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Friday, July 19, 2019

"Who Is a Jew" A Series Examining the Book of that Title

Looking at the short book, "Who is a Jew"

God's Kingdom Ministries is the website of Stephen E. Jones. Dr. Jones boasts a wide range of materials, but I have chosen to review this particular book as I believe it will prove an interesting study in rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15) and how we are to understand Paul's epistles and the difference between the Acts Age and the Post-Acts Age (which is very central to this blog's goals).

My intention is not to demean Dr. Jones or to call into question his intentions or his commitment to Christ. I do not know the man and I am not familiar with most of his writings. I will try to limit my commentary to the work noted in our title ("Who Is a Jew"), and if we look at any other works, it will be linked.

For starters, I will go ahead and link the book HERE. Feel free to read it for yourself. If anyone feels I have not been fair or that I've not given proper context, he can make that determination from the original. My goal is to try and be fair to the original intent as I examine it against the witness of scripture.

This series may not cover the entire book if the points being made become redundant. In fact, my goal is to establish what the premises to the overall argument is and examine these. Once a premise is discussed and either affirmed or contradicted, that can then be applied to the rest of the book.

Readers of this blog know full well that I make a clear distinction between the Body of Christ and Israel as well the distinctions among the different hopes and callings in scripture. I will apply these principles to the book in question.

I will simply begin by quickly examining the opening argument of the book.

Man’s definitions of a “Jew” must be taken seriously, but the real issue before us is how God defines a Jew. The clearest statement in the New Testament on this question is found in Romans 2:28, 29,
 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Here Paul tells us pointedly who IS a Jew and who IS NOT a Jew. He does not base his definition upon men’s views, for most men in his day considered a Jew to be one who followed the leaders of the temple in Jerusalem, who had rejected Jesus.

As always, we want to look at the greater context of the passage in front of us.

For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. -Rom 2:25-29

 Note Paul tells us that it is profitable to keep the law. For eternal life? No. We know that Paul argues in Galatians  that had there been a law which could give life, surely God would have given it (the gift of life has always been by grace). So what is profitable about circumcision? And is circumcision still profitable? We will keep questions like these in mind as we progress through our study.

Throughout the Book of Romans (as in Paul's other Acts Age epistles) he switches between addressing Jewish Believers and Gentile Believers. Let us quickly look at an example of this in the Acts Age epistle of 1 Corinthians.

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. -1 Cor 10:1-3
You know that when you were pagans [Greek: éthnos, Gentiles], you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. -1 Cor 12:2

In Romans 2 he is addressing the Jewish believer. Paul is not writing to unbelievers ("To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints"). We make a mistake of sorts when we speak of the Roman Road to Salvation. Verses can be used to explain our hope, but we must be careful to remember that they are addressed to believers.

  • Chapter 1 speaks of the unbelieving nations (gentiles). This is the backdrop for chapter 2 when he turns to the Jews.
  • Chapter 2 is directed to Jews, sandwiched by the opening statement of Chapter 3 (remember, there are no chapter divisions in the original texts).

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar... -Romans 3:1-4a

Note the conclusion here. In that age, there was advantage in both being a Jew (by birth or by proselyte) AND in circumcision. Even if we limit that to the past, it cannot be missed that being a Jew AND being circumcised had an advantage (which we will see later on). Unbelieving Jews (third person, present, "their") tells us they were still Jews, distinct from Gentile, even though they were in unbelief. Paul is distinguishing (as he does elsewhere) between a "true Jew" (inwardly) and the unbelieving Jew. Circumcision was an advantage, but all is predicated on belief.

To what does the "faithfulness of God" refer? The promises made to the fathers which the Lord came to "confirm" to Israel (Rom 15). The promised Kingdom of God, in the land, over which the 12 apostles would sit as rulers (Matt 19) and about which he taught them for 40 days (Acts 1).

So, what was the Jew's advantage? That advantage is clearly seen in the Lord's ministry.
  • The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was forbidden to be preached outside of Israel (Matt 10)
  • The Lord affirmed that "salvation is [now "was"] of the Jews" (John 4)
  • The Jew had his request answered immediately (Matt 9 and Matt 20 versus Matt 15)

The condition was always faith (“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Matt 9:28). But we are working within the realm of Israel. So among the Jews were believers and unbelievers. That is part of the context of Romans 2 where Paul is addressing Jews ("to the Jew first"). And behind all this is the central point that post-Pentecost, there were still Jews and Gentiles, and they were under different conditions (we've covered this in other studies). We cannot impose the understanding of this present age on the previous age.

Paul speaks that among the national Jews, there is a believing remnant. The "true Jew" is one who is both a child of Abraham by birth and also a believer. This the "Israel of God." In the Acts Age, gentiles were grafted in. Grafted in to what? Into the root, Israel. Israel was still at the center of God's plan in the Acts Age. And that plan is where we started: the promise of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in Israel, on earth, in the land (Acts 1:6).

Gentiles were included in that promise by faith as we note three truths foreign to our age:

  • Gentiles were brought in to make Israel jealous (Rom 10, Rom 11)
  • Gentiles could be "cut off" from the root if they became haughty against Israel (Rom 11)
  • Gentiles had to keep "four necessary things" (Acts 15, Acts 21)

None of these things are true in the present age. If I came to your assembly and tried to teach that, you'd accuse me of legalism. But it was not legalism in the Acts Age, it was the condition for enetring the Kingdom (not for life). When the Lord states that keeping the commandments is a condition for entrance into the kingdom, he is not lying or playing game.

 Dr. Jones then applies this argument:

Paul did NOT say that a Jew was one with outward circumcision, while a Christian was one with the inward circumcision. Not at all. He said clearly, “he is a Jew who is one inwardly.”

Is he attempting to say that all believers are thus "real Jews?" The argument seems to be these "inward" Jews are the true Jews (nothing else applying). But what is the distinguishing mark of the "inward" Jew according to Paul? He "keeps the righteous requirements of the law." Is that truth for today? Has that ever applied to the Gentile?

Paul speaks of the Gentile who is obedient gentile earlier in Chapter 2:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Note that Gentiles do not have the Law. Ephesians teaches us that Gentiles NEVER had the Law. All the Law was to the Gentile was an exclusion. A Gentile could not be an "inward" Jew. 
  2. So what does the conscience tell the Gentile? It tells him that stealing is wrong. It tells him that murder is wrong. It will even tell him that adultery is wrong. It will never tell him that he should be circumcised if he wants to keep the Passover. That was the realm of the children of Abraham.

Dr. Jones continues:

We do not expect such “Jews” then or today to accept Paul’s definition. But Christians who claim to believe the New Testament ought not to disagree with Paul. We understand that Paul’s definition was based purely upon biblical law—the very law that the temple priests claimed to believe, but which, in fact, they had violated. But before we can understand how the divine law itself defines a biblical Jew, we must again give the background material that Paul had studied.

I do not "disagree" with Paul. I will attempt to keep Paul's context as we move forward. Since the question may be inferred: Are Jews then all believers? I can tell you most assuredly, the Law, and Christ himself, did not believe so. Among the children of Abraham, the true children were believers, but they were believing Jews. His question here seems to be predicated on the single verse concerning the "inward" Jew, but it ignores the passages before and after.

We have a believing Gentile in Matthew 8. The Lord acknowledges that such believing Gentiles may have a place in the future kingdom, but he maintains their juxtaposition to Israel. They were not "inward" Jews.

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. -Matt 8:10-13

The "many" are from among the nations (see Matt 25, Sheep and Goats, Gentiles) and they are set against "the sons of the kingdom," that is, Jews who were heirs of the promise who lose their inheritance by being unprofitable servants (see Parable of the Talents). Would we ever call an unbeliever a "son of the Kingdom?"

So, before Gentiles were "grafted in" (starting in Acts 10, not at Pentecost) for the stated reason to make Israel jealous, no gentile could be called a "Jew" merely because he had faith. In the Law itself, Gentiles were welcome to live among Israel, but they could not partake in Israel's (earthly) feasts unless they were circumcised. No time, in any age, in any scripture is a Gentile referred to as a Jew (or an Israelite). There was only one way for that to be true, become a proselyte and be circumcised.

Gentiles were welcome to live in Israel, and could even have faith unto life, but they could not participate in the Law. There was no "inward" Jew. He could have faith. He could be more righteous than some Jews. But the Law forbade him from participating as a jew, even if his heart desired to.

And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. -Ex 12:48

What advantage was there in circumcision? "Much in every way." Not sufficient on its own (you had to come by faith), but it allowed a certain access to God which was forbidden to the Gentiles (the uncircumcised). Exodus 12 is dealing with physical circumcision. Paul, in Romans, is noting that faith is superior to circumcision, but he does not discount it as worthless.

The fact that most Jews were unbelievers and still uncircumcised in their hearts did not, and could not, nullify the promises God made to national Israel (the promise of the Kingdom on earth as stated in the Old Covenant and affirmed in the New). CERTAINLY NOT! And as a Gentile who was never under the Covenant, I make no claims to its promises (my blessings are in "the far above the heavens" where Christ sits as the right hand of the Father).

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. -Rom 3:3-4

Having laid the ground work for the context of Romans, we will move on to other assertions in the book under scrutiny.

A few slides to help:

There was still a distinction between Jew (physical) and Greek (physical), the Circumcised and Uncircumcised in the Acts Age.  

 Gentiles being blessed through Abraham and Israel was revealed in scripture. It was known to "Moses and the prophets" which is all Paul preached in the Acts Age (Acts 26:22)

The "grafting in" of Gentiles into Israel (Romans 11) occurred during the Acts Age. Gentiles were grafted in to the "root," but could be cut off from the same. Could they lose the gift of life? No. They were grafted in to Israel's blessings (earthly) without coming under the law, but they could lose that hope. Post Acts, all blessings and hope are in the far above the heavens where Christ sits at the right hand of God. This age was not revealed in Moses and the prophets. It was not known until revealed by Paul.

In Paul's Acts Age epistles. Abraham and the Jews are prevalent. Post Acts, they almost disappear completely (as do the prophets). During the Acts, Paul addresses Jews and Gentles alternately. Post Acts, in the "One New Man" of Ephesians, we are all essentially Gentiles. Israel will take its place at the center of God's Plan in the future, but in this age, we (believers) are one.

Uttermost Parts of the Planet?

A commonly quoted verse used to instruct (command) Christians to go to all the nations of the world with the message of the Kingdom is Acts 1:8.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [NKJV]

Every translation at Bible Gateway translates "γῆ" or "ge" as either "earth" or "world." But is that correct? Now, depending on context, as in English, some Greek words can have different implications (see below for another possible implication). But does the context of Acts 1 demand we use "earth?"

Let's look at the verse in context:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

 Before we explore the implications, let's look at how "ge" is understood during the Lord's ministry.

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

(Matthew 2:6, 20-21)

Applying this to the instructions to the future 12 rulers over Israel (who are instructed in Matthew 10 to not preach the kingdom outside of Israel) in Acts 1, we now get:

 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the land.”

This limits their ministry to the land of Israel. This is consistent with their calling as "apostles to the circumcision" (Gal 3) and a continuation of the Lord's command to "not go into the way of the Gentiles" in Matthew 10. We have looked at their ministry in the Acts elsewhere. Suffice it to say, they never went to Gentiles (save Peter, once) and we no reason to believe that before the revelation of the current dispensation to Paul (Eph) they ever left Palestine.

And I know of no one who argues they ever came close  to visiting every part of the planet. Would Rome be the "uttermost" part of earth? Even Paul desired (and may have gone) far beyond that to Spain. Yet we have no reliable witness of any of the 12 going beyond Israel. Again, after Paul's revelation, they may have gone to nearby regions, but certainly never to the "uttermost parts of the earth."

"Uttermost" is translated from the Greek word " ἐσχάτου." Strong's definition has in part, "properly, last, final (the furthest, extreme-end)." Even if we believe Peter got to Rome, how is that "the extreme end" of the earth? The excuse is given that the reference is to "the known world," but that does more violence to "the end of the earth" than limiting them to Israel and "the end of the land."

A common practice among Christians is to wantonly replace Jerusalem with their hometown without cause. We hear things like "Chicago is my Jerusalem." But even if we allowed such violence to scripture, do these people go to "the end of the earth?" Even if they become missionaries to Guatemala, is that the end of the earth (the "extreme -end") from Chicago? Allowing that the verse even states "end of the earth" (and not the land), how do we take it away from those to whom it was given?

Looking back at the so-called "Great Commision" in Matthew 28, how many "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations?" Most never make any attempt to leave their hometowns. 

Once we allegorize something, especially out of its context, we destroy scripture and it can then mean anything. "Jerusalem" ends up meaning any city. "Ends of the earth" becomes hosting a "revival." Etc. This does violence to the Word and is a hindrance to interpretation, the right division of the Word.

I believe Acts 1:8 and the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28 were both given to same group, the 11 (12) Apostles of the Lamb. We have no right to claim these. And for those who do, you might want to read the details and examine if you are actually obeying. 

More context for Acts 1:8

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” -Acts 1:4-5
So, I can plug in any city here as well? If so, how do I know which city to plug in? No, he commanded THEM (the 11) to wait in Jerusalem. This, after 40 days teaching them about "the kingdom of God." And that message of the Kingdom is very different than the message we have today. For theirs concerned the establishment of the promised kingdom in Israel.

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” - Acts 1:6

To believe the kingdom they were taught  is what we preach today is to believe that the enlightened, chosen apostles of the Lamb spent 40 days with the risen Lord learning about the Kingdom of God and somehow got it very wrong. Let's not slander them this way.

Also note, there was still an Israel.

We offer one alternative to the idea of the witness of the 12 going to all the nations in all the Earth. 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:14
The Lord could very well be referring to the ministry of the 12 during the millennium wherein israel shall serve as priests and witnesses to the nations. Not the timing. This is just before the end of an age (world). It is during the time of Jacob's Trouble (the Great Tribulation).

This is reflected in the so-called "Great Commission" of Matthew 28.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Again, we see "the end of the age" in view. And although "all authority on heaven and Earth" had just been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, all things were not yet under his feet.

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. -Heb 2:8

So, whereas there is nothing left not subject to him (his authority), we do not see it in practice. More specifically, they did not see it in the Acts Age at the time of the writing of Hebrews. These were people waiting for the Great Tribulation. Although all things were under his authority, some would still have to die (Matthew 24). The gospel of the kingdom (Israel's Kingdom) would be declared during that time and certainly in the millennium.

This is the hope for which Paul was a prisoner. The hope for which he was in chains in the Acts Age (Acts 26, 28, etc.)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cross Out Old Testament and New Testament from Your Bible

One of the most unfortunate traditions to be inflicted on Christianity is the "Old testament / New testament" split. That is, it artificially breaks up the revelation of the Mystery of Christ and gives people the idea that the way to life changed from works to faith and that all humankind is either under one or the other.

There are lines in scripture, and one of those lines is pre-Christ and post-Christ, but that has nothing to do with the Old Covenant and the New Covenant (neither of which have anything directly to do with Gentiles in any age). There was no Old Covenant for ~2000 years and it was given only to Israel. The New Covenant has not come in yet, and it too is given only to Israel.

The Mystery of Christ was unfolded from Genesis and then through the ages. All of these things made know "since" or "from" the foundation (overthrow) of the world (Rom 16). Paul then revealed the final Mystery which was hidden from "before" the foundation of the world (Eph). 

Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. (Rom 16)

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. (Eph 1)

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ... (Eph 3)

The revelation of the Mystery of Christ unfolded over time and that which was obscured became clear throughout the ages. This is the mystery of Romans 16. However, the Body ("one new man," "joint-body," Gk: sýssōmos) was never known until revealed by Paul.

We can see Christ being revealed through Moses and the Prophets (the Lord pointing to these as a witness to Himself and Paul preaching nothing Moses and the Prophets in the Acts Age). But no prophet saw the "one new man." No prophet saw the middle wall of partition abolished.

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body [sýssōmos], and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel... (Eph 3)
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me  [Paul] for you, to fulfill the word of God ; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.(Col 1:25-26)

This is not the same truth Paul was teaching in Galatians (Acts Age). It is not that Gentiles would be blessed through Abraham. That is truth revealed in scripture and known since it was promised to Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Gal 3:7)

Surely, it was not understood how or when or why, but it was plain to see. It came to pass when Gentiles were "grafted" into Israel (Romans 11), but that grafting no longer occurs in this age. All believers are essentially Gentiles.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
(Acts 28 to the Jews at Rome)
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.
(Ephesians 3, Post-Acts)

We must draw straight lines (2 Tim 2:15), and the OT/NT split confuses that calling. As I understand it, it was a creation of Jerome for the Vulgate and has carried into all translations.

We need to be careful with things which are not inspired. Take them as opinions (at best) and examine all by the whole counsel of God.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Creeping Legalism Among Dispensationsalists

The problem of law-keepers has plagued the visible church since Paul revealed the Mystery after the Acts Age. We've touched on this a number of times before, but my sense from recent personal interactions is that the problem is mushrooming out of control.

It appears that dispensationalists (who should know better) are getting caught up in the frenzy. I spoke this past week with two people looking for the "pre-trib rapture" who have become enamored of Jewish laws. As one who embraces the truths of the Mystery age revealed by Paul, I am not a traditional "classical" dispensationalist. But, in general, we all have some of the same basic understanding of scripture.

First and foremost is the distinction between a gentile "church" and Israel. While not overtly abandoning that truth, many classical dispensationalists have abandoned the right division of the gospel accounts (the Lord's earthly ministry) and the application of the New Covenant to Israel.

Darby, Kelly, Chafer, and other key figures in the classical mold presented the New Covenant as the scriptures present it (Jer 31, heb 8, etc.) as for the House of Judah, for Israel. It is clearly future at the time of the writing of Paul's epistle to the Hebrews. This is long after Pentecost.

“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. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. -Heb 8:8-13

You can hardly find a dispensationalist today who doesn't apply the NC to the current age and who does not regularly teach from the synoptic gospels. This is even true among the Plymouth Brethren who were the stalwarts of classical dispensationalism for generations.

These are dangerous changes.

One woman told me there are blessings attached to keeping the Passover. Sure. FOR ISRAEL, when they are in the center of God's plan in his land. She was concerned she may not be keeping it correctly. I didn't see the blood of lamb on her hands, so I'm guessing no. They might argue the sacrifice is only for those "in the land," but I doubt they even understand that much and the additional problems that creates for them in regard to Israel.

In this age, Paul is clear:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a [feast day] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility -Col 3:16-18

These things are connected to Israel and earthly promises. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is in the far above the heavens. We have no need for the rudiments of this world.

As noted, I expect these dangerous trends among the sacramentalist and Replacement Theology churches. It's just disturbing to see dispensationalists embracing the danger. It will take them where millions of professed Christians end up: in slavery or in pride. In either case, reward will be lost and the world will not see the grace of God.

I recommend this series on the current movement towards "Messianic" Christianity: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? (Eph 4:26)

Ephesians 4:26 is often quoted to justify anger. But we need to be careful with this verse. Here is one way to look at this verse:

‘Can ye be angry and sin not? (Author’s translation). Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil’ (Eph. 4:26,27). 
-Charles Welch (Things Most Surely Believed)

Another take:

The anger is to be transitory. The quotation is from Psalms 4:4 (Septuagint), where Hebrew reads, "tremble, and sin not", the meaning of which is shown by the use here, for it is as easy to tremble from anger as from other powerful emotions. 
-E.W. Bullinger (Companion Bible Notes)

Uncontrolled anger is a terrible thing. It often originates from the old nature (flesh). And even if we lean towards Bullinger's commentary, "righteous indignation" is often mixed with carnal hatred. We need to be very careful with anger.

I believe that Judas was a believer and has resurrection life. However, he lost all (perdition) reward and blessings because of his greed and anger. Take note the circumstance of his decision to betray his Lord.

When the Lord was at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany (Matt 26; Mark 14; John 12), he was chastised by the disciples for allowing a woman to anoint him with expensive oils. It was after this upbraiding that Judas sought for an opportunity to betray him.

"For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." 
"And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them."

In John's account, he singles out Judas' anger:

"But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?'"

Judas' greed was couched in concern for the poor. His anger then led him to betray his Lord and master.

I'm not saying there are not times where "righteous indignation" may have a place, I am only saying that the emotion of "anger" is a dangerous thing. And how often has "self-righteousness" or "self-aggrandizement" (look at how much I care!) been hidden under the mask of "righteous indignation?"

I think it is good to start with the translation option of "can ye be angry and sin not?" before we chalk up our anger as "righteous indignation." We need to ask ourselves if we have that capacity. Are we truly concerned or are we simply filled with either rage or self-importance?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Literalist Must Recognize Figures of Speech

It is most important to notice these [figures of speeech]. It is absolutely necessary for true interpretation. God's Word is made up of "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1Cor. 2:13. 1Thess. 2:13. 2Tim. 3:16. 2Pet. 1:21, &c.). 
A "Figure of speech" relates to the form in which the words are used. It consists in the fact that a word or words are used out of their ordinary sense, or place, or manner, for the purpose of attracting our attention to what is thus said. A Figure of speech is a deigned and legitimate departure from the laws of language, in order to emphasize what is said. Hence in such Figures we have the Holy Spirit's own marking, so to speak, of His own words. 
This peculiar form or unusual manner may not be true, or so true, to the literal meaning of the words; but it is more true to their real sense, and truer to truth. Figures are never used but for the sake of emphasis. They can never, therefore, be ignored. Ignorance of Figures of speech has led to the grossest errors, which have been caused either from taking literally what is figurative, or from taking figuratively what is literal. 
(E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, Excerpt)

I am a literalist. That is, if the Bible states that Adam did this or David did that, I believe Adam did this and David did that. But, as in normal literal life, I understand when the scripture speaks metaphorically. Obviously, I don't hold the parable of the Sewer as referring to an actual person throwing actual seed. The Lord explains this is figurative language.

We must also recognize when someone is relating a vision, he is doing exactly that. Daniel is not prophesying that an actual lion is going to come up out of the sea (Daniel 7). Likewise, John is not saying a literal woman is going to ride a literal beast (Revelation 17).

With this in mind, we note that what the disciples saw on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 was  a vision. Moses and Elijah were not there. What they saw was a "vision" of them. They represented the Law and the Prophets. Christ is greater than all. This is the lesson. Peter and the others missed it.

Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

Let's look at one quick example from John's vision on the Isle of Patmos. First, we note that John was (obviously) seeing a vision.

And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. (Rev 9:17)

I have heard discussions in regard to the blood rising to the horses' bridles in Revelation chapter 14. I've heard it proposed that this will be a post-nuclear scenario wherein men again fight on horses. But shouldn't we just accept this as a metaphorical vision? Why would we see beasts coming out of the sea as metaphors while see blood on a horse as literal? We hold the wine-press to be a metaphor, why not the bridles?

And the wine-press was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs [200 miles]. (Rev 14:20)

Is it possible they will fight on horses? Sure. But as this prophecy is not given to us gentiles for this age, we have no idea how this will play out. However, as with the Parables, those who need to know will understand. Even Daniel was puzzled at his own prophecies as were other prophets.

Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. (Dan 12:8-10)

Daniel did not understand his own vision and prophecies, because he did not need to understand. I don't quite understand Daniel or the Revelation in full, but I don't need to understand. At "the time of the end" we are told "the wise shall understand." So, we must be careful not to be too dogmatic when handling prophecies for Israel in regard to the time of the end. Study? Yes. Meditate? Yes. Diligently seek the Lord on these matters? Sure. But always understand that we will not completely understand.

[We pause to say again that the metaphors depict real, literal entities and events. This is not some flowery language. These are not as Aesop's fables. There is a Day of the Lord coming (The Lord's Day in the Revelation) and it will be very real.]

We must apply this understanding to the rest of John's vision in the Revelation, and that includes the final chapters. The prophecies contained in both Daniel's and John's visions (as well as in Ezekiel's, Zechariah's and others) refer to literal events. We do not doubt that. But they are shown visions, not movies.

Will the Lord return on a literal white horse? Possibly. But when we compare scripture with scripture we have the Lord returning in the clouds (Acts 1; 1 Thess 4) and the Lord returning in a flaming fire (Matt 25; 2 Thess 1) and returning on a white horse (Rev 19:11).  All of those conditions could take place, but I'm only certain of the first. As they saw him leave, so shall he return to Israel (Acts 1:11), in the clouds.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in ine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. (Rev 19:10-15)

If we hold to a literal horse, do we hold to a literal "robe dipped in blood?" Do we believe he will have a literal sword coming out of his mouth? I don't know. But we clearly read most of John's vision as metaphor, so why must we insist that certain things are literal?

I believe this verse in Rev 22 is where John's vision ends, as the Angel confirms the vision:

Then he said to me [John], “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. (Rev 22:6)

John, an apostle to the circumcision, was shown a vision of how the words of the prophets would play out. The events are very real. The prophecies involve real things. The Jews were well familiar with  those prophecies and would understand the context of John's vision. The Revelation is a thoroughly Jewish book. In the Acts age (when John received his vision), the tribulation was "at-hand." It will again be "at-hand" when the current dispensation ends.

I believe a literal John had a literal vision of things that will literally come to pass. However, he saw only metaphors of those things. We must start there when discussing the Revelation and Israel's future. And this future surely is for Israel.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Iraqi Christian Burned Alive by ISIS Three Times?

Fox News (and many other sites, news and Christian) are recounting the tale of a Yazidi man who claims he was stoned without harm and set on fire three times without harm. In the stories and videos I have seen, I do not see the man's name listed or any account of reliable witnesses. (Video)

More troubling is the fact that I cannot find even one skeptical comment at the sites I've visited (apart from my own). The man's confession of faith consists of Christ Jesus supposedly appearing to him in a dream and telling him a secret. I don't recall Paul giving us that particular path to resurrection life.

I am not limiting the Lord's ability to visit someone in a dream (although I find it unlikely in this age), but even if such a case did occur, God cannot lie. Everything must line up with the revealed Word of God. That is, we must have reliable witnesses and what God is reported to have said must be consistent with scripture.

This scripture was posted by one enthusiastic commenter:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
-Isaiah 43:2

My first question for her is what would she tell the thousands of Christians who were burned and stoned?

This is where the importance of "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" guides us once again. We have looked at this issue in almost all our studies. It is vitally important that "cut straight" scripture. We can get into a lot of trouble and bring scorn upon the true faith when we fail to properly draw our lines.

Back to Isaiah 43, you can read the entire chapter for yourself, but the first and third verses are clear enough.

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine...

For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

We need to be careful not to rob from Israel nor should we open the Lord to mockery. We cannot just open our bibles and apply everything to ourselves.

Unless there is more in regard to his confession of faith apart from "Jesus appeared to me," I have no way to assess that this man even understands who the true Christ is. We need to be careful when declaring something as fact without establishing it via reliable witnesses. There are many false-Christs, we must be able to establish the true from the false and we do that through scripture.

Rightly divide the Word of Truth.