riddle of the seven kings … five fallen, one reigning, one soon to reign, but briefly, then an eighth king (the beast himself) who was one of the seven.

That is why the angel told John not to seal up the prophecies of Revelation; because they were to be understood by and applied to those believers alive at that time. Unlike the prophecies of Daniel which were some 90% for the mostly distant future—the centuries leading to and including the first advent of Messiah Jesus—the disclosures to John of Patmos were undeniably relevant to his readers because Jesus could rapture his Church at any moment.

That this beast had already lived and died before John was given the visions of the beast in Revelation, but that this same beast king would reappear from the Abyss. That coupled with the wording of Daniel 9:26-27, resulted in a phenomenal conclusion that the Antichrist beast would also return to the earth (in duplication of Messiah’s 2nd coming), but not until the Tribulation began very shortly after the Rapture.

Because the Rapture and subsequent return of Christ could (and in the eyes of first century believers) probably would take place in their lifetime, the Antichrist had to already have been a first century man to instigate and commence his Tribulation reign of terror that would begin very soon after the Rapture.

(Please read the above paragraph again). We need to wrap our minds around this fact and let it sink in. Rephrased: Christ could have chosen to Rapture the believers at any moment. If he had done so, then the remainder of Daniel’s and Jesus’s and Paul’s and John’s prophecies including, but not limited to the Antichrist, would have begun to unfold soon thereafter … within days or weeks. Thus, the Antichrist MUST HAVE ALREADY BEEN ON THE SCENE.

Which is exactly what the angel told John in Revelation 17.

A Stunning Disclosure … The Antichrist Will Not Be a Modern-Day Man

Said the angel to John: “Why are you so amazed?… I will tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits. The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world … will be amazed at the reappearance of the beast who had died” (Revelation 17:8, italics for emphasis). The Greek word for soon means momentarily, but more so it means abruptly or suddenly.

In November, 2008 (almost to the day of today’s article), this passage absolutely stunned me; even though I had read the verse along with the rest of Revelation many times. All of John’s visions, including this one, took place in the present (time). After seeing the beast for this second time, the angel revealed the “mystery” of the beast to John. It was another extraordinary disclosure of the beast’s identity to go along with his number (six hundred, sixty-six) presented earlier in Revelation Chapter 13.

The incredible fact was/is: The Antichrist-beast had lived before John saw this vision of him. But at the time of the vision on a specific Sunday (Revelation 1) on a specific day in John’s life, the beast was no longer alive. But he would return from the Abyss (bottomless pit) and this return (reappearance) would utterly amaze the world’s inhabitants. This and other passages regarding the Antichrist was thoroughly explained in Out of the Abyss, along with historical first-century church and secular records.

All of the pieces of the prophetic puzzle fit perfectly, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the Antichrist was none other than the Roman Emperor Nero!

Returning to the (un)sealing of the Book of Revelation, the breathtaking relevance of this command to John was that ALL of the mysteries of Revelation could be understood by believers of that time, including the identity of the Antichrist. It was not necessary to wait until future generations to understand these mysteries including the number of the beast and his biographical history up to that time.

The identity of the beast could, would, and should be known by the (any) generation alive when the Rapture occurred followed by the immediate appearance (reappearance) of the beast. Consequently, would you (also) agree that the Christians of the first century could have been that very generation? If so, then they and all generations to follow had the Biblical tools to solve the clues and ascertain the identity of Antichrist BEFORE the Rapture, not afterward.

Once again: Nowhere in Revelation does John state or even imply that the identity of the beast could only be decoded or known until after the beast actually appeared on the scene. Moreover, Chapter 21 in Out of the Abyss meticulously explains II Thessalonians Chapter 2; that the “revealing” of the Man of Lawlessness took place when Nero unlawfully usurped the title of Roman Emperor and began a rebellion against God and Christianity during his lifetime. Additionally, the often overlooked verse eight of this chapter was clarified. That Jesus actually kills the Man of Lawlessness (Antichrist, beast) and then destroys him. That killing and destroying are not the same thing. That the death (killing) of Nero took place in 68 AD, but his final destruction in the Lake of Fire will not take place until the end of the Tribulation, after he returns from the Abyss. I also spend a great deal of space in the book on the Abyss, itself.

All of which leads to the crystal clear conclusion: The Antichrist cannot be a modern-day man born and raised in today’s world nor any generation to follow. The words of Revelation 17 are unmistakable: the beast had already lived and died BEFORE John saw it/him in his vision. “The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now.”

Daniels’ prophecies could not be comprehended by his generation, which is why the angel instructed him to seal them … meaning set them aside until the actual events took place. Not so with John’s visions as recorded in Revelation. They were to be (with wisdom and understanding) grasped right then and there. The Lord through John wanted the believers of the seven churches and all Christians of that day to know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Nero was the beast of Revelation; the revealed Man of Lawlessness presented by Paul; the ruler whose armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of Daniel in Chapter 9; the little horn of Daniel Chapter 7 who would “suddenly appear” on the scene and take over the ten horns (kings), the same ten kings of Revelation 17. All this, and more is carefully documented through Scripture and history in Out of the Abyss and to a lesser extent in the prior Eye of Prophecy articles.

Which is why Jesus told John at the spectacular beginning of Revelation when John saw the risen Christ before he saw any visions at all: “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19). Revelation contained more than just things that would come; which, as already alluded, Christians in that day believed would come shortly. It included visions pertaining to things already taking place … which by default would include recent past events that dovetailed with current events of that time.

Summary

Because it has been 3 ½ years since Out of the Abyss was published and over a year since the Eye of Prophecy articles on Antichrist, I felt compelled to reintroduce and re-emphasize the remarkable disclosures that help refit the pieces of the prophetic puzzle regarding the identity of the Antichrist. Starting with the amazing FACT (according to Revelation 17) that the Antichrist beast had already been born and died before John received the revelations of this evil man. That he would reappear from the Abyss; that by default logic he couldn’t ascend from the Abyss until he had first been placed there (by Christ).

But mostly in this article to expand on these short, simple, but amazingly profound verses in the first and last chapters of Revelation.

First Chapter: Jesus told John, “… to write down what you have seen, both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.” Why wouldn’t the Lord have just said, write down what he had seen, and leave it at that? There was a reason Jesus added the following words. Reason: Because he wanted John and all first century believers and Christians thereafter to understand explicitly that Revelation was not confined just to future events … events that could begin any hour or day after John’s visions were over. Other than the first three chapters of Revelation including the letters to the seven churches, most Christians and even Bible scholars think in terms of the remainder of Revelation applying exclusively to future events. NOT SO.

There are several past tense occurrences in Revelation, such as the five kings who had fallen, and most amazing—the beast who had already lived and died, who—as I demonstrate in past writings—was one of those five kings who had died … Nero.

Last Chapter: That’s why the angel instructed John not to withhold or postpone or delay the announcement and distribution of the book of Revelation (all part of “sealing” a book). Because, in fact, ALL of Revelation was applicable immediately to all believers and nothing in the book was hidden from meaning and none of the mysteries were left unrevealed. This all was relevant to and part of the equally valid truth that Jesus could return any day.

The fact in the first century was: THE BEAST HAD ALREADY BEEN REVEALED. Now it was just a matter of when the Rapture would take place, which would initiate and shift into high gear all of the ensuing prophecies of the beast’s reappearance and all of the Tribulation events depicted in Revelation.

Conversely, with the prophet Daniel and his visions, he was repeatedly told that the visions were for a future time … nothing whatsoever imminent about these prophecies. Such as, “…you must understand that the events you have seen in your vision relate to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17). But with the New Testament Saints everything was imminent, beginning with the Rapture and continuing (immediately) with the return of the beast who had died and all prophesied events thereafter.

Do you see the difference between Daniel’s time and John’s time? Does this help explain the divine rationale between instructing Daniel to seal his prophecies, but for John to unseal what had been revealed to him (don’t seal the words)? And why those specific instructions were even given to Daniel and John.

Things to Ponder

The specific purpose of this article is to know beyond any doubt that we are meant to know the identity of the beast of Revelation, just as the first century (and a few centuries after that) Christians knew. It is recorded both in secular and church history that many early Christians believed that Nero would, in fact, return as the Antichrist beast of Revelation. This amazing belief was prevalent for the better part of four hundred years after the Lord’s ascension to heaven.

All I’m doing is refitting the prophetic puzzle that had correctly been assembled in the years of the early Church. I’m not reinventing the wheel. Rather I’m using the same wheel of prophecy used by the early believers in their journey through the annals of Biblical events pertaining to the last days. And these last days began with the birth of Jesus. We are currently in the last of the last days.

“Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Revelation’s prophet is John of Patmos. The early Christians understood John’s prophecies were meant for them. They weren’t even thinking about future generations no more than we would if we fully expected something to happen in our lifetime. They understood that Nero was the beast, but not until he had died; because Revelation wasn’t written until after Nero’s death, nor was the apostle John’s term of Antichrist used. Nor could they match up the ruler (Antichrist) of Daniel until Nero died and his armies vanquished Jerusalem and the Temple.

But they could (and did) match Nero with the Man of Lawlessness that Paul introduced to them. Once Nero died and Revelation was written, they knew for sure who Nero was. Because Paul said that Jesus would kill the man of lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2:8). Then John told them that the beast would return from the abyss. Later, they understood that Daniel’s prophecy applied to Nero, because in 70 AD the very generals personally selected/appointed by Nero to crush Israel destroyed the Temple … a campaign begun by Vespasian and completed by his son, Titus. (See Daniel 9:26-27).

The early Christians knew, and so can we.

Six Million Reasons … To Trust the Bible

Tags

, , ,

Six Million Reasons … To Trust the Bible

Numbers do have meaning—to God and to people, literally and symbolically, individually and nationally. Scripture is replete with the use and significance of the numbers three, seven, twelve, forty, seventy, four hundred, one thousand and a few others. How could we tell time or be on time without numbers? Sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and so on.

In 2012, the world’s population passed seven billion. Scientists and leaders of nations the world over have become increasingly alarmed about the skyrocketing surge in population. How can they feed and house so many people? Will the water supplies maintain pace with the human, animal, and agriculture demands of this burgeoning populace? Can the environment withstand the pressures created by so many people? Will there be enough energy resources for light, heat, transportation, and entertainment? So many questions, so much concern … not enough answers.

The growth spurt of human population has been truly exponential. Which is, when applied to the population surge, just a fancy word that means: The more people that are born, the more people that are born. No, I’m not repeating for emphasis, nor did I hit the repeat key on my keyboard. In fact, I don’t even have a repeat key. Do you? Copy and paste, but no repeat.

Let the statistics prove my layman’s definition of exponential. In 1 AD the world’s total population was estimated to be 200 million.

1000 AD – 275 million

1500 – 450 million

1800 – 1 billion

1900 – 1.6 billion

1960 – 3 billion

1999 – 6 billion

2012 – 7 billion

It took 1800 years for the population to hit the one billion mark; but only 160 years for the population to reach 3 billion. In the year 1960, I turned fourteen years of age. You can do the math on how old I am; however, I’m still alive because I just hit publish to propel this Eye of Prophecy article through cyberspace! And, of course, I was alive in 1999 when the world’s population DOUBLED in just 39 years to six billion. In another twelve years or so, it increased another billion. Now that’s exponential! In fact, it gives a whole new meaning to the word, which is derived from the mathematical term, exponent. Which basically means the operation or phenomenon of multiplying a number by twice its amount or perhaps to the 10th power.

Since this article is not about concern over global overpopulation, I’m not going to debate the issues; except to say that I don’t believe there is or ever will be such a thing as too many people on this earth. That statement alone could take an entire article or more to defend, so I’ll simply defer to the Bible for support.

“So God created human beings (man) in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). We should always pay attention to God and his Messiah, Jesus. Had our ancestors listened to him, we would still be in that beautiful Garden of Eden. However, when God says something twice—which he sometimes does in Scripture—that’s a clear signal that we’d better listen real hard. When he says something three times in one sentence … well, that’s exponential! Read the verse again … no less than three times God says that he created human beings (male and female). Is the Lord repeating himself for dramatic emphasis? You can count on it.

So what is he saying? Easy question, bordering on stupid: God is our Creator, and we are unique from the animals because he created us in his image. Moreover, he created male and female, not male and male or female and female. But that’s another article for another time!

Defense #1: God created us and there were no conditions or requirements or stipulations or warnings whatsoever, at all—in any way, shape, or form—that we were to be careful not to overpopulate the earth.

Just the opposite. Scripture tell us: “Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it….’” (Genesis 1:28).

“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! (Genesis 1:31a).

Defense #2: The Lord commissioned us to replenish the earth (with sons and daughters) … “be fruitful and multiply.” I see this as just the opposite of natural or unnatural forced population control. Just look at the Communist Chinese officials who (dictatorially) imposed the cruel law of only one child per family. No time to go into all the details in this article; suffice to say this abnormal, immoral law is a disaster. It has created far more problems than perceived overpopulation could ever generate. But that, too, is a different article for a different day.

Six Million Jews Gone, Six Million Found

Yes, numbers are meaningful; especially to an entire race of people who bore the brunt of unimaginable, incomprehensible terror and brutality at the hands of a ruthless and brutal government, whose malevolent objective was genocide of the Jewish people. Six million—nearly one-third of the world’s Jews and one-half of Jews in Europe—were systematically slaughtered during World War II. As long as I have breath and the ability to write, I will continually remind us of this gruesome fact. The Jews will never forget … neither should you and I.

But our great God always brings gladness out of sadness, laughter from lament, and hope through heartache. Although evil may triumph, it is always temporary. Though wickedness may flourish, it will inevitably fail. Despite incredible suffering of millions of innocent human beings, both Jews and Gentiles, God’s justice will one day reign supreme, satisfying those who have been so terribly wronged by the injustice of tyrants and terrorists and neighborhood bullies.

Just a couple of months ago, an Israeli census taken at Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) confirmed that in 2013 the Jewish population in Israel reached the six million mark for the first time since Israel’s statehood in 1948. Total population in Israel stands at 8,252,500, of which 6,186,100 are Jews and the remaining mostly Arab. New immigrants to Israel in 2013 totaled 16,884. Plus, 90,646 boys and 85,584 girls were born to Jewish parents. (Figures taken from Jewishvirtuallibrary.org).

Reaching the six million mark is a monumental milestone for Israelis and for Jews the world over. It’s a huge symbolic achievement, but it’s much more than figurative. It is a literal one-for-one representative replacement of men, women, and children ruthlessly removed forever from their families, from their people, and from the human race. It is the birth of one new baby at a time to replace moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and grandparents mercilessly eliminated by state-sanctioned murder, multiplied six million times.

The Rosh Hashana census listed the most popular names given to Israeli babies. For boys: Yosef, Daniel, and Uri. For girls: Tamar, Noa, and Shira. Precious names for precious children. Treasurable numbers each and every one.

The significance of these numbers certainly didn’t escape Israeli leaders. In a recent weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke these words: “Israel’s population has passed eight million. No less important, for the first time in the history of the State of Israel, more than six million Jews live here. This number has great significance in light of our people’s history in the previous century as well as in the current one.”

The Prime Minister obviously was referring to the six million Jews murdered by the Third Reich of Hitler’s Germany, later labeled the Holocaust for the sheer magnitude of this genocide motivated atrocity. Netanyahu continued: “On the eve of our holiday, I would like to send out best wishes for a full and rapid recovery to the wounded IDF soldiers and citizens and at the same time send our deepest condolences to the families of the fallen. I would also like to commend the entire people of Israel for the determination and unity that they showed during Operation Protective Edge (the 50-day war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip).”

Prophetic Exponential Increase of God’s Chosen People

What is happening in Israel is astounding, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising. For God, himself, promised these things long ago through many prophets. In the case of the prophet Ezekiel, over 2,500 years ago.

“I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people” (Ezekiel 35:10). When God says that he will greatly increase the population of Israel, you can rest assured that will be an exponential expansion. Israel and the Jews are in the midst of such a population proliferation now. Currently, the average birth rate in Israel is 3.0 children for Jewish mothers … the highest birth rate in the world. Contrast that to the world average of 1.7 and you have nearly double the birth rate for Israeli woman.

Continuing in Ezekiel: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘When I cleanse you from your sins, I will repopulate your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone will again be farmed. And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’ Then the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I say. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock. They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the Lord’” (Ezekiel 36:33-38, italics for emphasis).

In 1867 Mark Twain visited Israel and wrote down his impressions entitled, Innocents Abroad. Some of his observations were remarkably similar to Ezekiel’s words from the Lord: “The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone.”

Wrote Twain about Israel, “…A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds … a silent mournful expanse … a desolation … we never saw a human being on the whole route … hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive trees and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

And, he was amazed how tiny Jerusalem was: “A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.”

But no more. Not too long after Twain’s journey to the Promised Land that appeared anything but promising to him, Jews began to return to Israel (Palestine at that time). Exponentially, they increased in numbers soon after the Palestine Mandate of 1917; even more so after Israel’s Statehood in 1948, in which there were 806,000 Jews who lived in Israel.

Today’s Jerusalem is almost fifty square miles in size. Think you could walk around the city in one hour now? Hardly.

But there’s more: According to John as recorded in Revelation, he saw: “…the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). Then later, he watched as an angel measured the full range of the city. “When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles” (Verse 16).

Roughly, the squared dimensions of this incredible city will occupy, as an example, well over half of the land mass of the United States. And that’s only the square miles on the land itself. Add another 1,400 vertical miles straight up and you get a city that could house billions of people. No matter how many it holds, there will be plenty of room for all believers in Christ, Jew and Gentile alike.

The present city of Jerusalem will continue to exist and thrive throughout the ages. But the New Jerusalem will far exceed the old Jerusalem in size and beauty and glory.

I would surmise that Mark Twain was perplexed and disappointed and also surprised by what he saw in Israel and Jerusalem. Whether he had read the remarkable prophecies of Israel’s inevitable return to the land is unknown … my hunch is that he had not. What I’ve read from and about Samuel Clemens would suggest that not too many things really took him by surprise. He had seen and experienced life, like few others. But I can virtually guarantee his utter astonishment, should he be able to revisit Israel today! And if someone told him that all this had been foretold by the ancient Jewish prophets, I’d like to think that he would have immediately searched the Scriptures for confirmation.

Ezekiel’s astounding prophecy proclaims that in those last days the city of Jerusalem would be filled and crowded with people. Once again, we are witnessing in our generation the fulfillment of that prediction, the accomplishment of God’s divine purpose for Israel and the Jewish people. Nothing or no one will stop God’s magnificent purpose for the Church and for Israel. And this plan is close, very close to fulfillment. Which is why I’m convinced we are living in the Omega Generation … the last generation that will experience the Rapture of believers, spiritual salvation of the Jews, and permanent, never-ending possession of the land.

Final physical restoration of all Jews to Israel will shortly follow and overlap with their individual and national redemption as prophesied by Ezekiel: When I cleanse you from your sins, I will repopulate your cities…. The cleansing began when the first Jew in the first century accepted Christ as his/her Savior. And, since 1967 there has, indeed, been a rapid resurgence in the number of Messianic Jews the world over. The cleansing will be complete when Christ rescues Israel from annihilation in the valley of Megiddo at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation.

Through Israel, God Blesses All Peoples

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

By far, the greatest blessing flowing from God’s promise to the father of the Jewish people, Abraham, is the birth, death, and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua … born from the tribe of Judah, through the lineage of King David. But it doesn’t stop there. Before our very eyes and continuing far into the future—indeed, forever—the people and land of Israel will be a source of blessing to all people on the earth. Their medical, scientific, agricultural, economic, humanitarian, and cultural innovations, discoveries, and developments are nothing short of astonishing. Once again the land of Israel has blossomed and the world is a better place for it.

Six million Jews taken by force and removed from the face of the earth at the hands of depraved wicked men by shooting, hanging, starvation, and gassing. Six million Jews taken by the sovereign hand of God; transported to or birthed in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as descendants of these Patriarchs. Six: the number of man, tragically and triumphantly represented by a special people chosen by God to bring truth, light, and salvation to the earth.

Seven billion people on this planet. Seven: the Divine number of God representing completeness, providence, sovereignty, and the final judgment of God on all that is wrong with this world. Six (million) and seven (billion) arriving on the scene of history together for the first time ever. For such a time as this. Many epic events in history have been associated with fulfillment of prophetic numbers found in Scripture. Biblical numbers don’t lie or even mislead. They are reliable reminiscent records of the past and sure statistical signs of the future. We would do well to heed these records and signs.

Now then, for those readers who didn’t want to bother with the math of my age (who can blame them!), I turned sixty-eight this past September. And this blog is the sixty-eighth weekly article posted consecutively since the Eye of Prophecy site began in July, 2013. For that, I am grateful to the Lord. Granted, these numbers are significant only to me, but then we all have special numbers and dates that are meaningful just to us.

Yet, the entire nation of Israel recognizes and cherishes each and every Jew living in the land promised to them by the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Also the God of all Gentiles who believe in Messiah Jesus, who have been grafted into the tree of Israel through his awesome sacrifice. The untimely loss of even one Jew is traumatically felt by the soul of the entire nation. They weep together, but they also rejoice together.

Things to Ponder

“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). From God’s original design that men and women must take care of the land in which they live, we can accurately and reasonably conclude that we are to manage our resources. And we are to govern and be governed by those who at least acknowledge the sovereignty of Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth and all living things, as the source of all blessings and well-being … rain, crops, housing, transportation, all things pertaining to freedom. For life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so profoundly expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Yes, we should manage and control our resources the best we can, seeking God’s counsel and direction in all things. But we are not to control people, in the sense of manipulation or domination; and certainly not the number of people. If we seek God, if we draw near to him, we will find him. And he will give all that is needed to support individuals, families, cities, states, and nations … no matter how many people there are.

How much better would this world be if more believers were as passionately active for truth and life, as terrorists and tyrants are for lies and death? And for Christians to share their love for the truth of God’s Word and the sanctity of life as ardently as those who claim that a union between a man and a woman is not the only way ordained by God, or that the Right to Life belongs exclusively to the mother of an unborn child … not to the God who created life.

As a born again believer in Messiah Jesus, I ultimately don’t decide what is right and good. I let God’s Word decide for me. If I do that, then I can never go wrong. With an extremely strong conditional emphasis on IF.

May God richly bless you.

Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim. Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

To Be or Not To Be … in Heaven?

Tags

,

Heaven & Eternal Life: Same Thing or Different?

“Do you know if you’ll go to heaven when you die? Where will you spend eternity?”

These are questions that sometimes a minister or an evangelist will pose to their audience. Or that a Christian will ask of a loved one, a friend, or even a stranger. In part it is a challenge designed to stimulate some serious self-examination; but mostly, it’s is a genuine heartfelt concern for the eternal destiny of someone who does not know the Lord. As believers in Christ, we want those who are dear to us, even those who may be hostile to us, to be forever with the Lord and with the host of heaven.

But did you know that even some Christians don’t understand that there is a difference between heaven and eternal life? For sure, one goes with the other, but they’re not exactly the same thing. For example: What do you think of when someone mentions everlasting life? Usually, the first thing that comes to mind is Heaven. As well it should, because the very idea of eternal life is practically synonymous with never-ending existence in glory. But the fact remains: Every person is eternal. Every soul will continue into and throughout eternity.

According to Scripture, every person was born (created) to live forever. That is what is meant when God breathed life into Adam (and Eve) and they became a “living soul.” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Other translations read, “A living person” or “a living being.” Soul, person, being … all convey the idea of infinity, of time without end. That’s one reason we’ve conceived the expression human being. We don’t say that about animals, i.e. animal being. But a human is a being, made in the image of God. Part of that image is the eternity breathed into us by our Great God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Shakespeare’s statement of, “To be or not to be; that is the question,” is, indeed, a profound reflection. A living soul will always “be.” To be born is to be, and be, and be….

However, there is a dissimilarity where someone will spend that eternal existence … heaven or hell. Thus, there is a distinction whether a person will experience eternity in life or eternity in death. Indeed, there is an existence of eternal life and the equally clear Biblical teaching of eternal death, which is not an oxymoron. Death means departure—the body from the soul at physical death and subsequent separation from God forever, which is called the second death in Scripture.

We are all born spiritually dead. The only way we can pass from that spiritual death to life is to be born-again, which is accomplished when we believe and receive Christ Jesus, who IS life. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:11-12, italics for emphasis). Please take special notice of the italicized possessive present tense verbs in this remarkable passage, as we will elaborate on this concept shortly.

The Word of God teaches us that everyone who has been redeemed by the sacrificial atonement of Jesus on the Cross will live forever (in heaven). Although the Right to Life comes from God alone, because God is the author of life itself (creator of every person ever born), God does give each person the right to choose where he or she will spend eternity. Thus, if a person rejects God’s invitation to believe and receive the pardon purchased by Jesus, they have chosen (eternal) death … to remain forever separated from God. But even that death is a continuation of existence.

This is more than just semantics. Meaning that everlasting separation from God is not really (any kind of) life at all. It is miserable perpetual existence in darkness … literally and figuratively. When we read passages in Scripture that guarantee eternal life to those to believe in Jesus Christ as Messiah, the Son of God, we think, say, and mean that the believer will live forever in heaven. Likewise, the unbeliever will live forever, but not in heaven. But, as indicated, it’s not really life at all. It’s a death-like absence from all that is right and good and beautiful.

So, then: What is the difference between everlasting life and heaven? And then: What are some of the things that we will never see in heaven?

Even though we think of heaven and eternal life as being one and the same thing—in principle they are interwoven—let’s take a look at Scripture to see the fundamental difference between the two. When we do that, I believe you’ll see that:

Everlasting Life is a possession. Heaven is a place.

The Possession of Eternal Life

The Bible contains several passages of promises that confirm the awesome gift of eternal life to all who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. One is the very authority of God’s Word commensurate with the awesome fact that every promise ever made by God is true. What he says will happen, happens. What he says he will do, he does. For example: The Lord assures us through the apostle John, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13, italics for emphasis).

There is no doubt whatsoever. We never need to wonder or question or be uncertain that our salvation might be lost or otherwise jeopardized by things we do or don’t do. Because salvation is not contingent on our performance either before or after we’re saved. Rather, it is based on the finished work of Christ and on God’s promises that salvation is a permanent possession of the believer. We can no more keep our salvation than we could gain salvation by good works or self-worth or any other religious system. The apostle Paul wrote an entire epistle on this subject. (See the Book of Galatians, but for a condensed version, Galatians 3:1-14).

According to the Bible, it is a done deal! We can know that we know! Once we believe in Christ, we HAVE eternal life … all-inclusive forgiveness of our sins—past, present, and future. Complete assurance of eternal life is such a permanent condition for believers that Jesus, himself, used the analogy of being born-again. I repeat: Christians didn’t coin the term, born-again. Jesus did!

Said Jesus to Nicodemus: “…I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Even a well-educated man and religious leader like Nicodemus couldn’t get a handle on this one. Thus, he replied: “What do you mean? … How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4). So, Jesus explained in more detail that he was talking about a spiritual birth, from above. That this phenomenal rebirth was possible only by believing/receiving Jesus himself. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

No wonder this verse is the all-time favorite of so many Christians. In one verse we are told:

  • How much the true and living God of the universe loves each one of us (the world, which is comprised of every person ever born). Enough to give the precious gift of his Son as the required offering and solution for sin.
  • The means of receiving God’s pardon … simply believe in the Son.
  • The result of that belief and acceptance: Will not perish (eternal death/life in hell); rather eternal life is the immediate result of believing in Christ.

One of the reasons Jesus compares the spiritual birth to the physical birth is to demonstrate the finality of both births. Once a person is born physically, there’s no retroactive process that can return the person to the mother’s womb or otherwise alter the fact that a brand new human being has entered the world. Think about it: Once you’re born nothing can cause you to be unborn. Furthermore, you will always be a child of your parents, even if they disown you for bad behavior or whatever. Same thing with the spiritual birth: Once born from above, there’s no way you can ever be unborn. Birth is birth. Whether physical or spiritual, it is quite permanent. However, God will never disown his children. Once a child of God, always a child of God. Even more: his heirs!

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs….” (Romans 8:15-17).

Everlasting Life … Present Tense Possession

These and other passages explain the fact that everlasting life is freely given by God, a wonderful gift that can never be taken from one who has placed their complete faith/trust in Christ. One that is the exact opposite of everlasting death (which is existence but not really … for what kind of life is it that spends eternity in hell separated from God).

So, the Lord gives us life, then he gives us life again … everlasting life. We are born, then we can be born again. Eternal existence without Christ is no existence at all. In fact, it’s (literally) hell. Do we really realize what we’re saying when we tell someone, “Oh, the hell with you.” Or worse, “He can go to hell.” A cause for pause, don’t you think?

But the most incredible feature of these and other passages that speak of eternal life is what also clarifies the variance between everlasting life and heaven. Both eternity with the Lord and heaven are virtually inseparable; however, the distinction is when and where they begin.

As indicated, Everlasting Life is a Possession! What is meant by that or when is it possessed?

I’m glad you asked, because here is where we sometimes get a little confused and equate heaven with eternal life. Meaning we think everlasting life begins when we get to heaven. Not so! Here’s why.

We could use either one of the previously quoted verses in John or I John, but let’s select another verse just to show how God, through his Word, validates that eternal life is a God-given gift that the believer possesses the very moment of the second birth. Listen to the words of Jesus: “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (John 5:24, italics for emphasis).

The message of Christ is clearly explained by Jesus himself, and by the New Testament epistles; indeed, even from passages in the Old Testament pertaining to the Messiah. As summarized in I Corinthians 15:3-4, “…Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

The italicized emphasis in the earlier verse from John Chapter 5, clearly states that we HAVE eternal life and will never be condemned for our sins if we believe in Christ. Unbelievers (most of whom do believe in an afterlife, per various polls taken) normally think that eternal life begins only after death; furthermore, that they need to earn or merit or become worthy of that life by doing good, at least more good than bad things they do.

Christians know the difference between good works and salvation through grace by faith alone as the means to salvation; but they, too, sometimes equate the commencement of eternal life with entrance into heaven after death. As indicated, among other things, this has led to lack of trust or confidence in what Christians call eternal security. Through a system of legalism—essentially defined as doing or not doing things to merit God’s favor—they unfortunately believe that their salvation can be lost or entrance into heaven revoked if they don’t perform well as a Christian or if they fail (deliberately or inadvertently) to confess any given sin or sins.

The first chapter of I John clearly shows us that confession of sin for the believer is a means of restoring broken fellowship with the Lord, not to reinstate or otherwise keep or regain our salvation.

As alluded earlier, the Bible tells us that we possess eternal life the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior, through the use of present tense verbs … has or have. Right then and there we hold everlasting life, even while we await our passing from this earth either through death or the Rapture. Everlasting life is a present tense possession that can never be taken away from us by another or even by ourselves. We immediately have eternal life because we have Christ and he has us in his possession. Jesus IS eternal life. If we are “in Christ,” we have eternal life.

road_to_heaven-t1

Speaking of Jesus, the apostle John states: “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life….” (I John 1:2).

Then, Jesus speaking about his sheep (believers who have been born again by faith in Christ): “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me … No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

Both the English word, “give,” and the Greek word from which it is translated mean a present tense ongoing possession (eternal life). The text doesn’t say that Jesus will (someday … maybe) give eternal life to his sheep. Rather, eternal life is given the instant we believe in him.

“And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life….” (John 3:36). Once again, we read the present tense word has in this incredible promise. Thus, eternal life is not something we wait for until we die and go to heaven. Instead, it is an immediate present tense, right here and now gift from God the instant we place our personal trust in Jesus Christ as the only one who can save us from eternal death.

Eternal Life is a Possession … Heaven is a Place

“After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said. ‘Why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’” (Acts 1:7-8).

Before his crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven, Jesus told his disciples and all future believers: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3, NASB).

Not only does the Lord assure us that heaven will be the perpetual home of the believer, he even tells us that each one will have a specific dwelling place prepared just for us … and prepare a place for you.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: “It just doesn’t get any better than that.” First, we have present tense (right now on this earth) eternal life the nanosecond that we place our faith in Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the Cross. No one, including ourselves by way of wrong behavior, mistakes, failures, or anything that we think may jeopardize our eternal security, can take away or change our new birth and the God-given gift of everlasting life. Next, we are guaranteed a dwelling place in heaven prepared by our Awesome Lord and Savior, ready to be occupied the moment we leave this earth. Thus, the eternal life we have right now will continue after our address change from earth to heaven. But with a far superior, resurrected body to enable us to live in God’s presence forever.

jesus-in-heaven-jesus-24738943-478-383

I trust that this little study exercise will enable us to better understand both the similarities and the contrast between eternal life and heaven. With the goal of helping all, but especially believers (and unbelievers) who may doubt or not fully understand their destiny. At birth, we all began our eternal existence separated from God. When we accept Christ as Savior, we pass from everlasting death to everlasting life. When a person dies who has Christ, that person goes to heaven (a place of perfect peace where God dwells). When a person dies who does not have Christ, they go to hell (a place of terrible torment where God does not dwell).

Speaking of heaven, the Bible tells us a little of what we we’ll see and experience when we get there. Such as the very presence of Jesus and God, reunion with believer family and friends who have gone before us, and other wonderful blessings.

Heaven is a Place, but Not for Some Things!

Have you ever thought about what we won’t need in heaven? Yes? No? Let’s take a look at some things that will never be seen in heaven. No need to leave a forwarding address from earth to heaven, as there will be no postal service or freight lines to heaven.

“…He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4). Which means there will be:

  • No more undertakers, funeral homes, coffins, crematoriums, or cemeteries.
  • No more facial tissue, sympathy cards, condolences, get-well greetings, or grieving.
  • No more back or knee braces, moans or groans, spills or chills or pain killing pills.

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). Which means there will be:

  • No more hospitals, old-folks homes, doctors, nurses, pharmacies, drugs, or faith healers … the fruit of the month and leaves from the trees are more than enough!

“And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). And, “On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen. There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light!” (Zechariah 14:6-7). Which means there will be:

  • No need for the sun or for lamps and light bulbs. (Isn’t that what it says!)?
  • No more tyrannical or terroristic oppression, suppression, or even hostility towards God’s people. Instead, we will, “reign forever and ever.”

“Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’ And to the man he said, ‘Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it … By the sweat of your brow you will have food to eat until you return to the ground….’” (Genesis 3:16-19). But in heaven:

“No longer will there be a curse upon anything….” (Revelation 22:3). Which means there will be:

  • No more farmers, construction workers, factory assembly lines, ditch diggers, or any other back-breaking labor; or even a woman’s painful labor to give birth (or birth at all!).
  • No more male chauvinism trying to put women in their place! Likewise, no need for a man to listen to his wife! Seriously, there will no longer be a battle of the sexes. There will be perfect harmony between men and women. Now that’s something to look forward to!

“And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshipped” (Zechariah 14:9). Which means there will be:

  • No more religious leaders who deceive or religious differences to dispute; because there will be no more religions. Only one Lord, one Name—the Name above all names. Jesus Christ is Lord!

“Its gates (the New Jerusalem) will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there … Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:25-27). Which means there will be:

  • No more police officers, judges, prisons, because there will be no more crime, whatsoever, in heaven. Thus, no more locks or even closed doors.

On the earth there will still be those who will turn against the Lord, but not in heaven. Because only those who have been redeemed (born-again), whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will inherit heaven and dwell there.

Things to Ponder

More proof of a permanent relationship with God through Christ: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (spiritually dead). And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9).

Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Let’s Celebrate … Forever!

Tags

, , ,

Festival of Tabernacles … Part II

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago….” (I Corinthians 10:1).

There are some things that must never be forgotten; but always remembered as examples for us, for our children, and for their children. Whether things precious or things dreadful. Be they helpful or hurtful. Whether a child’s cheerful appeal, “Remember, daddy, you promised;” or whether the ominous refrain of an entire nation that lost six million of its own during the 2nd World War: “Never again. We must always remember … this can never happen again.”

The triumphs and tragedies of the past become lessons for the present and patterns for the future. History does repeat itself, especially if we fail to learn from past mistakes and failures. The future is much brighter and our expectations and hopes much stronger when we anticipate and then celebrate milestone events of human history and of our very lives. That’s why we honor birthdays and anniversaries … our own, friends, family, and influential people that helped shape the world we live in. That’s why we commemorate life-changing episodes of our human existence.

That’s why we remember times of great turmoil, that ended victoriously … such as Independence Day and Veterans Day. Or birthdays of great leaders that changed the course of history—such as Presidents Washington and Lincoln and civil rights champion Martin Luther King. And certainly the miraculous birth, horrific death, and awesome resurrection from the grave of Messiah Jesus … at Christmas, Good Friday, and Resurrection Day (Easter), respectively.

The apostle Paul challenged the Jewish believers in Corinth to remember what happened to their ancestors in the wilderness … much of which was covered in last week’s article on the Feast of Shelters. Specifically the attitude and actions of the recently delivered Hebrews (from Egypt) and God’s protection and provisions for them even when they were unfaithful to him. Yes, and God’s correction of them, because the Bible tells us that God disciplines those whom he loves.

“I don’t want you to forget … about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground … All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:1-4, italics for emphasis).

It’s crystal clear in the Old Testament record that the food (manna) was actual physical food and the water was real thirst-quenching water, miraculously delivered by God. But Paul shares something with the Corinthian believers even more amazing: Christ was literally with the Hebrews in the wilderness and it was he who supplied both their physical and spiritual sustenance.

After his spectacular encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road and his equally astounding conversion, Paul knew full well that Yeshua was not only the Son of God, he was God the Son; and that Christ was also fully human, the Son of Man. He understood that the Messiah had made several pre-Incarnate appearances throughout the Old Testament; and Paul fully comprehended that this Jewish born Messiah from the tribe of Judah, from the lineage of King David, had existed with God from the very beginning.

Listen to Paul’s magnificent description of Jesus: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

WOW!

Do you care to know who Jesus Christ really is and what he has done for you, for me, and for the whole world? Then read this passage again and know beyond any doubt that he is God, Creator, and our Savior. If you believe that he is Creator God and your personal Savior, you will be saved from your sins and the Wrath of God, and you will live forever with Him in heaven.

“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son, Jesus. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2-4).

Warnings and Examples

Paul continues with the epic saga of the Hebrews in the wilderness: “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did … Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snake bites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (I Corinthians 10:6-11, italics for emphasis).

As indicated in last week’s article, the Jews were commissioned to bring to mind all the things that happened to them in the wilderness, most importantly the magnificent ways that God protected them and provided for them after he miraculously delivered them from Egypt. One of the more meaningful methods to never forget the sovereign providence of the Lord is by periodic observance of these monumental events. The last, but certainly not the least, of the seven Festivals to be kept by the Jews is the Festival or Feast of Shelters.

Copy_of_052

Folks, more than ever before, we are living at the end of the age. We are contemporary, modern-day witnesses to the fulfillment of powerful prophetic signs and events recorded throughout Scripture, the most significant of which is the divinely orchestrated rebirth of Israel, followed by the ever-increasing boasts of terrorist groups and entire nations to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Yet, just last week in the midst of imminent threats from terrorists, regional conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and other nations that threaten to entangle the United States, Russia, and the EU, millions of Jews and tens of thousands of Gentile Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles.

Why is this Holiday so important? What makes it unique in comparison to all of the other Jewish and Christian Holy Days?

One of a Kind

The Bible tells us this Festival that remembers the remarkable providential protection and provision of God in the lives of his people is the only Holiday (Holy Day) that individuals and even nations are required by God to observe at the end of the age … known as the Day of the Lord. As alluded to in past Eye of Prophecy articles, the Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture (transformation, transference, transfiguration of earthly to heavenly bodies) of dead and living believers in Christ. Followed by the seven-year treaty/tribulation that culminates in the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon. Ending with the majestic return of Messiah Jesus to save the Jews from annihilation and the world from extinction. Then the one-thousand year reign of Christ and believers on the earth. From there … eternity, infinity, and beyond!

Transfiguration_by_Lodovico_Carracci

The Old Testament Prophet Zechariah who tells us more about Messiah that any other of the Minor prophets declares: “In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:16).

What plague? In the preceding verses, Zechariah graphically describes this affliction. “And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day they will be terrified, stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will fight their neighbors hand to hand. Judah, too, will be fighting at Jerusalem….” (Zechariah 14:12-14).

Some Bible scholars believe this passage is describing nuclear warfare, i.e. what could happen to human bodies when a nuclear device explodes. Although there very well may be a nuclear exchange during the Great Tribulation, I don’t believe it applies to this passage. With the primary reason that the Lord, himself, will (supernaturally) inflict this catastrophe on the nations that attack Jerusalem as opposed to other nations including Israel launching nuclear missiles. On the other hand, the very power that Christ wields by the Word of his mouth could very well unlock molecules and unleash the power of the atom that essentially holds all things together.

Revelation vividly tells us more about this final battle, as do a handful of other Scripture passages, both Old and New Testament. “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19: 11-16).

It gets even more explicit: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: ‘Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great’” (Verses 17-18).

Back to Zechariah and the Feast of Tabernacles. “Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the Lord will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go. Egypt and the other nations will all be punished if they don’t go to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:17-19).

The reason why the Festival of Shelters is a divine requirement for all time, with the corresponding harsh punishment if people and nations deliberately and arrogantly refuse to attend this Holy Day once a year, is found in the text … which is the very purpose of celebrating this memorial. “To worship the King…”

And who is the King? The King of all kings? Among other New Testament books, the final book of the Bible tells us exactly who the king is and will be. The very first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Revelation boldly declares: “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ….” Then we read about Jesus: “…He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He had made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6, italics for emphasis).

Immanuel … God with us.

What makes this celebration so different from all other holidays, both Jewish and Gentile, different even from the contemporary observance of Tabernacles? The Answer: Messiah Jesus, himself, will be there! It’s all about Jesus! As well it should be. For he is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. (John 14:6). Once again, the purpose for keeping the Feast of Shelters by traveling directly to Jerusalem during the Millennium is to, Worship the King.

The Festival of Shelters will be celebrated not just in remembrance of the past, but also in reverence of the present and in anticipation of the ongoing glorious future of God’s people. And what does that future presence hold? Just like the small shelters (sukkah) constructed for the Feast of Shelters symbolize God’s sovereign protection and provisions, the Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by night, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple contained the very divine presence and glory of God … the Shekinah glory.

santuary1

This same glory—the very essence of God—visited the human race through … a Child born to us and a Son given to us (Isaiah 9:6) prophesied by Isaiah; fulfilled when the angel confidently announced to Joseph: “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23).

Upon his glorious reappearance, Jesus of Nazareth will once again be among us on earth and then in the New Jerusalem forever and ever. IMMANUEL! God with us!

Yes, one day soon will see the once-for-all permanent fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy, God with us, take place when Christ returns to Israel. The nations will travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship the King who first came as a child to Bethlehem to tabernacle (live) among us. But his sojourn was all too brief … only thirty-three years. But, oh what a visit! When he ascended to heaven after he arose from the grave, he left God’s mighty plan of salvation on the earth, available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Yes, Messiah will return for all time as Immanuel. This is why so many will gladly make this wonderful pilgrimage to Jerusalem: to show their eternal gratitude that God is with us. “I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

“And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city” (Revelation 21:26).

They will come to, Worship the King.

Festival of Shelters … Worship of and Gratitude for a Divine Solution to the World’s Problems

What do we do when we worship something or someone? According to Webster’s Dictionary, worship is: “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.”

Undying loyalty and extraordinary respect goes hand in hand with deep awe and reverence, but also perpetual gratitude for what Christ has done and what he will do to set things right when he returns to the earth.

Those who survive the Great Tribulation, including even those who were fighting against the Jews and against Christ himself will recognize, respect, and revere Jesus Christ as the one who:

  • In fact, wages a righteous war. The One who utterly defeats an immoral, unrighteous, ruthless enemy much like we see with today’s terrorists and the ungodly, wicked, shocking slaughter of innocent civilians perpetrated on entire populations as occurred during Hitler’s evil Third Reich. So will it be when the Antichrist beast of Revelation unleashes his unholy alliances against those who refuse to take his mark. Messiah Jesus will deal harshly and decisively with tyranny and oppression to the extent that, “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end” (Proverbs 22:8).
  • The One (and only one) who will bring true and lasting Peace to a destructive world filled with unrestrained corruption, unbridled immorality, unchecked violence, and the horrors of death. He is the, “…Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end….” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • The One who can and will bring pure justice with him and administer this justice fairly to all peoples. “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12). And, “…He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:7).
  • The One whose way and ways are built on absolute truth and righteousness, which all people long for in a ruler. “… Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed” (Revelation 15: 3-4).
  • The One whose decisions and judgments surpass any human magistrate or Supreme Court known to man: “…Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just” (Revelation 16:7).
  • The One who is the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). The One who has conquered death itself. “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18).
  • The One who will make everything brand new, better than ever before, surpassing even the Garden of Eden. The only One who can be fully trusted to do what he says he will do. “…Look, I am making everything new! And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

The overwhelming price paid by Jesus Christ for our sins—his agonizing painful death on the Cross—is far too great to trivialize or overlook. His majestic return to the earth is far too glorious and benevolent to ignore or minimize, both before and after the fact. The awesome price of peace with God and peace among men paid for by Jesus blood must always be remembered, not just during the Feast of Shelters but all through the days and years to come. Those who refuse to accept the very presence of God in the form of his Son, Yeshua ha Mashiach; and, thereby, refuse to attend the Festival of Shelters, will also pay a heavy price. Because they (like so many today who will never see the light of Heaven) will not acknowledge what the Lord has done and will do on that day and forever more.

1

“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: The Lord is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

Things to Ponder

On the Jewish calendar, the Festival of Tabernacles is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The number five signifies Grace … the grace of God that bestows blessings and his very presence in all hearts who invite him in. That is the way of it now … the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts of men, women, and children the world over; those who have believed and received the Son of God, the Son of Man.

“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21).

One day soon, Jesus Christ will tabernacle among us. He will be Immanuel, God with us … forever. He will restore all things. As it once was long ago, so shall it be again. He will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth and will, thereby, bring lasting Peace to a troubled world—a planet teetering on an axis of evil, ready to plunge into an Abyss of hopelessness and helplessness.

“…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Festival of Tabernacles … Part I

Tags

, ,

Feast of Tabernacles

Who doesn’t like and look forward to a holiday? A few perhaps, but Christian and non-Christians the world over spend extraordinary sums of money in preparation for Christmas and Easter; although these time-tested traditions have different meanings for those who celebrate them. For two thousand years Christians have rejoiced in the birth of our Savior at Christmas time and the resurrection of that same Savior and Lord from the grave on Resurrection Sunday. However, for the die-hard secular among us, it’s no longer Merry Christmas … instead they wish you Happy Holidays. And Easter … well it’s just Easter: watching children hunt for hidden eggs and feast on chocolate Easter bunnies. For many, the most appealing attraction of Christmas or Thanksgiving or Labor Day or the 4th of July is a day or two off from work. We need all those days we can get! Right?

For the observant Jew, there are seven Holy Days throughout the year, with some of these more hallowed than others … High Holy Days. Jews call these special times Festivals or Feast Days, which is the same description given by the Scriptures from long ago. For the more secular Jews who pick and choose which holidays to observe, they tend to concentrate on the first festival of the year, Passover, held in the Jewish month of Nisan (March-April); then the three back to back to back memorials in the month of Tishrei (September-October) of Rosh Hashana (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths or Shelters).

So what’s this Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters all about? And, what makes it totally unique in comparison to the other six Jewish Holidays? The annual festivals are first presented in the Torah book of Leviticus, Chapter 23; then in meticulous detail in Numbers, Chapter 29; and once again in summary fashion from the book of Deuteronomy. “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed … For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all” (Deuteronomy 16: 13-15).

In Leviticus and Numbers, more instructions are given such as cessation of all ordinary work on the first and last day of this seven-day celebration. Actually the last day is an eighth day … which is a literal translation (8th day) from the Hebrew, Shemini Atzeret. That 8th day is given the name Simchat Torah, which means rejoice in the Torah (Word of God).

Other requirements plus the major reason for the Feast of Tabernacles can be found in Leviticus: “On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days … This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed in the appointed month from generation to generation. For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23: 40-43). The little shelter(s) are called a sukkah in Hebrew, which means a makeshift hut. In English, we might even use the word shack.

Many reading this article might ask, “What possible relevance does the Jewish Festival of Sukkot have in today’s world?” And, “do you mean to tell me that Jews still keep this tradition.” Answers: All the relevance in the world, as I believe you will see in this week’s and next week’s Part II article. Yes, millions of Jews and even tens of thousands of Christians celebrate this remarkable holiday, which began at sunset this past October 8th and ended on the 15th, a day of complete rest. Then the extra 8th day of Simchat Torah took place on the 16th of October.

Let’s Celebrate!

Jews all over Israel and in many countries of the world construct their own version of a temporary sukkot booth or hut in their backyard or on balconies or in open fields. There, for a week, they eat (mostly evening) meals, relax, sing songs, and entertain family and friends; some go so far as to actually sleep in the makeshift shelter at night. Included in their ceremonies are times of prayers and waving a bouquet—a collection of mostly leafy branches from the etrog (citrus type tree), palm and willow branches, and myrtle (boughs of thicker branched trees).

Through a warm-hearted invitation from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, children throughout Israel helped him furnish his own sukkah. The youngsters hung decorations, all the while singing holiday songs. Although the Israeli office of President is mostly ceremonial (the Prime Minister is the actual head of government), this presidential interaction with Israeli children and citizens was truly remarkable.

I suppose it would be equivalent to the US President inviting a sampling of children in America to decorate his Christmas tree; to truly remember that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the divine light that shines brilliantly in a dark world. Do you suppose our President would ever do such a thing!? Or for the President to summon a cross-section of America to wave sparklers and flags at an Independence Day festival in front of the White House, in remembrance of our deliverance from a tyrannical English king? Personally, I think it would be a great tradition for the next President to institute.

Listen to the words of President Rivlin: “Dear children, you are fulfilling an important task by decorating our sukkah. It’s important that everyone who comes to the president’s sukkah feels he is at home, a home which is a symbol. We have disagreements, but we are one nation and celebrate the holidays together.” Then he continued, “The sukkah symbolizes what we were before we became a nation. We are now celebrating to remember our exodus from Egypt; that we were slaves but now we have a country of our own, and that we must not treat others like we were treated in Egypt.”

deb-sukkah

Unique Features of the Feast of Shelters

It comes as no surprise that there are seven Jewish feasts ordained by God; this in keeping with the divine number seven replete throughout Scripture. They are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Harvest, Harvest or Pentecost, Trumpets or Rosh Hashana, Atonement or Yom Kippur, and Festival of Shelters or Sukkot.

Let’s first look at some of the aspects of the Festival of Booths that are distinct, but not necessarily exclusive. In next week’s article we’ll examine the incredible feature of this Holy Day that is entirely unique in comparison to all of the other sacred holidays, both Jewish and Christian.

  • It is one of two festivals that specifically emphasizes celebration for the entire family. The other feast is the Festival of Harvest. “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season … This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters….” (Deuteronomy 16: 13-14a).
  • But there’s more: “…happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns” (Deuteronomy 16:14b, italics for emphasis). Along with the Festival of Harvest, the Feast of Tabernacles explicitly addresses the inclusion of foreigners or Gentiles. Plus it stresses attendance of non-family orphans and widows, i.e. the poor among them. Even servants are included.
  • It is one of two festivals that lasts for seven days … the other being that of Unleavened Bread. The remaining five festivals are a one-day event. I believe there is a reason for this. The one-day festivals represent astounding events in which God decisively and conclusively intervened on behalf of his people, such as overnight Passover deliverance from Egypt, abrupt and authoritative forgiveness of sin on Yom Kippur, or resounding announcement of the New Year at the Feast of Trumpets. Whereas, the Unleavened Bread and Tabernacle festivals are meant to remember the ongoing provisions and protection of God throughout the long (eventually) 40-year journey to the Promised Land.
  • It is one of the three festivals in which the Lord requires the men of Israel to physically attend and participate as a group in the place designated by the Lord, which in due course became Jerusalem. The pilgrimage of women and children were optional. “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses…” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

Two of these conditions—travel to Jerusalem and participation of the Gentiles—will be highlighted through a fascinating prophecy found in Zechariah, which we will cover next week. But already God, through Moses, is preparing his special possession Israel to grasp the significance of the Festival of Tabernacles’ application to all peoples and the very purpose for annual observance of this vitally important event. If the Jews were going to be a light to the Gentiles, then select Holy Days should be shared with foreigners. Thus, the Feast of Shelters looks both to the past and the future.

*Note: A handful of times since Israel’s rebirth as a nation in 1948, Jews have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem to keep the Festival of Shelters. The most recent was just this past week. Thus, this tradition has made a come-back for both religious and secular Jews.

Primary Purpose for Keeping the Festival of Tabernacles

The physical means and spiritual purpose for Israel’s celebration of Shelters is summarized as follows: “For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23: 42-43). Extraordinarily remarkable is the fact that the Hebrews were still living in these makeshift temporary shelters when God through Moses gave them the Law, the Sacrificial System of Atonement, and the Festivals.

Thus, God is assuring them that they would one day dwell in permanent houses, and otherwise fulfill their destiny in the Land promised to them as an eternal inheritance. In God’s plan and sovereignty it was a done deal. The Lord is telling his people to keep this festival as though they had already reached their destination and were looking back in remembrance of the arduous and perilous journey.

Had the newly delivered Hebrews fully trusted the Lord, they would have entered the Promised Land a year from the Exodus. Instead, it took an agonizing forty years of wandering in circles through the Judean wilderness. They made it far too difficult on themselves. It’s quite evident: When they finally reached the Promised Land (again), they had learned resolute reliance and deferred dependence on the Lord God the hard way. For those who still had some doubts, God convinced them during their first major battle that victory over their enemies and inheritance of the land was possible only when they trusted and obeyed the Lord. The Battle of Jericho clearly taught them this principle. It was a simple but awesome victory. By the time the walls came tumbling down, the battle had been won. And what did the Hebrews do? Exactly what they were told to do: March around the walls seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout. That’s all? Yes, that’s all they needed to do, i.e. trust and obey the Lord their God.

When they finally took possession of the Promised Land, they ate food that they neither planted nor harvested, drank wine that they didn’t produce, wore clothing that they didn’t weave, and lived in houses they didn’t build. All because of God’s sovereignty, grace, and bounty.

In addition to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—before and during the great trek through the wilderness—the Psalms and many other Old Testament books frequently refer to the miraculous delivery of the Hebrews from Egypt after the fact. And there are several review type references in the New Testament. Through all of these passages we can vividly see two distinct reasons why God wanted his people to keep this Festival for all time: To remember God’s faithful Protection of and Provisions for his people.

Last-Day-of-Sukkot-2014-1

PROTECTION:

God’s divine sovereignty in keeping his people safe while horrifying things were happening in front, behind, and all around them is truly stunning:

  • From the plagues in Egypt, including the most deadly of all—the Angel of Death’s killing of all Egyptian firstborn males. All ten judgments were miraculous displays of God’s power and providence, while protecting his people.
  • With their backs to the Sea and facing certain destruction at the hands of Pharaoh’s chariots, God majestically split the sea into dry land, allowing all of the Israelites to cross over; then drowning all the Egyptians who had the audacity and arrogance to pursue them. This is the most talked about miracle in Scripture, and the most recognized supernatural deliverance of all time. All of God’s miracles are blockbusters, but the parting of the Red Sea, along with the Virgin Birth of Jesus and his Resurrection, are off the charts.
  • Divine deliverance from marauding hordes of bandits and murderers, and from attacks by and against mighty armies before, during, and after entrance into the Promised Land. Though the Jews were required to fight, all of their victories were directly attributed to the Lord’s protection and enablement. For example: The astounding victory over a much better armed and trained Amalekite army while Moses held his staff over his head for an entire day. Moses became so weary that Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold his arms up. As a symbol of Israel’s dependence on the Lord, as long as the staff remained elevated the Israelites prevailed, until the victory was finally won (Exodus 17).
  • Through prayerful pleading by Moses, the Israelites were protected from annihilation by God, himself. This after showing their “gratitude” for their liberation from Egypt by building a despicable and detestable golden calf idol.
  • From even more (massive number of) deaths by ultra-poisonous snakes, because of their constant complaints, continuous ingratitude, and ceaseless distrust of God. “…But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. ‘Why have your brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’” (Numbers 21: 4-5). Those familiar with this part of the wilderness saga will recall the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole and miraculous recovery of those bitten by snakes; if they would simply look at the bronze replica and believe that God would heal them by such a simple childlike act of contrition and obedience.

PROVISIONS

The supernatural ways in which the Lord provided for the delivered Israelites is nothing short of astonishing. Such as:

  • Manna from heaven… the food of angels! Gathered every morning, enough for each day. If they gathered too much, it spoiled. “So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them” (Exodus 16: 17-20).
  • Before the manna appeared the next morning, “That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp…” (Verse 13). For anyone who has ever hunted quail, it’s not all that easy, at least not without a bird dog. Here, the birds flew directly into the Israelites’ cooking pots! (Paraphrasing). Yum … all the meat they could eat!
  • The same staff that Moses used to strike the Nile with blood and held aloft to part the Red Sea, he also used to smite solid rock. When he did, streams of water gushed out to quench the thirst of hundreds of thousands of Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 17). This happened again as recorded in Numbers Chapter 20, and water poured from the rock.
  • The very finger of God that blazed the Ten Commandments onto stone tablets on Mt. Sinai, providing the very essence of the Law to God’s people and ultimately standards of morality and right and wrong for all humanity.
  • For forty long years wandering through the wilderness the Israelites’ “…clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell” (Deuteronomy 7:4). Amazing!
  • The ever-present cloud by day and the majestic pillar of fire by night continuously pointed the direction to go. That was the best GPS ever known to man! Right there in front of them. When the cloud moved, they broke camp. When it stopped, they stopped and set up their shelters (sukkah). The next morning they gathered more manna! Hey, for you wilderness junkies, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Time and time again God was faithful when his people were not; when they doubted him, complained against him and Moses about what they didn’t have, and even grumbled over what they did have. But not without consequences, the most obvious of which was forty years of God’s discipline that confined them to the Judean desert.

During which time they had no permanent dwelling places, no real home and hearth to retreat after a long day of work or wandering. Some had tents that they carried in carts or on the backs of their animals or on their own backs. However, most of the people undoubtedly erected a lean-to type shelter made from whatever branches or material they could find or carry. But through it all, God supplied their physical needs … whether through a miracle or through natural provisions along the way of their seemingly never-ending expedition to the Promised Land.

Summary

Because the adults who were delivered from Egypt disobeyed God and refused out of doubt, fear, and lack of trust to enter Canaan, only those less than twenty years began the 40-year passage. When they finally arrived at the threshold of Canaan, here is what Moses reminded them, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13).

The Bible’s inherent definition and meaning of fear of the Lord is not running scared or being frightened. Rather it means reverent respect and deep awe that leads to worship. It also implies complete trust in the Lord … that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.

Included in the Lord’s commands would be, of course, to celebrate the Festival of Shelters—which above all the other festivals depicted the awesome protection and provision God lavished on his people, even though they didn’t deserve it and certainly didn’t earn it. The Feast of Tabernacles would remind them of God’s faithfulness to protect and provide; that he could and should be trusted at all times, for all things, no matter what.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The all-inclusive lesson(s) to be learned by the ancient Israelites regarding the unnecessary generation they spent in the wilderness and how this is part and parcel of the need to always remember what happened, and this remembrance should be summoned at least once a year by observing the Feast of Tabernacles, is powerfully expressed in Psalms Chapter 78.

“Yet they kept on sinning against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They stubbornly tested God in their hearts, demanding the foods they craved. They even spoke against God himself, saying, ‘God can’t give us food in the wilderness. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.’ When the Lord heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel” (Psalms 78: 17-21).

And what exactly was it that made God angry, the opposite of which is the very thing that pleases God? The very next verse in this chapter answers that question and provides a succinct summary of just how the Lord places all of the things we do or don’t do in a box (so to speak). And this box has a label with but two words: Trust Me.

The Lord’s anger rose against Israel because, “…they did not believe God or trust him to care for them” (Psalms 78:22).

In verses 23 through 31 we read a summary of the Exodus account of the miraculous provision of quail and manna. Followed by: “But in spite of this, the people kept sinning. Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him” (Psalms 78:32).

Despite miracles he performed equal to those in Egypt, the greatest of which was Resurrection from the dead, Messiah Jesus was still rejected by his own people. For this reason, The Lord withdrew his protection of and provisions for Israel. In less than a generation after Christ arose from the dead, they were crushed by the Romans and exiled to nations all over the world, just as Moses said would happen (Leviticus 26).

Not until the rebirth of Israel in 1948 and especially the recapture of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1967, did God restore his prophetically promised protection of the Jews. Many Israelis are beginning to see and understand that God once again is demonstrating his love and mercy for the Jews and for Israel. Defeat of their enemies against all odds in four major wars and several other clashes with terrorist groups have proven that.

The next step is for all Israel to embrace their Messiah! Stay tuned for next week’s article.

Things to Ponder

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalms 9:9, italics for emphasis).

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalms 91: 1-2, italics for emphasis).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3: 5-6, KJV).

Webster’s Definition of Trust: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” (italics for emphasis).

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6).

What Is A Saint?

Tags

, , ,

What/Who is a Saint?

In September, 2013, barely a year into his papacy, Pope Francis made a historical announcement that two former popes would be canonized the following year. On April 27th, 2014, nearly two million faithful Catholics converged in Rome to celebrate the formal declaration of sainthood for departed Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. It was the largest gathering in Rome since John Paul II’s funeral nine years earlier. Pope John XXIII died in 1963. These men were undoubtedly the two most popular pontiffs of the 20th-21st centuries; perhaps, for the past several hundred years.

gpii-gxxiii-ge

As a born-again believer who has placed my trust in the atoning sacrifice of the blood and very life of Jesus Christ, I am somewhat intrigued why a pope, of all people, must also qualify to be declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church. According to Catholic dogma, you would think that the very office itself, the very person of the pope who by Catholic Church edict is essentially infallible, need not prove in his lifetime (by his life) that he is worthy of such an honor.

To better understand the dynamics of sainthood in the Catholic Church, let’s examine the criteria of becoming a recognized Catholic saint; and then determine if these conditions are supported by the Biblical designation of a saint. You might ask: Why is it necessary to compare the Catholic Church’s perception of sainthood with the Bible? Answer: Because whether stated or implied, the idea of becoming a saint is tantamount to salvation itself. And one’s salvation or lack thereof is a matter of eternal life or death.

According to Catholic tradition, the first and fundamental requirement is that a potential saint must be deceased. The concept of sainthood is to treat (the memory of) that person as sacred. An equivalent term used is, canonized. The action of being canonized indirectly derives its meaning from the Biblical Canon as the authoritative list of books accepted in Holy Scripture … the Bible. Only it carries it a step further and applies the dogma (doctrines, standards, norms) decreed by the Roman Catholic Church to be (near) perfectly expressed in the lives of its clergy and, to a lesser extent, in the conduct of its laity.

If, then, a nun, priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope exemplifies and exceeds the moral, ethical, spiritual values expected or at least recommended by Catholic creed and tenets, then they are eligible for sainthood. Or, in the case of the Catholic laity, it takes two miracles performed by or attributed to a member of the Catholic Church in order to be canonized. However, occasionally just one miracle was enough … if it was a really big miracle!

From the Kenerman English Learner’s Dictionary we find the following definition of a saint: “A dead person officially recognized by the Catholic Church for having lived a very holy life.” From the British Dictionary, “One who after death is formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behavior a specially exalted place in heaven, and the right to veneration” (meaning here on the earth … italics as commentary). Also, “a person of exceptional holiness or goodness.” From Random House Webster’s Dictionary: “A person of great virtue or benevolence.”

After a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church through (mostly infant) baptism, these definitions accurately summarize the overriding and underlying teachings of the Catholic Church which can be expressed by and condensed to the following premise: Sainthood and, by implied association, salvation must be earned by exceptional holiness, goodness, and by intrinsic virtue.

Thus, even the most virtuous Catholics will never know for sure whether they will be judged worthy of eternal life and heaven until after they die. But there are a few who seemingly will be guaranteed a heavenly existence—and an exalted one at that—simply because they were, after death, declared saints by an earthly decree of the Catholic hierarchy.

Catholic Saints

Down through the ages, hundreds of well-known and even a few obscure Catholics have been canonized. In fact, most days of every calendar month of the year are reserved for an individual Catholic who has been conferred the honor of sainthood … one saint for each of those days. The two recently canonized popes each have a day set aside for them in the month of October … John Paul II on 10-22 and John XXIII on 10-11. Even those of us who are Protestant or Evangelical or those belonging to cults, or even the agnostics among us have heard of some of these saints. Such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Helen, St. Dominic, St. John, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa. Who among us hasn’t celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day at one time or another? Even those who don’t believe in Santa Claus have probably heard of Saint Nicholas! Otherwise known as St. Nick.

Whether interested in history or not, many know about Joan of Arc. Did you know that she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920 nearly six hundred years after her death? Do you remember how she died? Do you recall why she died? Yes … she was burned at the stake for being a heretic. And who declared her a heretic and subsequently put her to death? Right again … the Roman Catholic Church! There’s nothing like conferring sainthood on someone to make amends for a slight indiscretion such as killing them for claiming to have heard directly from God and leading troops into battle. Obviously, I’m being a bit facetious, but it did happen that way.

At face value, the idea and Catholic Church practice of declaring select men and women as saints seems to be an honorable, worthy, even noble cause. In fact, the Catholic.org website that provides a comprehensive list of these venerated people states: “Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives … God calls each one of us to be a saint.”

In daily living and conversation, we sometimes hear someone say, “He is a saint.” Or the moral/spiritual equivalent: “She’s an angel.” People use these terms interchangeably with the core meaning that the person they’re referring to possesses qualities of goodness and uprightness that assuredly will qualify them for heaven when they die. I’m certain both of these terms were frequently used of Mother Teresa. And rightfully so, at least in terms of her moral excellence and dedication to help the poor and downtrodden. But as we shall soon see, even Mother Teresa’s salvation and sainthood (Biblically defined) is not earned … it’s a gift from God.

476_dualpopesspn

Are they really saints? Who is a saint? To answer these questions let’s look at what the Bible has to say about it.

The reason we need to refer to Scripture has everything to do with God’s definition of a saint. If the Catholic Church’s teachings on sainthood matches up with the final authority of God’s Word, then all is well. If not, then over a billion Catholics in the world need to ask themselves and their ecclesiastical leaders (priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope himself) whether a Catholic saint is guaranteed a place in heaven. If so, then what about millions of other Catholics who try just as hard to be saint-like, but who will never be canonized? How many good deeds are enough to outweigh the bad? Can someone buy their way out of hell by giving more than their share to the Church or to charity? Will devoting one’s life to helping the poor assure them of everlasting life in heaven? Will occasional attendance of Mass and visitation to the confessional shorten one’s time in Purgatory, which isn’t even a place mentioned in or acknowledged by the Bible? Heaven, yes. Hell is referenced more often than heaven. But Purgatory? I don’t think so.

Biblical Definition of a Saint

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word saint or saints is used sixty-one times and the word or derivative of the word holy is used 161 times. Saint is an English offshoot of the Latin word, sanctus. Whether saint or holy, the original New Testament Greek word is: Hagios. Which means a most holy thing; a saint. The word Holy in both the Old Testament and New Testament essentially means: To set apart for a special reason or purpose. We also have the word ecclesia, which means called out ones, which is virtually synonymous with our English word, Church.

Make no mistake … the notion of Catholic canonization conveys the meaning of placing the one canonized on a lofty pedestal that suggests a touch of reverence normally reserved for divinity. In fact some synonyms of canonized are: beatified, hallowed, idolized, adored, and even worshipped. This is not the Biblical idea at all. Rather, a Christian saint is simply a sinner saved by the grace of God.

The whole idea of saint, holy, called-out ones is NOT the concept of sinless perfection or conduct, which the Bible clearly indicates is not possible for any man, woman, or child. Paul tells us in Romans 3:10 which is a restatement of the Old Testament verse in Psalms, “No one is righteous—not even one.” Just before that, Paul states, “Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9).

God does not call us to be saints, as such. Not in the sense that in order for God to accept us, we must think saint-like thoughts and perform saint-like deeds. That we must live extraordinarily pure lives in order to be classified and qualified as a saint. Just the opposite: We live uncommon lives as a result of being saved or set apart by God’s grace, through our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. God’s only requirement to become a saint is that we believe and receive His Son. Then we understand that saint-like holiness or righteousness is given to us, because we have none of our own.

In that regard, a Christian saint is consecrated … to and for the Lord; blessed … a beneficiary of the Lord’s awesome grace; sanctified … becoming more like Christ; and one day glorified … a new resurrected body like our Lord’s upon his resurrection from the dead. But a Biblical saint is not to be worshipped, revered, idolized, adored, beatified, or otherwise canonized.

When God, through Moses, told the Jews to, “be holy as I am holy,” and Peter repeated this to the Christian Church, the focal point of holiness was the core meaning of the word … set apart from the evil world system that fosters greed, corruption, pride, selfishness, violence, and all things ungodly.

The Bible tells us that every human being must first be saved from their sins and the penalty of those sins; that salvation comes from and through one and only one person, Jesus Christ. “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scripture, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4: 11-12).

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved … For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10: 9-13).

When we believe and receive Christ as our personal Savior, then we become saints! Which is why both the apostles Paul and Peter in their letters to the churches often used the designation of holy ones or saints interchangeably with believers or Christians.

For example, Paul addresses the Roman Christian believers: “I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people” (Romans 1:7). Holy people in this translation is also rendered “saints” in other Bible translations. Both stem from the Greek word Hagios. All of these saints were obviously alive. Some of them were brand new born-again Christians. None of them first had to die in order to be eligible for sainthood.

In his letter to the Colossian Church Paul begins with, “…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae … since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel … since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1: 2-6, NASB).

Is there a distinction between the Bible’s definition of saint and holy and the Catholic Church’s teaching? Yes, a huge difference.

Once again referring to the Catholic on-line statement: “God calls each one of us to be a saint.” But who is each one? It’s clear whichever Catholic clergy wrote this statement is addressing the Catholic followers of the website. He is telling them that God is calling them all to be saints. With the implication, however, that you must first be a member of the Catholic Church to even qualify as a potential saint. And once again we need to refer to the standards that must be met before the Catholic Church will confer sainthood on any good Catholic: “one who after death is formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behavior … the right to veneration.”

In short, this is a direct contradiction in every sense imaginable to what God tells us regarding salvation and, therefore, sainthood. Rather the Bible states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9, NASB). Who is you and yourselves of this passage? None other than, “…the saints who are at Ephesus…” (Ephesians 1:1).

Scripture plainly tells us that our good works or intrinsic worth is not what qualifies us to be a saint or what makes us a saint. We do not and cannot earn our salvation or the right to be called a saint. We automatically become a saint when we accept God’s gracious gift of his Son’s death on the Cross; then trust the Son to save us and give us eternal life because he arose from the dead.

More than Saints, Also Priests!

To all who have personally placed their faith in Jesus Christ and, thereby, are called saints, holy ones (set apart), believers, born-again, or Christians (one who is in Christ and belongs to him), we also have the incredible privilege to be called priests. Listen to the amazing words of the apostle Peter who is writing to “…God’s chosen people…” (I Peter 1:1) “…What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (I Peter 2:5). The spiritual sacrifices are the good deeds and right living that believers do in heartfelt gratitude for their salvation, not in order to merit salvation or in order to become a saint.

Then Peter states: “…You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy” (I Peter 2: 9-10).

Once again we see: First comes salvation (sainthood) as God’s people called out of darkness into light. Then, we show and live the (saintly) goodness of God as a result of our salvation which includes being priests of the Most High God.

Under the Mosaic Law, priests were necessary as a go-between God and the Jews. The Roman Catholic Church has carried on this tradition because the clergy continued with the premise that the average individual Catholic still needs a human intercessor to approach God, to confess sins, and to receive communion, i.e. the Catholic priesthood. To the contrary, the Bible tells us that every person who is a born-again believer (saint) is given the wonderful position of a priest. That is: we can go directly to God to confess our sins, to pray, to fellowship with him, and to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord, who is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

We love the Lord because he first loved us. We serve him because we are saints, not in order to become a saint. Do you see the difference?

There is a world of difference in these two ideas. Salvation and sainthood can be summed up with these powerful words of truth: “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” (Romans 3:21-25).

Such magnificent truth and freedom in this passage. To wit:

  • God doesn’t expect us to keep the law and certainly not all the traditions of religious institutions including Catholicism, because he knows no one can possibly keep the entire law. All have sinned.
  • We all have fallen short of God’s requirements of perfect righteousness. There is no amount of good works or right living (apart from salvation in and through Christ) that can please God enough for him to declare us innocent of our sins. Even the best person who has ever lived (whoever that might be) is not good enough to be called a saint … not according to God’s definition of a saint, i.e. one who has been made righteous through faith in Christ.
  • He has shown as a new way to be right with God … by simply placing our trust in Jesus. Christ then covers us with his righteousness and God looks at us through his Son’s righteousness.

Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and other cultic religions are religious systems that have borrowed their theology and practices from the Jewish Law of Moses, with a Gentile twist. Scripture plainly tells us that the purpose of the law was simply to show us what sin really is and that no one could possibly keep the law. That’s why the animal sacrificial system was also given to the Jews, to atone for their constant sins. But Jesus did away with that entire system. He perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses because we couldn’t, no matter how hard we try. He is the final, once-for-all sacrifice, the High Priest himself offering his life in exchange for the pardon of our sins and everlasting life in heaven with a loving, but holy God.

For the Roman Catholic Church to confer sainthood on those who strive to attain it through holy deeds or behavior is in direct conflict with God’s way of righteousness. For Roman Catholicism to state or imply that salvation is (potentially, although not guaranteed) possible only by membership baptism into the Catholic Church and keeping other of their man-made traditions including the rites of sainthood is a blatant contradiction of who or what is a saint.

And the Bible clearly defines a saint or believer or Christian or chosen-one or called-out one: “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: ‘Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin’” (Romans 4: 5-8). And we’ve seen that this faith in God is one and the same as: “when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”

Things to Ponder

For those of us who are believers (saints) in Jesus Christ, we should have nothing against Roman Catholics or Mormons or any other individual. Yet, we are called to share the truth of the good news (gospel); thus, we must expose the dangers of Roman Catholicism or Mormonism or Hinduism. All religious systems that essentially are based on the good works performance of their adherents to obtain whatever salvation their religion supports must be exposed for what it is: A distortion of God’s plan of salvation, that ultimately will determine the eternal destiny of those who believe or who don’t believe.

Biblical Christianity shows us that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has freely given us salvation that enables us to be and be called saints of the Most High God, when we simply say Yes to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Understanding that no one comes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6).

An exceptional and extraordinary benefit to so great a salvation for those who have received Messiah Jesus as personal Lord and Savior is that we can know beyond any doubt that our salvation is permanent. It cannot be lost. We cannot be unborn spiritually any more than we can be unborn physically.

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13, italics for emphasis).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.