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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rightly Dividing Eternal Life in Matthew and John

We've previously touched on the place of "eternal" life in a POST from last October. There we looked at the English words "eternal" and "forever" (etc.) and how they obscure the original languages. Today, I'd like to come at it from a more hands-on angle and concentrate on its use in Matthew versus its use in John.

We've previously noted that God's plan (His purpose for the ages) permeate both scripture's prophetic words and scripture's doctrinal words. It should be clear from even a cursory reading of scripture that God dealt with men (and angels) differently in different ages and that God has plans for this age and the ages (plural) to come.

Biblical ages are not tied to time as much as they are connected to conditions. 

Scripture speaks of

  • the age
  • the ages
  • the age of the age
  • the age of the ages
We see a similar pattern with the word "Day." Scripture speaks of "the day of Man," "the day of the Lord" ("the Lord's day), "the day of God," the day of Christ." These are also tied to conditions rather than to time.

The distinctions among the different application of "age" and "ages" are lost in the English use of "eternal" and "forever and ever," etc. We noted in the previous study how Young's Literal Translation sheds light on the word (we give the NKJV for a comparative). 

The Lord shall reign forever and ever! - Ex 15:18 [NKJV] 
Jehovah reigneth -- to the age, and for ever!' - Ex 15:18 [YLT]

We noted in our previous study how confusing the English translations can be.

In the Greek, we see the words "aionios" and "aion" translated as "forever and ever." But when they used separately, "aion" is given a variety of translations: “world”, “course”, “age”, “eternal” as well as being part of "since the world began." It is a word well-connected to earth and time as well as to the ethereal idea of "eternal.".
When the translators couldn't use "forever" or "eternal" they resorted to other words. We are always aware that context plays a part in our understanding of a word and its use, but we lose quite a bit when "since the world began" is seen as "since the age began," our understanding becomes clearer. 

But let us leave that there and focus in on "eternal/everlasting" life in Matthew and John.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have [aionios] eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 
-Matt 19:16-17

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal [aionios] life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting [aionios] life.
-John 3:15-16

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting [aionios] life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
-John 5:24

We first note that all four words translated "eternal" or "everlasting" come from the same Greek word, "aionios." We pull back the lens and make the comparison. The Lord states in John that "aionios life" ("life age-during" [YLT]), is a gift by grace which is secured by faith. Period. Yet in Matthew, the "age-life" there is the result of keeping the commandments. We know that keeping the commandments (works) was never the path to the free gift of resurrection life. That idea is dismissed as impossible in the book of Romans and elsewhere.  

We should also see that "keeping the commandments" would have been impossible to men like Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. As the Ten Commandments were not given until the time of Moses. In fact, Israel was redeemed out of bondage to Egypt (a type of the world system) before Moses was give the Ten Commandments. The commandments given to Israel in Exodus 20 are specific to that nation, for a specific purpose: that she would be a kingdom of priests for the nations (Ex 19:5-7).

We turn back to Matthew to see that the "commandments" in Matthew 19:17 are a reference to a part of the Ten Commandments.

‘Which ones?’ he asked. ‘These ones,’ Jesus answered: ‘ “don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t tell lies under oath, respect your father and mother”, and “love your neighbour as yourself”.’

-Matthew 19:18-19

Now to those who try to use the words of the Lord here to teach salvation (resurrection life) by works or salvation by the Law or salvation by the Ten Commandments, they must follow through the entire passage.

‘If you want to complete the set,’ Jesus replied, ‘go and sell everything you own and give it to the poor. That way you’ll have treasure in heaven! Then come and follow me.’ When the young man heard him say that, he went away very sad. He had many possessions.

-Matthew 19:20-22

There are thus two things to contend with for the seller of works salvation. He must not only square that doctrine with the scriptures we have noted already, but he must define what the "treasure in heaven" is. Even in Evangelical circles the "reward" is equated with resurrection life in heaven somehow. This is another result of the dangerous heaven/hell and saved/lost approach to all scripture.

So how do we combine Matthew and John? The simple answer is that we do not.

Matthew concerns himself only with Israel. The Lord forbade the message of the Kingdom to be preached to anyone apart from to Jews (Matthew 10). He states that he was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 15). We know that the New Covenant and the Feasts are given ONLY to Israel (Jer 31; Heb 8; etc.). 

John's gospel (written in a the Post Acts age) was for the whole world. The free gift of resurrection life (life from the curse of death) is now, and has been since Adam, by grace alone through faith alone. John does not concern himself with the "Last Supper," nor does he speak of the "new covenant/testament." These are earthly and not related to his ministry to the world. 

When we recognize the words "age" and "ages" and "age-enduring" and "age of the age" and "ages of the ages," the Lord's focus becomes clearer. The Lord was sent to Israel to proclaim the promised kingdom. All the promises to the fathers from Abraham to David (Rom 15:8) will be fulfilled, on earth, in the land of Israel. There will be a "kingdom" age, a "millennial" age. 

There are ages past. There are multiple ages future. The Post Acts epistle of Ephesians speaks of "every family" of God (3:15). Just as there are many ages, there are many families of God. These are words which encompass many things, but clearly show us delineations. 

Among the redeemed there are different hopes. Some will inherit the earth. Some will be in the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven to Earth. Some will have a "better resurrection" than others. Some have their hope in the far above the heavens

Matthew is speaking to those with the earthly hope of a place in the Kingdom. Even among his disciples, there is a question as to whom will sit at his left hand and his right hand in that earthly kingdom. We know the 12 are promised to sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. This is Matthew focus.

We read of "sons of the kingdom" and "his servants" who will be "cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Is this the loss of a free gift? Of course not. One cannot lose a free gift. The Lord warns the heirs of the earthly kingdom that their place in that Kingdom is based on obedience to his commands (see The Parable of Talents). Scripture speaks of Israel as his "servant" and individual Israelites as his "servants."

So, the "life of the age" the Jews sought in Matthew is life in the Kingdom age to come. The "age-enduring life" to which John refers is spiritual life in resurrection. There is also a judgment for our works, but the hopes and rewards and crowns are different. Whereas Israelites are looking for a place in that earthly kingdom age, and a place in the "New Jerusalem," we long for a special resurrection "out from among the dead," along with a Prize and other rewards and crowns for our faithfulness in this age.

But our obedience starts with this command in Paul's final epistle:  

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

-2 Tim 2:15-16

If we don't want to be ashamed before him, we must "mark the things that differ" (Phil 1:10) and draw straight lines in scripture. One of the things which "differs" about which we must draw a line between is the use of "eternal life" in regard to Israel's Kingdom and the promise of resurrection life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Paul's Post-Acts Ministry

I our last study, we noted Paul's declaration at his trial late in the Book of Acts. There, he still refers to the hope of the "twelve tribes." In the last chapter of the book, he refers to the hope of "Israel."

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 
-Acts 26:6 

For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 
-Acts 28:20

 At Paul's trial in Acts 26 he gives the third account of his conversion story. In his second and third telling, he adds details. In Acts 26, his final witness to his conversion, he adds this detail:

[Jesus said]... rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

We note that both Peter and Paul refer to truths revealed "since" or "from" the beginning of the ages. Paul heavily relies on the witness of scripture. We noted last time that the blessing of Gentiles through Abraham and Israel was not fully understood, but clearly revealed by Moses and the Prophets. Paul testified that he spoke nothing that was not revealed by Moses and the Prophets as late as Acts 26:22-23.

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

Note that he again reminds us that the proclamation of light would go to the Gentile (knowing that the message must first be preached to Jews). Paul had also stated that he "kept back nothing" from believers (Acts 20:20) and that he proclaimed "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

The Acts come to an end. Paul's Acts-Age epistles are replete with references to Abraham, David, Moses, the Prophets, and Israel, etc. When we look at his Post-Acts epistles, we see a dearth of these references. Here are just the words Jew, Israel, Israelite.

Before Acts 28 After Acts 28
Jew 25 1
Israel 14 2
Israelite 3 0

We recognize that is circumstantial. We present as just one thing to consider.

After the Acts Age ends, Paul turns fully to the Gentiles and reveals his new ministry in the Book of Ephesians. Israel is placed aside (for the moment) and the preeminence of the Jew.

The Book of Romans, late in the Acts Age, speaks clearly of a current Israel in its pages. The Gentile believer of that age was "grafted in" to Israel and could be "cut off" (Romans 11). That is, grafted in to the coming earthly blessings to Israel expected during that age. However, the Jew was still first in the plan of God. Paul always went to Jews first ("as his manner was") in any place where Jews lived among Gentiles.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 
-Romans 1:16

The Jew, because of his calling and special case, was also subject to the harsher judgment. This is true in any age. Those with greater light and privilege receive the harshest judgment. The Jew had "the oracles of God" and the Law.

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 
-Romans 2:4-8

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
-Romans 3:1-2

In Ephesians, the middle wall of partition between Jew and Greek is set aside and Paul reveals the "one new man" (GK: sussomos) of the Dispensation of the Mystery. And this gospel differed from the Acts Age gospel as it was only revealed to Paul and could not be found in the witness of the Prophets.

The first 3 chapters of Ephesians and the first 2 chapters of Colossians should be read in full. We only point out a few verses here.

This current age differs from the previous. We noted the almost complete absence of references to the Prophets and to Israel. We also noted the unique revelation to Paul alone (Eph 3). But we also have introduced the idea of blessings, not on earth, not in the land, not in a kingdom, not in the New Jerusalem which comes down, but in "heavenly places" ("far above the heavens," "super-heavenly places"). 

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, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 
-Eph 1:3-6

Paul notes in Ephesians that he is a prisoner "for you Gentiles" and no longer "for the hope of Israel."

Ephesians 3 has to be carefully read lest it seem like Paul is contradicting himself, To Paul was given the ministry of taking the grace of God to the Gentiles. The emphasis on the Gentiles is also referenced in the prison epistle of 2 Timothy 4:16-17. So let me present a more clear rendering of Ephesians 3:2-11 from Charles Welch.

‘If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery;
(as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets), 
that the Gentiles, in spirit, should be fellow-heirs (fellow-members) of the same body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ, by the gospel whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, the less than the least of all saints, has this grace been given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the untraceable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all as to what is the dispensation of the mystery which has been hidden away from (or since) the ages by God, Who did all things create, in order that now, unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be made known, by the church, the exceeding complex wisdom of God, according to the purpose of the ages which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord’

Here are riches that are
Here is a dispensation of the
Mystery (Secret)
This mystery was effectually
The wisdom unfolded is
Very complex
The whole was discovered by
Paul was commissioned to
Enlighten all

The secret character of this dispensation, and Paul’s special trust regarding it, is seen in Colossians 1:24-28.

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking [left behind] in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship [dispensation] from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill [complete] the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

We now have one Body. We have one church, the church which is His Body. This is not the Bride. This body has Christ as its head. The Bride has her own head. The Bride is Israel. We've covered this previously in several posts.


There are many implications to understanding the Dispensation of the Mystery, and I encourage the curious or convicted to search this blog for entries which may enlighten you on some of these implications. I also link you to a very informal discussion of the Mystery:

Listen to "Episode 10 - The Dispensation of the Mystery (Michael Muddies the Water)" on Spreaker.

And here is a short discussion of the place of the Book of Acts:

Listen to "Episode 25 - The Place of the Book of Acts, Baptism, Lord's Supper, and Hawkeye Goes Nuts" on Spreaker.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Place of the Book of Acts

Luke's gospel account was obviously written post-resurrection of the Lord. That would place its creation in the Acts Age. We first see Luke including himself on Paul's journeys as late as Acts 16. In his gospel account, Luke tells us he is transcribing the witness of others. We have to put all these thoughts together to find the first piece of the Acts puzzle.

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
Luke 1:1-4

We see that the "things instructed" to Theophilus were still active in the Acts Age. This ties these two time periods together. In previous studies we have proposed that there is a greater time period starting with the call of Abraham, through the Kingdom of Israel, through the time of Messiah, all the way through the Acts Age. There are variances in this large bloc of time (the addition of the law in Exodus, the Establishment of the House of David, etc.), but this period has as its overreaching goal, "the hope of Israel" as given to the fathers. This involves a land and a kingdom on earth.

This represents a Hebrew/Jewish age which will one day culminate in the Tribulation, the return of the Messiah King, and the re-establishment of the kingdom in Israel. All of this would have come to pass had Israel repented (as we will see below).

Let's look at that last hope in light of Luke's account in Acts 1. First we'll note the connection to his gospel account.

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 
-Acts 1:1-3
Luke tells us at the end of his first account, Luke chapter 24, that "He [the Lord] opened their [the twelve's] understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." At the start of the Acts, Luke adds that the Lord spent 40 days "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." 

As we have noted in other studies, after having their understanding opened that they might understand the scriptures (Luke 24) and then teaching them for forty days about the kingdom (Acts 1) with that supernatural understanding, they had but one question.

“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

How often have we (dare I use the word?) blaspheme the enlightened and chosen vessels and Apostles of God by suggesting they misunderstood what the risen Christ had been teaching them for forty days. These men, each of whom is promised to sit on one of the twelve thrones judging one of the twelve tribes of Israel in that future kingdom.

What we are seeing at the start of the Acts is the promise of a land and a kingdom made to the Hebrews fathers. Promises about which the Lord came to confirm. Paul states this in the fifteenth chapter of Romans, a book written late in the Acts Age which is replete with references to the Law and the Prophets.

Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers.
-Romans 15:8 

Note that the Lord's earthly ministry was to "the circumcision" (Jews) for the expressed purpose of confirming the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). The Lord confirmed this in Matthew 15 when he tells the Canaanite (Gentile) woman that he was "sent to none but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" as the Son of David (their king). We've covered that encounter in other studies. For our purposes here, we note it as a parallel to Romans 15. Again, we see the Lord's earthly ministry crossing the boundary of Acts 2 all the way to the Book of Romans.

Romans teaches us why the Gentiles were grafted into Israel (not into "the church" as we know it). Gentiles were brought in, apart from the Law, for the purpose of making Israel jealous (Rom 19:19; 11:11). The grafting in is NOT salvation as these same Gentiles are told they could be "cut off" from the root as easily as they were grafted in. And the blessings of Gentiles, as noted in the two verses referenced from Romans 10 and 11, was prophesied. It was known.

Let's stay in the Book of Acts itself and see Paul's testimony late in that book in regard to the promises to Israel and the patriarchs.

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 
-Acts 26:6 
For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 
-Acts 28:20

Now that we have seen that the calling of the Acts Age was a witness to the promises made to the Hebrew Patriarchs and the hope of the restoration of the kingdom in Israel, we turn back to the Lord's response in Acts 1 to the question about the reestablishment of that kingdom.

And [the Lord] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 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 1:7-8

The twelve will be witnessing to Jew in the land and in the dispersion. Note Peter's and James' epistles. Peter addresses his to the dispersion (1 Pet 1:1) and James to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1).

This is the witness of the Book of Acts. Peter's words in Acts 3 will now make more sense to us. It is a long passage. For our sake here, I will edit down to the salient points so we can see the continuing Jewish nature of the Acts Age and the connection all the way back to Abraham in Genesis 12.

So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?... The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go... “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

There is is so much here. Ask yourself, can I can come preach this at your local church? This is Peter, post-Pentecost, referring his brethren, the men of Israel, back to their prophets and their promises and their patriarchs. They had a covenant and no one else. They had promises given to no one else. This is not simply the gospel of resurrection life, it is the promise of a restoration and times of refreshing.

Can I promise your congregation that if they repent God will send Jesus Christ and that times of refreshing will come and the restoration of all things? No! This is specific to Israel. And what do we make of the warning that those who reject Christ will be destroyed from among the people? What people? This is all Israel-centric. This message is a continuation of the "Gospel of the Kingdom" the Lord preached to Israel alone.

Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 
-Matthew 4:23

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
-Matthew 9:35

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
-Matthew 10:5-8

This "gospel" had nothing to do with the death of the Lord. That was not known until the Lord explained it to his disciples in Matthew 16 (and they rejected the idea). The suffering servant was in scripture, but not understood. And it was not proclaimed here or at any time in the gospel accounts. It was privately explained to the disciples who were told to tell no one. Is that for today?

What we see in Matthew is the proclamation that the King was here to fulfill the promises made to the fathers as Paul confirmed in Romans 15:8. We also note that the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13 must be understood in this light. We cannot have the sowing of the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ before it was understood.

We recall the Gentile woman in Matthew 15 again here. The Lord clearly states that, as King, as the Son of David, he was sent to NONE but to the lost sheep of the House of ISRAEL. These are his words, not mine.

Note all the miraculous deeds which accompany the pronouncement of the Kingdom. We refer you to the acts that will follow all believers in Mark 16. Do these acts follow you? Can I come and preach this at your local church? Is this how you understand "baptism?" Is your commission?

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
-Mark 16:15-18

Mark 16 sounds like the Book of Acts wherein we see all these things (but not after).

The Acts Age is post-crucifixion, so Peter in Acts 3 brings that in to show the guilt of his audience (Israel) and God's willingness to cleanse the nation. Peter refers to the "covenant God made with our fathers." The New Covenant was not yet active (Hebrews 8:13), it is conditional upon the repentance of Israel as a nation. God made no covenant with my "fathers." Peter is addressing unbelieving Israelites, so we cannot claim that Abraham becomes the father of all who believe to make it fit us. It does not fit.

The Tribulation will sift the wheat from the chaff (true, believing Israel from the false). The Levites will be cleansed. The King will return and the promised kingdom will be reestablished!

This is the setting of the Book of Acts. It is the third sowing of see from the first parable of the kingdom in Matthew 13. (See our study on that Parable)

Before we leave Peter in Acts 3, I want to note an extremely important detail. Peter explicitly states that what he is preaching is known to the Prophets. It was revealed to Israel in scripture. Specifically, Peter is speaking of that restoration promise: "the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." These were not hidden truths, only misunderstood.

We see here the promise of blessings for Gentiles through Israel to whom God must visit "first." Note this truth, reiterated in the Acts Age books of Romans and Galatians, "And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Gentile blessing was always known.

Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.” [2 Sam; Ps 18]
And again he says:
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” [Deut 32]
And again:
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!” [Ps 117]
 And again, Isaiah says:“There shall be a root of Jesse;And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” [Is 11]

Let's look at the Acts Age epistle of Galatians in this regard.

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham...  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
-Gal 3:7-9; 13

  • Not all Jews, but just believing Jews are sons of Abraham
  • Scripture revealed that God would bless Gentiles via Abraham

This is all connected to the promises of the land and the kingdom for what hope would Adam or Noah have? How could either become a "son of Abraham?" All of this was misunderstood until God brought understanding, but it was all known and revealed in scripture. It is truth made know "since the world began" (Acts 3).

But the blessing of Gentiles in that age would only come through Israel. We note in the Acts that it was Paul's practice, in any town where there were Jews, to go to the JEW FIRST. The gospel in Romans is said to be to the JEW FIRST. In fact, you will not see a gentile from Genesis 12 on who is not in contact with a Jew. Even mighty Nineveh is only know in scripture when a rebellious Jew by the name of Jonah visit her.

But in our age, Gentiles do not need to come through Israel. And Gentiles were never spoken to by the prophets (save Jonah who had no law to give). We have no hope of a land or an earthly kingdom. We have no hope of a being a kingdom of priests. This age was hidden from the Prophets.

So when did this current age begin? What are its characteristics? How does it differ from previous ages? When was it revealed? These are vastly important questions and if we find understanding, scripture will come alive like you've never known before.

As this study proposes that the Acts Age is a continuation of the Gospel Age, which is the culmination of the Age from Abraham (Genesis 12), we will see that the current age started at the end of the Acts Age.

Next time, will examine these questions concerning the current age.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fresh Look at The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

We have previously looked at the two trees in the Garden of Eden. In trying to work through a question some have raised (questioning God's character) in regard to why the Lord placed that tree there, I have never been sufficiently content with my answer.

I do believe there is merit in my answer which fits both God's character and the witness of scripture, but it always seemed like there is more to be understood. Thai is answer can be summed up this way: to have knowledge of good and evil is to be closely acquainted with good and evil.

We are familiar with the description of marital intimacy in scripture ("And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived" etc.). We can apply this to the tree and see the result of disobedience was an immediate intimacy with evil. But it would also have to be an intimacy with good.

So how do we wrap our brains around all this? The answer may be found in both the understanding of spiritual beings and in the Lord's own temptation in the desert.

First, let's step back and look at Satan's lie in the Garden:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [Elohim, the name of the creator God], knowing good and evil.

The promise was an exalted state making them equal with God. This was Satan's desire.

How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far north;
 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.’
 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the depths of the Pit.

-Isaiah 14:12-15

Satan's eventual end is eternal death. This would have been Adam's and Eve's fate (and ours) if not for the death, lack of decay, and glorious resurrection of Christ, the seed of the woman!

Their sin was disobedience and a desire for equality with God. Let's like at one who had equality with God and how he viewed his position:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
-Philippians 2:5-11

We now turn to the Lord's temptation in the desert (Matthew 4). The first temptation came in the form of food as it did with Eve (“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”). Now we turn to the final temptation.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

They we Satan's to give. But what did we just read in Philippians 2? Every knee will one day bow to Christ. The kingdom's Satan offered will eventually be Christ's. In between was the cross.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

-Revelation 11:5

Can we apply this principle to the knowledge of good and evil?

Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. ‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.
-Deuteronomy 1:38-39

Taking this principle back to the Garden, the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve were innocent. They were babes in regard to life and the things of the Lord. They could not fully comprehend the implications of rebellion and sin. They did not know of good and evil.

The prohibition against eating the fruit from that tree did not mean they would never have access to that tree, it just meant they were not to have it at that time. We have discussions which we deem "for mature audiences only," even in the Body. If we talk about marital intimacy, we do not do so in front of young children. They are not able to rightly discern good from evil.

This applies to many natural things. Why shouldn't a hungry child just take his sister's cookie? He doesn't understand. When he is old enough to understand that stealing is wrong, and willfully steals, he is acting recklessly. If he would only wait, he would get his own cookie.

The mature in faith are able to discern good and evil. Doctrines come in two forms: milk and solid food. The deeper doctrines of the faith and higher understanding can be dangerous to the immature and weak believer.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
-Hebrews 5:12-14 

Our understanding is "trained" by time and experience and testing and overcoming. This is reflected in the hard work in studying to show ourselves approved (2 Tim 2:15). Adam and Eve had no business eating the solid food of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

How many times have wee seen destruction and disillusionment when a young or immature believer takes a doctrine he has not tested and goes about battering others with it. Or he imposes it upon himself which can lead to either slavery or pride. How many have abandoned the faith because of confusion caused by "system" teachers and preachers who doled out contradictory or confusing doctrines because the "system" says so?

Our humble and obedient and patient Lord showed us the way.

The Lord was offered the kingdoms of the world by Satan which one day shall be his. He obeyed the will of the Father and waited. The Lord knows good and evil, yet he discerns them correctly. Adam and Eve became as God that day, in that they became acquainted will good and evil, but they had chosen evil. This is why they had to have access to the Tree of Life forbidden.

The knowledge of good and evil does not, in itself, make one evil.

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil... 
-Gen 3:22

Let's put these two thoughts together. The knowledge itself is not evil or wrong and it is also the distinguishing characteristic of the mature believer

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
-Hebrews 5:14 

Let us also note that wisdom and knowledge of both that which is good and that which is evil, it a characteristic of angelic beings.

As an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad... My lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth
-II Samuel 14:17, 20

Charles Welch notes:

 There is a tendency with most of us to read the words of Genesis 2 as though they emphasized evil, the passage reading: “the knowledge of good and evil”, or even “the knowledge of evil”. We must remember, however, that the tree represented both good as well as evil. “Good” out of place, and before its time, can be definitely harmful. Marriage, for example, is “honourable in all” but that which is most blessed within the limitation of the marriage bond, is itself a sin if entered into apart from those Divinely appointed limits. Again we observe that “good” and “evil” are not things in themselves, but terms which refer to the actions of particular people.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Greek Philosophy Blinding This Rabbi

In Rabbi Nachmani’s prediction, he provided an oblique Biblical reference to support his claim that the distant country would one day become a major threat. He warned that ‘She’ol’ would come to Israel. She’ol is Hebrew for Hell...  
North Korea was not always considered the rogue nation it is today and has never been considered an existential threat to Israel. So it was shocking when Rabbi Levi Sa’adia Nachamani, the most prominent kabbalist of the time, gave a speech in 1994, one month before he died, he surprisingly warned that of all the threats to Israel, North Korea posed the most danger.

“Not Syria, not Persia (Iran), and not Babylon (Iraq), and not Gaddafi (Libya),” the rabbi said, naming Israel’s greatest threats at the time. “Korea will arrive here.”
-Kim Jong Un Dissapears: Here’s how One Rabbi Connects it to ‘Opening Gates of Hell’ (Excerpt) 

We have covered the "gates of hell" previously, but only as it has been misused by Christians. It's quite shocking that an unbelieving Jew not familiar with the Lord's use (quote) in the gospels would invoke the phrase incorrectly. The "hell" of man's tradition is borrowed from Greek philosophy and religion, it is foreign to the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles. 

The rabbi should know from Isaiah that the "gates of hell [Sheol/Hades]" is a euphemism for death. Paul uses Hades in his epistles only once and it refers to deceased believers (1 Cor 15). His only other use refers to Christ in the Acts. From Isaiah 38:

This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick and had recovered from his 
I said,
“In the prime of my life
I shall go to the gates of Sheol;
I am deprived of the remainder of my years.”
Gates do not attack anything, they either hold in or keep out. Death holds in all, but in Christ, we rise again unto life. This is our hope. This is why the Lord's resurrection is the absolute pinnacle of God's Plan. It is the undoing of the curse on all men (death/decay). This is the context of both Paul's use of Hades and the Lord's quotation of Isaiah in Matthew. Peter's profession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," will conquer the gates of Hades. The gates cannot "prevail," they must give way to life. 

The Christians enemies are "in heavenly places." We quote the passage in Ephesians all the time, but do we believe it? 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness IN THE HEAVENS.
-Eph 6:12 

We are expressly told that Satan walks about us seeing whom he may devour (1 Pet 5). He also presents himself as an Angel of Light (2 Cor 11). The lie of Satan is "You shall not surely die." The lie is that we are immortal. This is also from Greek Philosophy (Plato). We are not immortal. God alone has immortality (1 Tim 6). We gain immortality only in resurrection (1 Cor 15).

The same Greek phrase ("in the heavens") is used of the hope of the Body in that same epistle. It is also used of where Christ sits. This is why there must be both a "new heavens" as well as a "new earth." But even in the heavenly places, Christ is far above all! 

"He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come." (Eph 1)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Michael's Podcast

I've taken to the airwaves (so to speak)!

Recent events across the globe in relation to COVID-19 have given me an opportunity to start a podcast. Still getting my sea legs, but we are cruising along!

I will still post studies here. The podcast will be a more free-form, less formal look at various topics from a Christian (Dispensational) perspective.





Friday, April 10, 2020

Where is Judas?

This will not be an extensive study on Judas. To be honest, I'm not sure of his eternal fate, but if I were pushed, I'd be on the side of arguing Judas has resurrection life.

I want to look at this issue by examining two opposite ends of the spectrum in Christendom: The Papacy and the (as far as I can tell, their About Us page doesn't have anything about them I can find) Reformed Anabaptist folks at Pulpit and Pen.

As is my practice, I will link the referenced article so you can read it for yourself. I do this as a courtesy, in the name of fairness, and because I try to treat others as I wish to be treated.

  • On the Papacy Side: Judas is in Heaven
  • On the Reformed Side: Judas is being tortured by God with fire "in his own place."

Anybody familiar with this blog knows what I believe about the pagan, blasphemous belief concerning God torturing people with fire. I'll post a sampling of links to related articles at the end of this brief post. So let me pull back the lens to quickly dispense with both arguments.

No one is in Heaven except God and very few believers have that as their hope. In fact, I am of the opinion that no one has actual "heaven" as his hope. We just covered this topic in a recent entry. We see in scripture those who inherit the Earth. We see those who have a Kingdom on Earth. We see those who will reside in the New Jerusalem, which does come down from heaven, but it settles on earth and sky. Finally, we see a small company who have blessings and hope in the "far above the heavens" or "in heavenly places."

As for Judas being in "his own place," let's look at that passage. It is found in Acts 1 connected to the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. The article relies heavily on commentaries. I am not opposed to quotations (I use them if something is worded well), but they are not authoritative. And many are tainted (as is Strong's concordance, which I use) by the traditions of men.

Here is an excerpt:

Acts 1:25 makes it clear…

That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 
Barnes Notes Commentary says, “The expression “to go to his own place” is one which is used by the ancient writers to denote “going to an eternal destiny.” Thus, the Jewish Tract, Baal Turim, on Numbers 24:25, says, “Balaam went to his own place, that is, to Gehenna,” to hell. Thus, the Targum, or Chaldee Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes 6:6, says,” Although the days of a man’s life were two thousand years, and he did not study the Law, and do justice, in the day of his death his soul shall descend to hell, to the one place where all sinners go.” Thus, Ignatius in the Epistle to the Magnesians says, “Because all things have an end, the two things death and life shall lie down together, and each one shall go to his own place.” The phrase his own place means the place or abode which was suited for him, which was his appropriate home.”

First, their reliance on extra-biblical texts for a ministry which seems to hold the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible as the "superior" and most reliable texts is odd. They defer to "Baal Turim" for Numbers 24:25? Jacob ben Asher? Really? And then defer to the Targum paraphrase for Eccl 6:6? Well, it makes sense if you realize we're talking about mystical and allegorical works as tradition's "hell" is pagan.

The KJV reads:

And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way. 
-Num 24:25

Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place? 
- Eccl 6:6

Yes, we do all go to "one place." ALL of us. We go to Sheol, Hades, Hell. That is, biblical "hell" (Hades), not Greek Mythology's "hell." It is a state of being rather than a place. In a nutshell, the dead are dead. All the dead.

What sayeth the Textus Receptus (Hebrew, right to left)?
 וַיָּ֣קָם בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ וַיָּ֣שָׁב לִמְקֹמֹ֑ו וְגַם־בָּלָ֖ק הָלַ֥ךְ לְדַרְכֹּֽו׃ פ -Number24:25
וְאִלּ֣וּ חָיָ֗ה אֶ֤לֶף שָׁנִים֙ פַּעֲמַ֔יִם וְטֹובָ֖ה לֹ֣א רָאָ֑ה הֲלֹ֛א אֶל־מָקֹ֥ום אֶחָ֖ד הַכֹּ֥ל הֹולֵֽךְ׃ - Eccl 6:6

I'll leave you to do your own translating. But I can tell you this, you will not find what is found in the corrupted versions quoted by Pulpit & Pen. I reference again their article.

Barnes Notes Commentary says, “The expression “to go to his own place” is one which is used by the ancient writers to denote “going to an eternal destiny.” 

Even if I accepted this as being accurate (in regard to eternal destiny), it's nonsense. We do not see resurrection yet. Until that day, all who die go to the grave. It is only in resurrection that we experience immortality (1 Cor 15:54). The dead go "to the same place" as we just saw in Ecclesiastes 6:6. And what do we do with the following verses?

So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there... And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.
-1 Samuel 5:11; 6:1-2

Note: I'm not breaking down the Hebrew here, I'm simply relying on the King James.
I would contend that Acts 1:25 does make something clear, but that something is not that God is torturing his friend. What it makes clear is that Matthias took his place among the twelve apostles. This was necessary as the Kingdom in Israel will have 12 thrones. That kingdom (its restoration) was still possible in the Book of Acts as the Lord taught his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection and after he opened their minds (Acts 1:6) and just as Peter preached to Israel after Pentecost (Acts 3:17-26).

Acts 1:25, is about Matthias not Judas. You have to understand the parenthetical.

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship (from which Judas by transgression fell), that he [Matthias] might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles." 

Matthias went to his own place among the Apostles just as the ark in 1 Samuel went to its own place in Jerusalem. Judas doesn't have "his own place." That makes no sense in the context. Judas fell from his place among the Apostles. Man puts him in tradition's "hell" and thus they mangle that verse.

The Apostles in Acts 1 are asking God to show them which of the two he has chosen so that the chosen one can take his rightful place.

Pausing to catch our breath... So, Judas is neither in heaven (as no one is except the Lord currently) and he is not in tradition's hell. So what is his fate?

Judas was chosen by the Lord. He performed miracles. He is called the Lord's "friend." Do we not believe that eternal life is a free gift by faith? Are we now to argue that Judas lost that gift by his works? 

The only legitimate argument for Judas not having life (we're ignoring the mythology of fiery torment) is that he never placed his faith in the Lord. But I don't know that. Christians are capable of horrible wickedness. So I don't know Judas' fate. Why men must have him being tortured is a reflection of our wicked, pagan, vengeful blood-lust. 

Why Are Some Christians Celebrating Passover and the Return of Sacrifices?

I love theology. If you've had the misfortune of happening across this blog, you know this. You also know I use the phrase "this is in pencil" when it comes to some issues (especially prophecy).

I follow a lot of ministries, I read a lot of theologians and I take NONE of the them at face value. NONE. I expect no one to take my writings at face value. As I have often said, there are 7.8 billion people in the world and that means there are 7.8 billion theologies in the world. We are all responsible for ONE. I hand that responsibility to no one else.

All that said, Christianity is, at its core, Christ. As much as I might disagree with some schools of theology, I can find fellowship if they embrace the core. I've read some of Calvin's commentary recently. I don't agree with a number of his interpretations BUT I rejoice when he exalts the finished work!

If there is anything I do write in indelible ink it is these two pillars of the faith:

  • It is Finished
  • He is Risen

As noted, I subscribe to a lot of ministry e-Newsletters and I follow a few prophecy YouTube channels. What shocks me is the odd obsession with reestablishing the sacrificial system in Israel and the building of the Third Temple. And these are Dispensationalists who know better.

Now, I know why I am looking for those things as they are signs that Israel is going to be back at the center of the Plan of God and that this current age is ending. However, I also realize that means terrible times for Israel. These are not good things on their face. The Messiah they look for will first come in the form of the Antichrist and he will deceive many (not all, thankfully).

Israel has its promises and its covenants. God will fulfill these for his chosen people. But that has precious little to do with us in this age.

But let me back up a second. Ignoring all that for a moment, simply in regard to the sacrifices and the Temple, let us return to Christianity 101.

  • It is Finished
  • He is Risen

There is a reason the Temple was destroyed after the Acts age, but we will leave that for another time. Today, I just want to point out that (especially as Gentiles) we have no business supporting animal sacrifice nor an earthly Temple.

Even Paul, writing to Hebrew believers in the Acts age, reminds us:

“Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Christianity 101. It is Finished.

Gentiles were strangers to the promises. Gentiles were separated by a middle wall of partition and the law and its ordinances. From Adam until now, the only hope of conquering the grave ("the gates of Hades") is:

  • It is Finished
  • He is Risen

The resurrection of the Lord is the great undoing of the curse. He did not decay in the grave and he overcame death itself. He did not turn to dust, he did not die for eternity (as is the penalty for sin).

The sacrificial system was but a shadow. It is specific to Israel. The Passover is forbidden for Gentiles. It is a commemoration of Israel's rescue from Egypt (a picture of their future covenant). We have no business celebrating the Passover.

I'd better stop. Suffice it to say, don't mess around in the shadows. Don't cheer the rejection of the sacrifice of Christ. Don't rejoice in those who teach it is incomplete and insufficient. Don't rob from another's hope. Don't practice another's earthly system which has nothing to do with us.

  • It is Finished
  • He is Risen

Christianity 101. Feel free to disagree me on any matter of theology, but let us cling to these two life-giving pillars.

Do not mind the things of the earth, the shadow over the reality. Follow your own calling, not the calling of another.

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." 
-Col 3:1-3

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Other Verses in 2 Chronicles 7

When dark days come (such as we are currently experiencing around the world in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic), Christians turn their lonely eyes to a promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Sounds good. But as we have hopefully learned by now, the vast majority of promises in scripture have nothing to do with those of us in the current age. Yes, we can learn about the Lord's character from the promises to others and we may even be able to glean principles. In this case, it is always wise to seek God and turn from wickedness, but the rest of verse has absolutely no application to us. More importantly, it contains no promise to us.

The verse omits (ignores) what has befallen the land and why. And what do we make of the "land?" The Body of Christ has no land nor any hope or promise of a land. Who has such a promise? Israel! And it is almost exclusively those Christians who claim to support Israel who regularly try to rob from her hope and promises.

Let's look at the immediate context of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;
-2 Chronicles 7:13

The people of Israel, in that land, when in blessing, when they are "[his] people," should they suffer a curse of drought or a plague of locusts, then they should follow the dictates of 2 Chronicles 7:14. We can even allow this to be representative of any curses resulting from Israel's sins if we want to be generous with the passage, but there is no room to cram in the Body.

Now let us look at the verse which follows 7:14.

Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place.
-2 Chronicles 7:15 

"In this place." What place? The temple! This entire passage involves the dedication of the Temple by Solomon. The passage is Israel-centric and Temple-centric.

Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive.
-2 Chronickes 6:21

Now let's look at some other promises of God hearing from heaven from the same prayer of Solomon. I could single out a number of these prayers, but here are just two.

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.

Here we have drought as we will in 7:14. Do we dare take "Your people Israel" for ourselves? Do we honestly believe the USA (or wherever a Christian happens to live) is the same as Israel, in her Temple, in her land? Is the USA our inheritance?

“When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You. Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place.

Pray to toward the land you gave their fathers? The city which God has chosen? Toward the Temple? What do we do with that? Soldiers captured by the Japanese or Germans in WWII should have prayed towards Washington DC and London? This long prayer is very specific. Yet we careless rip out one verse and apply it the USA (or Hungary or Russia or Vietnam or wherever Christians happen to live). What if a nation has only 10 Christians, yet it is as pagan and wicked as it can be. Do we believe if the 10 Christians follow 2 Chron 7:14 God is bound to bless the entire nation? This is pure carelessness .

Here is the lead-in to Chapter 7:

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place.

“Now therefore,
Arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength.
Let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
And let Your saints rejoice in goodness.

Can we say, "well, the church is now the living temple" and apply these things? No, it is still nonsensical. If we are the temple, how do we look toward it? To what land is it connected? And in this very prayer, Solomon states that God that temple could not contain God. It was symbolic, yet it was real. It had tied to it strict requirements for sacrifice. It contained the Ark of God. All of that is connected to Israel, HER covenant, and the land.

Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts... Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!

Grace is not a covenant. Israel's covenants (Old. New, Abraham's, David's) are connected to a land and a kingdom on this earthly. Our blessings are in the far above the heavens. We have no earthly hope.

Now let's move into Chapter 7. We've already looked at 7:13-15. Now consider 7:16-18

For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.’

This should end the folly of ripping verse 14 out of its context. But let us finish the chapter and hopefully we will turn from the wicked way of trying to rob from Israel and of forsaking our own calling and hope as revealed in the Book of Ephesians and Paul's post-Acts epistles.

“But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

The Body has no land, no earthly Temple, and we are already among the Gentiles because we are Gentiles.

“And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them.’ ”

God neither brought me nor my fathers out of the land of Egypt. As Gentiles we were, even as believers, without a hope in this earth. You cannot find a Gentile in scripture, since Abraham, who is blessed without a connection to Israel or a Jew. This holds true all the way through the Lord's earthly ministry and the Book of Acts.

Here we were until this age:

Therefore 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.

-Ephesians 2:11-13

Let us return to Solomon's prayer and find our place

“Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.

-2 Chronicles 6:32-33

First thing we note is that the foreigner (the non-Israelite) is singled out here. He has no place in 7:14. We are not Israel. We are not Jews. Secondly,. Solomon asks that their prayer be heard IF they pray in the Temple (in the court of the Gentiles as they were forbidden from elements of Israel's life).

In Leviticus, Gentiles (foreigners) were able to bring a sacrifice. They could participate in certain aspects of Israel's life (note the Old Covenant was about a nation of priests, not about resurrection life which has always been a gift by grace through faith from the beginning).  But they were forbidden to participate in the Passover.

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.
-Exodus 12:48 

 We could explore this topic almost endlessly. There are scores of conditional blessings and cursings throughout God's dealings with Israel. Why men choose to isolate this one verse and claim it for themselves, in the age, ironically, puts them in danger of being ashamed at their judgment. For to try to claim 2 Chron 7:14, one must fail to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth. And doing so will result in shame (2 Tim 2:15).

A few related studies:

Prayer in the Present Age
Who is a Jew?
The Present Age - Part 1
The Present Age - Part 2
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Walking in the Spirit - Part 1
Race, Ethnicity, The Traditions of Men, and Lent
Settling for Less - The Warnings of Colossians 2

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Fresh Look at "Come Thou Fount"

Doctrine Doctrine Doctrine

This is another in our occasional look at music and doctrine. We've noted that the three most important elements in music claiming to be Christian is whether the singer is wearing a tie... no, wait... that's rather carnal thinking... the three most important elements are:

  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine
  • Doctrine

Music should never be the primary or only source for teaching in our gatherings, but it can be a great source of encouragement and it should strengthen (complement) sound doctrine. With that in mind, this time around we will examine, in part, the beloved hymn "Come Thou Fount."

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

What could be wrong with that? Well, I'm not condemning it in toto, but I think we can do better in terms of doctrinal accuracy. And that is our goal, is it not?

First, we have to acknowledge that some of the "beloved hymns" we know today are not "as written." We will not examine that fact in this study except to say, parts have been dropped from the originals over the decades. That is true of "Come Thou Fount." For now, however, we will simply turn back to the verse in view as we have it today.

Flaming Tongues Above?

The idea captured by "Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above" is a bit of a poser to me. The only "flaming tongues above" with which I am familiar in scripture would be at the Jewish feast of Pentecost in Acts 2. What that has to to do with us (nothing, we're not Jews) has been covered in other studies, but even so, why would the tongues be singing?

I have searched my King James Bible and I do not find the phrase "flaming tongues above." What I do find is this from Acts 2:3.

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

The "them" in the passage would be the chosen apostles of Christ (v.14). The "cloven tongues" are merely "like a fire." It's a simile.  Seems to me the hymn takes great liberties with this one-time, person-specific, time-limited event

Let's take a look at a revision of this verse by Charles Welch:

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Suited to Thy matchless love;
Sovereign grace - I'm fixed upon it,
Grace that nothing can remove.
[Hymns of Praise. Charles H. Welch, Editor, 1957]

I think this is both far better in terms of thought and biblical, doctrinal content.

Gentiles Were Never in the Fold

We return to the common text of the hymn:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God

As Gentiles, we were certainly "strangers" (Ephesians), but we never "wander[ed] from the fold of God." That's fairly close to heretical. I'd say it's very heretical, but given a wide berth perhaps we can find some degree of application. But giving wide berth also gives wide berth to heresy.

Now let's turn to the revision:

Christ did seek me when a stranger,
Without hope, or peace, or God

[Hymns of Praise. Charles H. Welch, Editor, 1957]

Let's not lose site of the change from "Jesus" to "Christ." As Gentiles, we need to be very careful here. There is an air of familiarity and a danger in focusing on the earthly ministry of Christ in the name "Jesus" used alone. Sticking with just Ephesians for a moment (we are going to look a selection from that epistle), the word "Jesus" is used 20 times (KJV) by Paul, yet never alone. He is called "Christ" alone (Eph 2:12), but not "Jesus" alone.

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

Moving to the next line in the hymn, we remember that, as Gentiles, we were without hope, peace, or God. No fold from which to wander. The new rendering is more scriptural and more accurately reflects what we have gained by Christ's work in the current age.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye 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 ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us...
Ephesians 2:11-14

You Can't leave God, You're Already Sealed

Now we turn to one of the most beloved sections of the hymn and examine the thoughts and doctrines being addressed.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

What could be wrong with that? Well, I don't know about you, but I believe I am sealed by God already. And I don't believe I could leave God if I tried. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Yes, we may see this verse from a practical viewpoint, but isn't that one of the complaints against contemporary Christian music? That it tends to be subjective and inwardly focused?

 And now the revision:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Yet I’ll never fall away;
By Thy Spirit, Thou did’st seal it,
Seal my heart for that bright day.
[Hymns of Praise. Charles H. Welch, Editor, 1957] 

We again stay in Ephesians for these glorious truths (doctrines):

in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory... 
-Ephesians 1:13-14

We can wander in the flesh. We can sin. We can fail to run the race. And as we have looked at a number of times, there is judgment coming for Christian service and faithfulness. But even though we may grieve the Spirit, we are forever sealed unto resurrection life. I cannot leave him, and I'll never fall away! Even when we grieve him, we remain sealed!

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 
-Ephesians 4:30

The "beloved hymn," as commonly sung, casts doubt on our position in Christ, even if only subtly so.

We Must Use Biblical Standards

Finally, I turn to a couple of  "hymn-only" proponents (as we have in previous studies) and apply their concerns to our hymn in question.

No one should deny the power of music to proselytize! Pastors in particular must defend their flocks from false teaching, heresies and ‘ear ticklers’ who bring worldly sensuality into the congregation; you are right to point out how easily this comes into a church through worship music. It seems wiser to decline the use of what seems to be a perfectly good song, rather than to give any honor and hint of endorsement to the composer and his/her mission”
Dan Lucarini, author of Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement: Confessions of a Former Worship Leader

The emphasis is mine. In the video at the end of this entry, you will see some emotional proselytizing going on by some pretty serious heretics using the "beloved hymns of the faith" (including "Come Thou Fount"). We also noted the subtle (and not so subtle) heresies in "Come Thou Fount" in this study. "Worldly sensuality" is catch-all and can mean whatever they want. They never seem to define it. Beware such subjective arguments without scriptural backing.

"Endorsement of the composer?" Might want to check how many hymns are based on music written by Roman Catholics. Is that really a concern? I have no idea who wrote most of the hymns, but that doesn't stop me from judging DOCTRINE.

Another critic of contemporary music is David Cloud (Way of Life Literature). I want to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Some of his concerns are valid. However, his approach is often not doctrinal, but personal. And he's stuck on the horrible pagan doctrine of "fiery torture by God" and can't see past his own lust for vengeance. I admit that's a personal judgment, but feel free to read his own words. 

Fifteen times in the New Testament, Hell is described in terms of fire. “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44,46,48). Hell is described as “fire” (Mt. 5:22; 18:9), “everlasting fire” (Mt. 18:8; 25:41), “fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17), “this flame” (Lk. 16:24)

So, this is good place to link a study or two on this topic. Honestly, when I read statements like the one above (feel free to read his entire article, I don't want to be accused of cherry-picking), it comes off as so biblically deficient, I can only speculate that he so wants people tortured by God (the vast amount of humanity, by the way) that he won't take five minutes to examine the verses he chooses in context. He seems to relish the thought. 

Traditions that Interfere With True Understanding 
Another Look at Gehenna "Hell" 
The Horrible Doctrine of Man's Traditional "Hell" 
Lake of Fire and Torment? 
Animals are Souls and You are Not Immortal

Ironically, in his post, Mr. Cloud attacks the modern Papal doctrines on hell while not realizing his own position is one championed by traditional Catholicism and by scores of Popes and Catechisms. The doctrines of the "immortal soul" and "fiery torture by God" are Greek paganism adopted into corrupt Christendom. The early Reformers fought these ideas. Unfortunately, men like David Cloud side with Thomas More and the Popes in their interpretation rather than with men like Tyndale (or more to the point, Paul).

Finally, below is the video I promised. It features some the most "beloved hymns" sung some of the worst heretics (Some of whom love the KJV too). The hymns don't seem to be doing them any good either doctrinally or in personal conduct. Should I employ the innuendo and logical fallacies often used against those who use contemporary music and blame the hymns for their heresy and sin? After all, "Come Thou Fount" as found in most hymnals today is more aligned with Catholicism's or Mormonism's view of salvation than that of Biblical Christianity.

In the montage, the traditional "Come Thou Fount" is sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Hymns for Heretics

Amzing Grace (Tammy Faye Bakker)
A Closer Walk With Thee (Jimmy Swaggart)
Are You Washed in the Blood (7th Day Adventists)
The Old Rugged Cross (Benny Hinn)
Come Thou Fount (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
How Great Thou Art (Kenneth Copeland)
Rock of Ages (Jehovah's Witnesses)
Amazing Grace (Emmanuel Catholic Church)
The Sweet By and By (Earnest Angely Ministries)

Irony Alert: one of the comments under the original 7th Day Adventist video pointed to how the old hymns contained more doctrine than the contemporary songs... apparently it's not helping.