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It’s sometimes not as hard as we make it.... This note is not meant to be sarcastic (OK, a little, but delivered good-naturedly) .  Its g...

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Christmas Is About Israel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and Ransom Captive Israel!


We sing these words each year. We read from the prophets regarding a King who would come and restore Israel and establish the throne of David. Yet we fail to understand the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to "confirm the promises made to the [Jewish] fathers." He came to take the throne of his father, David. he came to establish a New Covenant for a people who had an Old Covenant. He came to bless the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The Divided Kingdom would be united under the Son of David. As we shall see, that day is not yet come, but it all started with Christmas. 


“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Hebrews 8)

 

Paul, all through the Acts Age, witnesses to the hope of Israel and preaches NOTHING that could not be found in Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament). 

There is so much in the prophets in regard to the restoration of Israel and the establishment of the throne of David in the promised land (all of it), that we hesitate to quote anything lest we suggest this is all we have. Hardly, the Old Testament (as it is known) is replete with these promises to a future, believing remnant of Israel. 



“Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;
Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
Says the Lord.

“For surely I will command,
And will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
As grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword,
Who say, ‘The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.’

On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;

That they may possess the remnant of Edom,
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,”
Says the Lord who does this thing...
I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.
(Amos 9)

This passage is quoted (in part) in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem. The argument is that the restoration of Israel and the raising up if the tabernacle of David is to include "Gentiles who are called by [the Lord's] name."  Peter, James, Paul all looking for the restoration of Israel. 

The Lord Jesus Christ came to restore the Kingdom to Israel and that has not changed. The program is temporarily on hold (and has been since about AD 64), but soon that call will once again go out. We will look at the Lord's earthly ministry in this study, but first we jump ahead to Apostles' witness in the Acts Age.


Witnesses to the Ministry of the Lord All Through the Acts Age


In the great foundational Book of Romans, Paul's evidence for the gospel of the grace of God is built on Abraham (Romans 4), the father of the nation of Israel. Grace was nothing new. The Law had grace (although imperfectly). The promises God made to Abraham will be realized. Gentile salvation was never a secret either. The Gentile nation of Assyria came to faith through the witness of a Jewish prophet from Galilee (Jonah), yet they were never called on to keep the Sabbath or observe Israel's feasts. Paul states in Romans 11 that God had NOT cast away His people, Israel. And in Chapter 15, he points to the dual ministry of the Lord (primary: Israel; secondary: Gentiles).

For I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister to the circumcision [Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises of fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”

And again he says:

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”

And again:

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”

And again, Isaiah says:

“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”

-Romans 15:7-12 


Gentile salvation, through Israel's ministry, was not hidden. It was a revealed truth since the foundation of the ages. It was not fully understood, but it was not hidden. It was not a "new" truth starting at Pentecost nor in Acts 10. What was new in Acts 10 (Peter's witness to Cornelius) was the gifts of the Spirit falling on an uncircumcised Gentile (before he was baptized). Paul explains in Romans, this was to make Israel jealous, but the gospel was still "to the Jew first" who had an advantage "much in every way." 

At Pentecost, where Peter points to the prophet Joel, all there were Jewish. Pentecost was not "the start of the church."  No, it was the start of the restoration of Israel. Pentecost is large topic we cannot cover here, but we do note that the Book of Joel is concerned with the Day of the Lord and the future restoration of Israel. we leave this chart from Charles Welch which shows the two aspects of Joel's prophecy. Peter saw the beginning of the end, the beginning of the restoration and the coming Tribulation. He did not see the current age for it was hidden from the prophets (as we shall see). The first aspect took place at Pentecost, the latter will be seen in the Revelation.



 Peter includes this in his address at Pentecost:

Therefore [David] being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne

Paul quotes from four Old Testament passages in Romans 15 concerning Gentile blessing. In Galatians he is clear that Gentile blessing was not hidden.


And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

-Gal 3:8-9


 In the Law, a Gentile could not participate in the Feasts (such as the Passover) unless he was circumcised. But he was welcome to live among Israel. Circumcision has never had anything to do with the free gift of Life by grace. As Paul notes, Abraham was called and was justified before he was circumcised. Israel was redeemed out of Egypt in a state of uncircumcision. Circumcision has nothing to do with the free gift of Life, but it is connected to the covenants and promises God has given to Israel. 

Paul was accused in Acts 21 of teaching Jews who lived among the Gentiles that they should forsake Moses "saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs." It was a false charge! In the Acts Age, Jews continued to follow Moses as they prepared for the coming Kingdom on Earth. 


The Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel


There is so much here that can be said, but for the sake of the brevity of these posts, let us turn back to the witness of the gospels in regard to the Kingdom.

As we have seen in other studies, after the Lord's resurrection, he opened the mind of his disciples and gave them understanding. 


He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24)


They received the Holy Spirit before Pentecost (before the ascension). The Apostles already had the Holy Spirit, when followed the Lord's instructions to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24)


So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20)


The risen Lord taught the enlightened disciples for 40 days concerning the Kingdom.

 

[The Lord Jesus] through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1)


 Because these men were promised to sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel in that Kingdom.


Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “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. (Matt 19)

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.” (Luke 22)


When Judas lost his office, they HAD to replace him. The number HAD to be twelve when the kingdom came in. His replacement, Mathias, was appointed immediately after the Lord ascended (Acts 1), and before Pentecost. 

With their understanding opened, with the Holy Spirit, with teaching from the risen Lord himself of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God for 40 days before his ascension, the future judges of the 12 tribes had but one question before the Lord ascended (for which they were not corrected).


Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts1 )

 

This is a physical Kingdom, in Israel. Note Peter's promise to "You men of Israel" in Acts 3 (Post Pentecost). Peter and John go to the Temple to pray. There they heal a lame man and proceeded to Solomon's Porch where Peter addresses Israel. Peter's words are packed with truth. Pentecost was no "birthday of the church" of the current age.


Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you [Jews] first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3)


Peter speaks of the promise to Israel that if they will repent and accept their King, he will return and restore all things. This is all ON THE EARTH. Is that currently true? If "the church" was born at Pentecost, is this our message? The Holy Spirit didn't birth anything at Pentecost. The Apostles were "filled" that day, but they already had the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was a taste of the promises in Joel, connected to the restoration of Israel. But there was a condition. 

Here is a short outline from The Berean Expositor and the call for Israel to repent:


The opening words of the Lord's ministry announce the kingdom: 

"now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the GOSPEL for The KINGDOM of GOD, and saying,
  1. The time is fulfilled (hence the kingdom is that of Old Testament prophecy),
  2. the kingdom of God is at hand (the King being present): and
  3. repent ye, and believe the gospel (good tidings) (the condition)" (Mark.1:14,15).
John the Baptist opened his ministry to Israel with the call to repent (Matthew) 
The Lord opened His ministry to Israel with the call to repent (Matt.4:17).
Peter re-opened the ministry to Israel with the call to repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19).


In the first parable of the Kingdom in Matthew 13 (again, before he said anything about his death), we see that the seed that is sown is "the word of the kingdom." We covered all 8 parables in our series on Matthew 13, but we note again here the context. These parables have nothing to do with the "church" of this age. They are concerned with Israel, the Land, the Kingdom, and the future.

The Plan of God is primarily about THE EARTH. Let's quickly look at the Lord's account of his return in Matthew 25.


When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations [Greek: éthnos, Gentiles, heathen] will be gathered before Him... (Matt 25)

This is the start of the parable of the sheep and the goats. These nations will be judged how they treat "the least of his brethren," that is, the Jews. The context for the judgments in Matthew 25 is the Lord's return and the end of the age (Matt 24:3). No parable has been as abused in Christendom as this one. See the linked study for more.

If we can see that Pentecost had nothing to do with the "birth of the church" and recognize that the Acts Age was a continuation of the offer of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, we will start to see the Promises and the Plan of God for the Ages. And most of it has to do with the Earth and the Land.


Born is the King of Israel!


One of the most recognizable "Christmas" verses is Micah 5, but do we fully grasp its implications?


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.” (Micah 5)


 And here is just a small sample of other promises.

 

"I will surely gather the remnant of Israel" (Micah 2)

"He will turn again ... Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old' (Micah 7) 

 "I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD" (Zephaniah 3) 

"in that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD ... yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts ..." (Zechariah14)


The Book of Zechariah is full of visions of future events concerning the Lord and his return to his brethren, Israel. Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the "Major Prophets," concern themselves with glorious future events and the establishment of the New Covenant with the people of Israel, the glory of the coming Kingdom in Israel, and the final rebellion. We cannot quote all of these here.

We turn back to the ascension of the Lord and the promise of his return to establish the Kingdom he came to restore.


this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come IN LIKE MANNER [in the clouds] as ye have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1)

"and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" (Zecheriah14)


These have yet to be fulfilled and they concern an earthly fulfillment, in Jerusalem, the city of David.

But what of his birth?


"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the THRONE of His father David: and He shall reign over the House of Jacob for ever (the ages); and of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1)


Zacharias' prophecy by the Holy Spirit in regard to John the Baptist:


Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
(Luke 1)


Before we continue, note again the reference to the prophets who spoke "since the world [ages] began."

Matthew, whose genealogy of the Lord focuses on Abraham and David, points us back to Micah's prophecy.


Where is He that is born King of the Jews? ... in Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda: are not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My People Israel" (Matthew 2)


The Lord came to establish the New Covenant for a people who had the Old Covenant. He was sent to Israel alone. We repeat this often as its denial is one of the greatest hindrances to rightly dividing the word of truth. The Gospel of the Kingdom was forbidden to be spoken to anyone but to Jews. 



But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 
(Matthew 15)
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4)
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10)


We have looked at these passages more thoroughly in other studies, but for this post, we note that it was not until Matthew 16 that the twelve heard he was going to die. The gospel they preached in Matthew 10 (and the Lord in Matthew 4) was not about his death, burial, and resurrection. It was the good news of the restoration of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom being "at hand" was the message all through the Acts Age as well. Paul testified to the hope of Israel through the end of the book (and in the Acts Age epistles). In Romans, Paul states that "the day is at hand." Peter states, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." 


The King is Coming Back to Earth to Claim His Throne and His Kingdom


We saw in Peter's message in Acts 3 that the Lord was prepared to come back and restore the Kingdom had Israel repented. The angel at his ascension said he would come as he left, in the clouds. We see him coming back with the angels (a possible interpretation of the clouds) in the parables of Matthew. This gives us the context of the return in the Acts Age writing in 1 Thessalonians 4. This passage is not the "Rapture of the Church," but the "Parousia" (presence) of the King.

1 Thessalonians 4 never says anything about returning to heaven. It states the Lord "shall come down from heaven," and connects itself to the last trump and resurrection. Our mind should take us immediately to the final feast of Yahweh in Israel and to the great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. The entire chapter should be read here, but for the sake our scope, we quote:


Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a secret; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15)


The context here:

  • The Kingdom of God
  • Resurrection
  • The last trump

Paul starts out this chapter with the gospel of grace noting all of it was know in the scripture revealed since the foundation of the ages. We emphasize this again because it is central in understanding the difference between the gospels of the gospels and Acts and the gospel and dispensation revealed by Paul (alone) in the Book of Ephesians; a gospel hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the ages.


For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15)
 

Remember the final parable of Matthew 25 is the Lord's response to the question of his return to the earth in Matthew 24. The synoptic gospels and the Acts and the Books of the Acts Age are all focused on his return of the King to the Earth.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory... Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from [since] the foundation of the world... (Matthew 25)


The King is coming with the holy angels to take his throne.


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory... And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24)

Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26)

Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the land. Yes! Amen! (Revelation 1)

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7)


Our final verse comes from Psalm 68.

To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old;
Lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.
Ascribe ye strength unto God:
his excellency is over Israel,
and his strength is in the clouds
.


Psalm 68 celebrates the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and the placement of the ark of the covenant in Zion. Angels are connected to Israel's deliverance and with the giving of the Law (acts 7:53; Gal 3:19). There is so much here we could investigate, but we must move to a final question.

The doctrine of the "rapture" obscures the plan of God for the earth. It rips 1 Thessalonians 4 from its context. We need to "compare the things that differ." 

Is the Kingdom No Longer "At Hand?"


We have not visited all the places wherein the Lord or the Apostles in the Acts Age speak of the Kingdom being "at hand" (or similar), but I believe we've shown that was the case. We have also noted with a few examples that the Plan of God during the Lord's earthly ministry and in the Acts was revealed by prophets "since" or "from the foundation of the world [age]." Paul's testimony very late in the Acts still speaks to the hope of Israel.

Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles...” King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.” (Acts 26)

[To the Jews at Rome] For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. (Acts 28)

And we recall that in Galatians 3 and in Romans 15 (among other places) Paul reminds us that the scriptures spoke of Gentile blessing through Israel and the promises to Abraham and to his seed. All of that, and the promises of the return of the Lord to take his throne in Israel, on the Earth, was spoken by Moses and the Prophets. Paul preached no other thing in the Acts Age

First and Second Thessalonians must be read in that light. The Antichrist appears in 2 Thessalonians 2. The context of these books is the Revelation which is connected to the prophecies of Daniel, Ezekiel, and many other prophets. We cannot rip 1 Thessalonians 4 from its context and claim some rescue for the believers of this age.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2)

 

All of this is part of revealed prophecy, "from [since] the foundation of the world [age]." It speaks of the plan of God for the earth. It speaks of the return of the King. We note again, all of this is the focus of the prophets, the gospels, the Acts, and the Acts Age epistles. Yet when the Acts Age ends with the final rejection of the Kingdom by the Jews in Rome (Acts 28), a new, hidden plan (not found in Moses or the Prophets) is revealed through Paul as Israel is (temporarily) set aside. This plan involves the heavenly places (the "far above the heavens") and not the Earth or the Land. It involves the true holy of holies. It involves the throne of Christ above all. It is the culmination of the "headship" of the Father.

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is left behind in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,  I did become a minister according to the dispensation of God, that was given to me for you, to complete the word of God, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1)

Note the mystery to which Paul speaks is made know to his saints. These are believers. These already had the free gift of Life. These are those who were expecting the Day of the Lord, the tribulation, the Antichrist, the Kingdom, etc. They had their minds on the prophets and blessings in the land on the Earth. We did not completely cover all the verses related to that hope, but we have seen it was the focus of both the Lord's earthly ministry and the Apostles' message in the Acts Age.

The blessings of this age are "spiritual.." Our hope is in "the far above the heavens." We now witness to the principalities and powers (good and evil) who are currently in heavenly places. We are making God's current hope manifest to these powers. All of this (Ephesians) was unknown in prior ages and revealed to Paul alone.

To the gospel of the grace of God (necessary for obtaining the free gift of Life) is added the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ. The first is an act of faith from which comes the blessing of resurrection life. The second is an act of faith from which comes spiritual blessings in the far above the heavens where Christ sits. One cannot have as his hope the earthly Kingdom, the New Jerusalem which comes down to earth, being a guest at the wedding of the Bride while also being part of the Bride... and also have a hope in the far above the heavens. We must recognize the different hopes in scripture.

Conditions have changed since the Acts Age ended and Paul revealed the Dispensation of the Mystery. We should no longer be concerned with Jewish feasts as they were in the Acts Age (including Passover, The Lord's Supper). We are no longer looking for his "Parousia" (the presence of the King), but rather his "Epiphenea" (His appearing). These differences must be examined. We are not a priesthood and have no need for ritual washings (baptisms) as they did.

Something as everyday as marriage instructions have changed. Paul, in 1 Corinthians (Acts Age), tells widows to not bother getting married whereas in 1 Timothy (Post Acts) says they should marry. He also adds that they should "bear children" while he discouraged such a thing in the Acts Age.


To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do... But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you... The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. (1 Corinthians 7)

So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households, and give the enemy no occasion to revile us. (1 Timothy 5:14)

 

 A simple difference, but the reasoning is profound and goes beyond the outward instruction. Would we take these words for today? Can I come and preach this at your assembly? Can I preach Peter's message from Acts 3 in your assembly? Can I preach the Gospel of the Kingdom from Matthew 4 and 10 in your next service?


brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none. (1 Corinthians 7)

Try selling that one to the Ladies' committee.

The context of 1 Timothy is the Lord's appearing. In 1 Corinthians they were expecting terrible times and great tribulation (go read the so-called Lord's Prayer from the Sermon on the Mount in light of the Tribulation, it will start to make sense). In Timothy they were to "love his appearing" (2 Tim; as we should).

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy)

The Acts church was not looking for his appearing, they were looking for Antichrist and Tribulation if Israel refused to repent, the Parousia (the presence of the King). In this age, we look for the appearing. The expectation changed. Here is just one example:


Acts Age
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.(1 Thessalonians 4)

Post Acts:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. (2 Timothy)


The Lord's Example



The Lord himself showed us how to "rightly divide the word of Truth." 

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

(Luke 4) 

 

Now let us look at the next line in the prophecy in Isaiah 61and see that, at this point in his earthly ministry, the Lord was offering the Kingdom.

And the day of vengeance of our God

The Day of Vengeance was not the focus at the time the Lord read in the synagogue. Let us continue to see the rest of the prophecy following the Day of Vengeance. This is all in the context of Israel in an age to come as is the rest of the Book of Isaiah (culminating in the new heavens and new earth of Isaiah 66). This is all EARTHLY.

But you shall be named the priests of the Lord,

They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
And in their glory you shall boast.
Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

 “For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth,
And will make with them an everlasting covenant.
Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles
,
And their offspring among the people.
All who see them shall acknowledge them,
That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.”

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels
.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations
 
(Isaiah 61)

The First covenant with Israel from Exodus 19 promised that if they obeyed the Law, they would become a Kingdom of priests. This is Israel's future. Believing Israel in an age to come will get a new heart. and a new covenant. They are to be a Royal Priesthood for the Nations (Gentiles). Spme day, Gentiles will grab the shirt of a Jew and ask him to take him to God (Zechariah). This is not our calling. We must make these distinctions or we will not be able to serve the Lord as he expects.

Jeremiah lays out the Lord's case against his wife, Israel. Her shame is put on display. Yet it is in Jeremiah that we see God offer a New Covenant. The New Covenant is concerned with "O virgin Israel." Israel is the Lord's Bride. The revelation of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31-33 is concerned with the restoration of Israel and her place as the Bride. The phrase "the Bride of Christ" appears nowhere in scripture and has no connection to this age. In this age, Christ is the head of the One Body, the same Body, (Ephesians), not the husband.

We do read of "the bride, the Lamb's wife," and scripture tells us who and what that entails. All of Revelation Chapter 21 should be read here to get the full, Jewish context of the passage, but we will note this:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21)

This great city (the reward for some believers) comes down to EARTH. This city is connected to "the twelve tribes of Israel" and "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (the promised rulers of the twelve tribes, none of whom went to Gentiles, save once, in the Acts Age). It is visited by Kings of the Earth.

And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (Revelation 21)

The Deliverer came at Christmas. Paul quotes Isaiah and reminds the Acts Age church that Israel has not been forgotten. "Blindness in part" had come upon Israel and Gentiles were "grafted in" to the root which is Israel for the purpose of making Israel jealous. But the day is coming when God will cleanse Israel and give her a new heart (Ezekiel 36) and a New Covenant. 

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.
 
-Rom 11:25-26 (cp. Isaiah 59:20, 21)

So this Christmas, commit to rightly dividing the Word of Truth so you may not be ashamed at his appearing. Do not steal from Israel's promises and find satisfaction and peace in the gospel of the unsearchable of riches of Christ of this age. 

The command to study and rightly divide is given to each believer, as an individual.

A conversational explanation of the New Covenant:





Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Why Is Evangelicalism Failing?

I'm using "Evangelicals" and "Evangelicalism" for lack of better terms. 

We are starting with biblically based Christianity with this foundation:

  • the full deity of Christ
  • the absolute finality of his sacrificial work
  • the glory of his bodily resurrection
  • the free gift of resurrection life by grace alone through faith alone
  • the sufficiency of scripture, and his eventual return

Those who read this blog know that I hold to what some would call "unorthodox" doctrines, but none of these touches on the foundation that is Christ and the Word of Truth. My views on death, resurrection, and the afterlife (among some other things) would be rejected by most "fundamentalists." That's OK. The doctrines listed in our opening are the foundations of what it means to be an Evangelical Christian (have Life through his Name) to me. Yet, in acknowledging our differences, I am not leaving the differences aside as I believe the rejection of these latter doctrines contributes to the failure of American Evangelicalism and is thus part of the answer to the question posed. 

All of the failures can be traced to our failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Unfortunately, I am between a rock and hard place on this one. If you don't understand what it means to rightly divide the Word of Truth, you won't understand my core argument. I would encourage those unfamiliar with this scriptural command to look through the blog links at the end of this post. I have tried, however, to explain as best I can within this entry. Be that as it may, let us plow ahead.


Failure to Recognize the Judgments to Come


Any of us is capable of great wickedness and falling into sin. In fact, this topic permeates these pages. I have asserted repeatedly that the vast majority of warning passages in scripture are given to believers. We are each charged with the responsibility for his own walk. And we are each responsible for our study of the the Word of Truth. We will be judged for both our service in the flesh and our handling of scripture. Of course, the gift of resurrection is free. These judgments have nothing to do with Life.

There are many verses we could reference here, but I have chosen two representative verses.


Judgment of what we do in the flesh:

He who does wrong will be requited for what he has done wrong, and there is no partiality.
-Colossians 3:35

 

 Judgment for how we handle scripture:

Be studious to present yourself approved to God, a workman with no cause for shame, rightly dividing the word of truth.
-2 Tim 2:15


 It is in the failure to heed this latter charge which I believe is at the root of the decline of Christ-centered worship, doctrine, and evangelism. And the result of that decline is the decline of the West. Western Europe is in steep decline since neither Catholicism nor Catholicism-lite (Protestantism) has been able to control its culture for long. In trying to tame the flesh with religion, we have failed. 

No kingdom or empire ever collapsed from too much righteousness. They collapse and decay from immorality and superstition and greed. And, as we shall see later in this post, earthly ordinances have no power over the flesh. 

Men like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin rejected the weak (in spiritual terms) Christianity of Europe. Despite being steeped in rituals, candles, costumes, clergy, and cathedrals, Atheistic communism grew out of Russian Orthodox Russia and Catholic/Protestant Europe. This trend has come to the United States (albeit more slowly).


Failure to Recognize How Prophecy Works


If you listen to the contemporary Christian music of the 1970s and early 1980s, it is filled with apocalyptic overtones. Songs and even rock operas about the return of the Lord and end of the age. On one hand, "looking for his appearing" is both biblical and healthy, but, as with all doctrines, it must be based on "rightly diving the word of truth."

I have expressed my concerns about Hal Lindsey's book "Late Great Planet Earth" and Tim Lahaye's "Left Behind" book series. It's not that I fully reject the structure of the works. I, too, believe in the future fulfillment of the Revelation and things such  as Daniel's 70 Weeks. It is the place these speculative books have taken in Evangelical theology. Misplaced dispensational theology is as bad as Reformed theology.

My concern is that these books laid out scenarios in such specific terms. It is my contention that things like the events of the Revelation can only be seen through a glass darkly from our perspective. The Book of the Revelation (and parallel prophecies) are meant to be understood by those living in those days. We guess at best. And looking at the movies based on Lindsey's and LaHaye's books, their guesses were awful. 

I believe a delusion set in culminating in disillusionment. Evangelicalism has adopted two roads and has sought to travel either or both and no matter the course, have ended up in the ditch. The intellectual Christian and the emotional Christian. The intellectual Christian sees Christianity as a set of doctrines laid out in an approved catechism (in one form or another). It surrenders the faith to "authorities" and systems. They will not admit this, hiding under the mantle of Sola Scriptura while bowing to authorities.


Failure to be Truly Satisfied with Scripture


We saw this unconscious denial of the authority of scripture in  our look at RC Sproul's worship of Thomas Aquinas. Sproul stood on the mountain top with a Sola Scriptura flag as he bowed the knee to "the early church fathers." I want to be careful here. I am not the judge of another man's servant, but I certainly want to oppose those who oppose truth. Sproul's accolades directed at Aquinas and others are the matter of public record.

In addition to intellectualism, the other road preferred over the road of right division is emotionalism. This road melts down Christianity to washing feet, virtue signaling, social justice programs, and valuing love over all. Of course, love is absolutely essential, but as with all things, we must let scripture define true love. And to be sure, there is nothing wrong with a soup kitchen, but such a thing is secondary to exaltation of the great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

As I understand it, Martin Luther King, Jr. denied the resurrection. That does not exclude him from praise for his work done on behalf of those excluded from access to parts of society, but it surely excludes him from any praise as a "Christian." All the good works in the world are of no value apart from Christ's completed work. There is no life beyond the grave in his denial (if this is in fact true).

In any case, we are to exalt no man above or with Christ. When we gather to worship the Lord, no other should intrude on that calling. We must draw strict lines. I honor Thomas Jefferson, for example, for his great work on behalf of the rights of men, but I would never include him in anything involving praise of the Savior.

Often these two roads merge. The intellectual wants to "rise above" what is deemed a "fundamentalist" (used as a pejorative) approach to scripture to find a "higher purpose" which is inferred. This is often mixed with emotionalism as the intellectual adopts earthly altruistic programs believing this is a "higher
Christianity. It scoffs at "base" fundamentalism. 

Before I became a Christian, I attended a meeting featuring speaker and heretic Tony Campolo. Tony raised the roof with his emotional plea in the context of a "higher" Christianity. His talk culminated in a rattling off of members of different "denominations" coming together to do social justice work in Philadelphia (to the delight of the crowd). I bought into it. Any struggles I had as a devout Catholic wrestling with the claims of Evangelicalism melted away in emotion and this "higher" Christianity. I adored the message. It was not until my conversion that I realized the man had sold me a packet of magic beans. he hid Christ from me in the guise of showing me the "real" Christ.  

Many of the proponents of this "higher" Christianity have so much disdain for what they mock as "fundamentalist" Christianity that they side with the enemies of the faith (and the enemies of Christ) to prove their intellectual bona fides. 

Now remember, those who call themselves "fundamentalists" have no use for doctrines I hold dear such as the state of the dead and the judgments to come. But we agree on Christ, so I don't mind what they call me. Adopting Paul's attitude (who in turn adopted the Lord's earthly attitude of humility), I rejoice when the death, burial, and resurrection are preached. What I don't do is reject Christ or lower Christ or compromise the finished work of the Savior merely because they've rejected me. That is a manifestation of the fatal flaw in modern Evangelicalism. Fundamentalism rejects me as I am thankful when they preach Christ faithfully. In the end, it is neither about my intellect nor my emotions, but about Christ.


Failure to Understand that Christianity is Christ


Take another example, singer Leslie Phillips. I actually met her before I became a Christian. I saw her perform at the annual Christian music festival "Creation" in  1986 in Pennsylvania. After her afternoon show, I waited to meet her. I'll be honest, I was taken by her voice and also because she was very cute and I was very 19 years old.

We chatted and she asked me to turn around. She took a sharpie and wrote on the back of my shirt "Romans 12:2" and signed it. I still have that faded shirt. I tread very lightly here as I do not know Leslie (now "Sam") Phillips and I do not want to speak for her, but we seem to have gone in two very different directions. I continued my search for truth, finding it in 1991, as Leslie seemed to drift. (I base that conclusion on her own words taken from interviews.)


And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

-Romans 12:2


Let's pull this in. Leslie released a song in 1984 called "Hourglass." It is representative of the "time is coming to an end" theme of the CCM scene in the 70s and 80s. Other songs were more overt, but you can sense the spirit of the age in the chorus and bridge.


And I'm looking to the hourglass
That's running out of sand
I'm looking through the hourglass
Into another land
Time is sifting away so fast
Loving
I've got to love what lasts

'Cause where you have your treasure
You hide your heart
If you hide it in this world, you know it's gonna fall apart

Not only is she saying that time running out, she warns (in light of the end) that the only things that matter are spiritual and eternal, not material. As she pursued a Christian record label, playing Christian festivals, I don't think it is a stretch to say she claimed a Christian faith (which was more obvious on other songs as well). After departing CCM, she seems to have held onto the generic idea of a nebulous "love" in her post-Christian life, but somehow that includes torturing and slaughtering babies in the womb to her. 


I think that love is always the most important thing, and what I felt a lot about the fundamentalist doctrine and their behavior was that they became exclusive, that they were excluding people who didn't believe in the same thing, or they were excluding gay and lesbian people, basically excluding a lot of people, and that didn't feel like love to me. Love is always my gauge in anything, or any kind of philosophy or group, whether it's religious or political, if love isn't apart of it I have a dubious view of it, I'm not going to trust it 100%. I feel like I am closer to having a spiritual life rather than a religious life. I think just going through the [Christian Rock] process, and watching all of that in full swing. At that point in my life the anti-abortion movement was beginning to take hold. I watched those kinds of clouds gather. It was a really interesting thing, because I think it was a metaphor for how that culture felt aborted from the culture at large. I don't talk about politics and about that very much, but it was definitely something that pushed me out of the [Christian Rock] world.

        -Sam Phillips (Excerpt: Pop Matters Interview, July 2011) 


I'm picking on Leslie because her career took a stark turn in the late 80s, about the time CCM started to ditch the apocalyptic themes. She also ditched any pretense of being Christian. OK, you don't like "fundamentalists." They don't like me too much and I have my issues with the movement. What I don't have a problem with is Christ or any doctrines they teach which honor Christ. She rejected Christ because she thought the Christians around her were too pro-Life? Because she didn't like Evangelical "culture?" 

One's Christianity, although surely affected by those around us, shouldn't be defined by those around us. I surrendered my fate to the work of the Savior while teaching Religious Education in my Catholic parish. I was eventually let go because of my faith in the finished work. No matter what Leslie/Sam felt about the way Evangelical Christianity was trending, it had zero to do with what Christ accomplished.

I went from a Catholic parish to a charismatic church. I eventually ended up in a Plymouth Brethren assembly and a Southern Baptist church. None of these traditions have much use for my distinctive doctrines. But that's OK. I answer to Christ alone. All judgment is with him. Leslie didn't like the direction the "movement" was going so she apparently abandoned Christ?


Failure to be Satisfied with Christ


The drift in Evangelicalism (and subsequently in the United States) has been for similar reasons. That is, Evangelicalism has always been subject to its desire for ritual and outward expression. The latter is not bad if it emanates from what we looked at in our last post: the example of humility set by the Lord.

CCM had its issue, "The End is Nigh." Readers of my blog know that I also believe that we are closing in on the last days. However, my Christianity is centered on Christ's death and resurrection and the Plan of God. Christendom has adopted Greek Myths like a fiery torture in hell by God and the bodiless souls in bliss, in doing so, it has demoted the place of the resurrection. The doctrine of the lack of decay of the Lord in the tomb (the reversal of the curse) is rarely mentioned.

There has grown out of these doctrines (unfortunately tied to the word "fundamentalist") a sometimes sick love of the idea of unbelievers being roasted by God. This damage (blasphemy) to the image of God has been used to justify a rejection of Christianity by unbelievers and a rejection of walking in the faith by some professing believers. Obviously, I think their "hell" is a terrible doctrine, but I don't blame Christ. 

Of course, each of us is responsible for seeking truth for ourselves. I was entrenched in a system which teaches not only the Greek Mythology of fiery torture for unbelievers, but also the prospect of that fire for believers who commit a "grave sin" and a form of that fire for believers who don't.  Truth, however, is all that matters. Sam can reject the system she doesn't like, but reject Christ? Reject the finished work? Reject the exclusivity of Christ? That is her responsibility alone. "I didn't like fundamentalists" is not going to fly.

Of course, based on her believing the torture and slaughter of babies in the womb and sex outside of biblically defined limits is central to the faith, it's doubtful her Christianity was ever about Christ's sacrifice and resurrection on her behalf. Readers will know, I hold that Christians can be homosexuals (because we're told it's possible). Christians can also be fornicators, adulterers, prostitute-seekers, etc. All of these make them subject to judgment at the judgment of servants. My beliefs are outside what you are going to hear from most Evangelical pulpits. But do I thus deny Christ or my Christianity? She can believe all she wants that God approves of every sexual liaison. But the fact that someone disgarees with her has led her to deny be associated with Christ? 


Failure to Recognize the Current Age


Let us move away from Sam. Lots of roads to go down there, but we'll leave it as far as we've covered it. I want to turn back to the fatal flaw in Evangelicalism that has led it down the same path as apostate Catholicism, the Orthodox faiths, Protestantism and its offspring: a failure to rightly divide the word of truth and to recognize the current present age.

I've touched on a number of topics in this post. I'll post links below to other posts with more details. I've bitten off more than I can chew in a single post (again), but I did want to circle the wagons back on the notion that earthly ordinances and religious fervor will fail in the end. We see a profound warning at the end of an illuminating chapter about what Religion will do to believers; it will delude them into thinking they are pleasing God in the flesh and and delude them into thinking they are invulnerable to sin and error.


If you have died with Christ to the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you imposed upon with ordinances? – “Do not touch, and do not taste, and do not handle”, which are all destined for decay with falling into disuse, these being after the commandments and teachings of men, which indeed have a reputation for wisdom in self-willed worship and humility and austerity of the body, but not of any value for satisfying the flesh.

-Colossians 2:20-23

The entire chapter is warning against falling back into practices meant for other groups in other ages. Chapter 1 of Colossians points the reader back to the focus of Paul's revelation in Ephesians 3 in regard to the age in which we live and revelation of the Dispensation of the Mystery. Understanding this age (by rightly dividing the Word of Truth) is the greatest deterrent for falling for either the world's secular or religious "wisdom." And as we see in the verse above, such "wisdom" and practices (no matter the appearance of wisdom and piety) will not satisfy or curb the desires of the flesh. Remember, the flesh desires not only sins like sexual sin, but sins of religious piety (virtue signaling) and self-glory.


I now rejoice in sufferings for your sakes, and I contribute my share to what is left behind among the tribulations of Christ, in my flesh, for the sake of his body, which is the church, of which I have become a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given to me for you, to complete the word of God – the mystery which was hidden away from the ages and from the generations, but now has been made manifest to his saints, to whom God wished to make known what the richness is of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, for which I also labour, striving according to his invigoration which invigorates me with power.

-Colossians 1:24-29


Evangelicalism has fallen for the world as the other systems have. Not finding full satisfaction in Christ (evidenced by its need for rituals and works), it has drifted. Instead of doing the hard work of one who is studying so as not to be ashamed, we have taken an earthly Jesus in his humility and built systems around practices found in his life and in the Bible, failing to rightly discern and divide them.

A shallow faith will seek to supplement itself with ritual. In the case of Evangelicals, this is found its rituals of baptism and the "Lord's Supper." A shallow faith will also tire of scripture. That might seem like a head-scratcher as most of these gatherings are seemingly centered around the Bible. But listen carefully and you find that scripture is often reduced to merely a jumping-off point for the same messages of self-improvement, works, tithing, and the gospel. Of course the last is a good thing if it is not sandwiched in a fear of fire (from which many false professions have arisen). But of those who truly come to a knowledge of Christ, most are then herded into works and rituals to pacify them. They are handed an answer key. Programs of individual study are discouraged.

We've noted on this blog the glory of scripture and its supernatural composition. It is a book of endless depth. It can feed a baby with its milk, it can provide endless meat for those seeking to go on to full maturity. Its structures and arrangements and doctrines within doctrines are so rich and deep they cannot be be grasped in one lifetime. God does not expect us to know everything, but she does expect to study as though it's possible. 

Evangelicalism is failing in America as Christendom has failed everywhere else, by abandoning Christ in his headship of the One Body and adopting the rudiments of the world, both secular and religious. If you want works, there are many who do works outside of Christ. If you want ritual, there are many who offer far more ritual, pomp, and religious garb than we can offer. 

Critics of CCM accuse the genre of trying to win the world with the world. Yet scripture's view of the world is defined as anything not derived from the word of God AND anything meant for another age. If you plan on taking a sheep to Jerusalem for slaughter, you might be able to find such a thing in your Bible, it might feel religious, you might feel as though you have participated in a God-ordained act... but all you'll be doing is denying Christ. Such an act, although biblical, was never meant for this age.

Evangelicals get caught up in rituals and traditions which blur God's purpose for the current age. It is unsustainable and does not have the power of God with it. Such systems have failed everywhere in the world, they will fail here.


Additional Reading:


Addendum:

In a previous chapter we have mentioned the landslide away from the Truth before the apostle Paul died and its gradual recovery down through this age.  Even to-day the full-orbed truth given by the glorified Lord Jesus through the apostle is little known in our pulpits.
 
This is a potent reason why these riches are not received and enjoyed among the people of God. Another stumbling block is for Christians to approach the Bible from the wrong end, so to speak. Instead of first of all seeking an understanding of the purpose of the ages in the large and seeing it as a whole, and then finding the place in it that God's Love and Redemption has secured for them, they approach the other way round and become so taken up with themselves and their own needs that many of them never advance beyond this point.

Consequently they know little or nothing of other callings and imagine that God's plans revolve solely around themselves. This is a species of slavery to self that we all need to be delivered from. 

One result of this is to see a part of the revelation of God and imagine that it is the whole.
There are those who can only see God's purposes for a Kingdom on this earth.
Others deny this and see only a spiritual fulfilment and going to Heaven after death.
Both are only half truths, and like all half truths, are thoroughly misleading.

-Stuart Allen (Excerpt: The Unfolding Purpose of God) 




Monday, November 16, 2020

Correction and More on the Use of the Name "Jesus" (Be Careful)

 In a previous post concerning the hymn "Come Thou Fount," I noted that one of the changes Charles Welch made to the lyrics of the hymn (to make more doctrinally sound) was to change "Jesus" to "Christ" ("Jesus sought me when a stranger"). I then listed the references to the Lord as "Jesus" in the Epistle of the Ephesians thusly:

  • Jesus Christ (5)
  • Christ Jesus (6)
  • Lord Jesus Christ (7)
  • Christ Jesus our Lord (1)
  • Lord Jesus (1)

During a recent study I noticed this in Ephesians chapter 4:

But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

-Ephesians 4:20-24

I went back and looked for the use of the word "Christ" (with or without any other name) and (according to Gateway) it is used in Ephesians in 43 verses (AKJV, Young's Literal concurs). So, we have an overwhelming use of "Christ" (I believe some 24x used alone).

This makes the one use of "Jesus" by itself interesting. We find it in the practical section of Ephesians in the context of the walk (lifestyle) of the believer. It is also used in a sentence which references "the Christ" (Young's Literal). I think that is significant, but it does not answer the question in toto.

Generally, when we see "Jesus" used alone, it refers to his humanity. In this dispensation (in particular), we no longer know him after the flesh. In the great section starting in 2 Cor 4 and continuing into 2 Cor 5, we have both our resurrection and the Lord's resurrection at the center. His resurrection is the hope (guarantee) of our resurrection. We now have the risen Lord. It culminates with this thought:

He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

-2 Corinthians 5:15-17


This is a subject on its own, so we limit ourselves to reference the descriptions of the Lord's earthly ministry while in the flesh. The Lord himself stated that he was sent to "none but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15); he forbade his disciples to preach the kingdom to anyone but Jews, etc. Paul tells us in Romans 15 that the Lord's ministry was to "confirm the promises made to the [Jewish] fathers." The Lord came "under the law to redeem those under the law" (Gal 4:4), This is all on Jewish/Kingdom ground. In light of the resurrection, even the Acts Age church was to no longer consider the earthly Lord Jesus in all its practices. (How many groups in Christendom today insist on keeping him in his flesh and following him as he lived under the law?)

We'll leave that there and turn back to the use of "Jesus" by Paul. Putting together these thoughts, we see that the earthly Jesus was connected to his ministry to Israel. I did not do this counting, but rather I turn to Lucia Chua in the Philippines who counts a total of 12 uses of the lone "Jesus" in Paul's epistles (10 in the Acts Age epistles and 2 in the Post Acts epistles). By my count, Paul uses "Jesus" in some way or another over 200 times in his epistles. 12 is a number closely tied to Israel and represents a very limited use by Paul. Again, we add that for your own study.

Those who knew him according to his earthly walk (such as John) have a privilege we do not have. So, we must note this when studying those epistles and the writings of his chosen. It is interesting to note here that his own physical brothers, James and Jude, use "Jesus" 7 times; 5 times as "the Lord Jesus Christ" and 2 times as "Jesus Christ" (Jude only). His own brothers do not call him "Jesus" alone.

Let us now note the only other use of the lone "Jesus" in Paul's Post Acts epistles. We find it in the great chapter of the Lord's humiliation (identification with humankind) in Philippians chapter 2. This section of scripture reveals the Lord's seven steps down before his seven steps back to his glory.

 

Seven-fold Humiliation of Christ (as listed in The Berean Expositor Vol 46, 1971):

(1) He emptied Himself (made Himself of no reputation)
(2) Became a bond slave
(3) Likeness of a man
(4) Fashioned as a man
(5) He humbled Himself
(6) Obedient unto death
(7) Even the death of the cross


Let's look at the closing of this section in Philippians 2:

 

being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


What I see here is our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, having willingly humbled himself in obedience, having completed his calling perfectly in the flesh, will lead to men recognizing his Lordship "to the glory of God the Father."

That is, at the name of the humbled Christ ("Jesus"), mocked at rejected, all of creation will bow their knees and "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." The humble and obedient carpenter of Galilee is now back in glory and back at the right hand of the Father.

 

Seven-fold Exaltation (from Philippians 2):

(1) The Name above every name
(2) Every knee shall bow
(3) Things in heaven
(4) Things in earth
(5) Things under the earth
(6) Every tongue shall confess
(7) Jesus Christ is LORD


Back in Ephesians 4, the use of the lone "Jesus" causes me to pause in light of these things. We must remember, the context of this chapter is the worthy walk.  


I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation ["hope of His calling" Eph 1:18] wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

-Ephesians 4:1-3


We will not quote the entire section in regard to our walk (Ephesians chapters 4-6), but we will note that Paul, as he does in Philippians, refers us back to his willing humiliation. We see his ascension contrasted with his entrance into humanity in the incarnation. The phrase "the lower parts of the earth" (4:10) is sometimes assumed to be his time in Hades in death (and I do not discard that possibility fully). Even if that is the case, it does not do extreme violence to my point, but it is my assertion (in pencil) that the lower parts of the earth (sometimes referring to the grace) is here a reference to his decent into the womb (humbling himself by taking on the form of a man as we see in Phil 2).


 For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.


-Psalm 139:13-15


In either case, whether in birth or in death, we see the Lord identifying with humans in our humble state. It is from this humble state that we learn how to live. We must be careful, this is not a call to "do what Jesus did," but rather to adopt his humble attitude. For we are not born under the Law (Gal 4:4) nor do we live under the law as Christ did.

We look, in a limited way, to the earthly Lord is his attitude of setting aside the privileges of deity (Philippians) and his choice to walk in "lowliness and weakness" (Ephesians). We are blessed with all the blessings of the heavenly places (if we are in the Body). Despite this, we walk among others recognizing our humble place as a fellow-sinner and fellow-servant. 

Ephesians 4 teaches us that when we walk unworthily of the calling of this age, when we walk in a haughty way, trusting in the strength of our old nature, we were not taught this by the risen Christ. The risen Christ points us, in this limited way, to his humble attitude. 


But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.


Christendom, unlike the witness of the Holy Spirit in the pages of scripture, wantonly calls our Lord Jesus Christ, simply "Jesus." It pretends it is following in "the things Jesus did" as they ignore his obedience to the Law (not a part of this age). We must make the distinction the Holy Spirit of God makes ("rightly divide the Word of Truth"). We are to bow before The Lord Jesus Christ as we seek the attitude of the lowly "Jesus." 

Before we leave today, I refer again to my own error in the original post. None of us is infallible and each of us is running a race which carries on to the grave. I gladly acknowledge my oversight as it has caused me to review my own work and ask more questions and seek more truth for today. It has led me to be reminded me of his choice to humble himself that I might be exalted (in him) and that he has taken his place back in glory and has revealed to me the great Dispensation of the Mystery.

I have to check my attitude. In this regard, I look to the "lowly" Lord Jesus in his humiliation (identification with us). But I am always to be cognizant of his great glory and his eternal deity. Let us be very careful when we refer to "our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." We must learn to deny worldly lusts as await his appearing. He gave himself to cleanse us, we seek to walk accordingly. In all these things, all the title of the Lord come into focus.


For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

-Titus 2:11-14 


Addendum.  

Even during his earthly ministry, the chosen Apostles of God did not address him as "Jesus," however, his enemies did.


From E.W. Bullinger's Appendix 98, Section X, The Companion Bible:

Iesous is the same as the Heb. Jehoshua, or the abbreviated form Joshua (cp. Heb. 4:8), and means [the] Salvation of jehovah, or Jehovah [the] Saviour.

The name "Jesus" expresses the relation of Jehovah to Him in Incarnation, by which "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8); Who, being God, did not deem His glory a thing not to be thus relinquished (see note on "robbery", Phil. 2:6). The name "Jesus" is the name associated with "the shame" which He endured in order to "save His People from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). His People therefore never addressed Him as "Jesus", but always as "Master" (No. XIV. v) or "Lord" (VI, i, a, 3). (John 13:13, 14. Luke 6:46), and so should all His people to-day; not following the example of demons (Matt. 8:29), or of His enemies, who irreverently called Him "Jesus".


Note that last point clearly. His own beloved dare not address him as "Jesus," whereas his enemies (even the demons) readily did. We follow the example of his humiliation, we should be careful not to leave him in it.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Unbelievers Being Evil and Believers Being Evil

One of the unfortunate cults which has thrust itself upon Christendom is KJV-onlyism. That is, there are people who do not just prefer the King James Version (KJV) or King James Bible (KJB, you'll see it both ways), they declare it is an inspired and infallible version. Of course, there is nothing wrong with preferring the KJV, but to declare it infallible is ridiculous.

In my experience, the proponents of KJV-onlyism are so entrenched in that indefensible position, they fail to truly study the Word of Truth. Worse than that, their insistence on the infallibility of every word keeps them from differentiating words in the original language which are translated by the same word in English. The opposite problem also presents itself. That is, sometimes the English literary tendency to shun the use of the same English word in a passage causes us to miss a continuity in the original language.

We have also looked at cases where the doctrinal prejudices of a manmade church hierarchy influences a translation. Some Catholic-version bibles use "penance" for "repentance," for example. Some Reformed-influenced bibles take Greek words like "Sanhedrin" (used in the Sermon on the Mount) and "synagogue" (used in James) and translated them to words which rob from the clearly Jewish context of those passages. 

"Sanhedrin" is reduced to "the council" and "synagogue" as "assembly." There may be generic applications of these terms possible, but the setting of both Matthew and James is clearly Israel. 

The Greek word "synagōgḗ" appears 57 times in the New Testament. The KJV translates it "synagogue" or "synagogues" 55 of those times. It is only in Acts 13:43 and James 2:2 where they depart. And there is no reason to depart from the word "synagogue" unless one wants to obscure the context of the verses involved. Acts 13:43 may be a case of English translators simply trying not to use the same word in close proximity (the "English literary" confusion) as the word is properly translated as "synagogue" in verse 42. James, however, has no such issue.


For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment...

-James 2:2 (KJV)

 

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and is dressed in bright clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in...

-New American Standard Bible (NASB)


Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.

-New International Version (NIV)


For if there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire

-Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)


for if there come unto your synagogue a man with a gold ring in splendid apparel, and a poor man also come in in vile apparel...

-Darby


for if there may come into your synagogue a man with gold ring, in gay raiment, and there may come in also a poor man in vile raiment...

-Young's Literal (YLT)


We have covered translation issues elsewhere. But I wanted to remind us how important it is to do the work of a diligent student lest we miss some important distinctions. We have also looked at this issue in a previous post: the importance of comparing things that differ.

Let us now turn our attention the English word, "evil." A quick search of the KJV shows the word "evil" being used in the New Testament some 123 times. Three words, however, cover most of those 123 uses. On the flip side of this issue, "evil" is mostly used, but not always. In the case of "kakós" I believe it is only translated as "evil" twice. 

So, "evil" presents itself in our English versions quite often, but it represents a number of different ideas.

Let's take a quick look at these Greek words and their uses.

  • ponērós (76x)
  • kakós (16x)
  • phaûlos (4x)

Now let's take a quick look at Strong's concordance and Mounce's Definitions. Remember, as valuable as Strong's work is, he was not infallible. There are some occasions wherein he, also, was influenced by tradition. I just note that for your personal studies. Here we will use his definitions as a guide to our look at "evil." 

ponērós - From a derivative of G4192; hurtful, that is, evil (properly in effect or influence, and thus differing from G2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from G4550, which indicates degeneracy from original virtue)... [Mounce: bad, the negative quality of an object; evil, wicked, crime, the negative moral quality of a person or action opposed to God and his goodness; (n.) wicked deed, wicked thing; the Evil One, a title of Satan]

kakós -Apparently a primary word; worthless (intrinsically such; whereas G4190 [ponērós] properly refers to effects), that is, (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious: - bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked. [Mounce: evil, wicked, wrong, bad, a perversion of what pertains to goodness; as a noun, an evil thing can refer to any crime, harm, or moral wrong]

phaûlos - Apparently a primary word; “foul” or “flawy”, that is, (figuratively) wicked: - evil. [Mounce: evil, bad]


Now we turn to representative uses of these three words.


And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil [ponērós] . (John 3:19, KJV)
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil [kakós], bear witness of the evil [kakós]: but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18:23, KJV)
For every one that doeth evil [phaûlos] hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20, KJV)


First, we have to examine kakós. A majority of the time it is used to refer to the sick or diseased (10 of its 16 uses). Other uses refer, as we see in John 18, to speaking ill of someone or something. Thayer's Definition has this: 

  1. miserable, to be ill
  2. improperly, wrongly
  3. to speak ill of, revile, one

So, we shall set that word aside, but we still note the KJV uses "evil" in John 18. The point being, it is not the same "evil" as we see elsewhere. I hope we can see that sometimes we have to look beyond the English and not assume all "evil" is the same "evil."

Now let's look at the juxtaposition of the words "ponērós" and "phaûlos" in John 3. Remember, phaûlos is only used 4 times in the whole of the New Testament. Here is the passage in question in Young's Literal Translation:


`And this is the judgment, that the light hath come to the world, and men did love the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil [ponērós]; for every one who is doing wicked [phaûlos] things hateth the light, and doth not come unto the light, that his works may not be detected; but he who is doing the truth doth come to the light, that his works may be manifested, that in God they are having been wrought.' (Jn 3:19-21)


The context of John chapter 3 is believing versus not believing. Those not believing are not judged by the Son, for they are already judged by their choice. We refer here to what we have covered elsewhere, that God holds no sin against man in this age (2 Cor 5:18-19). We also note that the gospel of John was written after the revelation of the Mystery. The Book of John presents the Son of God as God and focuses on "Life through His name."


For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

-John 3:17-18


All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

-2 Cor 5:18-19


So, if the Lord Jesus Christ is not judging anyone, and God is not counting men's trespasses against them, how should we handle John 3:19-20? Let me offer a suggestion.


A. Those who do not believe in the name of the Son of God, do not have life. Death still reigns over them for they have rejected the free gift and have not been reconciled to God who has already been reconciled to them. The reason they do not want to believe is because they do not want to bring their lives into the light for examination. If they did, they would be found wanting and their deeds falling short of God's standards (evil).

B. The passage also applies to believers who do wicked things. They have life, but they still shun the light of God's Word and the conviction of the new nature because their deeds are wicked.


I am suggesting that the Lord is recognizing that all men, saved or lost, are capable of doing "wicked things." The Lost have no interest in their deeds ever coming into the light of truth while some of the Saved who have chosen to walk according to the flesh also shun the light available to them for similar reasons. 

I believe this is why the Holy Spirit chose two different Greek words here. The Lost's works, all of them, are tainted to one degree or another with evil and are "opposed to God." The works of the unbeliever and of the carnally-minded believer can both be said to "foul" or "flawed."

See how James applies phaûlos to believing Jews in this warning in his epistle: 


Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile [phaûlos] practice.
-James 3:13-16


Believers in any age can be carnally-minded (earthly, unspiritual, devilish). Works have absolutely nothing to do with the free gift of Life by grace through faith, but our works are central to the judgment of our service at the Bema Seat. Believers have been "delivered from this present [ponērós] evil age," [past tense] (Gal 1:4) but we are still subject to its effects. 

The wicked works of the unbeliever condemn him to eternal death because he has rejected the free remedy. The wicked works of the believer condemn him to a lesser resurrection and loss of reward, prize, and crown. Both are "condemned," but the works of the believers are outward carnality and eternally evil. 

It is a subtle difference, but consistent with the witness of scripture. 

Finally let's take a quick look at the works of the flesh and note that these warnings are given to believers. Note in this well-known passage from Galatians 5 that the "desires of the flesh" are very possible for the believer.


But I say [to you believers], walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.


Similarly in 1 Corinthians 6, we have a warning for believers


Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ [i.e. believers]? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

The unbeliever chooses darkness and evil over the light of the gospel of the grace of God, but too often the believer chooses darkness and evil because he has chosen to live in the old nature (flesh) and not according to the new nature (spirit). The unbeliever, having rejected the free gift of Life through his name, has no other option than to walk in the evil acts of the flesh. The believer has a choice. May we choose wisely, knowing we will be judged for all we do while in the flesh.


And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

-Colossians 3:23-25

 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each one may receive according to the things done in his body--what he has practiced, whether good or evil [phaûlos].
-2 Cor 5:1


Note the use of phaûlos at the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers. This takes us back to John 3:20.