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The Life of Paul

The apostle Paul born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents born in Tarsus, in modern eastern Turkey. Paul the Apostle commonly known as Saint Paul, and also known by his native name Saul of Tarsus, who trace their ancestry to the tribe of Benjamin.

There is much we can learn from the life of the Apostle Paul. Far from ordinary, Paul was given the opportunity to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. The story of Paul is a story of redemption in Jesus Christ and a testimony that no one is beyond the saving grace of the Lord. However, to gain the full measure of the man, we must examine his dark side and what he symbolized before becoming “the Apostle of Grace.” Paul’s early life was marked by religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church. Fortunately, the later years of Paul’s life show a marked difference as he lived his life for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom.

Paul was actually born as Saul. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia around A.D. 1-5 in a province in the southeastern corner of modern day Tersous, Turkey. He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry. His parents were Pharisees-fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses-who sought to protect their children from “contamination” from the Gentiles. Anything Greek was despised in Saul’s household, yet he could speak Greek and passable Latin. His household spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, which was the official language of Judea. Saul’s family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city.

At age thirteen Saul was sent to Palestine to learn from a rabbi named Gamaliel, under whom Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years as Saul learned such things as dissecting Scripture. It was during this time that he developed a question-and-answer style known in ancient times as “diatribe.” This method of articulation helped rabbis debate the finer points of Jewish law to either defend or prosecute those who broke the law. Saul went on to become a lawyer, and all signs pointed to his becoming a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion. Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism.

Because of his extremism Saul might have been present at the trial of Stephen. He was present for his stoning and death and he held the garments of those who did the stoning (Acts 7:58). In Acts 5:27-42, Peter delivered his defense of the gospel and of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, which Saul heard. Gamaliel was also present and delivered a message to calm the council and prevent them from stoning Peter. From that moment on, Saul became even more determined to eradicate Christians as he watched the Sanhedrin flog Peter and the others. Saul became more ruthless in his pursuit of Christians as he believed he was doing it in the name of God. Arguably, there is no one more frightening or more vicious than a religious terrorist, especially when he believes that he is doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. This is exactly what Saul of Tarsus was: a religious terrorist. Acts 8:3 states, “He began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”

The pivotal passage in Paul’s story is Acts 9:1-22, which recounts Paul’s meeting with Jesus Christ on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, a journey of about 150 miles. Saul was angered by what he had seen and filled with murderous rage against the Christians. Before departing on his journey, he had asked the high priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for permission to bring any Christians (followers of “the Way,” as they were known) back to Jerusalem to imprison them. On the road Saul was caught up in a bright light from heaven which caused him to fall face down on the ground. He hears the words, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He says, “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answers directly and clearly, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (vv. 4-5). As an aside, this might not have been Saul’s first encounter with Jesus, as some scholars suggest that young Saul might have known of Jesus and that he might have actually witnessed His death.

From this moment on, Saul’s life was turned upside down. The light of the Lord blinded him, and as he traveled on he had to rely on his companions. As instructed by Jesus, Saul continued to Damascus to make contact with a man named Ananias who was hesitant at first to meet Saul because he knew Saul’s reputation as an evil man. But the Lord told Ananias that Saul was a “chosen instrument” to carry His name before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (v.15) and would suffer for doing so (v.16). Ananias followed the Lord’s instructions and found Saul, on whom he laid hands, and told him of his vision of Jesus Christ. Through prayer, Saul received the Holy Spirit (v.17), regained his sight and was baptized (v.18). Saul immediately went into the synagogues proclaiming Jesus and saying He is the Son of God (v.20). The people were amazed and skeptical, as Saul’s reputation was well known. The Jews thought he had come to take away the Christians (v.21). Saul’s boldness increased as the Jews living in Damascus were confounded by Saul’s arguments proving that Jesus was the Christ (v.22).

As a result of this miraculous transformation, Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25). Interestingly, the Christians driven out of Palestine by Saul of Tarsus founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19-21). Paul took his first of three missionary journeys in the late 40s A.D. Paul wrote many of the New Testament books. Most theologians are in agreement that he wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These 13 “letters” (books) make up the “Pauline Authorship” and are the primary source of his theology. As previously noted, the book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times. The Apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) It is assumed that Paul was arrested upon his return to Rome and died a martyr’s death by beheading in the mid-to-late 60s A.D.

So, what can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul? First, we learn that God can save anyone. The remarkable story of Paul repeats itself every day as sinful, broken people all over the world are transformed by God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Some of these people have done despicable things to other human beings, while some just try to live a moral life thinking that God will smile upon them on the day of judgment. When we read the story of Paul and know what he had done, it is difficult for us to believe that God would allow into heaven religious extremists who murder innocent women and children. Today, we might see people on death row as unworthy of redemption because their crimes against humanity are just too great. Yet we live our lives in a sinful manner, expecting that God will be impressed by the fact that we haven’t killed anyone. The story of Paul is a story that can be told today-he isn’t worthy in our eyes of a second chance, yet to God he is worthy. The truth is that every person matters to God, from the “good, decent,” average person to the “wicked, evil” degenerate. Only God can save a soul from hell.

Second, we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a humble, powerful witness for Jesus Christ. Arguably, no other human figure in the Bible demonstrated more humility while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as Paul. Acts 20:19 tells us that he “served the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to [him] through the plots of the Jews.” In Acts 28:31, Paul shares the good news of Jesus Christ: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul was not afraid to tell others what the Lord had done for him. This verse is the very definition of Paul’s newfound life in Christ. He would spend the rest of his days working tirelessly for the kingdom of God.

Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God. Paul was fully “sold-out” for God. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, yet he was still praising God and sharing the good news. Through his hardships and suffering, Paul knew the outcome of a life well lived for Christ. He had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Can we make the same claim?

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The Book Of Amos Reveals Amazing Insight Into The Time Of Jacob’s Trouble And The Battle Of Armageddon

This is the whole point behind the time of Jacob’s trouble, and one of the strongest reasons I know why the Church will not and cannot possibly be here for it. It has nothing to do with the Church, it is a JUDGEMENT on Israel.

“The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.” Amos 6:8 (KJV)

Have you ever read through the little book of Amos of the Old Testament? Perhaps you glanced through it once or twice, but never really dug deep into it because, honestly, it just didn’t seem all that interesting. Well, too bad. Because if you like end time Bible prophecy, the book of Amos is one of the most exciting and revealing books in the Bible that describes tons of events that take place during the time of Jacob’s trouble.

“And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.” Amos 1;2 (KJV)

Verse two in the first chapter may sound familiar to you, especially if you read the book of Joel right before reading Amos. Amos 1:2 is a time clue reference, and it repeats what we read in Joel 3:16. So from that we know right from the opening of Amos, that the time in which Amos vision will take place will be in the time of Jacob’s trouble. Otherwise known as the Great Tribulation from Matthew 24, and Revelation 6 – 19.

Right off the bat, Amos launches into a series of intense judgments that fall on places connected with the time of Jacob’s trouble leading into the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. Take a look at the list and you will see immediately what I mean:

  • Damascus in Syria, north of Galilee.
  • Gaza where the mythical present-day region of Palestine is located.
  • Tyrus north of Palestine.
  • Edom south of the Dead Sea.
  • Ammon east of Jordan, and above the Dead Sea.
  • Moab east of Jordan opposite the Dead Sea
  • Judah
  • Israel

If you have read our work entitled “The Real Meaning Of The Word Selah As Found In The King James Bible“, then all these places will immediately stand out to you. If not, please take a moment to read it now and get acquainted with these end times hot spots.

So as we travel through the opening chapters of the book of Amos, we see that God is drawing our attention to areas in the end times where His judgment is going to fall either at the beginning, middle or end of the Battle of Armageddon. This is the main thrust of Amos’ vision, he takes us from the start of judgement in the time of Jacob’s trouble, and ends up all the way with a restored Israel during the 1,000 Year Reign of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem.

But as you have already noted from our bullet point list, Israel is included in God’s judgments as well.

Starting in chapter 2, God begins laying out His grievances with His chosen people for their rebellion and iniquities, and by chapter 3 really lets them have it.

“Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Amos 3:1,2 (KJV)

God continues through chapters 4 and 5 describing the coming time of affliction to Israel for their transgressions. This is the whole point behind the time of Jacob’s trouble, and one of the strongest reasons I know why the Church will not and cannot possibly be here for it. It has nothing to do with the Church, it is a JUDGEMENT on Israel.

“Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.”Amos 5:1,2 (KJV)

Take modern-day Israel, right now in 2017. In just about 7 weeks from now, they will celebrate their 69th years of being regathered back in the Biblical land of Israel. It is an amazing fulfillment of Bible prophecy that they are even back there. They are the blooming fig tree from Matthew 24. But look closer at Israel, and what do you see? You see a nation that mentions the Lord God only in passing, as a point of historical interest, or parlaying their rich history into tourist dollars.

But Israel in 2017 has become the LGBTQP capital of the world in Tel Aviv, something for which the Bible says God destroyed both Sodom and Gomorrah. An article in the Boston Globe calls Tel Aviv “THE GAYEST CITY ON EARTH”. Any fear of God in their eyes? Nope. None at all.

And because Israel will not return to the LORD, the LORD is going to send judgement on His own chosen people the Jews, and in His own chosen land of Israel. He is going to do it with the judgments of fire, hail, pestilence and famine that the book of Revelation says will fall down from the sky, and by raising up the Antichrist to attack and besiege them from ground level.

Are you one of those people who are looking forward to the Day of the Lord? God warns you against it.  This is the opposite of what happens at the Rapture of the Church, which Paul says is our “blessed hope” and a “comfort”.

“Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?”Amos 5:18-20 (KJV)

Chapter after chapter, God delves deeper and deeper into why He is causing this time of judgment to fall on His own people. He is going to shake Israel and its inhabitants to their very core to remove from them the iniquity that is keeping them from a right relationship with Him.

“Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Amos 9:8,9 (KJV)

Then after 7 solid chapters of judgement on Israel in the time of Jacob’s trouble, God devotes the last 5 verses of Amos to describing Israel’s restoration. And it’s beautiful.

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.” Amos 9:11-15 (KJV)

Yes, Israel’s glory is yet still future, and it is amazing. But in order to get to that point, they will have to endure the greatest, single event of tribulation in human history. The vision of Amos tells us what’s coming for them, and more importantly why it’s coming for them.

The Church will not be here for this time, but you can right now pray for the Jewish people and for the nation of Israel. As Bible believers, we can see this coming from miles away, but they cannot. When the time of Jacob’s trouble begins, they will be utterly unaware what’s happening to them. Even though their own Book describes it in great and graphic detail.

“Behold, I have told you before.” Matthew 24:25 (KJV)

ARTICLES RELATED TO THE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE:

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Christian saints according to the Bible

The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” It is almost always used in the plural, “saints.” “…Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …” (Acts 26:10). There is only one instance of the singular use, and that is “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:21). In Scripture there are 67 uses of the plural “saints” compared to only one use of the singular word “saint.” Even in that one instance, a plurality of saints is in view: “…every saint…” (Philippians 4:21).

The idea of the word “saints” is a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. There are three references referring to godly character of saints: “that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints …” (Romans 16:2). “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints and at the same time are called to be saints. First Corinthians 1:2 states it clearly: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. This is the biblical description and calling of the saints.

How does the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” compare with the biblical teaching? Not very well. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

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Christians explain what a soul is, especially to non-Christians

The soul is that part of you that transcends life and death. It existed before you were born, as it did for Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-5), and it will exist after you physically die. Irrespective of your fate as a person who rejects God (Mark 9:47-48 – your ‘worm’ is your soul), or a person who finds God and eternal life (John 17:1-2, 3), your soul is eternal. It is the real you.

Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let Us make a man in Our image, after Our likeness… 27, So God created man in His Own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” God is a three part spiritual being. We worship God in spirit and in truth. We are body (physical), spirit, and soul. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, And the very GOD of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray. God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Genesis when Adam sinned, the very essence of man’s nature changed. He became focused more on his soul, that is to say on his own wants. He rejected the spirit, the part of us that is God focused. The curse fell. The soul is the seat of desire. Also can be thought of as heart, your hearts desire. Remember God is a Spirit. We are all born spiritually dead. This is why we need Jesus! 1 Corinthians 15:42-50, 54 55.

It is my belief that you were created by Jesus (Col 1:15-16) at some point other than your birth (Eccl 1:10-11). I believe you existed at the Foundation of the World when God made a choice amongst His Creation (Eph 1:3-4), predestining some to be in His new kingdom (Eph 1:5-6). The grace we received was given before time began (2 Tim 1:8-9). It was based on merit. If it were not, then God could not, in my opinion, be praised as just and true in His choices, at the end of this age (Rev 15:3-4; 16:5-6, 7).

Jeremiah tells us that before he was formed in the womb, he was known by God. Romans 8:28-29 extends that scenario to those whom God called to be conformed to the image of His Son. The soul is shaped and bedecked in the womb with the accoutrements of a physical body. God does these things (Psalm 139:13-14) to a person’s “unformed substance” – their soul (Psalm 139:15-16). It is visible to God, but to us it cannot be seen:

Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV) By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

When we are born, we consist of two parts – physical body and soul. Until we believe on the One True God, and His only begotten Son, Jesus, we are separated from God – spiritually dead. Once we believe the Father, we pass out of spiritual death and into spiritual life (John 5:24). At that point, we become three parts – body, soul, and spirit – God’s Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:23). What is it that the Father said that we must believe in, in order to obtain eternal life?

Jesus said the words He brings are not His, but from the Father who sent Him (John 14:24). Romans 10:8-9 states that whoever confesses with their mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believes in their heart that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, they will be saved. It is at the point of belief that the Father and Son will come into your heart, via the Holy Spirit, and make their abode with you (John 14:23). (Of which I get the church’s name, ‘The House of the Nazarene’! We house Jesus the Nazarene we are His abode!) Jesus spoke these words on the Father’s authority (John 14:10). He stands at the door of your heart (Rev 3:20), ready to fellowship with you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit actually indwells a person who has believed. It is referred to in Scripture as being “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9-10). Again, it requires that you believe God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11) in order to live by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13) and qualify as sons of God (Rom 8:14). The Holy Spirit is sent as a teacher (John 14:26). It abides in us. (1 John 2:24-25). The ‘anointing’ (Holy Spirit) is given to us to lead us into all truth (1 John 2:27).

God the FatherTo conclude, the soul is the quintessential fabric of our very being. The physical body is only a covering. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:1, our earthly dwelling is a tent, but our heavenly dwelling is a body (spiritual body) not made with hands, i.e. not through procreation, but through transformation into the image of Jesus’ very nature, bearing His righteousness. And while we are in these physical bodies (2 Corinthians 5:2-3) we complain and wish to be in our heavenly bodies, that we may attain to eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:4). The Holy Spirit is given to us as a ‘guarantee’/pledge (2 Corinthians 5:5-6) so that we may find our way back to the Lord.

We will all die naturally. This physical body will die in its time. We will all share in eternity in our souls. This soul that is spiritually alive, thanks to Our Lord will be at home with God. 1 Corinthians 15:55, O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? Jesus relates the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. His soul was in torment. He was spiritually dead. But he will have an eternity!

The spirit and the breath are the same throughout Scripture. When a person dies, it is God’s life-giving power, His breath, the spark of life that returns. The psalmist David states it this way: “His breath (spirit) goeth forth” (Psalm 146:4). It is not some conscious entity. It is not some immortal soul. The Hebrew word for breath throughout Old Testament Scripture is ‘ruach.’ This Hebrew word means air, wind or spirit. Job 27:3 talks about God’s spirit, or breath, in our nostrils. At death this spirit, or breath, returns to God.

God mercifully shuts our eyes at death to all of the sorrow, heartache and disappointment on earth. Since the “dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and “in the grave there is not remembrance of you” (Psalm 6:5), it is only logical that “the dead praise not the Lord” (Psalm 115:17). The Bible compares death to a sleep more than 50 times. For Christians, death is like sleeping soundly, not aware of time passing (Revelation 14:13).

Jesus said in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” I look forward to that, and to the new glorious body, that I and all others, spiritually alive will spend soul fully in eternity. Thank you LORD for eyes to see and ears to hear.

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How does the Bible describe the glorified bodies we will possess in Heaven

The most important of these prophecies is Eze 44. Here we see the matter prophesied in the form of the priests’ clothing. This same symbolism is seen in the garments of the Levitical priesthood. This passage is simply a deeper explanation of these symbols. In Eze 44:17, 18 we see that when they enter the inner portions of the temple and serve in God’s direct presence they are to wear the linen clothing (spiritual nature). Rev 17:5 tells us the linen of the garment is the righteousness of the saints. We only surmise this is a spiritual nature from Jn 4:24 which says God is spirit; therefore the assumption is that only spirit can enter the place where God is. (For those that might bring this up, remember Jesus is also God!) We must always be careful when making assumptions, but I believe we can agree with those who make this assumption.

Ezekiel 44:19 says that when the priests leave the inner courts and go out to the outer court where the people are they must remove their linen garments and put on the other garments. By comparing this chapter with historical sources to find that the primary garments of the priests were made of wool (animal hair). Hair, which is dead cells, is often used in scripture to symbolize the mortal nature of our bodies, so these clothes are usually called the mortal nature. Yet because this is part of our glorified body it is not a mortal nature, but a body that appears in every external way as the mortal body does. Yet when he described his post resurrection body Jesus said he was flesh and bone (symbolism of spirit — Heb 4:12), not flesh and blood, so there is some substantial difference that is apparently not visible externally.

While the Bible doesn’t describe in detail the glorified bodies we will receive in heaven, we know that they will be like that of Jesus’ resurrected body. Our human bodies are described in 1 Corinthians 15:42-53 as perishable, dishonorable, and weak, all due to sin. Our glorified bodies will be imperishable, honorable, and powerful. Our new bodies will be no longer “natural” bodies, but “spiritual” bodies, no longer focused upon the natural senses but at one with the Holy Spirit.

As imperishable bodies, they will no longer suffer from sickness and death, nor will they ever be subject to heat and cold or hunger and thirst. Our new bodies will be honorable in that they will not be shamed or shameful because of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they felt was shame because of their nakedness (Genesis 3:6-7). Although the Bible doesn’t portray glorified bodies as being naked, but rather clothed in white garments (Revelation 3:4-5, 18), they will be pure and undefiled by sin. Our earthly bodies are “weak” in many ways. Not only are we subject to the natural laws of gravity and time/space, we are weakened by sin and its temptations. Our glorified bodies will be empowered by the Spirit that owns us, and weakness will be no more.

Just as our earthly bodies are perfectly suited to life on earth, our resurrected bodies will be the same for life in heaven. We will have form and solidity to the touch, yet with no hindrance to travel (John 20:19, 26 Luke 24:39). We will be able to enjoy food, but will not be driven to it by necessity for nourishment nor fleshly desire (Luke 24:40-43). And like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to bathe in the glory of our Maker in the fellowship of His dear Son (Matthew 17:2-3; Philippians 3:10). The bodies we inherit will be more like what God had originally made us to be, rather than what we now abide in through the infirmity and weakness of our sinful flesh. We will be glorified with Christ, and that glory will extend to the bodies we will inhabit.

This is the form we most often see for the angels when they appear in scripture. While there are exceptions, most often those interacting with them cannot tell at first that they are speaking with angels instead of men. Something they do later is responsible for that revelation. Think of Abram’s three visitors, the angel Jacob fought, the angel that announced Samson’s conception, the angels (and Jesus) at his tomb AFTER his resurrection, and the angels at Jesus ascension.

Some have speculated that instead of blood these glorified bodies have light running through their veins. I understand the reasoning for this speculation but don’t know that it is valid for anyone to make such an assumption. In the visions of the throne of God and many others where spiritual being appear we find them described as having the appearance of molten bronze. In other words, they have a glow of fire within that shines through their skin in much the same way molten metal glows.

He Is ComingWe see this same glow in Moses face after he spent 80 days in God’s presence on the mountain. As a result he had to wear a veil in the presence of the people who feared the presence of God shining out of him. He removed that veil when he entered the tabernacle into the presence of God and placed it over his face when he went out to the people. This is a direct correlation to the priests leaving the spiritual realm in the tabernacles age temple in Eze 44 to enter the outer courts and serve among the people. The woolen garments are what make them look like the rest of the people, and hides the spiritual nature from obvious view. It may shine through at times such as with Moses, the ascension in the fire of sacrifice of the angel that announced Samson, the ability of the three Hebrews to walk with Jesus in the fiery furnace, Jesus at his transfiguration, and any other example I may not have mentioned, but at most times we do not have that nature in this life, and they do not reveal it to us.

God is a spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24) God is a spirit suggests that those who inhabit the heavenly realm are void of a mortal physical body. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable, says 1 Corinthians 15:50 For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality (1Corinthians15:53). so our physical bodies will be exchanged for immortal spiritual ones.

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Thousands of Muslims reportedly turning to Christ in Middle East

Scores of Muslims Turning to Christ in Middle East; Churches Expecting ‘Millions’ of Converts

Thousands of Muslims are turning to Jesus Christ and what they view as the “religion of freedom” amid ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East, reports indicate. Some churches hope that millions of people will accept Christ amid a “spiritual hunger” that is forming in the wake of persecution.

Voice Of the Martyrs Canada, which supports Christian radio broadcasts in the region, told BosNewsLife that despite the mass exodus of Christians from Iraq and Syria due to terrorism, persecution, and war, scores of Muslims are making the decision to embrace Christianity.

“There are thousands upon thousands coming to Christ,” VOMC revealed. “We are in regular contact with our FM stations in Iraq and have talked with many people who have family in the Middle East.”

“Some of our Middle Eastern broadcasters have shared testimonies [about many turning to Christ] with us, which they hear directly from listeners when visiting there …”

In Iran, Christian house churches are regularly targeted and shut down by the nation’s Islamic government. Despite this persecution, mission group Elam Ministries revealed that Christians have been growing in terms of numbers, and today estimates suggest there are 360,000 believers in Iran – up from only 500 in 1979.

“Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years — such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime,” Elam Ministries stated.

“If we remain faithful to our calling, our conviction is that it is possible to see the nation transformed within our lifetime. Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world.”

Muslim refugees in Europe have also reportedly been undergoing mass conversions of faith. A June 2016 article from The Guardian noted anecdotal data of rising Christian church attendance in Europe by Muslims.

Trinity church in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz, for instance, saw its congregation rise from 150 to 700 due to new Muslim converts, while the Austrian Catholic Church saw its applications for adult baptism swell by nearly 70 percent in the first three months of 2016.

“I found that the history of Islam was completely different from what we were taught at school. Maybe, I thought, it was a religion that began with violence,” an Iranian convert, 32-year-old Johannes, said.

“A religion that began with violence cannot lead people to freedom and love. Jesus Christ said ‘those who use the sword will die by the sword.’ This really changed my mind,” he added.

Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2016

Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2016

More churches in Germany reported this growing phenomena in December 2016, with The Independent noting that Muslims, especially Iranians, are seeing Christianity as a new chance at freedom.

“A lot of them come to Germany and think, here I can choose my religion and I want to choose a religion of freedom,” said Matthias Linke, a priest from the Evangelical-Freikirchlichen Gemeinde in Berlin.

“For many Iranians that I’ve baptized, Christianity is the religion of freedom.”

If your reading this you can find Christ right now as well, Salvation is waiting for you too, in the arms of Christ you can find freedom!

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Are There Modern Day Apostles

The incredible diversity of viewpoint that exists in religion today is startling and disconcerting. We are witnessing a breakdown of respect for authority in American culture, as well as a tremendous increase in personal opinion and feelings as the standard of authority. Consequently, we now have a veritable smorgasbord of doctrinal variety in religion. Such is the nature of pluralism. One is likely to see anything and everything perpetrated in the name of religion and/or Christianity. The only solution to such a situation is to reaffirm the inspiration and authority of the Bible. The Bible is the only written document on this planet that is the standard of authority in life and in religion (see Miller, 1996, pp. 430-446,462-471).

THE DEFINITION OF AN APOSTLE

Such being the case, we must go to the Bible to determine God’s will with regard to modern-day apostles. When we do so, we first learn that the word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “one sent from or forth, a messenger, delegate” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 99; Thayer, 1901, p. 68). The term is used in the New Testament in two distinct senses. It can refer to an individual who is sent by other humans to accomplish a particular mission or task. The term is so used to refer, for example, to Barnabas (Acts 14:14). He was an “apostle” in the sense that he accompanied Paul on an evangelistic trip. Jesus is said to be our “Apostle” in the sense that He was sent to atone for our sins (Hebrews 3:1).

The term “apostle” also is used in a second sense—what we might call an official sense. That is, “apostle” can refer to individuals who were officially and divinely selected to serve as Jesus’ original representatives—“ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus handpicked the original twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; 9:1-2). Of these original twelve, Judas betrayed the Lord as predicted by the Old Testament (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18-19; 18:1-5). Instead of repenting, he cinched his apostasy by committing suicide (Matthew 27:3-5; John 17:12). Consequently, a successor to Judas was selected by divine decree (Acts 1:16-26).

Only one other apostle in the official sense is alluded to in the New Testament—Paul. His appointment to apostleship was unique and unparalleled in that he was chosen for a specific first century task (Acts 9:15; 22:14-15; 26:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:11-12,15-16). Christ selected him to introduce the message of Christianity to the Gentile world (Romans 11:13; 15:16; Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 3:8). Paul was careful to document the fact that his apostleship was by divine appointment (e.g., Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1,16).

THE QUALIFICATIONS OF AN APOSTLE

When one assembles all the relevant New Testament data, at least three qualifications emerge as prerequisite to one becoming an apostle in the official sense (Hayden, 1894, p. 33, expands these credentials to seven in number). First, an apostle had to have seen the Lord and been an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:22; 22:14; 1 Corinthians 9:1). Second, an apostle had to be specifically selected by the Lord or the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:5; Mark 3:13-14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:26; 9:15; 22:14-15,21; 26:16). Third, an apostle was invested with miraculous power to the extent that he could perform miracles. The power to perform miracles included the capability to confer the ability to work miracles to other individuals through the laying on of his hands (Mark 3:15; 16:17-20; Luke 9:1-2; John 14:12,26; 15:24-27; 16:13; Acts 2:43; 4:29-31,33; 5:12,15-16; 6:6; 8:14-18; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6; Romans 1:11; Hebrews 2:3-4). Jesus referred to His bestowal of miraculous capability upon the apostles when He promised they would be “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

THE WORK OF AN APOSTLE

The apostolic office was unquestionably a temporary office for the early church (though apostolic appointment was for life). Its essential purpose was twofold. First, apostles were commissioned by Jesus to launch the Christian religion (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48). This purpose was achieved by means of the initial presentation of the Gospel to the whole world (Colossians 1:23), and the establishment of the church of Christ (Acts 2). Second, apostles were largely responsible for making the New Testament available—first in oral form and, more specifically, in written form (1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:14; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:12-21; 3:15-16).

These two central tasks are set forth clearly in the New Testament. In Matthew 16, Jesus declared that He would build His church after His resurrection from hades (vs. 18). He then explained that it would be the apostles who would instigate initial entrance into Christ’s church (hence the significance of “keys”—vs. 19). This commencement of the Christian religion and the church of Christ would be achieved by means of the apostles “binding” and “loosing” the doctrinal tenets and principles of Christianity that Heaven had previously bound or loosed [the Greek uses the perfect passive and should be translated “will have been bound/loosed in Heaven” as in the NASB (cf. Matthew 18:18-20; John 20:22-23)]. Peter and the apostles articulated the terms of entrance into the kingdom of Christ for the first time on the Pentecost that followed Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:14ff.).

In Ephesians 4, after summarizing Christianity in terms of seven core concepts (vss. 1-6), Paul described the initial sequence of events that recounted the advent of Christianity (vss. 7-16). Paul noted that: (1) after His crucifixion, Jesus descended into the Hadean realm; (2) He then was resurrected; (3) He ascended back to Heaven; (4) upon His ascension, He dispensed gifts; (5) the apostolic office was included in the reception of these miraculous capabilities; (6) the purpose of these gifts was to equip and edify the church; (7) the preparation provided to the infant church by these gifts was temporary (“till” is an adverb of time connoting when the miraculous gifts were to terminate), in that the same preparation soon would be available through the completed revelation, i.e., “the faith.” [By “completed revelation” we do not mean completed canon. We mean that all of God’s communication to humanity would have been revealed. See the New Testament discussion contrasting “mystery” with “made known” (Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:1-11). In the meantime, the process of producing copies of the various New Testament documents and circulating them far and wide would have been occurring rapidly and extensively from the very moment of their production by the inspired writers (cf. Colossians 4:16, 1 Timothy 5:18, where Luke 10:7 is already known and classified as “Scripture,” and 2 Peter 3:15-16, where Paul’s epistles are already circulated and recognized as “Scriptures”). Further, the reference to “the faith” in Ephesians 4:13 cannot refer to a time when all people or all Christians will achieve unity in faith. Such a circumstance will never occur. Paul was referring to the time when all people would have access to all of God’s communication to man, thus giving them the potential for attaining spiritual maturity (“a perfect man” vs. “children“). SeeMiller, 2003].

Once all of the information necessary to the promotion of the Christian religion was revealed to the early church (through oral means made possible by the distribution of the gifts), the church would have the means available to grow and mature in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). While prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers [the words “pastors and teachers” share the same article in the Greek, and so should likely be construed to mean “pastor-teachers,” i.e., a single function in which pastors (those selected by the local congregation to serve as elders or shepherds) were endowed with the miraculous ability to teach inspired information not yet made available in written form] were part of this early development of Christianity (Ephesians 4:11), the office of an apostle was the primary means by which Christ accomplished the inauguration of His religion.

The apostles had the sole responsibility of executing the will of the Son of God in founding, organizing, and fully equipping the church of Christ on Earth, that she might fulfill her heaven-borne mission, until Jesus comes again (Hayden, p. 22). That is why Paul could say two chapters earlier that the household of God (i.e., the church) was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20; cf. 3:5; Revelation 21:14). That is why he informed the Corinthian Christians:

God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

The apostles are said to be “first” in the significance and criticality of their divinely appointed role. The apostles specifically described their unique role in the early church as entailing giving themselves to “the word of God” and “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2,4).

THE DURATION OF AN APOSTLE

Once the church of Christ was established and Christianity was given its initial presentation (cf. Colossians 1:23), the apostolic office faded from the scene along with the age of miracles. As an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection, Paul referred to himself in relation to the other apostles as “last of all” (1 Corinthians 15:8). Neither apostles nor miraculous gifts was needed any longer. They had served their temporary purpose (Mark 16:20; Acts 4:29-31; 13:12; 14:3; Romans 15:18-19; Hebrews 2:3-4; cf. Exodus 4:30). Miraculous gifts functioned as scaffolding while the church was under initial construction, and were removed once the structure had been completed (1 Corinthians 3:10; 13:11; Ephesians 4:13-14). The book we call the Bible is the totality of God’s written revelation to the human race. Consequently, people now have access to everything they need (2 Peter 1:3) to enter into a right relationship with God via Christianity and the church of Christ. The apostles “had no official successors. From the nature of their duties, there could be no succession” (Hayden, pp. 20-21). Apostles, quite simply, are no longer needed!

NO APOSTLES TODAY

Unfortunately, several groups that claim affiliation with the Christian religion allege to have apostles among them, including Catholicism, Mormonism, and some pentecostal groups. This claim is unbiblical. No person living today can meet the qualifications given in Scripture for being an apostle. No one living today has been an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection. Christ has selected no one living today for the apostolic role. No one living today possesses the miraculous capabilities of an apostle. We should not be surprised that people would falsely claim to be apostles. Jesus warned that false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they would be ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). Paul described some of his opponents in these words:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Further warning was issued to the Galatian churches: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Anyone claiming to be an apostle today who teaches anything in addition to the New Testament is clearly not an apostle of Christ!

Peter added his voice on the same subject: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). No wonder John admonished: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1; cf. Matthew 24:11,24). In the Revelation, the church at Ephesus was commended because they “tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2).

Catholicism maintains that Peter was the supreme bishop, even over the other apostles, and that every pope since Peter is an apostolic successor to Peter. The pope is selected after literally hours and days of deliberation by cardinals in the Vatican. The only apostle in the Bible that was not handpicked by Christ in person was Matthias. Yet he was not selected by mere men deliberating and debating his potential. He was selected by the casting of lots—which was simply another way for Jesus to do the selecting (Acts 1:26; cf. Proverbs 16:33).

It is incredible to think that any human beings living today would presume to appoint apostles. In pinpointing the credentials of an apostle, Luke (Acts 1) made it abundantly evident that to qualify as an apostle a person would have to have seen the Lord and been aneyewitness of His resurrection. That is why Paul was careful to state: “Am I not an apostle? …Have I not seen the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1, emp. added). In recounting his conversion, he quoted Ananias as having said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15, emp. added). What alleged modern-day apostle could make such a claim?

The New Testament also makes clear the fact that an essential characteristic of an apostle was that he had been selected by Deity. When Jesus was on Earth, He handpicked the first twelve apostles. After His departure from Earth, the disciples cast lots to select a successor to Judas. Their method allowed no input from mere humans—except in the recognition that two men possessed all the qualifications necessary to be an apostle. Casting lots allowedGod to do the selecting. Divine control in the selection process by casting lots was common in Old Testament history (see Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; Joshua 14:2; 18:6,10; 19:51; cf. Acts 13:19; 1 Samuel 14:42; Nehemiah 10:34; Psalm 16:5). Solomon claimed: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Indeed, Peter’s prayer on the occasion shows that the decision already had been made by the Lord before the actual casting of lots: “…show which of these two You have chosen” (Acts 1:24, emp. added). The summary statement regarding Matthias—“he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26; cf. Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33)—gives way to a return to the expression “the twelve” (Acts 6:2; cf. Acts 2:14). The text states: “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship” (Acts 1:24-25). Paul also was handpicked by Jesus—to be a “chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15). No human being on Earth today can claim he has been personally singled out and chosen by Jesus to be an apostle.

A third proof that no apostles exist on Earth today is the fact that New Testament apostles were empowered by God—not only to perform miracles—but also to convey miraculous power to other people who then could work miracles themselves. This characteristic is demonstrated in detailed fashion in Acts: “Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:18). The issue of modern-day apostles may be settled very quickly! To authenticate their claim to be apostles, they must be able both to perform miracles as well as confer miraculous power to others. The apostles of Jesus in the New Testament demonstrated their apostolic status without hesitation. Anyone today who claims to be an apostle should be willing to do the same. No such ability exists today.

ORIGINAL APOSTLES WERE SUFFICIENT

A fascinating passage in the New Testament sheds further light upon this notion of modern-day apostles. That passage is Matthew 19:28. There Jesus informed Peter and the other apostles: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” A related passage is Luke 22:29-30 which says, “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

These verses are Christ’s figurative declarations describing the role of the twelve apostles in the establishment of the church and the dissemination of the gospel proclamation (cf. Bales, 1957, pp. 187-223). The “regeneration” refers to the Christian era, which began at Pentecost, during which time spiritual regeneration became possible through the blood of Christ (Titus 3:5). It is an equivalent expression with the “time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). The throne of Christ’s glory refers to His present location at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34-36; Ephesians 1:20; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12-13). The “judging” done by the apostles refers to the rule that the apostles exerted while they were on Earth, setting in place the features of New Testament Christianity (Matthew 16:19; John 20:22-23). The “twelve thrones” refers to their complete authority from Christ to implement Christ’s will until the end of time—which they presently do today through their authoritative writings—found only in the New Testament. The “twelve tribes” is a figurative way to refer to the church—the spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16; James 1:1; cf. Romans 2:28-30; Galatians 3:29).

You Make All Things NewNeither Christ nor the original apostles needs successors or representatives on Earth today. They continue to rule and reign over the kingdom through the work that they achieved in the first century, and that is preserved for all in the New Testament. Christ is now on His throne ruling and reigning. The apostles also are on the thrones assigned to them by Christ. To suggest that the apostles have modern-day successors is to discount and discredit the current rule of the apostles. Neither Christ nor the apostles has abdicated their authority or their current rule to any humans on Earth.

Additionally, the fact that Jesus declared that all twelve apostles would occupy thrones in the kingdom proves that Peter had no greater authority than the other apostles. The apostles were equal in their reception and wielding of the authority delegated to them by Christ. Yet the Catholic Church claims that the immediate successors to Peter were Linus (from A.D. 67 to 79), Cletus (from A.D. 79 to 91) and Clement (from A.D. 91 to 100). They agree that the apostle John would have still been alive throughout this period (see G.C. Brewer’s discussion as quoted in Bales, pp. 208-210). The doctrine of the primacy of Peter means that the first three of the alleged successors of Peter would have exercised authority over the still-living apostle John—who had been handpicked by Christ Himself! The very John whom Jesus placed on one of the twelve thrones would have been under the authority, knowledge, and power of three popes who had not been selected to be among the original Twelve! (see also Hayden, pp. 22-33). Hayden aptly summarized the New Testament position regarding modern-day apostles:

The thirteen apostles chosen, ordained and endowed by the newly crowned Messiah faithfully and fully executed their commission. When they entered into everlasting rest, the church was established, with all needful ministries to edify, extend and perpetuate it throughout all coming centuries. Then the extraordinary, which was necessary to found a new institution, was succeeded by the ordinary, which is sufficient to teach, regulate and govern the subjects of Christ’s kingdom according to the laws that went forth from Jerusalem. The revelation of God was completed. The word of faith is henceforth nigh every believer, even in his mouth and in his heart. The apostolic office ceased, and evangelists and pastors became the permanent teachers and superintendents of the church (pp. 33-34).

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Hanukkah – the Miraculous Oil of Joy for the poor in spirit

“I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.'”  (Isaiah 49:9)
On Saturday night, the eight-day “Festival of Dedication,” HANUKKAH begins.
This wonderful holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple by the Hasmoneans, also known as the Maccabee family, and the miraculous single-day supply of oil lasting a full eight days in the process of that re-dedication.
The first Hanukkah on the 25th of Kislev in 164 BC heralded freedom from Greek rule, the purification of Jerusalem from pagan influence, and the restoration of God’s House—the Temple in Jerusalem.
With the Temple recaptured from the Greeks and newly restored, the family of Judah Maccabee reestablished the seven-day autumn festival of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) and the extra day of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah, which concludes the annual cycle of Parashiot).
The Greek ruler Antiochus IV had forbidden its observance earlier in the year, so when the Temple was recaptured in December, they celebrated this eight-day festival.
And so the keeping of Torah once again freely commenced.  Hanukkah, therefore, represents the renewed ability to study the Torah, which is compared to light.
Darkness Descends on Israel
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.  Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”  (Micah 7:8)
The Greek Empire had risen to power under Alexander the Great after Judah had served as a vassal state to Persia for two centuries.  After Alexander’s death, the state of Judah was wrested back and forth by two of Alexander’s generals seven times.
All the while, clashing starkly with the unique holiness of the Hebrew religion, the pagan culture of the Greeks was wildly offensive: naked wrestling, immodest dress and a preference for homosexuality, writes Richard Hooker in The Hebrews: A Learning Module.
However, while the Greeks influenced the language and culture of Jerusalem and the state of Judah (Judea), “they allowed the Jews to run their own country, declared that the law of Judah was the Torah, and attempted to preserve Jewish religion,” writes Hooker.  Such was the case, at first.
Two Greek monarchs, Ptolemy and Seleucus, battled for Judea until 198 BC, at which time Antiochus III, a Seleucid Greek, won the prize.  He allowed the Jews autonomy until “a stinging defeat at the hands of the Romans began a program of Hellenization that threatened to force the Jews to abandon their monotheism for the Greeks’ paganism,” writes Mitchell G. Bard in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict.
After Antiochus III raised idols in the Jewish Temple, the Jews rebelled, forcing back the Greeks.  However, Antiochus IV took the throne in 176 BC and did not accommodate Jewish customs as his father had.  The son outlawed the keeping of Shabbat as well as the circumcision covenant, and carried out a cruel campaign against the people of God.
Antiochus IV gave himself the last name “Epiphanes” (meaning “the visible god”) and destroyed every copy of the Scriptures he could find, selling thousands of Jewish families into slavery and murdering anyone who had a Scripture scroll in their possession.
Antiochus IV defiled the Jewish Temple by offering a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, and prohibited the Jews from Temple worship.
But the reach of that defilement was wider than the Temple.
“Women who insisted that their sons be circumcised were killed along with their babies.  Brides were forced to sleep with Greek officers before they could be with their husbands.  Jews were required to eat pork and sacrifice pigs to the Greek gods.  The teaching of Torah became a capital crime,” writes Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.
Although a great darkness had come over Judah and Jerusalem, “most Jews did anything and everything to remain Jewish,” Apisdorf adds, including studying Scripture and getting married in secret.
The Rise of Righteousness
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”  (Ephesians 6:14)
The Hasmoneans were a Jewish family with a seemingly impossible calling: to stand up for righteousness under the weight of an oppressor trying to eradicate their identity as well as empty the Temple of its holy purpose — and of its eternal light.
The head of the family, Mattisyahu (Mattathias), was serving as a priest in God’s Temple in 167 BC when a Greek official tried to force him to sacrifice to a pagan god.  Mattisyahu resisted and killed the official, which triggered reprisals by Antiochus IV against the Jews.
Nevertheless, Mattisyahu — and after his death, Judah, one of his five sons — took charge of the fight against the pagan Greeks and earned the name “Maccabee” (possibly from “hammer” in Hebrew) because of their hammer-like blows against their enemies.
Three years after the Maccabee uprising, in 164 BC, the Hasmoneans had taken back Jerusalem and purified the Temple.
It took another 20 years before the Hasmoneans pushed the Seleucid Greeks out of the Land of Israel with the defeat of the Acra citadel, a stronghold uncovered in 2015 (after a decade of excavations) just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
That the many were defeated by the few is heralded as the main miracle of Hanukkah: Judah and the Hasmoneans succeeded in defeating the pagan Greeks who had so offensively defiled the Temple of God, the Holy City of Jerusalem, and the Holy Land given to Israel.
The Maccabees served as a light that pushed back the darkness; by faith, their”weakness was turned to strength; and [they] became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”  (Hebrews 11:34)
While the Greeks devastated the Jewish community at the time, they would not succeed in destroying the Hasmonean conviction to worship the God of Israel alone.
And while the Greeks defiled the Jewish Temple, they would not succeed in eradicating its means for purification—oil.
Despite the pagan altars within her and impure animals that were offered to idols on the Temple’s holy ground, a day’s worth of purified oil remained concealed on the Temple grounds with its seal intact.
This jar of oil, sanctified to the God of Israel, would help push back the spiritual darkness that had overcome the Temple.
And while it was only enough for a single day, it miraculously burned for a full eight days.  By the last day, the Jews had prepared enough sanctified oil to keep the light shining perpetually.
Let Your Light So Shine
“Open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”  (Acts 26:18)
During the years of His ministry, Yeshua (Jesus) walked the Temple Courts during Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, and told those gathered around him: “The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me.” (John 10:25)
Yeshua pointed to His own deeds, which were all good, as a testimony of His identity and of His Father’s character.
In the context of the Festival of Lights, another name for Hanukkah, Yeshua may have had in mind His Sermon on the Mount, where he said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)
The term “good works” is idiomatic for the commandments of Torah.
Yeshua told His disciples that if they kept the commandments of Torah according to His teaching, they would retain their saltiness and their light would shine before men and bring honor to God.
The half brother of Yeshua, Yaacov (James), elaborated on this point, saying that”faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  (James 2:17)
Good deeds done by those faithful to God allow His Spirit to shine from within them, illustrating “the light of the world” and giving glory to Adonai’s Name.
For the Festival of Lights, this image of God’s light shining through His people is emphasized further by noting the basic components of fire — a spark and a source of fuel — as well as by contemplating that God Himself provides both our Spiritual Light and Oil.
A Jewish woman serves traditional sufganiot (donuts) at a Hanukkah party.  It is traditional to eat foods fried in oil during this holiday in honor of the one-day supply of oil lasting eight days.

A Jewish woman serves traditional sufganiot (donuts) at a Hanukkah party. It is traditional to eat foods fried in oil during this holiday in honor of the one-day supply of oil lasting eight days.

Oil is understood to be a symbol of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).  It has had an important role in Jewish life for millennia as a means of anointing.  In Judaism, anointing was performed for kingship, for the priesthood, for prophets, for the healing of the sick, and for purification.

Where the anointing sanctified the priests and treated the sick, “anointment conferred upon the king ‘the Spirit of the Lord,’ [that is to say], His support (1 Samuel 16:13–14), strength (Psalm 89:21–25) and wisdom (Isaiah 11:1–4),” states the Encyclopedia Judaica.
Of the Messiah (Anointed One) to come, the prophet Isaiah announced, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”  (Isaiah 11:1–2)
Messiah Yeshua announced His anointing in a synagogue in Nazareth when he read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18–19; see also Isaiah 61:1–2)
The Messiah’s light shone throughout His life and continued to burn brightly even when confronted with the darkness of death.  Death could not hold Him and extinguish His light. 
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (John 1:4–5)
With the oil of Adonai’s Ruach upon and within Him, the Messiah is an Eternal Light.  By living out His anointing He brought “a crown of beauty,” “the oil of joy” and “a garment of praise” to the mourners of Zion.
As Isaiah prophesied, the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners in darkness, the mourners, and the grievers of Zion — having received the freedom and favor of the Lord—”will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.”  (Isaiah 61:1–4)
Just as promised, through the Messiah those covered in ashes and a spirit of despair would receive the oil of joy and “be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”  (Isaiah 61:3)
Through Adonai’s life-giving work, the once-devastated children of God would be re-activated to rebuild the ancient ruins and renew the ruined cities; His people would stand as oaks of righteousness for “the display of His splendor,” a calling that radiates light.
Miraculous Oil for the Poor in Spirit
Having come “to bring good news to the poor,” Yeshua said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
“Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of your sin, you are completely destitute spiritually and can do nothing to deliver yourself from your dire situation,” writes Got Questions, led by S. Michael Houdmann. “Jesus is saying that, no matter your status in life, you must recognize your spiritual poverty before you can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers.”
This spiritual poverty is reflected in the single flask of oil found in the recaptured Temple.  While enduring the unspeakable darkness of Greek oppression, that flask did not hold enough oil to fulfill its purpose in the House of God to keep the Menorah lit while more oil was made.
Only with a miracle could this oil be multiplied, and it took the intervention of God Himself.
A Jewish girl admires the lights on the menorah.

A Jewish girl admires the lights on the menorah.

In the Temple, the Almighty intervened to make the flask of oil last for eight full days—as if adding the oil of His Spirit to sanctify and renew the devastated Temple.

Likewise, when we are poor in spirit, humbly acknowledging our reliance upon God, we can praise Him for sanctifying and renewing our spirit with His, as David did when He wrote, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”  (Psalm 23:5)
From all of our ministry family…
May you be filled with oil of joy this Hanukkah and clothed with the garments of praise during this Holiday Season!
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

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Salvation Created by Faith or is Faith Created by Salvation

The offer of salvation was created when Jesus Christ died on the cross in our place – Jesus is the founder of our salvation. (Heb 2:10-11, Rev 19:1-3, 1 John 1:1-4, Titus 1:1-3) He made it possible for us to be delivered from slavery to sin, and instead be adopted as sons of God. (Is 46:13, Rom 7:6, Rom 8:1-4, I John 3:1-10).

Salvation is used in several different senses in scripture (deliverance from slavery to sin, deliverance from bondage to the law, etc) but primarily it refers to the salvation of our souls and eternal life that we will someday inherit. (1 Peter 1:3-9, Heb 1:14, Jude 1:20-23, Luke 20:24-38, Rom 8:18-25). The holy spirit is the down payment that God will indeed give us eternal life someday (II Cor 1:18-22).

God brought salvation through Christ, not through man (Heb 11:32-40, Isaiah 63:5, Titus 3:3-8). However, we do need faith to receive salvation (I Pet 1:3-9, John 3:14-17, II Tim 2:10-13, II Tim 3:10-17, I John 2:24-25, Rom 1:16-17, Gal 3:7-14, Rom 10:5-13). Faith itself does not ‘create’ salvation. [Indeed, faith is the persuasion that it is Christ who has the power to save us].

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Gal 3:14

Salvation did not create faith, either. Rather, the eternal plan of salvation was revealed in Christ, and it is in His revealed sacrifice that we must have faith (John 3:14-15, II Cor 5:14-15, I Pet 1:3-5, Rom 10:5-15)

Faith is our belief and trust that Jesus is who He says He is, and that therefore we should accept His sacrifice, follow Him as Lord, and hope for His promises. (Rom 10:5-13, Heb 11:1-6, John 6:28-29) Even many of the OT people had faith in the promises of God, including the promise of a Messiah (Heb 11).

By analogy:

“Bob” lives in a landlocked country and has never seen the ocean. Despite this, he firmly believes that the ocean is real (based on the testimony of neighbors who have visited, pictures in books, etc). He decides to sell his house and, sight unseen, buy a new house in another country by the beach. After a long journey, he arrives and now can confirm by sight that the ocean is real.

Did the ocean create Bob’s belief? No – though the testified existence of the ocean certainly was a factor to why he believed it was real. Conversely, did Bob’s belief in the ocean create the ocean? [Certainly not]. His belief was necessary, though, for him to leave the land he grew up in, take a long trip to a beach he had never seen, and take up residence in his new home.

In summary:

It is necessary to have abiding faith in Christ to receive salvation, but faith does not ‘create’ salvation. Neither does salvation create faith.Christ alone, by the mercy and grace of God, completed everything necessary for our deliverance from sin and adoption as sons of God by His death and Resurrection. God created this plan before time even began.

Romans 10:9 ” That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. Romans 10:10 ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:13 ” For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Romans 10:14 ” How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”. Romans 10:15 ” And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things”. Romans 10:16 ” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? Romans 10:17 ” So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”.

Ephesians 1:13 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”. Ephesians 1:14 “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory”. Ephesians 1:18 “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”.

It is clear from scripture that the unregenerate, unsaved have no ability to comprehend much less believe the gospel message without the quickening or life giving power of the Holy Spirit first opening one’ s eyes to their fallen condition. So you see, salvation is the easy part once we truly realize we are lost. It is pure grace whereby we are saved. Faith is the vehicle that gives us the understanding.

I believe Ephesians 1:13 explains the sequence. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”.

1. We hear the saving gospel, the Word.
2. We put our trust in Christ’s vicarious sacrifice.
3. We believe in him with all our heart.
4. We are then sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Our faith does not sustain salvation. It is the faithfulness of the Lord God who keeps us secure. 2 Timothy 2:13 “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

A Light to bring Revelation to the GentilesHebrews 11:1 ” Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  Hebrews 12:2 ” Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Like Jesus said on the cross: “It is finished”.

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