Featured Post

Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Josh Harris, Calvinism, and Social Justice

By now we have all heard that author Josh Harris ("I Kissed Dating Goodbye") has not only renounced his own book, but his Christianity as well. But what exactly is he renouncing?

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me...
-2 Tim 2:15
People departing from the faith is nothing new. It has plagued the faith since Paul declared that all in Asia had abandoned him. The philosophies of men and the desire of the flesh for earthly ordinances drives men from the truths of this age and will either leave then rigidly stuck in a man-made system or they will drift from the faith.

I was never opposed, per se, to Josh's book. As a guideline for some, it may have some value. But it contained guidelines, not scriptural absolutes. Even if a guideline was built in an absolute, we have to let the absolutes remain absolutes.

For example: It is an absolute that God sees the design for marriage as being between a man and a woman and for intimacy to take place only in that monogamous, permanent union. You can start there, but if you add on "courting" or any other system, we must make clear the system is merely a suggested guideline. It is not a demand of scripture, nor can it hold anyone to that standard.

Josh Harris was a committed Calvinist. As I have often stated, I find "Reformed Theology" to be dangerous, full of snares and mines. It certainly is a hindrance to Bible study. I recently stated at my home Bible study, I am a zero-point Calvinist. This surprised some, but each of the 5-Points (created post-Calvin) is a snare (more on that in another post).

The Calvinist view of God is a cruel and blasphemous one. It makes God the creator of every horrid wickedness which ever entered the mind of man. It makes him responsible for the commission of those sins. And at the end of all things, he is the cause of massive torture on an imaginable scale against people who had no other option but to perform the wicked deeds he "predestined" them to commit.

They will try to wiggle their way around these conclusions from their own premises, but there is no logical way around them. Worst of all, they teach we will rejoice in their horrific torture when we get to heaven.

There are myriads of unbiblical teachings tangled up in all that theological mess, but at the core is a basic misunderstanding of God and the message for this age.

That said, could it be that Josh Harris' problems stem from the unbiblical hate of a the Calvinist's hate-filled god that finally drove him to the empty emergent church? The virtue signaling "social justice" of the scripture-rejecting church is often used to try to ingratiate a person to his peers and critics and quiet a guilty mind.

Lighthouse Trails Research offers a good overview of the possibilities.

We realize that Josh Harris’ stepping down from the Christian faith is most likely multi-faceted, both in the personal and spiritual realms, but his Calvinist (and probably emergent) indoctrination left him defenseless in standing firm in biblical truth.' [excerpt]

Of course, only Josh and the Lord know his heart. But as one who has had to deal with both of these religious traditions during my time in Christendom, it is worth looking again at the dangers of each.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What Happened To Make the Earth Without Form and Void?

When I was converted, I came into Christianity with 25 years of religion under my belt. The first thing I had to do was undo 25 years of training and indoctrination. This is where I first understood the need to "study to show [myself] approved unto God" (2 Tim 2:15). In that process, I was suddenly exposed to many different systems and theories.

One such theory is the so-called "Gap Theory." Initially, I dismissed it as simply an attempt to compromise with the theory of evolution. But then I heard J. Vernon McGee teaching on the subject and I noticed other fairly sound sources teaching it.

As we saw in my most recent post, the Bible is not about eternity, it is about the ages. We have also seen many times how God chooses to hide some things in Himself and how he has revealed other things over time. Gen 1:1 is not about the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord. Those truths are unfolded over time. The disciples themselves didn't quite understand the ministry of the Lord until they had their understanding opened after his resurrection.

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day... -Luke 24:44-46

We need not understand all that happened between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, but we can infer from the commentary of scripture (the best interpreter of scripture).

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. -Gen 1:1-2

 Unfortunately, here in NKJV (as in a number of translations) we have the word "was" used when "became" is the better translation. That is, "the earth BECAME without form [to-hu] and void." This is not only a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew, it fits the witness of Scripture.

For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain [to-hu], he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else. - Isaiah 45:18

It was formed to be inhabited, but it was not ready for Adam until God brought some order out if the chaos. Where did this chaos start? If the earth was not created "without form" how did it become without form? The answer seems to lie with Lucifer's prideful rebellion.

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. -Ezek 28:13-15

When we first meet Satan (the "Shining one") in Genesis 3, he is not "perfect" in his ways, although created that way. Iniquity was found in him, and that is what is brought chaos to the earth created for him (initially).  Let's look at the New Jerusalem which comes down to the New Earth. The original earth lists 10 precious stones, the New Jerusalem lists 12.

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. -Rev 21:19-21

We can see that there was a perfect earth (where in the universe, we do not know) which was the domain of Lucifer.  His iniquity sent it into chaos. Out of that chaos (for how long, we do not know), God created the ages in which our father, Adam, was placed.

And there was no more sea. -Rev 21:2

The New Earth may reflect the original earth down to which the New Jerusalem comes.  It has no sea. Water was used by the Lord to destroy wicked man in Noah's day, but could the original, perfect earth have been without water as well until Satan's rebellion?

We look to Peter's testimony as we examine this possibility.

For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. -2 Peter 3:4-7

We are tempted to see this as the Noahic flood which Peter references in his first epistle. But upon closer inspection we see the contrast, "but the heavens and the earth which are now." We know the coming new earth will be part of the "third heaven" (2 Cor 12:2). We have the earth that was then (Lucifer's domain), the present earth, and the third earth to come (the New earth).

The earth had a water baptism, it will one day have a baptism by fire. This chart by Clarence Larking gives us an overview of the history and future of the earth (I don't hold to the traditional Rapture, but that and other traditional datings do no harm to the point).

Note what we see in our passage from 2 Peter 3:
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
We see the destructive power of both fire and water in the Lord's dealing with the child with the mute spirit in Mark 9:
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him? And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Two of the most destructive (if not the most destructive) forces on earth are fire and water.

Regardless of how we see Peter's reference, we know something cataclysmic happened to thrown the earth from tranquility and perfection into formless chaos. How long that period lasted and how it affected the entire universe, we only see some of the results. The earth could very well have been the center of the universe until Lucifer's rebellion. There is much we do not know about the ages before the ages of Adam. We dare not speculate too much, but it does bring balance to scripture (Genesis and Revelation) and it does answer some questions about evil and Adam's fate in the garden.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

An Overview of the Plan of God

[T]here is nothing more frivolous than that common distinction of moral, judicial, and ceremonial law, which men ordinarily make use of. For no positive law whatsoever can oblige any people but those to whom it is given. “Hear, O Israel,” sufficiently restrains the obligations of the law of Moses only to that people.

-John Locke

 A fundamental of Bible study is the understanding that the Bible has very little to say about eternity (future or past). It is a book about the "ages" and about "days." We generically know that God has no beginning and that some day all the families of God during the ages will come together. But that is about all we know.

Since God wants us to be concerned with, and limit ourselves to, these ages and days, we need to understand them. We need to rightly divide them in their contexts.

We recently looked at a book ("Who is a Jew") which does great violence to these distinctions. It takes two verses in Romans, written to Jews in the Acts Age, and attempts to apply them across ages to all believers. This is inconsistent with usage of the words in question scripture and inconsistent with the Book of Romans itself! I will leave that there as we have covered these in that 3-part study.

We must start with an aerial view of the Bible. We must see the Plan of God from above so we know where we're landing (understand the context) when we're attempting to study, understand, and apply the Word of Truth.

A first step is seeing the approximate 7 Days of scripture. The "Days" equating to roughly a thousand years each. The first two days (2000 years), there was no Israel, no written law, and the revelation of Christ was present, but not well understood. The hope was the restoration of Paradise lost in the garden. It was an earthly hope.

The next two days (2000 years) see God choosing a nation and relating to mankind via that nation as His channel. That nation is Israel. From Abraham through the Acts Age, you see all nations dealt with only as they interact or are in contact or blessed through Israel.

We are currently in the next two thousand years; the Age of the Silence of God, as he calls out a people according to the Mystery hid in God from before the ages, revealed by the Apostle Paul at the end of the Acts Age and disclosed in the Book of Ephesians. In regard to Israel, this is the "two days" of her position as "not My people" ("Lo-Ammi" Hosea 1:9) ending with her full restoration as prophesied in the the Book of Hosea (6:1-3).

The Final thousand years will be the millennium age wherein Israel is restored, the New Covenant is enacted, and the promises made to the fathers (of Israel) come to fruition.

In the chart above we see the "hope" or "hopes" of the ages. Men sought the restoration of Paradise, the Abraham and Israel sought a land and a Kingdom and a Messiah, today we have "blessings in the far above the heavens" and look for the appearing of the Lord.

We note that all these ages end in failure (even the millennium).

  • Men grew ever more wicked and God destroyed the world with a flood, but still, the nations built the Tower of Babel.
  • Israel chased after other gods, rejected their Messiah, then rejected the offer of the Kingdom.
  • This age will end in apostasy. Most professing Christians have abandoned Paul.
  • The Millennium will end with a great rebellion of those who hate the ruler-ship of Christ

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. -Gen 11:5-8

“The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,

‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”

“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. -Acts 25-28

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. -2 Tim 3:1-7 
When the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. -Rev 20:7-9

Within these ages are other lines which must be drawn. As just one example, the Law was not given to Abraham, but to Moses. That covenant laid out the conditions of the promises to Abraham, but they did not nullify those promises.
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 
-Gal 3:21
We are repeatedly told by Paul that God's promises to Abraham and to Israel would come to pass (Gal 3; 2; Rom 9; Rom 15). We do not enter into those promises as they are earthly, bound to a land and a Kingdom on earth. They are connected to a priesthood. A requirement is, of course, faith, but our faith is not in that hope in this age.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love... 
- Eph 1:3-4

As our opening quote from John Locke encourages us to make correct distinctions, so we must. The covenants and promises and adoption were never given to Gentiles (save temporarily in order to make Israel jealous as we saw in our most recent study). They were given to Israel and God's promises are yes and amen (2 Cor 1:20)!

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, thee ternally blessed God. Amen. -Rom 9:4
 Is that still true in this age? No. After the Acts Age ended, God revealed the plan for the next two thousand years which primarily concerned a people blessed in the heavens (not on earth) who can now come apart from Israel.
Remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. -Eph 2:11-13
If we fail to see these changes in the temporal Plan of God, we will miss the overall Plan of God and end in confusion. We will attempt to rob from Israel her promises and forsake our own blessings which are reserved in the "far above the heavens."

Most of Christendom has forsaken Paul in this way in this age. They seek earthly gain and claim the promises of other families of God. It is not too strong to say these are dangerous and Satanic practices. And as Satan presents himself as an "angel of light" (2 Cor 11), so the religion of man presents itself as "Christian." The adoption of Israel's earthly ordinances (Lord's Supper, Baptism, priesthoods, claims of new revelation from God, etc.) is a reflection of the failure of Christendom to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me... -2 Tim 1:15

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [feast] 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 and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. -Col 2:16-24

God is patient. I am not condemning those in error, merely imploring them to forsake the rudiments of the world and the practices of another age and embrace the one faith, one hope, and one blessing of the current Age. We are all on a journey of faith, but if we settle into the promises of another age, we will never enter into the full blessings of our own calling.

After our apostle, Paul, reveals the Mystery of the One New Man which was hidden in God long before the ages began, he implores us to walk according to its truths.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. -Eph 4:1

We were not called to Israel's blessings on earth, we are called to spiritual blessings in the far above the heavens, in the holy of holies, where Christ sits at the right hand of God!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Who is a Jew" (Part 3)

I believe we have sufficiently covered the underlying error in Dr. Jones' argument as to believing Gentiles being the "true Jews." It is not merely an error, in my opinion, it is a gross error which fails to rightly divide both the current age and the plan of God for Physical Israel.

Let us take one last look at Dr. Jone's assertion:

The Church and Judah are the same entity. Although there are non-Judahites who have been grafted into this Judah Church, the Church itself is the legitimate tribe of Judah. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in Rom. 2:28, 29
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly [Greek: en phaneros, “in manifestation, or what is apparent”]; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly [Greek: kruptos, “hidden”]; 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 is Paul’s definition of a Jew, and he defines it both negatively and positively. He tells us that there are two groups of people, each laying claim to being a Jew (Judean). The bad figs are “apparent” Jews (The Concordant Version), for they were recognized by men as Jews.

We covered this in our first post on this book, but I want to emphasize again the danger of building an entire doctrine on a small passage without establishing it as consistent  truth. It must be consistent with the witness of scripture, the age it is given, and to the audience to which it is addressed.

Claiming Gentiles are somehow Jews is nowhere seen in scripture. We actually see the opposite. We do see that Gentiles, in the Acts Age, were grafted into Israel, but they never were called Jews. Never. And they did not lose their identity. They remained Gentiles. They were separate from Jewish believers (the real "true Jews" of Romans) from the beginning. In Acts 15, they are treated as different. In Galatians they remained Gentiles. In Romans itself, in the very chapter of the grafting in (Rom 11), Gentiles maintain a separate identity from the root, true Israel.

 Dr. Jones continues:
The good figs were the real Jews, though their identity was hidden, or not so well known to the general public. The “apparent” Jews were those who followed the Judaism of the day. The “hidden” Jews were those whose hearts were right with God. The “apparent” Jews laid claim to their tribal status and covenant status with God by means of physical circumcision. The “hidden” Jews laid claim to their tribal status and covenant status with God by means of the heart circumcision.

There are no "hidden" Jews. After the writing of the epistle to the Romans, Paul writes to the Ephesians that Paul is a prisoner for "you Gentiles." At no time are Gentiles ever said to be "Judah." This is even more problematic when we get to the listing of the tribes in the Revelation. But even long before that, James (an apostle to the Circumcision) writes, very specifically, "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad." These are the "believing Jews," the "true Jews," the "Israel of God" of scripture.

Gentile believers are not "the legitimate tribe of Judah." That is a blasphemy and falls dangerously close to the warning for those who "say they are Jews and are not," from the revelation. You will find no Gentile being called a member of the tribe of Judah, but we do see all of Israel being called "Jews." If we accept that "Jew" is derived from "Judah," that helps us none. In the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), all were Israel.

Israel was united at the dedication of the second temple. The Book of Ezra (which needs to be read as a whole) states in part:
Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses. And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel. -Ezra 6:15-21

There are no "lost tribes."Chapter 8 states "all Israel were present." And we have this detail as well:

The children of those who had been carried away captive, who had come from the captivity, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. -Ezra 8:35
Moving to the coming of the Lord, we see Anna:
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
-Luke 2:26
Was Anna not a Jew?

In the same chapter, Simeon states what had been clearly seen in Moses and the Prophets:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel

Both Gentile and Israelite to be blessed through Israel's Messiah, but always to remain separate and distinct. This is how Paul handles Jews and Gentiles during and after the Acts Age. It is how Paul handles Jews and Gentiles in the Book of Romans itself.

We again turn to the "grafting in" passage in Romans 11, central to Dr. Jones' assertions. Th entire chapter is necessary here. It is abundantly clear that Gentiles remained Gentiles. It is abundantly clear that while not all Jews believed, they had been blinded only "in part," and God's redemptive plan and covenants were still here. We must not rob Israel of these. It is a wickedness and a blasphemy to claim Israel's promises.

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. -Rom 11:28-32

In that age, while unbelieving Jews were "enemies" of believing Gentiles, they were still "beloved for the sake of the [Jewish] fathers." God's promises to the nations are not transferable, they are irrevocable. The nation will have their land. They will have their New Covenant. It has not been transferred.

For a temporary period (long ended), in order to reach the people of promise, God "grafted in" Gentiles who forever remained Gentiles.

Paul warns that is gross wickedness for Gentiles to become haughty and try to deny Jews their promises.
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles... do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You [Gentiles] will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [Jews], He may not spare you [Gentiles] either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“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 13,19-27

Dr. Jones continues his line of reasoning:

The Old Covenant was broken and no longer had force in the Divine Court. Those who adhered to the Old Covenant by means of outward circumcision were depending upon an obsolete, conditional Covenant that had been broken and abolished. The only way to have a Covenant relationship with God was through the New Covenant, whose sign was the inner circumcision. 
Yes, the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant. Hebrews 8:13 says,
When He said, A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

He does not read his own reference. He states "The Old Covenant... no longer had force in the Divine Court," then quotes the verse which teaches that the Old Covenant had not yet gone away. In Acts 15 and Acts 21, the Jews, including the Apostle Paul, were still under the Law. In Acts 28, Paul says to the Jews in Rome that he was in chains "for the hope of Israel." 

We have covered the New Covenant previously in this study and in other posts. Suffice it to say, when one reads the New Covenant (in Hebrews or in Jeremiah) is should be abundantly clear it not yet here, it is specific to Israel and her land, it is given to "virgin Israel," and it has nothing to do with blessings in the heavenlies. It is earthly covenant with an earthly hope. Grafted in Gentiles of the Acts Age could look forward to enjoying its blessings, but we have no such hope in this age.

We are believing Gentiles with out hope in the far above the heavens (Eph). We look for His appearing and to be taken to heavenly places where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Israel is waiting for the restoration of the Kingdom in the land promised to Israel. This pertains to all twelve tribes. When we fail to rightly divide the Word of Truth, we end up in confusion.

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Who is a Jew" (Part 2)

We continue to look at the book "Who is a Jew" by Stephen E. Jones. (Part 2)

Let's look at the author's next argument.
God had every right to disinherit even full-blooded Israelites regardless of their genealogy. In fact, He had already claimed this right many years earlier by disinheriting Reuben and giving the dominion mandate to Judah.
In laying out this leg of the argument, Dr. Jones speaks of the two sets of figs (two fig trees) pictured in the prophecy of Jeremiah 24. As we noted in our previous study (and in an earlier study concerning the dichotomies of scripture), there are two paths; the path of faith and the path of rejection. We see the two seeds, those of God and those of Satan. We note, again, that apart from faith it is impossible to please God. This has never been a question. This has been truth since Adam.

This condition functions in all ages. The Lord warns "the sons of the kingdom" (Israel which has the promise of inheritance) that one can lose his place in that inheritance (Matt 8). Faith is that which moved the Lord to perform miracles in his earthly ministry (Matt 13; Mark 6; not that he couldn't perform them, he did perform "some" miracles where there was little faith, but God responds to faith, it is his condition). We noted las time that the Lord was "sent to none, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15) and that he came to "fulfill the promises made to the fathers" (Rom 15).

While the faith requirement is a universal truth, it does not take a member in one dispensation and place him in another. We cannot enter into the promises of Israel in this age. During the Acts Age, in order to make Israel jealous, in order to fulfill scripture concerning the blessing of Gentiles through Abraham, Gentiles we grafted in to the root of Israel because of their unbelief.

But with that understood, the Jew never lost his place. Circumcision still had an advantage "much in every way" (Rom 3). The Gentile was still under the threat of losing his place in Israel's promises while unbelieving Jews could take a superior place via faith. This is the argument of Romans 11 which we looked at last time.

Paul, in Galatians, warns Gentiles not to be circumcised. In Acts 21 he was still telling Jews they needed to be circumcised and he had Timothy circumscribed (but not Titus). Was Paul confused? When he wrote "every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law," what did that mean? Would it not apply to Timothy whom Paul had circumcised?

We saw this distinction in Acts 15 in Jerusalem (note the Apostles were still there). This is long after Cornelius had received the Holy Spirit and gifts. In that council, the Apostles (with the approval of the Holy Spirit) make a distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. Would we dare do that in this age? And do we still have the four "necessary things" requirements for Gentile believers in this age?

In this Post Acts Age, there is no Israel to be grafted into. The middle wall of partition is down (Eph). The Law has been removed (Gentiles having never been under the law). There is "one new man" and all are essentially Gentiles. If we miss these distinctions, we are liable to believe we Gentiles have supplanted true Jews and have found ourselves with a claim to their promises in full.

Dr. Jones:
It is clear from this that only those who abide in Christ will bear the type of fruit that God is seeking. If one claims to be in Christ, but does not produce these fruits of the Kingdom, he is cut off. And “if anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus says, “he is thrown away as a branch and dries up.”

We have no issue here. But what does Dr. Jones believe about being "cut off?" Cut off from what? The gift of Life? That is impossible as Life is a free gift by faith alone. It is a work of grace wholly absent of any works or "obedience."

Dr. Jones:

The early Church, founded on Jesus Christ and the apostles, was the true Judah “tree” that produced the good figs in the first century application of Jeremiah 24. However, Jesus’ followers were a tiny minority and were not in control of the temple in Jerusalem. When the bad figs rejected Jesus as Messiah, the believers were persecuted and finally expelled from the land. They were excommunicated from Judaism. 
The good figs lost their identity as “Jews.” That is, the bad figs retained the identification with the tribe or nation of Judah, while the good figs became known in the world as “Christians” (Acts 11:26). But God knew them as true Judah—the followers of the King of Judah, Jesus Christ. They were the good figs that God had expelled from the old land for their good. 
The evil figs, however, remained in the old land in their state of rebellion until the nation was destroyed in 70-73 A.D. God gave them forty years in which to repent, but they refused. Finally, God sent His Roman armies to carry out His sentence of judgment, even as Jesus said in His parable in Matthew 22:7,

Much of this is sound. True Israel and those who were part of the plan of God for Israel, necessarily, had to be believers. God closed the revelation of the Acts Age around AD 64. At that time, the mostly Jewish-Christian church began to leave Israel. Paul then revealed the change in God's plan in the Book of Ephesians (which we looked at last time). To put a final period on the Acts Age, the temple was destroyed and we entered into the prophetic "two days" of Hosea.

Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. -Hosea 6:1-3
 Hosea is picture of God relationship with Israel. God commands Hosea to marry a harlot. She bears him children of whom God says:

Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. -Hosea 1:9-10
Israel would enter an age when they would be "Loammi" or "not my people." But this would be a limited period. As the story unfolds, we see Hosea providing for his adulterous wife from a distance until he finally purchases her out of the slave market (Hosea 3). This picture is followed by God laying out the future of Israel (including the "two days" of chapter 6).

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
This will result in God's New Covenant with Israel. It is a covenant with Believing and Repentant Israel, but it is surely with Israel. No Gentile can lay claim to it. Israel will be returned to her land in belief.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Let us quickly look at the conditions of the New Covenant (in part) and understand it has no place in the current age which deals with a gentile people who have no hope on the earth. As we have noted, our hope and blessings are in the "far above the heavens" (Eph) and not on the earth.

Please see Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “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 ("Ammi" Hosea). 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.
At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the Old Covenant had not yet vanished. The New Covenant had not yet come in. Are these the conditions of this Age? Do we have no need to teach our neighbors about God? Is knowledge of Him everywhere? Are his laws written on our hearts?

In Jeremiah 31 (whence most of our passage in Hebrews is taken), we have this detail:
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!

You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria;
The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
We see the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel under a New Covenant in many other places (especially in Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah) .

As we continue through our topic at hand, we must recognize what scripture says of these things, independent of man's traditions. Grace is not a covenant. Gentiles are not Jews. even in the grafting in of the Acts Age, Gentiles and Jews remained distinct in regard to blessing.

If a "real Jew" is any believer, surely we would have Paul applying that term to "all believers" at some point. Not only have we no examples of this (certainly the Apostles to the Circumcision never did: Peter, James, John, Jude), we actually have the opposite. After Paul reveals the Post Acts Age plan of God, the word "Jew" essentially disappears from his writings, save twice.

In Colossians, Paul states "there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile)" and in Titus, it it used as part of the adjective "Jewish fables." While the name "Abraham" appears 70 times from Matthew through the Revelation, it appears zero times in Paul's Post Acts Epistles. "Israelites" (plural) only appears twice in all the books of the New Testament, yet never in Paul's Post Acts Epistles. In context, it is applied to physical decedents of Abraham, according to the flesh.

We need to note the age and audience of the epistles.

In 2 Corinthians (an Acts Age epistle), Paul speaks of fellow believers, yet he still makes a physical distinction.
Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
This would be palpable nonsense if "Israelite" was suddenly applied to all believers.

While there is a distinction among Jews (as we see in Romans 2) between believing Jews and non-believing Jews, they are all still "Jews." They are all still Paul's brethren "according to the flesh." We mus keep these distinctions in mind when rightly dividing the two verses in Romans 2 in regard to the "inward" Jew.

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh... -Romans 9:3
The Lord himself is the seed of David and the seed of Abraham "according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). This physical distinction is absolutely necessary for His claim to the throne. He must be from the tribe of Judah. If a Gentile becomes an "inward Jew," what tribe does he adopt? We have no idea, yet these tribal distinctions are important when it comes to the land and in future prophecy.

Furthermore, the Apostles to the Circumcision clearly distinguish believers by physical decendancy from the twelve tribes. They write to believing Jews. There is no hint that all believers are now "Jews." Peter and James write specifically to the dispersion (who still met in synagogues, James 2:2). There were no "lost tribes," there were Jews who either did not return from captivity or were scattered due to persecution. They were not writing to Gentiles.

Next time we will touch on the most serious and dangerous error in the book: the idea that the New Covenant is the free gift of life and that Gentiles must become Jews. How anyone could read the New Covenant and the prophets and conclude that is somehow in action today and somehow given to "gentile Jews" is nothing less than Satanic.

See: Part 3

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 are 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.

When Paul frames the gospel of the Acts Age "to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentile]" are we at liberty to read this as the gospel being "to the believer first and also to the unbeliever?" It is nonsensical. If we apply Jones' conclusion throughout the Acts and epistles, it falls apart repeatedly. In just our quote from Romans 3 here, are we to read this as "To what advantage has the believer and his circumcision or uncircumcision?" It is confusion. Continuing, to "Gentile believers were entrusted the oracles of God?" Heresy. The single verse Jones takes out of context works nowhere in scripture.

To what does the "faithfulness of God" refer here? 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). These are specific to tribes and lineage. We cannot wrestle in "believing Gentiles."

So, what was the physical 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.

There are two more studies concerning this book:

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 a 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