Tag Archives: religion

Is the Cross of Jesus an Idol

In Genesis Satan spoke through a serpent in the Garden of Eden and the first promise of the Messiah was prophesied.

And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14–15)

THE SERPENT ON THE POLE AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST

When the fateful day of disaster came, everything changed—and rightly so. God warned us that if we were to disobey Him then we would surely die. After sin, God fulfilled His warning in just manner. The serpent was cursed (more than all the other creatures) and mankind was to return to dust (i.e., die). Yet we should never overlook the first great working of God’s unlimited grace in the midst of His righteous judgment. God said to the serpent (Satan), “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This coming Seed that will crush the head of Satan was promised by God. From this point on, we see in Scripture and understand our true need for the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

SERPENT ON THE POLE AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST ILLUSTRATION

SERPENT ON THE POLE AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST ILLUSTRATION

In theological terms, this is called the proto-evangelium (the first Gospel). God promised that through the Seed (i.e., descendant) of a woman (Eve) would come one who would crush the head of Satan. This is the first promise of a Savior and the first great act of God’s grace after our tragic act of rebellion.

When we read the account of Genesis, and particularly the first eleven chapters, we get a full historical foundation for understanding of the significance of this promise of a Savior, and the depth of our desperate need for salvation. Not only do we see that we are rebellious, and under the wrath of God, but Genesis also tells us that since that rebellion, sin is constantly and aggressively crouching at our door (Genesis 4:7), and that we are totally consumed by sin (Genesis 8:21). The promise of a Savior from man’s rebellious nature is something we see consistently throughout Scripture—from its origin in Genesis, all the way through to Christ’s ultimate victory in Revelation.

So, we move to throughout the wilderness wanderings of Moses and the Israelites, God was constantly teaching them things about Himself and about their own sinfulness. He brought them into the wilderness, to the same mountain where He revealed Himself to Moses, so that He could instruct them in what He required of them. Shortly after the amazing events at Mt. Sinai, God brought them to the border of the Promised Land, but when the people heard the reports from the spies, their faith failed. They said that God could not overcome the giants in the land. As a result of this unbelief, God sent them into the wilderness to wander until that generation died out (Numbers 14:28-34).

In Numbers 21, the people again got discouraged, and in their unbelief they murmured against Moses for bringing them into the wilderness. They had already forgotten that it was their own sin that caused them to be there, and they tried to blame Moses for it. As a judgment against the people for their sin, God sent poisonous serpents into the camp, and people began to die. This showed the people that they were the ones in sin, and they came to Moses to confess that sin and ask for God’s mercy. When Moses prayed for the people, God instructed him to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so the people could be healed (Numbers 21:5-7).

God was teaching the people something about faith. It is totally illogical to think that looking at a bronze image could heal anyone from snakebite, but that is exactly what God told them to do. It took an act of faith in God’s plan for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on the stick was a reminder of their sin which brought about their suffering. This serpent was symbolic of the serpents God used to chastise the people for their unbelief.

A couple of additional lessons are taught in the Bible regarding this bronze serpent. The people did get healed when they looked at the serpent, and the image was kept for many years. Many years later, when the Israelites were in the Promised Land, the serpent became an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4). This shows how easy it is for us to take the things of God and twist them into idolatry. We must never worship the tools or the people God chooses to use, but always bring the honor and glory to God alone.

The next reference we find in the Bible to this serpent is in John 3:14. Jesus indicated that this bronze serpent was a foreshadowing of Him. The serpent, a symbol of sin and judgment, was lifted up from the earth and put on a tree, which was a symbol of a curse (Galatians 3:13). The serpent lifted up and cursed symbolized Jesus, who takes away sin from everyone who would look to Him in faith, just like the Israelites had to look to the upraised symbol in the wilderness. Paul is reminding the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us, although He was blameless and sinless—the spotless Lamb of God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

SERPENT ON THE POLE AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST

When Jesus explained the nature of His atoning death on the cross to the Israelites of His day, He appealed to what is arguably the most fascinating of the redemptive symbols from the history of Israel’s wilderness wandering–namely, the bronze serpent on the pole (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14). The bronze serpent is the clearest type of the saving work of Jesus at Calvary. Of all the types and shadows, there was not any that showed forth the principal work of the Savior better than this type. Jesus could have pointed to the Passover, or to any of the sacrificial types that foreshadowed His atoning death, but He chose to point to this type in his discussion with Nicodemus. Here are 14 points that are meant to teach us how the account of Numbers 21:4-9 serves to deepen our understanding of the Gospel:

1. The bronze serpent was God’s means of salvation for the Israelites who were bitten by the serpents in the wilderness. Jesus Christ crucified is God’s means of salvation for everyone who has been bitten by the deadly venom of sin in the wilderness of this fallen world.

2. The bronze serpent was God’s only way of salvation for the Israelites. Jesus Christ crucified is God’s only way of salvation for Jew and Gentile (consider the redemptive-historical reading of John 3:16 in light of John 3:15. In the OT the Israelites were loved by God and so given a typological way of healing; in the New Testament we are told that “God loves the world,” that is, Jews and Gentiles, as so gave His Son for the redemption of His people from every tongue, tribe, nation and language).

3. The bronze serpent was a visual representation of the wrath of God against a grumbling and complaining people. Christ crucified is a visual representation of the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

4. The bronze serpent represented the propitiation of the wrath of God. Whoever looked at the serpent would know that the wrath of God was turned away. The cross of Christ displays the wrath of God as well as the turning away of that wrath. Mercy and truth meet together at the cross; righteousness and peace kiss one another in the death of Jesus.

5. The bronze serpent was a symbolic representation of the venomous serpents that bit the people and brought deadly consequences on account of their sin; however, it was without the venom that caused their death. Christ represented those who were ruined by sin, taking to Himself a body in the likeness of sinful flesh–yet without sin–so that He might, through His death, save those who by their own sin were poisoned unto death. He was made a curse for us that we might receive the blessings of God.

6. The bronze serpent was meant to remind the Israelites of the cause of their sin. It was meant to carry their minds back to the Garden of Eden where Satan came in the form of a serpent to tempt their first parents. The punishment for the sin, brought into the world through the temptation of that Serpent of Old, was laid on Jesus at the cross. The penalty for our sin fell on Him. He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

7. With respect to the serpent in the wilderness, the healing was dependent upon the word of God concerning His means of salvation. With Christ crucified, salvation is dependent on God’s word concerning His means of that salvation.

8. As the poisoned Israelites were called to believe God’s command–and the bronze serpent was made the object of that command–we see that both the means and the instrument of God’s salvation are typified. In the account of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus both the means and the instrument of God’s salvation are pointed out. A crucified Savior is the means of God’s salvation. Faith (or looking to Him) is the instrument of salvation.

9. The plagued Israelites were externally called to look upon the bronze serpent in order to be healed. Sinners are externally called to look upon the crucified Son of God to be saved.

10. The serpent was lifted up before the Israelites in the midst of the camp so that those who were bitten might look and be healed. Christ was lifted up–first on the cross, then in His resurrection, then in His ascension, and finally in the preaching of the Gospel–so that sinners might look on Him and be saved.

11. The bronze serpent was the central and all sufficient means of healing for the Israelites. The cross is the central and all-sufficient means of the saving work of Christ for the healing of all who believe in Him.

12. Just as God chose a man, Moses, to lift up the bronze serpent on the pole so that men might look and be healed, God has chosen ministers to hold up Jesus in the preaching of Christ crucified so that men might look to Him and be saved.

13. Just as looking to a bronze serpent was a foolish means of healing poisoned Israelites, so looking to a crucified Savior (an publicly executed Man) is a foolish means, in the world’s eyes, for the salvation of a sinners condemned to death.

14. The bronze serpent was held up for many for salvation from the wrath of God and the deadly consequences of sin. Christ was lifted up for many for the salvation of men from the wrath of God and the deadly consequences of sin. Only those who looked were saved from the poison of the serpent bites. Only those who look in faith to Christ are redeemed from the deadly bite of sin.

 

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Theosophy, and Can Prayer from Members of Theosophy Have any Effect on an Authentic Christian

The magicians in Egypt had power to do certain things, but these signs were affecting the pagans. Over an authentic Christian these curses should have no power as he is protected against such things.

Theosophy is more of a philosophy of religion than a religion per se. The word theosophy comes from the Greek words theos “god” and sophia “wisdom”. Literally, theosophy means “divine wisdom.” The roots of this philosophy can be traced back to ancient Gnosticism, with borrowings from Greek philosophy and medieval mysticism. Modern theosophy also draws heavily on Hinduism.

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian-born spiritualist, and Henry Steel Olcott, an American lawyer and newspaperman. Three years later, they moved the international base of operations for the Theosophical Society to India.

Theosophy teaches that all religions contain elements of the “Ancient Wisdom” and that wise men throughout history have held the secret of spiritual power. Those who have been enlightened by the divine wisdom can access a transcendent spiritual reality through mystical experience. Like Hinduism, theosophy teaches reincarnation and a belief in karma. Theosophists also place their trust in the Mahatmas (literally, “Great Souls”), also referred to as the Great Masters or the Adepts-those who have reached an exalted state of existence and who possess the sum of the world’s accumulated knowledge. According to theosophists, these Mahatmas are directing the spiritual evolution of mankind.

In 1911, the Theosophical Society proclaimed the advent of a “World Teacher” a young Hindu named Jiddu Krishnamurthi. Theosophists heralded this messianic character as the world’s hope of enlightenment, peace, and unity. However, a few years later, Krishnamurthi renounced his position as “World Teacher” and stopped claiming to be a messiah.

Although theosophists contend that their philosophy is compatible with Christianity (and with Buddhism, Hinduism, and all other religions), it is clear that theosophy is at odds with the Bible. Not only does the Bible refute the idea of reincarnation and karma (Hebrews 9:27), it also differs from theosophy on the following points:

1) Theosophy denies the existence of a personal, infinite God. The Bible plainly teaches the existence of a God who is both personal and infinite (Hebrews 1:10; 11:6).

2) Theosophy denies the need of forgiveness. The Bible proclaims all mankind to be in need of God’s forgiveness, available only through the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-25).

3) Theosophy teaches that Christ was a “Great Soul” who inhabited the body of a man named Jesus for a few years (this is an ancient Gnostic heresy). The Bible teaches that Jesus is the eternal Son of God (John 1:1-14).

While the number of theosophists has dwindled through the years, the philosophy itself has had a marked influence. Theosophy has produced great interest in the Eastern religions among those in the West, leading to revivals of Hinduism and Buddhism. It has also heavily influenced the rise of other religious movements, such as Rosicrucianism, unity, and the New Thought movement.

Theosophy seeks a higher wisdom, but it fails to recognize that there is no higher wisdom than is found in Jesus Christ, “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

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Has Trump found religion in the Oval Office?

Trump’s Drastically Increased References To God Has us Asking If The President Has ‘Found Religion’

The president is mentioning God more than ever during his public appearances.

President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: WHATSHOTN has maintained for over a year now that the hand of God was and is on Donald Trump, and is the force behind his amazing election victory win. So it comes to us as no surprise that as time ticks on, the president’s God awareness level seems to be rising. Please continue to pray for his salvation, and that of his entire family, as Bible prophecy continues unfold and long ago prophesied events look like they are about to take place. 

He’s also taken other steps to further cultivate a Christian right that helped elect him, granting new levels of access to Christian media and pushing socially conservative positions that don’t appear to come naturally to him.

One of the first interviews Trump sat for as president was with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. “I’ve always felt the need to pray,” Trump said in that late-January interview. “The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions are no longer, ‘Gee I’m going to build a building in New York.’ … These are questions of massive, life-and-death.”

President Trump Relying On God Now More Than Ever:

“There’s almost not a decision that you make when you’re sitting in this position that isn’t a really life-altering position,” Trump added. “So God comes into it even more so.”

Language like that has the Christian conservatives who helped lift Trump to the White House nodding their heads in approval.

“I believe the weight of the office that he now holds and the burden of responsibility that it carries is humbling him somewhat and causing him to acknowledge and admit his reliance on God,” said Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who has known Trump for six years and supported Trump’s campaign and served on his transition team. Scott was last at the White House in February for a meeting Trump held to mark Black History Month.

But others who have long followed Trump — a businessman who was known more as a playboy than a practitioner of faith — are skeptical that the president has found religion in the Oval Office.

“Donald has never been a spiritually or religiously serious person,” said Timothy O’Brien, author of the Trump biography “TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald.”

Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President,” said: “He’s a transactional guy with humans, and it’s no different with God — it’s all about whatever is to his advantage with regard to his supporters, and referencing God is exactly and only that.”

Donald Trump attends a Worship Service

There’s also the question of Trump’s church attendance as president. On the morning of his inauguration, Trump and his family attended a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House and then participated in an interfaith prayer service that Saturday at the National Cathedral. He also appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February.

On Sunday, Trump went to Easter services at the Bethesda-by-the-Sea Church in Florida, where he and his wife, Melania, were married in 2015.

But there’s no public knowledge of any other church services Trump has attended, and if he has, it has been without the knowledge of White House pool reporters.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump has been attending church as president.

Trump’s frequent invocations of God in his remarks as of late are a change from both his past life as a businessman and his time on the campaign trail. Generally, candidate Trump did not reference God during his rallies and mostly talked about religion only when asked during interviews and during a handful of speeches at faith-based events.

Remember back when you found Christ? Did you act any differently than Trump is now over your new found faith? Did you have all the answers right after you converted to Christ?

No, me either!

 

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Thousands of Muslims reportedly turning to Christ in Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are There Modern Day Apostles

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

THE DEFINITION OF AN APOSTLE

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

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

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

THE QUALIFICATIONS OF AN APOSTLE

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

THE WORK OF AN APOSTLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DURATION OF AN APOSTLE

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

NO APOSTLES TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ORIGINAL APOSTLES WERE SUFFICIENT

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

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

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

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

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

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Christianity a White Man’s Religion or Colorless Family

In the past 2,000 years, the vast majority of Christians have been white/European. While Christianity had its beginnings in the Middle East, it spread rapidly to Europe and parts of Asia where Caucasians were the predominant race. The history of Christianity is filled with expansions, but mostly throughout Europe and Asia, then on to the West in the 15th century. Christianity has not had nearly the same success spreading among Middle Easterners, Africans, and Asians, and this has led many to declare that Christianity is a religion for white people.

Christianity was never intended for white people only. The first Christians were all Semitic in ethnicity and likely had light to dark brown skin. Christianity having been predominantly a white religion in past centuries has nothing to do with the message of Christianity. Rather, it is due to the failure of Christians to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The apostle John declared that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world [all races and nationalities] (see 1 John 2:2). Spiritually, men of all races are one due to the presence of a common sickness/sin. Sin entered the human race at the Fall, and because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an inheritance for all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam, sin entered the world and so death was passed on to all men because all have sinned.

But just as sin entered the human race by one man, so does redemption come by one Man, Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sin, the essence of Christianity, is offered to all races, colors, creeds, and genders, to all “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” through Him (Romans 5:18). In giving His life as a substitute for sin, Jesus Christ purchased for God with His blood “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). No, Christianity is not a white man’s religion. Christianity is not a black, brown, red, or yellow religion either. The truth of the Christian faith is universally applicable to all people.

Let’s look at the question and answer it from another perspective. Skin and it’s color only pertains to these earth suits (Tents as Paul put it.) God gave us so we could function on this earth. All of us are really a spirit being. We possess a soul (mind, will and intellect), and we live in a body. The flesh is not who we are at all. When we die the spirit (who we really are) will live on forever either in Heaven or hell according to our choice while we’re here on earth. Our spirit has no color, race or ethnicity. Our spirit was created in the image and likeness of God. God is a SPIRIT, and they that seek to worship Him must do it in spirit and in truth.

Christianity is a religion for all humanity. God is not prejudice. Who ever is prejudice is mocking God for He created and loves all people. Prejudice and hate is sin and we have to confess it as such. I don’t understand prejudice in people that God has blessed with abundance and intelligence. Don’t we have better things to do than mock almighty God?

Jesus Christ Himself was neither white neither black but born in Semitic Ethnicity. Christ and His free gift of salvation are beyond ethnicity, creed, language etc., i.e., The Government of Heaven has no political boundaries!

There are many myths about Christianity but what you need personally is to believe and follow Jesus Christ as The Saviour and Lord for the human race. Jesus Christ came to get back the authority and dominion Adam, the first man had lost in the garden of Eden. He gives this victory to whoever believes in Him and serves Him till His return whereby this actual earth and heaven will be destroyed and His righteous Kingdom established forever and ever.

Jesus King of KingsGod is Spirit whom we worship in truth and Spirit. Why do some humans make such a big deal about the color of your skin? I an sure that Satan uses this weakness of some people for his own glory. Give God the glory for creating you in His image and believe His Word that whoso ever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

God is not a specific race or color. The Bible says that God is a SPIRIT and they that worship Him must do it in spirit and truth. Christianity is NOT A RELIGION. IT is a relationship with the only true and LIVING GOD. Man is also not a race or color. Know it or not, man is also a SPIRIT who possess a soul and lives in a body.
When we die in that body, no matter what color, goes back to the dirt from which it was made, So all of us, our color is really the color of dirt! Our spirits were created in the image and likeness of God. Amen. Christianity is NOT A RELIGION.

I think differently than the world does about what defines Christianity. “Christian” derives from the Koine Greek word Christ, The Greek word Christianos meaning “follower of Christ” comes from Christos meaning “anointed one. I dont really even pay attention to any history of a race or ethnic orgin. It all points back to Jesus as he is the one who made Christianity no other man did that. It has nothing to do with race. Jesus had so many followers when he was alive and blacks and other ethnicities were among them. Really they were called “followers of the way” before the word Christian was even used. Christianity is not to be a religion. When people ask me what religion I am, I say non-denominational! I just follow the Word of God and Jesus His son, as the first Christians were.

We are spirits, not flesh and blood. Skin and color is just the earth suit God gave us to help us function on the earth. God is a SPIRIT and so are we. When the earth suit gives way one day, the spirit and soul will vacate and go to Heaven with God or hell. It all depends on the choice we make now on this side of the grave. Will you choose Jesus today, whatever color God chose for you, so you can live with Him forever when you cross to the other side? Amen!

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EU LINKS UP WITH TWITTER, TECH FIRMS TO COMBAT HATE SPEECH

The European Union reached an agreement Tuesday with some of the world’s biggest social media firms, including Facebook and Twitter, on ways to combat the spread of hate speech online. The EU is Coming to Close Down Your Free Speech, SO FREE SPEECH BIG CHILL!

  • The German Chancellor was not interested in the reinforcement of Europe’s external borders, the re-erection of its internal borders, the institution of a workable asylum vetting system and the repatriation of people who had lied to gain entry into Europe. Instead, Chancellor Merkel wanted to know how Facebook’s founder could help her restrict the free speech of Europeans, on Facebook and on other social media.
  • Then, on May 31, the European Union announced a new online speech code to be enforced by four major tech companies, including Facebook and YouTube.
  • It was clear from the outset that Facebook has a definitional problem as well as a political bias in deciding on these targets. What is Facebook’s definition of ‘racism’? What is its definition of ‘xenophobia’? What, come to that, is its definition of ‘hate speech’?
  • Of course the EU is a government — and an unelected government at that — so its desire not just to avoid replying to its critics — but to criminalise their views and ban their contrary expressions — is as bad as the government of any country banning or criminalising the expression of opinion which is not adulatory of the government.
  • People must speak up — must speak up now, and must speak up fast — in support of freedom of speech before it is taken away from them. It is, sadly, not an overstatement to say that our entire future depends on it.

It is nine months since Angela Merkel and Mark Zuckerberg tried to solve Europe’s migrant crisis. Of course having caused the migrant crisis by announcing the doors of Europe as open to the entire third-world, Angela Merkel particularly would have been in a good position actually to try to solve this crisis.

But the German Chancellor was not interested in the reinforcement of Europe’s external borders, the re-erection of its internal borders, the institution of a workable asylum vetting system and the repatriation of people who had lied to gain entry into Europe. Instead, Chancellor Merkel was interested in Facebook.

When seated with Mark Zuckerberg, Frau Merkel wanted to know how the Facebook founder could help her restrict the free speech of Europeans, on Facebook and on other social media. Speaking to Zuckerberg at a UN summit last September (and not aware that the microphones were picking her up) she asked what could be done to restrict people writing things on Facebook which were critical of her migration policy. ‘Are you working on this?’ she asked him. ‘Yeah’, Zuckerberg replied.

In the months that followed, we learned that this was not idle chatter over lunch. In January of this year, Facebook launched its ‘Initiative for civil courage online’, committing a million Euros to fund non-governmental organisations in its work to counter ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic’ posts online. It also promised to remove ‘hate speech’ and expressions of ‘xenophobia’ from the Facebook website.

It was clear from the outset that Facebook has a definitional problem as well as a political bias in deciding on these targets. What is Facebook’s definition of ‘racism’? What is its definition of ‘xenophobia’? What, come to that, is its definition of ‘hate speech’? As for the political bias, why had Facebook not previously considered how, for instance, to stifle expressions of open-borders sentiments on Facebook? There are many people in Europe who have argued that the world should have no borders and that Europe in particular should be able to be lived in by anyone who so wishes. Why have people expressing such views on Facebook (and there are many) not found their views censored and their posts removed? Are such views not ‘extreme’?

EDITOR’S NOTE: While removing speech that directly calls for violence is a good thing, the definition of what ‘hate speech’ is remains a little murky. For example, will it be considered hate speech for the Bible believing Christian to say that homosexuality is wrong and that transgender men should not be in the ladies bathroom? Something tells me this is exactly where we are headed. 

Under the terms of a code of conduct, the firms, which also include You Tube and Microsoft, have committed to “quickly and efficiently” tackle illegal hate speech directed against anyone over issues of race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. The sites have often been used by terrorist organizations to relay messages and entice hatred against certain individuals or groups.

Among the measures agreed with the EU’s executive arm, the firms have said they will establish internal procedures and staff training to guarantee that a majority of illegal content is assessed and, where necessary, removed within 24 hours. They have also agreed to strengthen their partnerships with civil society organizations who often flag content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct. The European Commission and the firms have also agreed to support civil society organizations to deliver “anti-hate campaigns.”

“The internet is a place for free speech, not hate speech,” said Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner responsible for justice, consumers and gender equality. She added that the code of conduct, which will be regularly reviewed in terms of its scope and its impact, will ensure that public incitement to violence to hatred has “no place online.”

The firms themselves say there’s no conflict between their mission statements to promote the freedom of expression and clamping down on hate speech.

CensoredTwitter, which has been at the center of much of the hate speech that’s spread online over the past few years, says it will continue to tackle the issue “head-on” along with partners in industry and civil society.

“We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow,” said Twitter’s European head of public policy Karen White. “However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.”

And Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert urged the company’s 1.6 billion users to use the site’s in-built reporting tools in the event they find content they consider unacceptable.

“Our teams around the world review these reports around the clock and take swift action,” she said.

People must speak up — and speak up now, and speak up fast — in support of freedom of speech before it is taken away from them, and against the authorities who would silence all of us. It is, sadly, not an overstatement to say that our entire future depends on it.

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The Lion and Lamb

Isaiah has painted a deliberately provocative scene.  Nature, as Tennyson reminded us, is red in tooth and claw.  How absurd to think that nature itself could be tamed!  What could possibly bring about such a cosmic reversal?

Well, as ever, Isaiah answers by pointing us to the Messiah.  In the face of warring nations and warring nature, Isaiah continues to set our hope on a miraculous birth.  He will be called Immanuel or the Prince of Peace, or here in chapter 11 He’s called “the Branch.”

Isaiah 11:6
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

Both of these passages deal with the kingdom age on the earth after the Lord Jesus Christ returns to reign on the earth as King of kings. The ferocious beasts (like the lion) will live peaceably with the gentle animals (like the lamb). Certainly, this will be a literal reality on the earth. However, this picture is also symbolic of the peace that will pervade the entire earth. When preachers speak of the lion and the lamb lying down together, they are referring to the time of peace when Jesus will reign as King over the earth.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them… 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:1-9)

When the true King reigns in righteousness, the world is set to rights.  This is not a spiritual truth divorced from historical and physical reality.  There will be a day when actual wolves and actual lambs graze together contentedly.  When seals will swim happily with great white sharks.   When children will play with crocodiles.

Impossible!  Ridiculous!  Fairytales! you might say.   Yet Isaiah refuses to live in a double-decker universe. We often think that Christian truths apply to a spiritual realm while the real business of life occurs on some irredeemable physical level.  We might concede that Jesus has spiritual power but, we imagine, it has no bearing on the way of the world.
Deer and bunny get to know one anotherBut Isaiah cannot believe in such a divorce of spiritual and physical.  He believes in a very earthy Messiah.  He believes in God with us.  A God who becomes a Child.  A God who really enters into our world – to be born as a human king.   The power of heaven will enter into this world from the inside.  Not simply to grant spiritual benefits to spiritual people, but to remake His own creation.

We know that the false king, Adam, brought spiritual and physical death.  Well then, is Christ less powerful than Adam?  Is His victory less decisive than Adam’s fall?  No.  Therefore Christ, when He comes again, will bring spiritual and physical redemption to the ends of the earth.

The believer in Christ has a physical hope – death defeated, wars vanquished, disease abolished, nature itself brought to peace and prosperity:

6 And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. 9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  (Isaiah 25:6-9)

So typically, when someone is thinking of the “lion and the lamb,” Isaiah 11:6 is in mind due to it often being misquoted, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” The true “Lion and the Lamb” passage is Revelation 5:5–6. The Lion and the Lamb both refer to Jesus Christ. He is both the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain. The Lion and the Lamb are descriptions of two aspects of the nature of Christ. As the Lion of Judah, He fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 49:9 and is the Messiah who would come from the tribe of Judah. As the Lamb of God, He is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin.

The scene of Revelation 4—5 is the heavenly throne room. After receiving the command to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor, John is “caught up in the spirit” to the throne room in heaven where he is to receive a series of visions that culminate in the ultimate victory of Christ at the end of the age. Revelation 4 shows us the endless praise that God receives from the angels and the 24 elders. Chapter 5 begins with John noticing that there is a scroll in the “right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” The scroll has writing on the inside and is sealed with seven seals.

After giving us a description of the scroll, an angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John begins to despair when no one comes forth to answer the angel’s challenge. One of the 24 elders encourages John to “weep no more,” and points out that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to take and open the scroll. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is obviously a reference to Christ. The image of the lion is meant to convey kingship. Jesus is worthy to receive and open the scroll because he is the King of God’s people.

Back in Genesis 49:9, when Jacob was blessing his sons, Judah is referred to as a “lion’s cub,” and in verse 10 we learn that the “scepter shall not depart from Judah.” The scepter is a symbol of lordship and power. This was a prophecy that in Israel the kingly line would be descended from Judah. That prophecy was fulfilled when David succeeded to the throne after the death of King Saul (2 Samuel). David was descended from the line of Judah, and his descendants were the kings in Israel/Judah until the time of the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.

This imagery of kingship is further enhanced when Jesus is described as the “root of David.” This harkens us back to the words of Isaiah the prophet: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. . . . In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 10). As the root of David, Jesus is not only being identified as a descendant of David, but also the source or “root” of David’s kingly power.

Why is Jesus worthy to open the scroll? He is worthy because He “has conquered.” We know that, when Jesus returns, He will conquer all of God’s enemies, as graphically described in Revelation 19. However, more importantly, Jesus is worthy because He has conquered sin and death at the cross. The cross was the ultimate victory of God over the forces of sin and evil. The events that occur at the return of Christ are the “mop-up” job to finish what was started at the cross. Because Jesus secured the ultimate victory at Calvary, He is worthy to receive and open the scroll, which contains the righteous judgment of God.

Christ’s victory at the cross is symbolized by his appearance as a “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Prior to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded by God to take an unblemished lamb, slay it, and smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 12:1–7). The blood of the slain lamb would set apart the people of Israel from the people of Egypt when the death angel came during the night to slay the firstborn of the land. Those who had the blood of the lamb would be spared. Fast forward to the days of John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus approaching him, he declares to all present, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the ultimate “Passover lamb” who saves His people from eternal death.

So when Jesus is referred to as the Lion and the Lamb, we are to see Him as not only the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God at His return, but also as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the reproach of sin from His people so they may share in His ultimate victory, Just as we see Him as the Lamb and the King of Kings!

Can I get an Amen?

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Esoteric Keys to the Bible

“Esoteric” knowledge is that which is accessible only to a select group of people. This may be due to their particular interest, special permission, or unique aptitude. For all of human history, people have claimed to know secrets of spirituality and religion to which other people have no access. This includes the ancient mystery religions, the Gnosticism of the New Testament era, and spiritualist religions in the modern world. Some associate their esoteric knowledge with concepts such as numerology, astrology, sacred geometry, and so forth.

Some people claim that the Bible contains esoteric keys that “unlock” hidden knowledge and allow a person to understand what the Bible “really” means. Naturally, this belief assumes that every other scholar, theologian, believer, and skeptic has been totally ignorant of these possibilities. In most cases, such claims are paired with the assumption that all religions have a common source and have been modified over time for political reasons.

Biblically, there is no reason to believe in Esotericism or search for esoteric keys. In fact, a major aspect of the gospel is its accessibility to all people, regardless of knowledge or experience (Matthew 11:25). Those things that are hidden belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29); that which can be known is accessible to all people, not a select few (Matthew 10:26). “The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11), not just to those with special insight into mysterious meanings. “[God] commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), not to look for arcane knowledge or obscure interpretations.

Esoteric-Keys-whatshotnOne commonly referenced pop culture presentation of Esotericism was the June 22, 1995, radio broadcast of William Cooper on his show The Hour of the Time. Cooper was a conspiracy theorist who broadcast his ideas on this shortwave radio program for eight years prior to his death, when he was killed by police after shooting a sheriff’s deputy. In the 1995 broadcast, Cooper claimed that all religions taught people to do “good things,” that Paul had no concept of an incarnate, crucified Jesus, that the Gospel of John had been changed and modified many times, and that most Christians were unaware of the esoteric nature of the Bible, which, according to Cooper, is essentially a vessel for hidden meanings.

Of course, archaeology and history, as well as Christian theology, flatly contradict all of these points. Religions such as that of the Aztecs taught human sacrifice, for example, so not all religions have taught love and goodness. We have copies of the Gospel of John from little more than a century after the original writing, not to mention thousands of early copies of other biblical texts. Paul’s summary of the faith in 1 Corinthians 15 can be traced to within three years of the crucifixion. This statement includes a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection as something Paul learned at his own conversion.

Like any other ancient work, the Bible needs to be carefully considered in historical and language contexts. There are aspects of Scripture that require some advanced knowledge in order to fully understand. This, however, is not information hidden or obscured for all but a select, cabalistic few. The Bible is extremely clear about the core of the gospel, and knowledge of other points is not necessary for a faithful, spiritual life. There is no legitimately “secret” knowledge in Scripture. We do not need any esoteric keys to the Bible in order to truly understand it.

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God Create the Universe, Stephen Hawking says No?

Yes, God is the author of all created things. Only God is eternal, and therefore all things come from Him.

The scriptural teaching on the origin of the universe is found in Genesis 1:1, which states that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Steven Hawking attempts to circumvent this truth (or, at the very least, render a Creator logically superfluous to the issue of the beginning of the universe). However, his ideas are not new, but are rather the latest versions of some classic attempts to explain getting something (i.e., the universe) out of nothing.

Hawking’s support for his work comes from the existence of the law of gravity. It is known to physicists that the energy associated with the gravitational force is negative, while the energy associated with most ordinary objects (baseballs, cars, etc.) is positive. It is possible for these positive and negative energies to cancel, resulting in zero net energy. Two situations with the same energy (or zero energy difference) are, in a physical sense, equally preferable. An example would be a soccer ball on the kitchen floor; the ball could sit by the refrigerator or the stove or the table without wanting to roll anywhere else. This is because each position on the kitchen floor which the soccer ball could occupy would have the same energy, so none of the positions is energetically preferable to the others.

Hawking envisions the origin of the universe in a similar way. Since it is possible to think of the creation of the universe as a “zero net energy process,” Hawking suggests that there is no need to explain how it could have been created. But this inference is based not on the physics, but on Hawking’s own philosophical presuppositions. In the example of a soccer ball on the kitchen floor, it is conceivable to imagine the soccer ball sitting anywhere on the floor without needing an explanation, however, it is quite another thing to say that the soccer ball and the kitchen floor came from nothing.

Hawking’s attempts to address this problem are not in any way new to philosophers, it is one of the oldest issues in Epicurean philosophy: “ex nihilo nihil fit” (literally, “nothing comes out of nothing”). Hawking’s ideas may establish that two physical situations (the universe existing versus not existing) are energetically equivalent, but it does nothing to address the issue of cause and effect. I don’t need an explanation as to why the soccer ball is sitting by the stove rather than by the refrigerator, but I do need an explanation if I see the ball move from the stove to the refrigerator. In physics, a change never occurs without an explanation, in philosophical language, an effect never occurs without a cause.

Hawking has put God out of a job?

Hawking has put God out of a job?

Hawking’s ideas do nothing to address this, the issue of the universe’s origin is the same as it was before. It is not possible to get something from nothing. Two cannon balls don’t make a BB! Only the idea of a Creator can adequately explain where the universe could have come from. Moreover, Hawking’s statement that science will always prevail over religion “because it works” reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the philosophy of science. Truth is not determined by “what works,” but by whether it conforms to the reality around us. When I say that a particular statement is “true,” I am saying that the content of that statement actually describes the way things are. This connection between a statement and the reality it describes is independent of me and my mind. A statement may be true or false, irrespective of whether or not it appears to me to describe the correct state of affairs. This is what we mean when we say that truth is objective, a statement’s “truth value” is a quality which it possesses independently of my knowledge thereof.

However, once we begin to try to decide whether a particular statement is true or false (as happens in both science and religion), the only way we know how to proceed is to try to test the statement to “see if it works.” As an example, suppose I want to decide whether the statement “All cats are brown” is true. I can begin my investigation by gathering cats together and inspecting each of them to see if any do not conform to the statement in question, thereby rendering it false. I only need to find one gray cat to know that my original statement is false, not all cats are brown.

But what if every cat I was able to find was, in fact, brown? Clearly, the world does contain felines of many other varieties and colors. In this case, even though my statement “works” (from my investigation, all cats do appear to be brown), it is clearly false. Thus, the issue of whether science or religion “works” is completely irrelevant to the issue of truth in each of these disciplines. While truth can be discovered by noting what works, simply because a statement appears to work does not in fact imply that it is true.

To summarize, Hawking’s reasoning fails on philosophical grounds. Hawking attempts to substitute God with a particular physical law (gravity). However, Hawking fails to address the key issue at hand – that is, the origin of physical law in the first place. Where did the law of gravity come from and how does nothing produce something? A physical law is not nothing. Moreover, Hawking’s conception of a plethora of ensemble universes to escape the conclusion of fine-tuning is philosophically unsound, metaphysically motivated, and less parsimonious than the theistic interpretation.

Why does man seek to eliminate God from having had any role in the creation of the Universe? It’s very simple. Man hates God and does not want to be subject to God’s law, or held accountable for his actions. As Paul writes in Romans 1; “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

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