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Nazi Holocaust

A solemn day of remembrance begins at sundown in Israel, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).
All over the nation, places of public entertainment will close, and a state ceremony will be held in the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem to honor the Jewish people who perished in Nazi Germany.

The entrance of the notorious Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a former Nazi extermination camp and now a museum on October 28, 2007 in Oswiecim, Poland

The flag will be lowered to half-staff, prayers will be recited, and six Holocaust survivors will light the six torches that symbolize the Six Million Jews who perished in the Holocaust (half the world’s Jewish population at the time) under Hitler’s Final Solution.

Multiple tracks led from all over Europe to concentration camps like Auschwitz. Jewish people were crammed into cattle cars and shipped to these death camps.  Very few survived. Of course, the Nazis intended that no one survive. Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration camp in Europe during World War II.  More than 1,100,000 men, women, and children lost their lives here.  While multiple tracks led in to these extermination camps, no one ever came out on them.

Many were gassed immediately upon arrival and their bodies burned in ovens.  Those who were healthy enough to work when they arrived were literally worked to death. The Nazis packed Jewish people like cattle into railroad cars  as they shipped them to their final destination at labor and extermination camps. Those camps were part of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to kill all of the Jewish People.

This horrible, unfathomable number—six million murdered—does not count the many Jewish children who will never be born because of this genocide.
Whole families were destroyed.  Some Jewish people who came out of the Holocaust were the sole survivor of their family.  They were left completely alone.
Some of those who perished were the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.
May We Never Forget.
Take a moment to pray for the survivors and families of survivors, and the emotional scars they carry.

The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.  Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”  (Isaiah 51:3)

Some say this event never happened! Please Stand with the Jewish people. To Never Forget!

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Daniel’s Disturbing Dream (Daniel 7:1-28)

Daniel, a godly prophet and a man of unshakable faith, has been steadfast in his daily walk of fellowship with God throughout the first six chapters of the Book of Daniel. Nothing has caused him to panic or depart from his faith and practice as a godly Jew. Neither peer opposition nor the king’s new law (chapter 6) greatly disturbed Daniel. Daniel’s first inner turmoil occurs in chapter 7. A revelation from God in his sleep discloses future events which Daniel finds most troubling. Twice in chapter 7 Daniel speaks of his distress:

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me” (verse 15).

“At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself” (verse 28).

We should note Daniel’s distress in chapter 7 before turning to the other prophecies in Daniel, where we will find that prophecy very often produces distress. Where it has not caused distress, it should have. Nebuchadnezzar became distressed when he received his first night vision (2:1) because he did understand some of his dream. In his vision, the statue collapsed and disappeared, because a mysterious stone struck it at its feet. His vision in chapter 4 should have produced more distress than it did. He was “at ease” when he received the vision, and then he became fearful, and his mind alarmed him (4:4-5). Upon hearing the details of the dream, Daniel too was troubled (4:19). Unfortunately, the king did not heed the dream’s warning, and his kingdom was taken away for a time. In chapter 5, King Belshazzar’s dream should have greatly alarmed him, but apparently it did not. That night his life and his kingdom came to an end. Subsequent revelations in the Book of Daniel which Daniel received were closely associated with some kind of agony or distress (see 8:17, 27; 9:20-21; 10:2-3, 7-10, 17; 12:8).

A look through the Scriptures shows that Daniel’s response to the prophecies he received was not unique. Many Old Testament prophets shared Daniel’s distress as a result of the prophecies they received and often conveyed to others. Why does the prophecy of Daniel 7 cause this godly man so much consternation? What so upset Daniel about the future? Should we be troubled as well?

Prophecies are given so that we may look at history, especially events occurring in our own lifetime, from God’s perspective. Prophecy provides men the opportunity to think and act in a way which pleases God, who determines the future and who reveals future events to men.

Chapter 7 reveals in broad terms what the future holds. Our study of this chapter will isolate what troubled Daniel about the future. If taken seriously, we will find the future sobering as well. May the Spirit of God reveal the meaning of this prophecy to us and produce in us that which God desires to His glory and our good.

Structure of the Text

Two major divisions comprise our text: (1) Daniel’s dream—verses 1-14 and (2) the interpretation—verses 15-28. In more detail, the outline would be as follows:

(1) Daniel’s Dream verses 1-14

  • The Four Beasts — verses 1-8
  • The Ancient of Days — verses 9-12
  • The Son of Man — verses 13-14

(2) The Divine Interpretation — verses 15-28

  • Daniel’s distress — verse 15
  • A General Interpretation — verses 16-18
  • A Fuller Interpretation — verses 19-27
  • Daniel’s Response — verse 28

Interpretive Guidelines

Interpretations of Daniel’s prophecies differ widely. Liberals reject all prophecies, because they require a sovereign God and a miraculous revelation of future events. While conservative, evangelical scholars believe the prophecies in Daniel are true, their interpretations differ greatly. Whether liberal or conservative, our conclusions grow out of the premises and presuppositions governing the process and the product of our interpretation. For this reason, I wish to clearly state the foundational presuppositions and principles on which this exposition of Daniel is based.

(1) The Book of Daniel is a part of the Holy Scriptures, and thus inspired, accurate, and trustworthy.

(2) The prophecies of Daniel must be understood in relationship to and in light of the other prophecies of Daniel.

(3) These prophecies must be understood in light of their historical background as provided in Daniel, in the inspired revelation provided by other portions of Scripture,and the cautious use of supplementary information by reliable historical documents or study. Other biblical prophecies bear on the prophecies of Daniel, particularly preceding or contemporary prophecies.

(4) Prophecies not completely fulfilled cannot be fully understood until after their fulfillment. At least the final portion of chapter 7 has not been fulfilled. Even those portions which we believe have been fulfilled, students of prophecy differ about the way of their fulfillment.

(5) Above all, the prophecy in this chapter means precisely what God says it means in this text, nothing more and nothing less. How easily we turn from what is revealed to speculate about what has been concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29). We should not spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to fill in the blanks God has left. Our attention should be given to what is clearly and emphatically said. In our passage, Daniel asks for and receives an explanation. What God determined to reveal to Daniel should be enough for us.

Overall Observations

Note these general observations about our passage before we turn to a more detailed study.

(1) Daniel 7 is the last chapter written in Aramaic in the Book of Daniel. Daniel 1:1-2:4a was written in Hebrew. From Daniel 2:4b to the end of chapter 7, the original text was written in Aramaic (the language of Babylon in that day). After this chapter, the book returns to the Hebrew language.

(2) Chapters 7 and 8, while written in different languages, are written during the reign of Belshazzar and somehow linked by the author in Daniel 8:1.

(3) This chapter contains the major segment of Daniel, which is primarily prophetic, although it does not contain the first prophecy in the Book of Daniel.

(4) This is the first prophecy in the book revealed directly to Daniel. The other prophecies were revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and interpreted by Daniel.

(5) While the process involves wicked kings and nations and the suffering of the saints, the culmination is the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

(6) None of the kings or the kingdoms are identified.

(7) No identification is made of the saints as “Jews” or “Gentiles.” There seems to be no Jewish nationalistic emphasis here, as there will be later.

(8) The four beasts are all different, with the last standing apart from the first three.

(9) The interpretation of Daniel’s vision comes in two parts, beginning with a general interpretation and then a more specific one based on Daniel’s questions.

(10) Daniel’s preoccupation is with the last beast, rather than the first three.

(11) A distinction is made between God the “Father”—the “Ancient of Days” and God the Son—the “Son of Man”—with both playing a part in the establishment of the kingdom.

(12) No distinction between the first coming of Christ and the second is made in the coming of the eternal kingdom of God.

(13) In some sense, the last kingdom is still on-going. Since the last kingdom and the prophecies associated with it have not yet been fulfilled, we must in some way be a part of that kingdom. The day of judgment is still future and has not yet been fulfilled. Thus, the vision is yet unfulfilled in terms of its major emphasis. No wonder interpreters differ about the details (Just my thoughts.). Quite clear, however, is the identity of the “Ancient of Days” and the “Son of Man.”

Background

Chapter 7 moves from the historical accounts of Daniel and his three friends to the prophetic revelations received by Daniel in the last half of the Book. The following chart may help us visualize the relationship of Daniel’s prophecies to the historical setting in which they were revealed:

BABYLONIAN EMPIRE

MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE

Nebuchadnezzar

Belshazzar

Darius

Cyrus

Daniel 1-4

Daniel 5

Daniel 6

Daniel 12

Daniel 7-8

Daniel 9

Daniel 11-12

The first prophetic revelation is found in Daniel 2. A night vision is given to king Nebuchadnezzar, apparently early in his reign as king of Babylon. Through the vision of a magnificent, awe-inspiring statue, God reveals the future for Gentile kings and their kingdoms. The head of the statue was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, and the legs and feet of iron and clay.

In his interpretation of the dream, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar he was the head of gold. The identity of the kingdoms represented by the other body parts and metals was not revealed. The king is told that all of these earthly kingdoms would be destroyed by the “stone not fashioned by human hands,” and that an eternal kingdom would take the place of these temporal kingdoms. The subject of the vision in chapter 2 seems to be taken up again in chapter 7. The inter-relationship between the prophecies of chapters 2 and 7 is demonstrated on the following page:

THE FOUR KINGDOMS

C H A P T E R T W O

C H A P T E R S E V E N

Head of gold

The winged lion

Breast & arms of silver

The devouring bear

Belly & thighs of bronze

The winged leopard

Legs & feet of iron & clay

The indescribable beast

SIMILARITIES

A four-part statue

Four beasts

Statue represents kingdoms

Beasts represent kingdoms

Deterioration: Gold to iron mixed with clay

Deterioration: Nearly human to blaspheming beast

Statue destroyed

Beasts destroyed

Eternal Kingdom is established

Eternal kingdom is established

CONTRASTS

Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision

Daniel’s Vision

Daniel’s interpretation

Angel’s interpretation

Glorious statue

Horrible beasts

Human statue in four parts

Four (inhumane) beasts

Destroyed mysteriously by a stone

Destroyed in judgment by God

Daniel’s Dream
(7:1-14)

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. 2 Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ 6 After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts. 9 I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, and the books were opened. 11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. 13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

The first recorded vision comes to Daniel in the form of a night vision, like those of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1; 4:5) during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. How interesting! The vision comes to Daniel in Belshazzar’s first year. A subsequent and related vision comes to him in this king’s third year (see 8:1). The revelation of the “writing on the banquet hall wall,” already described in chapter 5, actually happened later, on the last day of Belshazzar’s life. According to verse 1, the written record of the revelation Daniel received in his first night vision is but a summary of the prophecy he received.

Belshazzar’s rise to power and ascent to the throne seems to have inaugurated a new age for Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the first ruler of Babylon to have contact with Daniel. Having gained an appreciation for Daniel and his three Hebrew friends, over a period he came to faith in their God. His declaration, which resulted from the deliverance of the three Hebrews, made it unlawful to hinder the worship of the Jews; his decree recorded at the end of chapter 4 went much further. It not only bore witness to the conversion of this king, but encouraged all of the subjects of Babylonian rule to worship the God of Israel.

I believe some in Babylon, like their king, came to a genuine faith in God. Many others may have reluctantly professed or actually adopted the Jewish religion. King Nebuchadnezzar died apparently nine years before Belshazzar came to power. Public sentiment was turning against this “foreign religion,” and the Babylonians, including Belshazzar, wanted a return to their “old time religion” —the pagan worship of the gods of Babylon. With the commencement of Belshazzar’s co-regency may have come not only a rejection of the Jewish faith and worship, but a new wave of persecution directed toward it. The toasting of the gods of the Babylonians with the sacred temple vessels, recorded in chapter 5, may have been Belshazzar’s final act of blasphemy. As we shall show later, the content of the prophecy of Daniel 7 is very closely related to the reign of Belshazzar. The words of verse 1 point to the relationship between the prophecy Daniel received and its historical setting and context.

In his vision, Daniel observed the sea being stirred up into a raging storm by the “four winds of heaven.” This signifies that the events which follow have been ordained by God. God stirred up the sea, and from its foaming, raging waters came forth four horrifying beasts. These beasts, each different from the other, are described in verses 4-7.

The first beast was lion-like, with wings like that of an eagle. Its wings were plucked from it; if this happened in mid-air, he must have plummeted to the ground. If not, he could never have become airborne again. The beast was lifted up and made to stand like a man. The beast also was given a man’s mind.

Generally, it is agreed that this beast represents the Babylonian empire and king Nebuchadnezzar in particular. This description certainly fits the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s plunge from power and sanity in chapter 4. While God tells neither Daniel nor us that this beast represents Nebuchadnezzar, He does reveal that the “head of gold” in the vision of the great statue was Nebuchadnezzar (2:36-38). Since the head of gold seems to describe the same king and kingdom as the first beast, it may not be too far afield to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar is the king represented by the first beast.

By far, this first beast is the best of a bad bunch. He is more beastly in the beginning and more human in the end, paralleling the character of Nebuchadnezzar. This also underscores that these four kingdoms go from reasonably good to unbelievably bad. The only human things mentioned of the fourth beast are his eyes and his mouth. His mouth is used to speak boastfully.

The second and third beasts are briefly described in verses 5 and 6. The second is bear-like. The precise meaning of the symbols of the raised side and the three ribs is illusive. Encouraged to do so, it savagely devours. The third beast is leopard-like, with four wings and four heads, and it is given dominion.

The fourth beast receives greater attention and is of the most interest to Daniel. Different from the first three, this beast seems uglier, more powerful, and much more hostile toward God and His saints. Daniel finds nothing to compare to it. With iron-like teeth, horns (some with eyes), and feet, it is utterly destructive. What it does not destroy or consume with its teeth, it crushes under foot, much like a bull in a china shop.

This fourth beast has the distinction of ten horns. As Daniel continues to watch, another horn emerges, as three of the other horns are plucked out by the roots to make room for it. Looking about with its numerous eyes, no one can escape his look or hide from him. With its mouth, the beast continues to speak boastfully.

The scene of the four beasts arising from the sea, which Daniel saw in his night vision, is strikingly similar to the account found in the 13th chapter of Revelation:

1 And he stood on the sand of the seashore, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5 And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If any one has an ear, let him hear. 10 If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:1-10).

As the beast continues to boast, a second scene commences in Daniel’s vision, and for a period of time both scenes run simultaneously. The second scene portrays the establishment of the thrones on which the Ancient of Days and those holding court are to be seated to pronounce judgment.

In the first scene, heavenly winds are employed to whip up the sea from which the four beasts emerges. In the second scene, heaven calmly prepares for court, which will determine that the time for judgment has come. The beasts are a horrifying and frightening sight; the heavenly court scene is one of regal splendor and beauty. The beasts emerge out of chaos and confusion; the heavenly court is calm and dignified. This scene in Daniel is also similar to a prophecy recorded in the Book of Revelation:

4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. 12 and he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed (Revelation 13:4, 11-15).

Note that the description of the beasts is written in prose, while the description of the heavenly court in verses 9-10 and of the Son of Man in verses 13-14 is written in poetry form. The beasts are hardly worthy of prose, but the court of heaven deserves a description of the finest words.

The “horn” continues to sound off while the court is being set up for judgment. Suddenly, the boasting beast is silenced by death, and his body is cast into the burning fire. Even the fate of this fourth beast is different than his three predecessors, as his life and his kingdom seem to end at the same moment. The other three are removed from power but allowed to live for some time after their removal (verse 12).

As Daniel continues to watch, someone descends with the clouds of heaven, one like a “Son of Man.” He is presented to the Ancient of Days, and to Him is given dominion, glory, and the eternal kingdom. He will rule over all nations forever.

The expression, “son of man,” is not new to Daniel nor to the Jews of his day. Up to this time, it was simply a synonym for being human, a son of man. In the first use of this expression, being a “son of man” was contrasted with being God:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

The expression is used in the Psalms in a more pregnant way, in reference to the coming Messiah.

Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, Upon the son of man whom Thou didst make strong for Thyself (Psalm 80:17).

Daniel uses the expression “Son of man” twice. The first time in Daniel 7:13, he is referring to Messiah, who will sit on the eternal throne of His father, David. The second time, the expression is used in reference to Daniel himself, as it will be used very frequently in Ezekiel to refer to this great prophet:

So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17).

Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” (Ezekiel 2:1).

Old Testament Jews would likely regard the reference to the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7 as a reference to the Messiah, although they would probably not understand Him to be both divine and human. Before the coming of Christ, who would? When Jesus came, He embraced this expression as a designation for Himself, giving the term meaning vastly beyond that previously held by any Jew.

A Divine Interpretation
(7:15-28)

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16 “I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 ‘But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ 19 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts, and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. 23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 ‘And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ 28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

Daniel’s response to the vision was far from assuring or calming. Some of his alarm arose from his not yet having been given the interpretation of his vision. Yet, his emotional response was valid and changed little after the vision was explained more fully.

This vision was an “interactive vision,” as Daniel was not only present in the vision but was able to approach one standing by to ask the meaning of what he saw. It seems safe to assume the interpreter was an angelic being; at least this is the case in chapter 8 (8:15-26). The interpretation of the events Daniel witnessed in his vision is given in its most concise form in verses 17 and 18: The four beasts were four kings, who will arise from the earth. In spite of these kings, the saints of the Highest One will possess the eternal kingdom forever and ever. In spite of all these beasts do and say, in spite of their power and even their success, neither they nor their kingdoms will last. The kingdom of God will be established and the saints will possess it forever.

The emphasis of this brief interpretation falls not on the enemies of God, their power, their brutality, nor their boasting, but on the kingdom of God, its certainty and its permanence for all the saints forever. The emphasis is positive. If Daniel had been shaken by the dark side of his vision, he is reminded in the interpretation of the outcome of these events—the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

The vision’s explanation was not thorough enough to satisfy Daniel. Desiring a more detailed explanation, he apparently asked for one and received it. Passing over the first three beasts, his questions focus on the last beast. He wants to know more about this dreadful beast, different from the rest, especially in the destruction he wrought. The ten horns are of interest to him, but most of all that final horn which arose, surpassing and replacing three others and speaking boastfully.

The vision plays on before Daniel, almost as though in answer to his desire to know more. The boastful beast becomes even more aggressive, waging war with the saints and even overpowering them. No wonder this vision causes Daniel such distress. This takes place until the Ancient of Days comes and judgment is given to the saints, at the time the eternal kingdom becomes their possession.

These are the things Daniel sees in the vision. Now, in verse 23, the angelic interpreter explains the relationship of the boastful beast and the coming of the eternal kingdom of God. The fourth beast is a fourth king, different than the others. He distinguishes himself by his ability to overcome the whole earth, crushing it under foot.

The ten horns, Daniel is told, represent ten kings who will emerge out of the fourth kingdom. An eleventh king then rises to power, different from the others, replacing three of the previous kings. This king’s boasting turns to blasphemy. He not only speaks against the Most High, he oppresses the saints. He intends to make changes in time and in law. Just what this means is unclear, but it suggests this arrogant king not only speaks against God, but, like Satan, he aspires to change the order God has established. He surpasses those before him by speaking boastfully, then blaspheming, and finally seeking to overthrow God’s order.

The final words of verse 25 are carefully chosen to let the reader know that while this king appears to be successfully opposing God, all he does is a part of the divine plan for the last days. The eleventh horn may hope to change the time, but in God’s plan this king is granted “a time, times, and half a time” —three and a half years to oppose and oppress the saints. God grants this king success and his saints suffering, but only for an appointed time.

When the court sits for judgment, his dominion is taken from him and he is destroyed forever. At this time the kingdom of God is established. The saints of the Highest One are given all the kingdoms of the earth for an everlasting kingdom. They will serve and obey Him forever.

Daniel’s vision ends here, but its impact on him does not end. His thoughts alarm him, and his face pales. Nevertheless, Daniel tells no one, keeping the matter to himself and suffering a quiet agony over the future events God has revealed to him.

Conclusion

The message of this prophecy is really quite simple and may be summed up this way. Before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, four earthly kingdoms will rise and fall. These kingdoms go from bad to worse. Arrogant, boastful, and even blasphemous kings will reign over the nations, opposing God and oppressing His saints. All of this is by divine design. During times of oppression, it may appear the saints are being defeated and that God’s kingdom is but wishful thinking. When the sin and oppression of evil men reaches a predetermined point, God will remove them and establish His promised eternal kingdom. Then the saints will receive the kingdom which will never end.

A number of lessons from our text have broad application to our thinking and conduct as Christians. Consider these lessons as we conclude.

(1) Prophecy is necessary because God has chosen to settle His accounts with men slowly. God is eternal, and so is His plan for all creation. God is in no hurry to fulfill His promises, (even though it only encompasses 6000 years,) whether His promise of the eternal kingdom for all the saints or the promise of eternal destruction and judgment for sinners. Prophecy is necessary then so that men are reassured of divine deliverance and blessing, as well as divine judgment (see 2 Peter 2:4-9). Through the ages, the saints have learned that they must wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled and that this may not happen in their lifetime (see Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40). God may choose to delay judgment on the wicked until their sin reaches full bloom; the possession of the land of Canaan would not happen in Abraham’s lifetime, but more than 400 years later after the suffering of the people of God (see Genesis 15:12-17). God also allows the wicked to persist and even to prosper, so that those whom He has chosen might be saved (Romans 9:22-24). God’s plan and program are carried out on His schedule, not ours (see 2 Peter 2:8-10). Prophecy becomes necessary from time to time to remind men of those things God has planned for the future which He will surely fulfill.

(2) While the timing of the fulfillment of divine prophecy may seem remote to the recipient, it still has relevance for him. According to our text, the prophecies of Daniel 7 will not be fulfilled for a considerable period of time. Four kings will establish four kingdoms, and some of these kingdoms have a number of kings. The last kingdom has at least eleven kings. Centuries must therefore pass before the prophecies of Daniel are fulfilled.

The distance in time of the fulfillment of Daniel 7 said something very important to the captive Jews of Daniel’s day. It would be but a very few years until Cyrus would come to power and assist the Jews to return to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. In the euphoria of this grand event, someone might well conclude the kingdom of God was to be established within the lifetime of those returning to Israel. Our text challenges such a conclusion, and later prophecies in Daniel further document that the coming of the King and of the kingdom will be some time further in the future. In those days, as in our own, there are always those are too quick to conclude that the kingdom of God has come (see Matthew 24:4, 6, 8, 24-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:1ff.).

The kingdom of God would not be established in Daniel’s lifetime, nor in the life of those who returned to the land of Israel from their captivity. The prophecy of Daniel 7 nevertheless had great relevance and application to those in Daniel’s day. Nebuchadnezzar may have started badly, but by the time we read of him in Daniel 4 he seems to be a true believer in God, urging the citizens of his kingdom to worship and serve Him. For the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, it seems that religion in the kingdom of Babylon was at least favorable to the worship of the God of the Jews. While most of those in this kingdom may not have had a true conversion, at least they tolerated the Jewish faith as the religion of the state.

With the death of Nebuchadnezzar comes a change in the people’s attitudes, especially their leaders toward Judaism. Belshazzar came to power several years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar and seems to have turned completely away from the God of Israel. Consequently, it is little wonder that in the events recorded in Daniel 5, Belshazzar was ignorant of Daniel and the abilities God had given him. He only called on him in a moment of sheer panic when no one else could help, and only then because of the recommendation of the queen mother.

The reign of Belshazzar was, in some measure, a foretaste of what was yet to come in full measure during the reign of the fourth beast, especially of the eleventh horn. Would this horn Daniel’s vision revealed oppose the people of God and even blaspheme God Himself? God would strike him down in the moment of His choosing to silence him once and for all and put an end to his kingdom. Would Belshazzar toast the gods of gold, silver, wood and stone with the sacred temple vessels? God would strike him down suddenly too and bring his kingdom to a swift end. The prophecies of Daniel 7 speak of a future day of reckoning, foreshadowed by the actions of Belshazzar and the judgment of God on him and his kingdom.

As I read through the statements men have made about the God of Israel in the first six chapters of Daniel, I find that what men came to know and to acknowledge through history, God declares through prophecy. I encourage you to compare the statements of Daniel 2:21-22, 44, 47; 4:3, 34-35, 37; 6:26 with the content and declarations of Daniel 7. What God declares in prophecy, He reveals as well in history. We are in harmony with God when our declarations conform to his. Those of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius all agree with the prophecy of Daniel 7. God is able to raise up kings and put them down. God will establish His kingdom, and that kingdom, unlike the kingdoms of men, is eternal.

(3) The finest commentary on the prophecy of Daniel 7 comes from our Lord Himself. In the Old Testament, the expression “son of man” was used most frequently in reference to men, who were merely (as opposed to God) human. In the Psalms and also in Daniel 7, the expression “Son of Man” begins to take on a more technical meaning, referring to the Messiah, who will sit on the throne of His father, David, to rule over men forever.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, having added perfect humanity to His undiminished deity, He spoke of Himself very often as “the Son of Man.” In the Gospels, Jesus began not only to identify Himself as the Messiah, the promised “Son of Man,” but also to explain all that this involved. The Son of Man had the power to forgive sins, as well as to heal a paralytic (Matthew 9:6). The Son of Man was also “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). He would rise from the dead (12:40). He will also send forth His angels to gather those who do not belong in His kingdom (12:41). He questioned His disciples so that they could confess that He, the Son of Man, was the Messiah (16:13f.). He would, after His death, burial, and resurrection come in His glory, rewarding men according to their deeds (16:27). His disciples were promised that they would share in His reign as King (19:20). The transfiguration of our Lord was but a foretaste of His coming glorious kingdom (16:28). When He came with His kingdom, they would be sure to recognize Him (24:27). However, the Son of Man must first suffer at the hands of men (17:22; 20:18).

Those who rejected the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, would mourn when they saw Him returning in the clouds:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

As the destruction of the last beast and the blaspheming horn came as a complete shock to them, so the Lord’s coming will catch unbelievers unprepared as well (24:27-39). His followers too must be alert and ready for His return (24:44).

In my opinion, the most dramatic reference of our Lord to His identity as the Son of Man comes as the Lord Jesus stands on trial before the Sanhedrin and the high priest:

59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; 60 and they did not find it, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, AND COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 26:59-64).

In His response to the demand of the high priest, Jesus directly claimed to be the promised Messiah. That was bad enough, from the religious leaders’ perspective, but the way in which He answered them was the last straw. Jesus quoted the words of Daniel 7:13. They surely knew this text to be messianic, but they had always applied it to the Gentiles. They believed that the Messiah would come to establish the kingdom, to bless the Jews and to condemn the Gentiles. Jesus applied this text to them, not as those who would enter into His kingdom, but as those who would be judged at His return. No wonder His words stung and prompted them to act as they did. For the time, it was these Jewish leaders who were beastly, arrogant, and blasphemous, and because of this they would suffer divine judgment. The words of Daniel which applied to the beasts now found application to them.

(4) Suffering is to be expected by the saints, before they enter into the glorious kingdom of God. Daniel 7 indicates in the clearest way that prior to the coming of the kingdom of God the saints will suffer at the hand of the final “horn” and even be overpowered by him. Wherever I see the Scriptures speak of the coming kingdom of God, I find suffering closely associated with it. Before the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt and brought into the land of Canaan, they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. Our deliverance from the power of sin and the penalty of death has been accomplished by our Lord, who suffered in our place. Those who will reign with Christ are those who have suffered (see Romans 8:17;Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:12). Suffering is an inseparable part of the process which leads to glory. So it was for our Lord (1 Peter 1:10-12), and so it will be for us.

(5) Prophecy is not written as hype but revealed to produce the hope of glory and endurance in present tribulation. Prophecy is not a pep rally, which generates a great burst of short-term enthusiasm but does little to inspire faith and endurance in the midst of suffering. Neither is prophecy written to make us happy or to feel good. Daniel’s response is testimony to this reality.

(6) Prophecy is written to sober the saints. Prophecy speaks not only of the joys and glories of God’s kingdom to come but of the suffering and tribulation preceding the eternal blessings of the kingdom of God. In the context of the coming of His kingdom and the suffering and trials which precede it, soberness is a vitally important quality which prophecy promotes:

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8).

Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

(7) Prophecy is revealed, not to give us the particulars of things to come, but to change our perspective. Prophecy is necessary because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We could never predict the goals God has determined, nor the means He has ordained for history to reach them. Prophecy reveals that which we would not and could not expect apart from divine revelation.

In God’s economy, things are not what they appear to be. We do not walk by sight, but by faith. We do not act on what we see so much as on what God has said. Abraham and Sarah were elderly and childless. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for them to have a child. And yet God said they would. And they did! Abraham had to believe and behave on the basis of God’s promises, rather than on the basis of his perception.

As the boasting horn of Daniel 7 seems to be getting away with his blasphemies and his oppression of the saints, it seems to him he can do whatever he wishes, including the changing of times and law. As the wicked prosper in their sin, it seems as though they can continue in sin without any fear of divine judgment (see Psalm 73:1-11; 2 Peter 2:3-4). Their perception is wrong, for suddenly and without warning their day of destruction will come upon them. When that day comes for them, it is too late to repent.

As the saints suffer at the hands of the wicked, it may appear all hope is lost. It may seem to them that their defeat is certain and that their hopes of entering into the eternal kingdom are lost. Things are not as they appear to be! When we expect it least, the Lord will return, the wicked will be punished, and the kingdom of God established forevermore.

I have heard a number of attempts to explain the “gaps” in Old Testament prophecy. One of those gaps is found in Daniel 7. The coming of the Son of Man is represented as one coming, and not two. We know that Jesus came the first time to die and that He will come again to subdue His enemies and establish His kingdom. We are told the Old Testament prophet could not see the distance between the first and the second coming of our Lord, just as one cannot see the distance between two mountains, when viewed from afar.

Considering this text has changed my opinion about the “gap” in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The gap is not the prophet’s problem; it is ours. The Old Testament prophet did not see the gap because he viewed the coming of Christ as God does. From an eternal perspective, the coming of Christ and His kingdom is but one coming. Our Lord’s first coming happened over a period of more than 30 years, and yet we view this as one coming. If, in God’s eyes, a day is as 1,000 years and 1,000 years as a day (2 Peter 3:8), then the coming of our Lord has only been a few days from beginning to end.

We see a gap—an almost insurmountable gap—between suffering and glory; God does not. Suffering and glory are a part of one work. Just so, Christ’s suffering and glory is but a part of one coming. Prophecy greatly benefits the Christian because it enables him to see things from the bigger and broader perspective—from God’s perspective—so that when he suffers, he knows it is but a part of the process of getting to glory.

Consider the birth of a child, remembering that God’s deliverance and salvation is likened to birth. The process of having a baby involves the pains of childbirth. They are far from pleasant but an unavoidable part of the process. The woman endures in the view of the final outcome of the process. When the child is born, the pains of suffering are quickly lost in the joys of seeing a new life, or a couple of hours of pain compared to many years of child rearing. Child-bearing is a process which involves suffering and glory. Salvation is likewise a process involving suffering—and then glory.

Prophecy is revealed to men to change their perspective, to urge them to see things as God sees them rather than as they appear to the human eye. We are not to base our thinking and actions on circumstances, but upon the Scriptures. What God says, He will do. History has shown this to be true in the past, and prophecy assures us that it will be true in the future. Let us listen then, and be sober, enduring the sufferings and trials sent our way, looking expectantly and certainly for His kingdom to come.

Daniel’s Disturbing Dream
Questions and Answers

(1) Why does Daniel indicate the historical setting of the vision he receives in chapter 7?

In verse 1 Daniel indicates his vision came to him in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. The vision recorded in chapter 8 took place in the third year of Belshazzar. The account of the writing on the wall and the death of Belshazzar (obviously the last year of his reign) is found in Daniel 5.

Prophecy is not revealed in a historical vacuum. While most prophecies in the Bible reveal events which will take place after the death of the recipient of the prophecy, the prophecy is revealed for impact upon those to whom it was revealed. Prophecy is always practical and relevant to the person(s) receiving it.

At the outset of the account of his vision, Daniel wants his reader to know the historical context in which this prophecy was given and to consider its interpretation and application in the light of that context. Specifically, the account of “The Bad News at Belshazzar’s Banquet” (not a bad title for that lesson) in chapter 5 was given to us so that we could better understand the prophecies of chapters 7 and 8. We will deal with the meaning and application of Daniel’s vision later on in our questions and answers.

(2) Why do you think Daniel summarized his dream when he wrote it rather than tell it in full (see verse 1)?

Editing is often evident in the Bible (see John 20:30-31; 31:25). Editing allows an author to set aside details which are not significant and focus on the essence of the message he is trying to communicate. Daniel boiled down his vision to its essence, so we would not fail to understand the message he meant to convey to us.

(3) What principles should guide and govern our attempt to interpret the prophecy of this chapter?

First, the prophecies of Daniel are divinely inspired and revealed, and thus they are true and reliable. Second, the prophecies of Daniel are to be understood in the light of the entire Book of Daniel, of the Old Testament, and of the Bible as a whole. Thirdly (and most importantly), the prophecies of Daniel mean exactly what God says they mean, nothing more and nothing less. The prophecy of this chapter is divinely interpreted. God has revealed in this interpretation what He wants us to know and has kept back that which we need not know. We dare not ignore that which is revealed nor do we dare go too far afield in speculating about what is concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:23).

(4) What is the structure of Daniel 7?

The chapter falls into two major parts. Verses 1-14 contain the vision which God gave to Daniel. Verses 15-28 contain the divine interpretation of this vision.

(5) What do the four beasts represent? How was the fourth beast different from the first three?

Each of the four beasts represent a king and thus a resulting kingdom. Each beast has its own unique characteristics. The fourth beast appears to differ from the other three in that he is more beastly, more powerful, more destructive, and more arrogant. This beast is also unique among the four in that he grows 11 horns. These horns are also kings, from whom kingdoms arise (verse 24). This fourth beast seems to regenerate in the form of subsequent kings and kingdoms. His final offspring, so to speak, is the little horn which becomes the great blasphemer, whose life and kingdom is suddenly cut off by the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.

(6) How important is it for us to identity the kings and the kingdoms mentioned in our text? Are we supposed to discover their identity?

Daniel was told that the beasts are kings, but he was not told the identity of any of the kings. There is fairly strong inferential evidence that Nebuchadnezzar was represented by the first beast, the winged lion. The point of this prophecy is not to tell us who future kings will be, but rather what they will be like. Until God’s eternal kingdom is established, kingdoms will progress from bad to worse. These kings will rise to power and dominate the earth. In the latter days, an unusually powerful and evil king will arise, who will blaspheme God and oppress the people of God. When his appointed time is over, God will destroy this king and his kingdom and establish His eternal kingdom on the earth. This is what we need to know from Daniel’s vision, rather than the identity of the beasts.

(7) Who is the Ancient of Days? Who is the Son of Man? What role do they play in relation to the four beasts?

The Ancient of Days is a designation for God, not found elsewhere in the Bible. This designation refers to God the Father in a way that stresses His eternality, dignity, and power. It is virtually the opposite of the term “beast.” The expression, “Son of man,” is not new to Daniel. In Ezekiel, and even in Daniel (8:17), it is used in reference to a prophet. Usually it refers to a person as a human being. But here in chapter 7, as in Psalm 80:17, the “son of man” is more than just a man, He is the Messiah. When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, He often referred to Himself as the Son of Man, gradually making it clear that He was the Messiah who was God incarnate.

When the iniquity of the blasphemous horn reaches full bloom and his appointed time to rule is fulfilled, God will destroy him, casting his body into the fire. It is at this time that all human kingdoms will become subject to God and to the saints in the eternal kingdom, which the Son of Man will establish when He comes to the earth to judge and to rule.

(8) Is there any relationship between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and Daniel’s dream in chapter 7?

There seems to be a close connection between the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, which is revealed and interpreted in chapter 2, and the vision of Daniel in chapter 7. The statue has four parts; there are four beasts. Both the statue parts (made of different metals) and the beasts represent kings and kingdoms. Both series of four kingdoms begin well and end badly. Both sets of kingdoms are brought to a sudden end and are replaced by an eternal kingdom. It therefore seems that the two prophecies speak of the same four kingdoms by means of different imagery. The latter prophecy of Daniel 7 adds many more details than were revealed in chapter 2.

(9) What is the relationship between Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 and the events described in Daniel 5?

The blasphemous horn of Daniel 7, which goes so far as to oppose the people of God, is suddenly taken by death, and his kingdom is removed. In a similar way, Belshazzar becomes blasphemous and is suddenly removed by God for his wickedness. The death of this king brings about the end of his kingdom. Daniel 5 is an illustration and a prototype of what will happen in the end times, as described in the prophecy of Daniel 7. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Belshazzar’s demise underscores the certainty of the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision in the last days.

(10) What effect did the vision have on Daniel, and why?

Daniel is greatly distressed by the vision which he sees in chapter 7. We are not told precisely what it is that troubles Daniel. From the context, it would seem that Daniel’s distress is the result of the wickedness and oppression of the world kingdoms which are represented by the beasts, and by the knowledge that the saints will be oppressed and even overcome for a period of time. The fact that wicked men will prosper and prevail and that the righteous will suffer is hardly pleasant news.

(11) What is the point of the vision? What is its message to Daniel, to the Jews, and to us?

In the latter days, before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, kings and kingdoms will become worse and worse. The wicked will prosper and appear to get away with their opposition toward God and His saints. The righteous will suffer. But in the end, God will judge the wicked and establish His kingdom for His saints.

The saints should expect to suffer because of their faith, especially as the last days for the kingdoms of men draw near. The saints should also expect the wicked to prosper, for a season. The saints should neither believe nor behave on the basis of how things appear to be (the wicked prospering and prevailing over the righteous). The saints must believe and behave according to what God has promised about the future —the righteous will possess the kingdom of God forever.

Amen! Even so Lord Jesus Come Soon!

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of Daniel

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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Keys of the Kingdom

The biblical passage that makes reference to the “keys of the kingdom” is Matthew 16:19. Jesus had asked His disciples who people thought He was. After responding with several of the more popular opinions, Jesus aimed His question directly at His disciples. Peter, responding for the twelve, acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. After this great confession, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).

Keys are used to lock or unlock doors. The specific doors Jesus has in mind in this passage are the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is laying the foundation of His church (Ephesians 2:20). The disciples will be the leaders of this new institution, and Jesus is giving them the authority to, as it were, open the doors to heaven and invite the world to enter. At this point it is important to understand how, biblically speaking, one enters the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus said that, unless one is born again, he will not see the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3). One is born again as the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to bring about new life in a dead sinner. The content of the message is the substitutionary death of Christ and His subsequent resurrection (Romans 10:9-10). So the faithful preaching of the gospel is the key to the kingdom.

In Matthew 16:19, Jesus is specifically addressing Peter, so it is significant that, in the book of Acts, Peter figures prominently in the “opening of doors” to three different groups of people so they can enter the Kingdom. In Acts 2; it is Peter who preaches in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost; about three thousand Jewish people are saved that day. Peter’s preaching had “unlocked the door” of heaven for the Jews. Later, in Acts 8; the Samaritans believe the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit; again, Peter (and John) was present for this event. Peter had “unlocked the door” for the Samaritans. Then, in Acts 10; Peter brings the gospel to a Roman centurion’s household, and they, too, receive the Holy Spirit. Peter had “unlocked the door” for the Gentiles. The “keys” that Jesus had given him worked in each case.

Of course, keys can be used to lock doors as well as open them. Part of the gospel message is that faith is necessary. Without faith in Christ, the door to heaven is shut and barred (see John 3:18). As the apostles preached the gospel, those who responded in faith and repentance were granted access to the Kingdom of Heaven; yet those who continued to harden their hearts and reject the gospel of God’s saving grace were shut out of the Kingdom (Acts 8:23).

The context of Matthew 16 also refers to a “binding and loosing.” To better understand this concept, we turn to Matthew 18:15-20, where Jesus gives the guidelines for church discipline, using the same “binding and loosing” language we find in Matthew 16. The apostles were not to usurp Christ’s authority over individual believers and their eternal destiny, but they were to exercise authority to discipline erring believers and, if necessary, excommunicate disobedient church members. Based on God’s Word, believers today can declare an unrepentant sinner to be unsaved (“bound”) and a repentant believer in Jesus Christ to be saved (“loosed”). The binding or loosing, based on one’s rejection or acceptance of the gospel, reflects heaven’s perspective on the matter. In heaven, Christ ratifies what is done in His name and in obedience to His Word on earth.

Keys of the KingdomGod’s will is that sinners be granted access to heaven through the righteousness of Christ. Consider Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” (Matthew 23:13). If the gospel message is distorted or ignored, or if unrepentant sin is not adequately disciplined, the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven are being shut in people’s faces.

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The Greatest Event In The Entire Bible Just Might Surprise You

In that day, God will be glorified in all the earth, and it will usher in 1,000 years of perfect peace and perfect rule on our earth.

“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 7:22 (KJV)

Just for fun, I decided to Google the phrase “greatest event in the Bible”, and got some interesting results. John MacArthur says that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the Bible, and he makes a compelling case. For the Christian, this is certainly true. But the Bible deals with a whole lot more than just Christians and Christianity. The Catholics say, predictably, that the ‘annunciation of Mary’ is the greatest event. (rolling my eyes). If you were Jewish, you might say the greatest event in the Bible was the giving of the Law to Moses, or maybe the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt at Passover. The Bible is a big Book with lots of big events.

Now if we could ask God what He viewed as the ‘greatest event in the Bible’, what do you think He would say?

For starters, since God wrote the Bible, we might want to look and see if there is a single event mentioned more times than any other. If God did have a ‘greatest event’ would it be possible to figure it out by the sheer number of times it was mentioned? As it turns out, there is a single event in the Bible mentioned more times, by more people, than any other event from cover to cover. Care to take a wild guess at what it might be?

“Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.” Zechariah 8:3 (KJV)

The greatest event in the entire Bible is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. All through the Bible, in book after book, there is a Day and an event that happens on that Day so important that it is referred to as “in that day”112 times. The prophet Zechariah mentions the phrase 20 times, and is one of the most descriptive and informative books in the Bible on the Second Coming.

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” Zechariah 14:4 (KJV)

Christians look at Jesus on the cross, and His rising from the dead 3 days later, as the greatest event because that is where we “get in”. But look at it from God’s perspective, it was the day His only begotten Son was executed between common criminals. Why would that be God’s favorite day? But at the Second Coming, God’s Son will receive the Kingdom He rightly deserves, and will reign from Jerusalem as the King over the whole world. That’s the Day that interests God the most.

Turning CrossIn that day, God will be glorified in all the earth, and it will usher in 1,000 years of perfect peace and perfect rule on our earth. The Devil will be bound in chains, and the curse will be removed from off the earth and all it’s inhabitants. The Lord Jesus Christ will rule with “a rod of iron” in perfect righteousness.

“For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies. For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 66:12-16,22,23 (KJV)

For born again Christians, the Bible says that after we are taken out in the Rapture of the Church, we will return again with the Lord on white horses at the Battle of Armageddon that takes place at the Second Coming. It’s the greatest day in human history, and we get better than a ringside seat. We get to be part of it.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16 (KJV)

Now you know what the greatest day in the Bible is, and why God looks forward to it so much. This could be your Greatest day, the day You find Salvation!

Even so, Come Lord Jesus!

Are you ready for what comes next?

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YESHUA – How Jesus name is correctly spelled and what it means

Recently, some of our readers have asked us why we use the name Yeshua in the place of Jesus.
“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.”  (Philippians 2:9)
Other readers challenge us to use Yahshua instead of Yeshua, believing that Yah more accurately reflects the divine nature of Yeshua and is the correct way to pronounce the name of the Jewish Messiah.
Still others think the real name of Yeshua is the derogatory Yeshu, which means May His Name Be Blotted Out.
Which is correct?
Joshua and Jesus in Greek
Since the name “Jesus” occurs in our English Bibles over 900 times, some people are quite confident that the Jewish Messiah had the name Jesus.
Actually, the name Jesus is an English equivalent (transliteration) of the Greek name—Iησοῦς (Iesous), pronounced as “eeaysoos,” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew name יֵשׁוּעַ, pronounced Yeshua.
So, the argument that we must only use the name “Jesus” because that is the name used in the Brit Chadashah is not quite accurate.
Some Believers object entirely to saying “Jesus” because they believe the Greek name “Iesous” sounds too much like the Greek god Zeus and is, therefore, pagan in origin.  They say that those who speak the English name of Jesus or the Greek Iesous are calling on a pagan god.
The reality is that the pronunciation of Yeshua has no exact equivalent in Greek.
The Greek alphabet has no “y” or “sh” sound, so in Greek writing, the “Ye” in Yeshua became an “eeay” sound, and the “sh” became an “s” sound.
Also, Greek did not allow a male name to end in an “ah” sound, so the solution was to add an “s” to the end as many Greek male names have today. Thus, Yeshua in Hebrew became Iesous in Greek.
This Greek spelling is the standard substitute for both Yehoshua and Yeshua in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), as well as in the writings of first-century Romano-Jewish scholar Josephus and the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria.
Joshua and Yeshua in Hebrew
The proper Hebrew name for Jesus is Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ), which means salvation.  This is a shortened form of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (יהושוע), which is Joshua in English and means the Lord saves, the Lord is salvation or the Lord will save.
Around the time of Yeshua, this shortened form of Yehoshua was common and popular around Jerusalem.  It can be seen on many ossuaries from that time period.
In the Tanakh (Jewish or Hebrew Bible), the names Yeshua and Yehoshua are mentioned almost 30 times and are given to five different men.
They are frequently translated Joshua; for example, in Ezra 3:2, there is a reference to Joshua / Yeshua (יֵשׁ֨וּעַ) son of (בֶּן־) Yozadak (יֽוֹצָדָ֜ק), one of the priests in the time of Zerubbabel after the return from the exile in Babylon.
Many English translations of Ezra 3:2 use the name Jeshua (Yeshua) instead of Joshua.
In Zechariah 3 and 6, this same man is called Yehoshua (Joshua).
The first instance of Yehoshua is in Exodus:  Yehoshua (יְהֹושֻׁ֣עַ) Ben (בִּן) Nun (ןנ֑וּ), most often translated as Joshua son of Nun, who was Moses’ assistant.  He is the same Joshua who led the Israelites into the Promised Land.
In Numbers 13:8, however, Joshua is called Hoshea (הוֹשֵׁעַ) ben Nun, one of the spies sent out by Moses to scout out the land of Canaan.
The name Hoshea means he saves.  It can reflect the hope of deliverance.  But that was not definitive enough to reflect God’s promise of salvation or Joshua’s mission in life.  Moses changed his name to Yehoshua by taking Hoshea and adding the letter yud, which comes from the yud in YHWH, the Divine name.
By making this alteration to Hoshea’s name, Moses changed his name to Joshua, which means YHWH is salvation or YHWH saves, delivers.
“These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land.  (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Yehoshua.)”  (Numbers 13:16)
A perfect example of the interchangeability of Yehoshua and Yeshua in later books of the Tanakh and among the Jews of the Second Temple period is found in Nehemiah 8:17, where Joshua son of Nun, usually called Yehoshua Ben Nun, is called Yeshua Ben Nun.
“From the days of Joshua [יֵשׁוּעַ–Yeshua] son of Nun until that day….”
Why Jewish People Call Him Yeshu
The Talmud (Rabbinic teachings) mentions the name Yeshua only once in reference to Yeshua ben Jozadek (whom we mentioned above).
All other instances of the name Joshua are Yehoshua, although the name for one man — Yeshua of Nazareth — is rendered Yeshu (ישו).
It has been said that this name is actually an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “Y’mach Sh’mo V’Zichrono (May his name and the memory of him be blotted out); however, some have suggested that it is a Galilean form of Yeshua.
Most Jews are unaware of the potentially derogatory origin and, for this reason, they commonly refer to Yeshua as Yeshu, as if that were His true name.
For the most part, even the Israeli media use Yeshu to refer to Yeshua, although in rare cases He will be called by His proper name.
Hebrew variations of the name YeshuaHis full name in secular Hebrew is Yeshu Ha-Notzri (Jesus the Nazarene).
This is the name that appears in the Ben Yehuda Hebrew Dictionary and in most secular Hebrew texts; however, the Hebrew spelling Yeshua (ישוע) is used in translations of the Brit Chadashah into Hebrew.
Is His Correct Name Yahshua?
Some of our readers have asked The House of The Nazarene to use the name Yahshua instead of Yeshua.  Many of them believe that because “Yah” is the first part of God’s personal name “Yahweh,” it is supposed to be the first part of His Son’s name as well.
However, this pronunciation of God’s name can be called into question.  Because there are no vowels in Hebrew, no one can be 100% sure that His name is pronounced “Yahweh.”
We do know for sure, though, that the use of “Yah” in the Messiah’s Hebrew name cannot be supported by any evidence available from archaeological findings, such as the Dead Sea scrolls, in inscriptions, or in any rabbinical texts.
In these Hebrew texts, the personal and unutterable name for God is the Tetragrammaton or Four Letters: Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei (יהוה or YHVH, in English).
This name, which some say is pronounced as Jehovah, is so holy that it was not spoken outside the Temple, and then only once a year on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) by the Kohen HaGadol (High Priest).
A name of God that is related to יהוה (YHVH) is the name יה (Yah), perhaps a shortened form of the ineffable name.  This name of God appears about 50 times in the Tanakh.  It is part of the construction of the Hebrew word Halleluyah (Praise Yah), as well as many Hebrew names, including Elijah (Eliyahu), Isaiah (Yeshayah), and Jeremiah (Yirmyahu or Yirmyah).
The name “Yahshua,” however, exists nowhere in the Bible or the Hebrew historic record.
In this new pronunciation for Yeshua, a fifth letter is added right in the middle of God’s holy name (ש/shin), thereby creating the new name Yahshua — יהשוה.
The five-letter spelling of Yahshuah (יהשוה‎) rather than the four-letter spelling of Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) can be first traced to Christian Renaissance occultists in the second half of the 16th century.
A similar form of this new spelling was later picked up by the Sacred Name Movement (SNM), which uses its own unique Hebrew spelling of Yahshua (יהשע).  This spelling is not found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.
This new spelling of Yeshua can be traced back to the early days of the SNM movement in the 1930s.
Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua, an organization associated with the Sacred Name Movement, makes the following doctrinal statement regarding this name:
“‘Yahshua’ is the correct name of the Savior, a contraction of the combination of ‘YAHweh’ and ‘HoSHUA,’ the same as given to Joshua the son of Nun by Moses.”  (YAIY Beacon, April-June 2013, p. 8)
To create this new combination, one has to change the pronunciation of Hoshea to Hoshua, which is not found in any lexicon or dictionary because the “oo” letter is not included in the Hebrew spelling of Hoshea.  To arrive at this version of Yeshua’s name, one has to begin with a made-up Hebrew name.
Calling on His Name
As Scriptural support, those who insist on this pronunciation of Yahshua point to Yeshua who says, “I have come in My Father’s Name.”  (John 5:43)
From this verse, they conclude that His name must have Yah in it.  But as discussed, this variant of Yeshua does not occur in any Hebrew or Aramaic texts.
There is no historical support for Yeshua ever using the name of Yah.
Even while on the execution stake, Yeshua did not call His Father by His personal name — YHVH, but instead El:
“About three in the afternoon Yeshua cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’).”  (Matthew 27:46)
Referring to Scripture, those who follow the teachings of the SNM contend that using this pronunciation of Yeshua’s name will assist in one’s salvation:  “Everyone who calls on the name [onoma] of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)
They also refer to this passage:
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him [Yeshua], and bestowed on Him the name [onoma] which is above every name, so that at the name [onoma] of Yeshua EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua HaMashiach is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2:9–11; see also Isaiah 45:23)
The Greek word onoma does mean name, but not only in a literal sense; it also refers to the very being of a person.
Throughout the Jewish culture in Scripture, one’s name is synonymous to one’s character, nature, and essence.
The name of Yeshua means salvation, and that is the exact essence of who Yeshua is.  To call on the name/person of Yeshua — the Messiah is to call on salvation.
Furthermore, it simply does not make sense that everyone who has sincerely loved and followed the Jewish Messiah throughout the ages did not and will not receive their salvation because they did not speak this new form of Yeshua’s name, as “revealed” to a select few in the early Sacred Name Movement.
The TetragrammatonScripture clearly states that our salvation comes through grace.  We do not receive it because of our works, and it is certainly not connected to how we pronounce the Messiah’s name.
“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)
Our salvation is connected to believing in the character, reputation, and essence of the person behind the Hebrew name — who He is and what He did.
Yeshua Himself said,
“I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die.”  (John 11:25)
Writing the Sacred Names in Early Manuscripts
If saying Yeshua’s name correctly was essential to our salvation or even our faith, the early scribes would have kept the Hebrew names intact when making copies of the Gospels and Paul’s letters of instruction to the early Believers.  But this is not the case.
The oldest manuscripts for the Gospel of John (known as P52 and P66), for example, were written only 50 years after the original authoring.  In these copies, Hebrew pronunciations are not attempted.  Instead, Greek abbreviations of Greek equivalent words are used:
  • Yeshua is abbreviated as Ιη-, (transliterated into English as Je– or Ye– for the name Jesus);
  • Messiah is abbreviated as Χρ- (spoken as Chr– for the Greek name Christos or English name Christ);
  • Elohim is written simply as Θ, which is short for Theos or God
  • Abba is shown as Πρ-, which is short for Pater or Father; and
  • Adonai is reduced to Κ-, which is short for Kyrios or Lord.
Rather than trying to accurately portray the sacred names of God and the Messiah, the early scribes intentionally avoided it.  This is in keeping with the Jewish practice of using euphemisms, letters, or syllables to protect all names of God from being defaced, obliterated, or destroyed accidentally.
Two thousand years later, though, the spiritual sensitivity behind protecting God’s names is being labeled a conspiracy.
Dr. Daniel Botkin, pastor of the Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation writing on the yeshanet website states:
“The opponents of the Yeshua form claim that this pronunciation is the result of a Jewish conspiracy to hide the Savior’s true name.  Those who call the Messiah Yeshua are accused of perpetuating a Jewish conspiracy and ‘denying His name’ or ‘degrading Him’ by their use of the Yeshua form.”
A Jewish scribe completes a Sefer TorahBotkin said that he has received letters with these charges against himself personally.
To support the use of the name Yeshua, he goes on to quote Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi, an Israeli and former head of Hebrew studies at Arizona University as saying, “There is no such name in Hebrew (as Yahshua),” a name that “people invented it to fit their theology.”
Perhaps it seems like a lovely notion to think that Yeshua and Yahweh share the same pronunciation — Yah.
It is more important, however, to understand the spiritual elitism behind believing that this revelation was given to a select few in the 16th century and then 20th century.
Moreover, it is dangerous heresy to believe that only this unique pronunciation must be used to receive salvation, as many in the Sacred Name Movement claim.
Both Hebrew and Bible scholars who study ancient Semitic languages, historical literature, and archaeological findings regarding this issue agree that the name Yahshua cannot be supported and, therefore, The House of The Nazarene does not endorse it.
The House of The Nazarene does believe in calling on the name of Yeshua or Jesus, which in Jewish thinking is calling out for salvation, since the name reflects the person and His character.
We also believe in praying in Yeshua’s or Jesus’ name.  What does that mean?  It means when we pray, our prayers should reflect His agenda, values, and purposes, not our own selfish ambitions and vain conceits.
A Jewish man prepares to recite morning prayer.Praying in Yeshua’s name means we come before Him expressing Yeshua’s desires and stand in Yeshua’s authority.
It means we have the confidence to stand before our Heavenly Father because of what Yeshua has accomplished through His holy life, His death on the Roman execution stake, His burial, and resurrection.
Because of His sinless life, He had absolute victory over death and was raised on the third day.
We come knowing that because of His resurrection He not only holds the power to forgive our sins, but has absolute victory over death, and has defeated the enemy once and for all!
We come in faith knowing that there is no other name, no other person, who is above Him.
“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  (Philippians 2:9–10)
Please stand with The House of The Nazarene as we bring the Good News of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) to the Jewish and Gentile People in Israel and around the world.  Time is short; current events give us every indication that Yeshua (Jesus) is coming soon!

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Introduction and Background to 1 Corinthians

Introduction

A number of years ago, one of the seminary students in our congregation left for a summer ministry in the South. During that week, we received word that his car had broken down on the way and that he was stranded. It was reported as a matter for prayer, but in jest, someone suggested the church send “Bob” to fix the car. My response was that, while I may be able to “heal the sick” (automotively speaking), I am not able to “raise the dead!”

While a student in seminary, I became friends with a student who was a veterinarian. I always teased him by telling him his ministry could be preaching in a church that was going to the dogs. I wonder just how one would feel about being sent to a church like the one in Corinth, as described in the two epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. Frankly, from a purely human point of view, the situation in Corinth appears to be hopeless.

And yet when we read these introductory verses to this epistle, Paul is positive, upbeat, and optimistic. His prayers concerning this church are filled with expressions of thanksgiving. How can this be? How can Paul be so positive and optimistic as he communicates with this church? One thing is certain—it is not because of the godly conduct of many of its members.

Paul’s first words to the Corinthians are not just a repetition of a standard form, a kind of “boiler plate” greeting, as though he were using a pre-packaged computer program which needed nothing else but to fill in the name of the church. The salutation of this epistle provides us not only with a demonstration of Paul’s optimism and enthusiasm in writing to these saints, it also indicates how he can be so positive about this troubled body of believers. More than this, it begins to lay a theological foundation for Paul’s ministry and teaching as it will be given throughout the epistle. This salutation tells us not only how Paul feels about this church, but why he feels as he does. Gordon Fee has this to say about the importance of these first nine verses of 1 Corinthians:

With the elaborations of this letter Paul begins a habit that will carry through to the end. In each case the elaborations reflect, either directly or subtly, many of the concerns about to be raised in the letter itself. Even as he formally addresses the church in the salutation, Paul’s mind is already at work on the critical behavioral and theological issues at hand.

The Founding of the Church at Corinth

At the end of Paul’s so-called first missionary journey with Barnabas, the Jerusalem Council met to decide just what should be required of Gentile converts (Acts 15:1-29). When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Paul took Silas with him and set out on what was to be called the second missionary journey of Paul (Acts 15:36-41). They began by revisiting some of the churches that had been founded on the first journey, delivering to them the decision of the Jerusalem Council (16:4-5).

After being divinely prohibited from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6) and Bithynia, Paul, Silas, and Timothy ended up at Troas, where Paul received the “Macedonian vision” (16:9-10), which brought them to Philippi where a number were saved and a church was established. From Philippi, Paul and his party went to Thessalonica, then to Berea, and finally to Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, Paul went to Corinth, an ancient city of Greece, the seat of government of the Roman province of Achaia. It was in Corinth that Paul first crossed paths with a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Like Paul, this man was a tent-maker. He and his wife had fled from Italy because of a command from Claudius that all Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:1-3). Every Sabbath, Paul went to the synagogue, where he sought to evangelize Jews and Greeks (18:4). Eventually he was joined by Silas and Timothy, who had just arrived from Macedonia. Apparently they brought a gift from the Macedonians which enabled Paul to fully devote himself to the Word, so that he gave all of his efforts to preaching Christ (18:5).

As usual, Paul’s preaching prompted a reaction from the unbelieving Jews, so that he left the synagogue and began to concentrate on evangelizing Gentiles (18:6-7). Paul moved his headquarters to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a Gentile God-fearer who lived next door to the synagogue (18:5-7). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, became a believer along with the rest of his household. Many other Corinthians were also being saved as well and were submitting to baptism (18:8). The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, assuring him that there were many more souls to be saved in that city and that he was not to fear. He was to speak out boldly, rather than to hold back for fear of trouble (18:9-10). As a result, Paul extended his ministry in Corinth, staying a total of 18 months, a considerably longer period of ministry than usual.

Paul’s lengthy ministry was facilitated, in part, by Jewish litigation and by the precedent-setting ruling of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (18:12-17). The Jews seized Paul and brought him up on charges before Gallio. They accused him of being neither a faithful Jew nor a good citizen. They accused him of speaking and acting against the law. Paul did not even get the opportunity to speak in his own defense. Before he could open his mouth, Gallio gave his ruling. This strife between Paul and the Jews was but another instance of the in-fighting which was so typical of the Jews. Gallio was fed up with it and with them and was not about to be used by these Jewish zealots to prevail over their Jewish rivals. This was not a matter for his judgment. He threw them and their case out of court.

From all we are told of him, Gallio was a pagan who cared nothing for the Jews, the gospel, or Paul. And yet his ruling was a landmark decision, officially legitimizing and protecting those who preached the gospel throughout the entire Roman Empire. Judaism was an official religion, recognized and sanctioned by the Roman government. The Jews were seeking to convince Gallio that Paul was really no Jew and that the preaching of the gospel was not the practice of Judaism. Thus, they inferred, Paul was a threat to the stability of Roman rule. They argued that neither Paul nor any other Christian should be allowed to preach the gospel under the permission and protection of the Roman law. When Gallio refused to rule on this matter, calling it a Jewish squabble, he was declaring Paul’s preaching of the gospel to be the practice of Judaism. Christianity, Gallio’s ruling indicated, was Jewish and thus protected by Roman law. Thus, Paul’s ministry was legal, and any Jewish opposition could not claim Rome as their ally.

Gallio drove them away from his judgment seat. The Jews were furious, and in retaliation they seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the proconsul. He looked on with disdain, not at all impressed or concerned. This Sosthenes seems to be the same person who is with Paul as he writes to the Corinthians (1:1).

City of CorinthThe City of Corinth

Secular history only verifies and clarifies the impression of the city of Corinth which we gain from the pens of Luke (Acts) and Paul (1 and 2 Corinthians). It was a great city in many ways. Politically, Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia, a territory including nearly all of Greece. That is why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, was in Corinth and heard the charge against Paul. Geographically, Corinth was so strategically located it could hardly do other than prosper. The city was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth, two miles distant from the Gulf. Nearby was the Acrocorinth, a 1900-foot mountain that was perfectly suited as a citadel for the city. This fortress was so secure it was never taken by force until the invention of gun-powder. It also contained an inexhaustible water supply in the fountain of Peirene. At the summit of Acrocorinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At the base of the citadel stood the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers.

Located on an isthmus, Corinth became a crossroads for both land and sea trade. By looking at a map, one can quickly see that Corinth is situated between two large bodies of water and two land areas, and these are virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the isthmus on which Corinth was founded, the southern part of Greece would be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Goods exchanged between the north and south would normally be shipped by land through Corinth.

Much of the sea trade of the Mediterranean from east to west also passed through Corinth. To the west of Corinth was the port city of Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth. On her east was the port of Cenchrae on the Saronic Gulf. These were ports of call for ships that sailed the seas. Travel across the isthmus and through Corinth was generally considered safer than the 200-mile voyage around Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean. So dangerous was this journey by sea that the Greeks had two sayings well known to sailors in those days: “Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.

To avoid the distance and danger of the journey around the Cape of Malea (now called Cape Matapan), goods would be unloaded at one port, transported across the four-mile strip of land (through Corinth), and reloaded on the other side. Smaller ships were actually transported with their cargo over the isthmus by means of rollers. Consequently, the isthmus was named the Diolkos, “the place of dragging across.” Nero had planned a canal to join the Aegean and Ionian seas, and he even began construction in A.D. 66. The three and one-half mile canal was finished in 1893.

Corinth thus became a great commercial center. Luxuries from all over the world were available, and the vices of the world were also to be found there. These evils did not all have to be imported, however, for the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was nearby with 1,000 cult prostitutes who sold themselves in the name of religion. The Greeks had a proverb about the city which tells a great deal about its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.” Those who were worldly wise used the verb “corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was known to be a synonym for prostitute.

Estimates of the population of Corinth range from 100,000 to 600,000. The diversity of peoples who lived in this city is explained by her history. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a very old and yet a very new city. “Signs of habitation date back to the fourth millennium B.C.” Alexander made Corinth the center of a new Hellenic League as he prepared for war with Persia. In 146 B.C., the city was destroyed by Roman soldiers because it led the Greek resistance to Roman rule. All the males of the city were exterminated, and the women and children were sold for slaves. The city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later, and it eventually became the capital of the province of Achaia. Many of those who settled in Corinth were not Greeks. A large number of Roman soldiers settled there after retiring, having received their freedom and Roman citizenship in addition to grants of land. A variety of nationalities settled in Corinth, enticed by the prospects of economic prosperity. A good number of the immigrants were Jews.

Being a relatively recent city with newly acquired wealth brought problems, for there was the absence of an established aristocracy which would have provided a much more stable society. Farrar spoke of Corinth in this way:

… this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice … without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens.

Every two years Corinth presided over the Isthmian Games, a contest in which all the Greek city-states took part. At these games, the sea-god Poseidon was specially honored.

The Occasion for Writing 1 Corinthians

After Paul had completed his 18-month ministry in Corinth, he set out for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila. On reaching Ephesus, Paul ministered for a short time, promising to return if the Lord willed (18:19-21). He left Priscilla and Aquila there and journeyed on to Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). After strengthening the churches in Asia Minor, Paul returned to Ephesus for a much more extensive ministry. He stayed in Ephesus, teaching in the school of Tyrannus for two years. While in Ephesus, he seems to have received unfavorable reports about the Corinthian church which prompted him to write his first letter to this church, a letter which was not preserved as a part of the New Testament canon (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Later, while Paul was still ministering the Word in Ephesus, he heard from some of “Chloe’s people” that divisions were beginning to emerge among the Corinthian saints. In addition, Paul was informed of a case of gross immorality in the church, one with which the church had not dealt. Instead of feeling shame and sorrow over this sin, at least some of the saints were proud of their tolerance (chapter 5). He heard also of Christians taking their fellow-believers to court, seeking to have pagans pass judgment on spiritual matters (chapter 6). Paul was also told of unbecoming conduct at the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11) and of doctrinal error concerning the resurrection (chapter 15). A three-man delegation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus also arrived from Corinth (16:17) bringing a letter which inquired of Paul about marriage (7:1), virgins (7:25), food sacrificed to idols (8:1), spiritual gifts (12:1), the collection for the saints (16:1), and Apollos (16:12). It was while he was in Ephesus that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to the reports and questions he received there.

Paul’s Preamble
(1:1-3)

1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

That Paul should write such a letter as this should come as no surprise to us and certainly not to the Corinthians. After all, Paul had already written one epistle which was not preserved for us. Paul was the one who first came to Corinth with the gospel. Many of the members of the church in Corinth were the fruit of his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul wrote with apostolic authority. By the will of God, he was chosen and called as an apostle. He wrote with full authority. His words were not to be ignored.

Paul addresses his epistle to the church at Corinth and then proceeds to define the church. This is a very important definition to which we should give our full attention. First, Paul wants us to be assured that the church belongs to God. How often we hear churches identified in terms of who the pastor is. That is ______’s church, and we fill in the blank with the pastor’s name. When we do so, we indicate our deep and fundamental difference with Paul who believed that the church belongs to God. God is the One who brought the church into existence through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is the One who sustains His church. It is God’s church.

Generally speaking, the term “church” is defined in terms of two categories: (a) the local church and (b) the church universal. The local church is understood as that body of believers who gather regularly in one place. The “universal church” consists of all believers in every place and in the whole course of church history.

I do not wish to differ with these two definitions of the church. They are probably useful ways of considering groups of believers. But the “local church” and the “universal church” are not entirely consistent with Paul’s use of the term as he employs it in the New Testament. Here, the church is defined as (a) “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and (b) “all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2).

We might be inclined to think of this first category as “the local church.” In a sense, it is. But when Paul speaks of the church, he simply refers to a group of believers. Sometimes this group is a “house church,” a group of believers meeting in a certain person’s home (Romans 16:5, 19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). These “house churches” may have met in a larger gathering, as did the saints in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:46). Then, Paul referred to the “city church,” that is, the group of all believers in a particular city (see Revelation 2 and 3), or the church at a particular city (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1). This is the way Paul referred to the Corinthian church, the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Finally, Paul speaks of the church as all those living at one time, who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

I fear our view of the church is either too narrow (the local church—our church) or too broad (all those who have ever lived and trusted in Christ for salvation). We pray for our missionaries, the missionaries we have sent out from our local church, or more broadly, from our denominational group. A few churches share with those in need within their own fellowship or local church. When the new believers (the church) at Antioch heard a famine was coming upon the world, they enthusiastically began to prepare to give to their brethren in Judea. They understood, even at this early stage in their growth and maturity, that the church is bigger than the local church.

When we hear of disasters taking place around the world, do we immediately begin to consider the impact on our brethren, our fellow members of the world-wide church, and act accordingly? I fear we do not, at least to the degree we should. With such rapid communications in our time, we could easily and quickly learn of the trials and tribulations of fellow believers, no matter where they are in the world. And our ability to respond is also significantly easier than it was for the saints of Antioch. Let us begin to think of the church in Paul’s terms, rather than in the narrower terms to which we are accustomed.

In this broader sense of the church, we see that Paul’s epistle, though addressed to the saints at Corinth, was also written to the church at large. Look once again at the first two verses of Paul’s salutation: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This broader element in Paul’s salutation is important because it reminds us that “church truth” is “church truth.” That is, Paul’s teaching to the saints at Corinth is just as applicable and just as authoritative for the church at Philippi, or Ephesus, or Dallas. Too many have tried to avoid Paul’s teaching in his Corinthians Epistles by insisting he is speaking to a very special and unique problem found only in Corinth. This simply does not square with Paul’s words. His instructions to the Corinthians apply to every other saint:

16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says (1 Corinthians 14:33-34).

It has also been pointed out that in addressing the church at Corinth, Paul does not distinguish any one believer or group of believers from any other. We shall soon see that the Corinthian church was plagued with the dilemma of divisions. Here, Paul does not address the church other than as one group of believers, equally lost as unbelievers, and now equally saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Paul is careful to emphasize that the standing of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere is solely the result of the grace of God manifested through the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no grounds for boasting, except in the person and work of Christ.

Paul’s Thanksgiving
(1:4-9)

4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Somehow, an expression of thanksgiving is not what I would have expected from Paul at this point in time. Here is a church that has begun to listen to false teachers and who is challenging Paul’s authority. Here is a church which condones immorality and “unconditionally accepts” a man whose sin shocks the unbelieving pagans of that city. Here is a church whose personal conflicts are being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How can Paul possibly give thanks?

Paul does not give thanks for the sins and failures of these saints. Paul gives thanks to God for what He has done and for what He will ultimately do for His children. Paul first gives thanks for the “grace of God,” which He has given the saints in Christ Jesus (verse 4). Grace is unmerited favor, and we must surely agree that these saints—not to mention ourselves—are unworthy. The good things which have already been accomplished, and all those good things yet to be accomplished, are manifestations of God’s infinite grace, bestowed upon those who are unworthy.

Paul gives thanks for the sufficiency of God’s grace to the saints as articulated in verses 5-7.

5 That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s grace to the saints in Corinth and everywhere was boundless. He enriched them in everything. They were enriched in all speech and all knowledge. This was achieved through the preaching of the “testimony of Christ,” as it was confirmed in each and every believer. The Corinthians had no critical need for which God had not made provision through the apostolic preaching of Christ. Were there false teachers who indicated the Corinthians were lacking and that they needed more of something? They were liars! God had already provided all that was necessary for “life and godliness” in Christ (see 2 Peter 1:2-4). No gift was lacking in the church. God had provided just the right gifts for the growth and maturity and ministry of the saints in Corinth. If the church at Corinth was failing, it was not due to any failure on God’s part to provide for their needs, but rather a failure on their part to appropriate these means.

Finally, Paul expressed his thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God and the resulting assurance that He would complete that which He had begun in the Corinthian saints (verses 7-9). Elsewhere, Paul put it this way:

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).

These saints were eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (7a). Their salvation had not only the past and present benefits, referred to earlier, but a future hope. As motley a crew as this Corinthian church proved to be, their salvation and security were God’s doing. Consequently, Paul had great confidence concerning this church and the future of each saint. Paul thanked God because He would confirm these saints to the end. What God had started, He would finish. They were secure, and their hope was certain, just as Peter also writes:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

While these Corinthian saints may not consistently be faithful, God is faithful. It is through His faithfulness that each believer has been called to salvation. It is because of His faithfulness that we will persevere and enter into His kingdom, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No wonder Paul is thankful. In spite of the stumbling and sin which is evident in the Corinthian church, God has saved the saints there. He has sufficiently provided for their every spiritual need. He has purposed to present them faultless when He establishes His kingdom. Paul therefore is assured that his ministry is not in vain, because the salvation and sanctification of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere are the work of God. The God who called these saints and destined them for glory is the God who called Paul to be an apostle and to minister to these saints. Paul’s work is not in vain, for his work is ultimately God’s work.

1 CorinthiansConclusion

Paul is writing to a very troubled church, a church which exists in the midst of a very corrupt city and culture. In spite of this, Paul has a very confident mood as he addresses the saints at Corinth and around the world of his day and ours. I notice that in spite of the weaknesses and willful sins of these saints, Paul does not begin by questioning the reality of their conversion, but by affirming the present and future benefits. There are texts which do question the reality of the faith of persistently wayward professing believers, but this is not one of them. These saints need to be reminded of the certainty of their salvation. The certainty of their salvation rests not within themselves, but in the One who called them and the One who will complete all that He has begun. This certainty also assures Paul that his continued ministry to this church is not in vain.

This book of 1 Corinthians should cause us to reject the myth of the perfect New Testament church. We often refer to ourselves at The House of The Nazarene as a “New Testament church.” We are that in the sense that our church is patterned after the principles set down in the New Testament. We have no one “pastor,” who is the head of the church, but we recognize that Christ is the only Head of the church. We are governed by a plurality of elders. We have a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and we encourage believers to exercise their spiritual gifts in a way that edifies the whole body. We do not wish to imply by the expression “New Testament church” that we are a perfect church or even that we are a good church at all times.

So often Christians look back to the New Testament times as though the church in those days was nearly perfect. If you read the Book of Acts the way I do, there is a wonderful period of bliss in the infancy of the church, but this lasts only from late in chapter 2 to the end of chapter 4. In chapter 5, a couple is struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6, there is strife between two groups of Jews over the care of their widows. And by the time we get to the Corinthian church, it is far from perfect and hardly what could be called good. The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 are not complimentary either. The church was not perfect in New Testament times, and neither is it perfect today. The same sins which Paul exposes in 1 and 2 Corinthians are present and evident in evangelical churches today. And so Paul’s words of admonition and correction are just as applicable to us today as they were to the saints of his day.

We deceive ourselves if we think we can retreat within the church walls to escape the evils of the world. The Corinthians Epistles inform us that the world too easily and quickly finds its way into the church. The church is not the place where we go to escape from sin; it is the place where we go to confront our sin and to stimulate each other to love and good deeds. The church is not a Christian “clean room” where we can get away from sin; it is a hospital, where we can find help and healing through the ministry of the Word and prayer.

The church is not the place which is kept holy by keeping sinners away. It is the place where newly born sinners are brought, so that they can learn the Scriptures and grow in their faith. All too often, new believers feel unwelcomed by the church. The church is afraid of newly saved sinners because they do not really understand holiness or sanctification. Let us not strive to preserve the purity of the church by keeping out the newly saved pagans. Let us strive to preserve the purity of the church by throwing out some of the professing saints who boast only of the time they have put in at the church but whose profession of faith is hypocritical (see 1 Corinthians 5).

If there was hope for the Corinthians, then there is hope for anyone. The first nine verses of this epistle are saturated with reason for hope. Do you know someone who is hopelessly lost, who is not just disinterested in the gospel but adamantly opposed to it? Then take hope from the two men from whom this letter is sent. The apostle Paul was once Saul, the Saul who stood by and held the garments for those who stoned Stephen, the Paul who went from city to city seeking to find Christians whom he could arrest and even put to death. This man is now willing to give his life for the sake of the gospel.

If I understand the text correctly, Sosthenes is another Saul. In Acts 18, we are told that Crispus, the synagogue leader in Corinth, came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It appears that Sosthenes is his replacement. I understand him to be the leader of the opposition to Paul and the church in Corinth. At his instigation, it would seem, charges were brought against Christianity before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17). When Gallio refuses to hear this case, it is clear that Paul and the church have won. In frustration and anger, the unbelieving Jews turn on Sosthenes, their leader, beating him as Gallio watched, unmoved. Now, Sosthenes is a traveling companion of Paul’s, a brother in the Lord. Two of the most hostile unbelievers are now brothers in the Lord. Is there hope for the lost? There most certainly is!

If there is hope for the lost, there is also hope for those who are saved but whose life falls far short of the standard set by the Scriptures. Here is a church that seems almost beyond hope. There are divisions, immorality, and opposition to the apostle Paul and to apostolic teaching. Is Paul discouraged? Does Paul give up hope? No! Paul’s first words to this church are those of hope and confidence. Paul’s confidence and hope are not in the Corinthians, in their good intentions, or in their diligent efforts. His hope is in the One who called him and who called the Corinthian saints as well. His hope is in the fact that God has abundantly provided for every spiritual need in that church. His hope is in the faithfulness of the God who started the good work in these believers and who is committed to bring it to completion.

Have you ever felt that a loved one or a friend were hopeless? They may be a believer, but their life is a mess. This epistle reminds us that there is hope for such a saint. Have you ever felt that you were beyond help, beyond hope? This epistle is for you. Its first words to you remind you of the character and the work of God in the saints, through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Cease trusting in yourself, in your good intentions, in your efforts, and once again place your trust in the One who alone can save and sanctify. Heed Paul’s words of warning and of instruction. If there is hope for Saul and Sosthenes and for saints at Corinth, there is hope for anyone.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of 1 Corinthians

Christian celebrate Hanukkah (Christmaskah)

Chanukkah (or Hanukkah) is the Jewish Festival/Feast of Dedication, also known as the “Festival of Lights.” It is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which typically falls in November or December on our calendar. Although this Jewish festival in not mentioned in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), it is referenced in the Talmud: “On the 25th of Kislev are the days of Chanukkah, which are eight… these were appointed a Festival with Hallel [prayers of praise] and thanksgiving” (Shabbat 21b, Babylonian Talmud).

Chanukkah is probably one of the best-known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance, but because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs, such as elaborate gift-giving and decoration. Because of this, it is ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion and people, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on the Jewish calendar.

The holiday of Chanukkah celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of Judea, which is now Israel. It begins in the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered Syria, Egypt, and Israel, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs, and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.

More than 100 years after Alexander, Antiochus IV rose to power in the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. One of the groups which opposed Antiochus was led by Mattathias (Matitiyahu) the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee (“The Hammer”).

This small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army. Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but the Maccabees succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. According to historical accounts, Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem in December 164 BC. The Holy Temple, the Jewish religious center, was in shambles, defiled and desecrated by foreign soldiers.

The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah (the multi-branched lampstand), they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought. From then on, Jews everywhere have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. The observance of Chanukah features the lighting of a special Chanukkah menorah with eight branches (plus a helper candle), adding one new candle each night.

In the Brit Chadasha (The New Covenant), in the Gospel of John, we learn that Jesus the Jewish Messiah was at the Holy Temple during the “feast of dedication” or Chanukkah: “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:22-23).

During this great season of remembering miracles, Jesus pointed out to His listeners that the miracles He had done authenticated His claim that He was, indeed, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah (see John 10:37-38). His works and His true character clearly demonstrated who He was.

Star of David and the CrossJesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). The Lord Jesus gives all of us, Jew and Gentile, the “light of life.” And He commanded us to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Should Christians celebrate Chanukkah today? First, be mindful of the fact that we are under no obligation or “law” to celebrate any of the Jewish festivals given to Israel in the Torah (Law of Moses). But to all true Believers in Jesus Christ, especially those who have a profound appreciation for the Hebraic roots of our Christian faith, celebrating the “true light” of this world only seeks to glorify our wonderful Lord and Savior.

As Christians, we can celebrate the “Festival of Lights” as we rededicate our lives to Christ and acknowledge Him as the perfect and true light of this world. As believers, when we celebrate Chanukkah it reminds us of God’s wonderful miracles on our behalf. It reminds us of God’s protection throughout our lives. It reminds us to remain true to God even when the world around us tries to force us into assimilation.

Jesus told us that whoever follows Him will not have darkness, but the Light of Life. What a wonderful time of the year to remember and commemorate the great miracle that God has done for us, by giving us new light and new life.

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End Times spawns the unholy trinity

A common tactic of Satan is to imitate or counterfeit the things of God in order to make himself appear to be like God. What is commonly referred to as the “unholy trinity,” described vividly in Revelation 12 and 13, is no exception. The Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Their counterparts in the unholy trinity are Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. While the Holy Trinity is characterized by infinite truth, love, and goodness, the unholy trinity portrays the diametrically opposite traits of deception, hatred, and unadulterated evil.

Revelation 12 and 13 contain prophetic passages that describe some of the main events and the figures involved during the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period. Although many Bible passages allude to Satan in various forms, such as a serpent or an angel of light, he is described in Revelation 12:3 as a “great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” The color red indicates his vicious and homicidal personality. The seven heads symbolize seven evil kingdoms that Satan has empowered and used throughout history to attempt to prevent God’s ultimate plan from coming to fruition. Five of the kingdoms had already come and gone-Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece.

All these kingdoms severely oppressed and persecuted the Hebrews, killing many of them. Satan’s intent was to prevent the birth of Christ (Revelation 12:4). The sixth kingdom, Rome, was still in existence during the writing of this prophecy. Under Roman rule, King Herod murdered Hebrew babies around the time of Christ’s birth and Pontius Pilate ultimately authorized the crucifixion of Jesus. The seventh kingdom, which is more fierce and cruel than the others, will be the final world kingdom that the Antichrist forms during the end times. These kingdoms were also prophesied in Daniel, chapters 2 and 7. The seven crowns represent universal rule, and ten horns represent complete world power or authority.

Revelation 12 indicates many important facts about Satan. Satan and one-third of the angels were cast out of heaven during a rebellion before the world began (Revelation 12:4). The Archangel Michael and the other angels will make war with Satan and his demons, and Satan will be excluded from heaven forever (Revelation 12:7-9). In his attempt to prevent God’s fulfillment of His earthly kingdom, Satan will attempt to annihilate the Jews, but God will supernaturally protect a remnant of the Jews in a location outside of Israel for the last 42 months of the Tribulation (Revelation12:6, 13-17; Matthew 24:15-21).

The second member of the unholy trinity is the Beast or Antichrist described in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7. The beast comes out of the sea, which typically in the Bible refers to the Gentile nations. He also has seven heads and ten horns, indicating his connection to and indwelling by Satan. The ten horns indicate ten seats of world government that will provide power to the Antichrist, three of which will be totally yielded to or taken over by the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8). The number ten also indicates completion or totality, in other words, a one-world government. The one-world government will be blasphemous, denying the true God. The final kingdom will possess traits in common with the former “beast kingdoms” of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and particularly Rome (Revelation13:2; Daniel 7:7, 23). Revelation 13:3 seems to indicate that the Antichrist will be mortally wounded about halfway through the Tribulation, but Satan will miraculously heal his wound (Revelation 13:3; 17:8-14). After this wondrous event, the world will be totally enthralled by the Antichrist. They will worship Satan and the Antichrist himself (Revelation 13:4-5). The Antichrist becomes emboldened, and, dispensing with all pretenses of being a peaceful ruler, he openly blasphemes God, breaks his peace treaty with the Jews, attacks believers and the Jews, and desecrates the rebuilt Jewish temple, setting himself up as the one to be worshipped (Revelation 13:4-7; Matthew 24:15.) This particular event has been called the Abomination of Desolation.

unholy trinityThe final personage of the unholy trinity is the False Prophet, described in Revelation 13:11-18. This second beast comes out of the earth, not the sea, possibly indicating that he will be an apostate Jew coming from Israel. Although he presents himself as a meek, mild, and benevolent person, the horns indicate that he will have power. Jesus expressly warned believers to watch out for false prophets that may look innocent but actually can be very destructive (Matthew 7:15). The False Prophet speaks like a dragon, meaning that he will speak persuasively and deceptively to turn humans away from God and promote the worship of the Antichrist and Satan (Revelation 13:11-12). The False Prophet is capable of producing great signs and wonders, including bringing down fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13). He sets up an image of the Antichrist for worship, gives life to the image, demands the worship of the image from all people, and executes those who refuse to worship the image (Revelation 13:14-15). Revelation 20:4 indicates that the method of execution will be beheading.

The False Prophet will also compel each person to receive a permanent mark of some kind, just as slaves did in John’s day, to show total devotion to the Antichrist and renunciation of God. Only those who receive the mark will be permitted to engage in commerce. Acceptance of the mark means eternal death (Revelation 14:10). The Bible makes clear that humans will fully understand that, by accepting the mark, they are not only accepting an economic system but also a worship system that rejects Jesus Christ. Revelation 13:18 reveals the number of the Beast-666. No one knows precisely what this means. Some believe that the Antichrist’s first, middle, and last names will have six letters each. Some believe that the designation refers to a computer chip, since some computer programs start with 666.

Satan is the anti-God, the Beast is the anti-Christ, and the False Prophet is the anti-Spirit. This unholy trinity will persecute believers and deceive many others, resulting in their eternal death. But God’s kingdom will prevail. Daniel 7:21-22 states, “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

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ONCE AND FOR ALL! Should Christians Observe the Israelite Festivals?

Should Christians observe the Israelite festivals? Are they necessary for salvation?

LIST OF FESTIVALS
(It is advisable to read Leviticus 23 from the Bible along with this study. All of the Festivals are listed in Leviticus 23. All were observed at the sanctuary in the wilderness and later at the temple in Jerusalem. All were accompanied by sacrifices and offerings. All were prophetic of future events—all of which have been, or are in the process of being fulfilled except The Feast of Tabernacles. Seven yearly sabbaths were observed in connection with these feasts.)

Passover Feast
This included the slaying of the Passover lamb on the 14th of the first month, partaking of the lamb and observing the Passover sabbath on the 15th.

Unleavened Bread Feast
This lasted seven days and the first day coincided with the Passover on the 15th and continued through the 21st day of the first month, (Nisan). The 15th and 21st were sabbaths.  Why unleavened bread?  Leaven represented sin and it was also the type of bread eaten the night that they left Egypt.

On the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the offering of the “Wave Sheaf.” This was the offering of the first of the barley harvest. This represented Christ’s presentation before the Father on that day–Sunday the 16th of Nisan in 31 AD. (John 20:17)  This was called the “firstfruits” of their harvest and represented Christ who is called “the firstfruits” from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

Pentecost Feast—Feast of Weeks
Fifty inclusive days, counting from the day after the Passover sabbath, a feast and sabbath were to be observed. This feast represented, in type, the outpouring of The Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. All this historically occurred, fulfilling the prophecy.

Blowing of Trumpets Feast
This was celebrated on the 1st day of the 7th month. It’s purpose was to herald the coming of The Day of Atonement on the 10th day, calling the people to prepare their hearts, examining their lives and making things right with God.

The Day of Atonement
This was understood to be a day of judgment when all sin was dealt with and the people, the priest and the tabernacle/temple were cleansed. And, then the scape goat, a type of Satan, was held responsible for the sins, having them placed on his head. And he was led away into the wilderness.  (See Leviticus 16 for the details of The Day of Atonement.)

Feast of Tabernacles
Five days after The Day of Atonement, the joyous Feast of Tabernacles began, not only as a reminder of the Children of Israel dwelling in tents in their sojourn to Canaan, but also prophetically of the future rest in Heaven of the faithful. It was a joyous time because the people felt cleansed from the burden of their sins and at peace with God. This feast lasted for 8 days with sacrifices each day. The 15th and 22nd were sabbaths.

ACTIONS DURING FESTIVALS
Animal sacrifices, meat and drink offerings, afflicting souls, confessing sins, rejoicing.

EVIDENCE FOR CESSATION OF THE FESTIVALS

Does the Bible say that the sacrifices and offerings will cease?
Daniel 9:27, KJV. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. . .”

Was there historical evidence that the earthly temple services of sacrifices came to an end in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy?
Matthew 27:50-51, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. . .”

LOCATION OF THE FESTIVALS
The Festivals and offerings of animals and meat and drink offerings connected with them were offered at the sanctuary in the wilderness and later at the temple in Jerusalem. Three times a year the men of Israel were to gather for these which included 7 yearly sabbaths. (1. Passover and unleavened bread, 2. Pentecost and 3. Day of Atonement followed by Feast of Tabernacles)

ORDINANCES

Besides, Jesus, what else was nailed to the cross and blotted out?
Colossians 2:14, KJV “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”

What were these ordinances about?
Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days”. . . [the seven yearly sabbaths]

What did all these offerings and yearly sabbaths point forward to?
Colossians 2:17, NLT “For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”

Were the Gentiles required to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses?
Acts 15:1,5, KJV  “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. . . .But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

What was the decision of this Jerusalem council in 49 AD regarding keeping the law of Moses and circumcision?
Acts 15:19-21, KJV “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” In other words, the Gentiles and Jews were hearing the commandments about the feasts as Moses’ books were read—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.)

What did the letter from Jerusalem say to those in Antioch?
Acts 15:23-29 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Was the decision of the Jerusalem counsel, God’s decision and directions?
Acts 15:28, ASV. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”

Is there another Bible reference that describes the cessation of the feasts?
Ephesians 2:15, KJV, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. . .

Ephesians 2:15, NLT “He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.”

Are any of the feasts said to be ordinances?
Numbers 9:12 They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.

Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross

Does this “blotting out” and “abolishing,” include the seventh-day Sabbath?
No.  Col. 2:16, 17 indicates that the sabbaths mentioned here are prophetic, (“shadows of things to come”).  This could only be true of the yearly sabbaths that were prophetic of Christ’s sacrifice and ministry.  It therefore could not apply to the weekly Holy Sabbath Day which is not a shadow or prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice and ministry. The weekly Sabbath was established at Creation and is what we could call a birthday memorial of Christ’s creative work. A birthday memorial cannot be eliminated or changed any more than your own birthday or national holiday because all three are permanent historical events. An event that is not only a memorial, but also a sign of knowing God and a covenant of salvation and a forever friendship celebration and worship day, would have no reason to be removed. And it would have every reason to remain just as it was originally established by Christ. You could it is Christ’s Birthday once a week!(Psalm 111:7, 8; Isaiah 58:13, 14; Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:27, 28; Exodus 31:13-18; Isaiah 66:22, 23.)

The Sabbath is one of The Ten Commandments. As such it portrays the perfect character of God and righteousness and The Ten commandments serve as a ruler for right living which will be used in the judgment to decide who is worthy of eternal life. (Matthew 19:17-19; James 2:8-12; Revelation 22:14)

Are there passages in the Bible besides the prohibitions for the Gentiles in Acts 15 in which days to be regarded and food to be eaten is to accommodate those who have mistaken ideas about days and food?  Yes. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, in which those who do not understand about food offered to idols or observance of the feasts are not to have their consciences harmed by others, (even though the food and feast days to be observed are not God’s requirements).

SUMMARY

One noted Christian writer says this about the ceremonial system which included the feasts and seven yearly sabbaths that God instructed Moses to institute: “The whole system must be swept away. . . . Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin offering, that He would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to His death. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service, [commonly termed, “The Lord’s Supper”/”Holy Communion” or the Eucharist”], that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. The national festival of the Jews was to pass away forever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages. . . . It was Christ’s desire to leave to His disciples an ordinance that would do for them the very thing they needed–that would serve to disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah.”

Celebrate The Birth Of ChristColossians 2:16-17, NLT, “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or [yearly] sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”

The yearly feast days pointed forward, (in other words, were prophetic), of Christ’s sacrifice. They were to be celebrated at the temple in Jerusalem with meat, drink and animal offerings. When they were fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice, Christ resurrection, Christ’s ascension briefly on Sunday morning as represented by “the wave sheaf,” and Pentecost, 50 inclusive days later, there was no need to continue the feasts. In fact, to continue the feasts would seem to indicate that one did not believe they had been fulfilled! A Christian writer puts it this way: “To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah.”

It might be a danger, if one urges the keeping of the feasts, to neglect The Gospel Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, ASV, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Matthew 24:14, KJV,  “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

Revelation 22:20, KJV, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

APPENDIX

“For ever”
Exodus 21:6, KJV, “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.”

Obviously, the servant isn’t still serving the master today and into the ceaseless ages, but did so as long as life lasted. And, the sacrifice of animals will not continue into the New Earth where there will be no more death. (Revelation 21:4) As you can see, “for ever” does has its limits.

From Bible scholar, Frank Holbrook, we have this note about the phrase, “for ever” since that is used about some of the feasts in the Old Testament:

How Long is ‘Forever’?
A major reason why some Christians are led to believe that the typical festivals of the Temple should be observed permanently as part of the Christian religion is because Israel was instructed to keep them “forever.” For example:

Exodus 12:14, 17 “And this day [Passover] shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” [Hebrew, ‘ôlām; Greek Septuagint, aiōnios].
…And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever”[Hebrew, ‘ôlām; Greek, aiōnios].

To Western minds the expression “forever” means “endlessness.” However, this is not the meaning to the Eastern mind-set when either the Hebrew `ôlām or the Greek aiōn/aiōnios is used. While these terms may be translated “forever” or “everlasting/eternal” in English, both the Hebrew and Greek words derive their length from the nature of the object described.

For example, if we say, “God lives forever” (in Hebrew/Greek terms), we do, indeed, mean “endless,” because by nature the Deity is immortal or eternal. But if we were to say, “King Darius, live for ever” (Daniel 6:6), it would simply mean, Live a long life. The phrase would not mean “endlessness” at all, because man is mortal and subject to death (Job 4:17). For another example, see 2 Samuel 7:16, 19. Although God promised David a dynastic throne that would last “for ever,” David understood the promise to mean “for a great while to come.” It actually ended with Zedekiah in 586 B.C. The emphasis of the Hebrew and Greek terms translated “for ever” in the Bible is on duration. A thing or person exists continuously without break—endlessly or until it comes to an end—according to its nature.

Thus, when God called for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to be observed “for ever” (or more accurately, that the ordinance governing these should be an “everlasting/eternal” ordinance), He simply meant that these typical festivals were intended to be observed regularly for as long as He intended the typical system to last. In this case, it meant a regular, annual observance of these festivals until the Messiah—the Antitype to their symbolism—should come and die for the sins of the world. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). By its very nature no typical rite or observance was ever intended to be permanent.

Now you should understand the difference, (And there is a difference!) between the OLD and the NEW Testament! While Saturday is the Sabbath, Sunday is the Lord’s day, and should be spent gathered together as believers worshiping the Lord and receiving the word.

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