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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. ...

Monday, February 27, 2023

Michael and Gabriel: The Two Witnesses of the Revelation?

There are a number of theories as to whom will fulfill the prophecy of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. One theory puts forth the angels Michael and Gabriel. Let's take a quick look at this possibility. 

Michael is associated with Israel in both the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come (Daniel 10:14)

At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. (Daniel 12:1)

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

I believe what we see in the prophecy of Daniel connects Michael to the time of the tribulation ("a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then") and Israel ("your people").  

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

-Revelation 11:1-8

The two witnesses are given power and given protection as they are given a ministry connected to the Temple and Altar (Rev 11:1-3). They are called "lampstands" (Rev 11:4). The conditions are said to mirror Sodom and Egypt (Rev 11:8).  In Sodom. angels took on bodies and were the target of Sodomites. They had to seek shelter. So, it would seem if angels take on a body, they can "die."

While dead, Israel mourns them as the world rejoices. They are resurrected and then taken into heaven. 

Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God [spirit] entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

-Revelation 11:11-13

Obviously this is conjecture based on the possibility, but I think there is at least room to consider Michael (or angels) as the witnesses. Unless, I'm not considering something, it seems worthy of consideration. Michael and Daniel both being prominent in Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks and the time of Jacob's trouble (tribulation) along with Michael's appearance in the warning epistle of Jude in the Acts Age. There, Michael is seen as rebuking Satan in the name of the Lord. The context being Moses.

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

-Jude 1:9


A closer look at the lampstands should be undertaken as well. Angels being connected to the tribulation churches. The word angels can have a broader meaning, but we note it nonetheless.  Staying  in the Revelation:

The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20)

The olive tree imagery, as I see it, also points to Israel. Hosea 14 speaks of God restoring  Israel as he did Hosea's adulterous wife. Israel will become "Ammi" (My people) again. I won't quote the whole chapter, but it's good reading. 

Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of Israel when he will take their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26). And they will again be his people. Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8, Zechariah 8, Zechariah 12, etc.

Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:28)

His beauty shall be like an olive tree (Hosea 14:6b)

So, Michael and Gabriel could be considered here. Gabriel also appears in Daniel chapter 8 connected to the end times vision (which then connects to the Revelation and the gospels). Gabriel appears in Luke as well. This is what he prophecies to Mary, in part:

He [Jesus] will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

This is connected to the Revelation and the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel and establishing of David's throne.

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. (Revelation 22:16)

The Son of David is connected to Israel and Gentiles have no claim to this title. The ministry of angels is also connected to Israel in many ways (especially Michael and Gabriel).

And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!... But He answered her not a word... But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...”  Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”  But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s [Israel's] bread and throw it to the little dogs [Gentiles].”

Her request was granted when she acknowledged him only as Lord and took her place as a little dog below the children (the master). Her daughter was healed from a distance )as was the gentile Centurion's servant in Matthew 8).

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

When a child of Abraham call on him the same way, the Lord responds quite differently. 

And when he [the blind beggar] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?

Michael and Gabriel (as the angels in general) have a special ministry to Israel. Might they be called upon to be the witnesses to that nation in her time of great distress? It's worth considering. 

The primary candidates put forward (for a number of reasonable and scriptural reasons) are Elijah, Enoch, and Moses. As with much of the prophecies concerning the last days and the time of Israel's testing, we stay in the arena of speculation trusting that God will do what is right and the remnant of Israel will recognize the witnesses sent to her.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Slander Against the Children of Israel

I would like to preface this post by saying that I have no idea who, today, is a physical Jew and who is not. The Lord knows, however. I would also note that in the current age, it doesn't matter in terms of blessings and hopes (as it will again in the age to come).

I was prompted to summarize this topic (as we have previously looked at the details of the place of the Gentile during the Lord's earthly ministry and in the Books of the Acts age) because of certain slanderous posts on social media regarding supposed quotes in the Talmud. In short, the supposed quotes are purposely bad translations or they're completely fabricated. The hope of those posting the gross misrepresentations is that the reader will not seek out the quotes for himself.

I will not post all the examples of the libelous images. I will offer instead, for context, one of the more benign examples. 

 Those posting these things assert that the following is from the Talmud:

"Even the best of Goyim should all be killed."

Here is the quote as it reads in the English Talmud (1965): 

"Kill the best of the heathen in time of war." 

That's quite different than what is contained in the supposed quote. Clearly there is an attempt here to cast Jews, et al, as evil cultists.

Scripture places the Gentile living among Israel in a lower state (Lev 23, repeated in Acts 15 and Act 21). All through the Acts age, the Jew is first and superior in kingdom position to the Gentile (this is no longer the case). Paul wrote it is the duty of Gentile believers to support Jewish believers financially in the Book of Romans. 

For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jews] spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
-Romans 15:26-27

Paul warns Gentile believers in Romans 11 not to become "haughty" against the "root (Israel)" lest they be "cut of" from the blessings. This warning is for Gentile believers only. We've covered elsewhere.

The Lord himself calls Israel his "children" and that he was sent to them alone. In that same passage, Gentiles are compared to "little dogs" by the Lord who must take the scraps that fall from the "children's" table. 

But he answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 
-Matthew 15:24-27

The Lord forbids the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached to Gentiles (Matt 10, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles..."). The twelve Apostles went to Jews only (save Peter once). The risen Lord taught the enlightened apostles for 40 days concerning the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel (Luke 24; Acts 1) as we looked at many times. At Pentecost, Jews only present. Peter's offer of the return of Christ to restore the Kingdom was to Jews only (Acts 3). Etc.

Do we accuse the Lord of being anti-Gentile? Well, in a way, he was. Do we accuse the enlightened apostles of the same? They understood the purpose of the grafting in of Gentiles and came to understand the equality in the free gift of life. But in the matters concerning the Kingdom plan for the land, both the Lord and the Apostles understood the meaning, "to the Jew first." 

And Paul reminds us in Romans 9:1-5

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Readers of this blog will understand that these promises concern the promised land and the earthly kingdom. These are related to a hope given "since" or "from" the foundation of the ages. The hope of the present age were hidden from "before" the foundation of the ages. We do not recognize a difference between Jew and Gentile in this age, but that distinction will be relevant when the Kingdom comes back into view. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Foolishness of the Positive Profession

We want to be careful here. We do not question the Lord's ability or even willingness to bless His own. But if the Lord chooses to bless us, it is done according to His will and for his purposes. Our apostle lays down our expectation and hope in prayer in one of the epistles for this age.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
-Philippians 4:6-7

The idea here is leaving things with the Lord, come what may. We are not Israel. We have no promises of a quid pro quo based on a level of obedience. Israel's hope was tied to the earth. Surely, individual Israelites experienced spiritual blessings as a result of their faith and obedience, but under that economy, a physical blessing was usually displayed. Job, David, Abraham all enjoyed earthly blessings as well as spiritual blessings.

In Isaiah 42, the prophet to the people of Israel expresses a dual effect of Israel's sin. The nation was looted and plundered (42:22) by a visible enemy, but also by the Lord who used a sinful nation to punish Israel.

Who handed Jacob over to become loot,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the Lord,
against whom we have sinned?
For they would not follow his ways;
they did not obey his law.
 So he poured out on them his burning anger,
the violence of war.
It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand;
it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

-Isaiah 42:24-25

For those who may be prone to be moved to despair that physical blessings do not flow as freely in this age, be comforted that quick chastisement from the Lord is also slower to rise. Surely, the Lord still chastises his own. He has done this from the Garden. He does this for our long-term good. His chastisement (or even his invasion into our earthly plans) is for our good despite the pain that may come with it. 

We must start to build our understanding of God's working in our lives, no matter the age, on the sure foundation of this statement from Job.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.

-Job 1:21

 Job has submitted himself to God' will. Job suffered the loss of everything, even his own children, and he was not sure why. He had committed no grave sin in the eyes of the Lord. He becomes the focus of Satan's wrath for this very reason. The Lord offers Job as a great example of faith and fidelity.

And Job not only lost his goods and his children (a fate I cannot imagine), he was saddled with a thorn in his flesh in the person of his wife. His friends come along and their explanations fall short of an understanding of God's ultimate and permissive sovereignty. Job himself, in his defense before the Lord, fails (at first) to see the Lord's sovereignty.

One of the greatest lessons from the Book of Job is that the Lord never tells Job (in the text) what was happening in the spiritual realm. The Lord's response to Job's questioning is to layout the wonders of His creation. He poses this question to Job as an opening:

‘Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge?’

We have limited knowledge as to the plans and purposes of God in our individual life. We do know that he wants us to seek him, to study his word, to cleanse our ways, to rightly divide the Word of Truth, etc. As we trek stubbornly through this life, in His love, He often has to bring unpleasant events into our lives.

For those who teach that a "positive confession" puts the Lord in their debt to respond positively to their wills, despite such a thing possibly being to the detriment of the believer, I ask that they step back. The Lord has answered the prayers of His people only for such "blessings" to result in misery.

The Lord gave Israel the King they desired in Saul, yet his reign was a terrible time for the nation. The Lord blessed Israel when the entered the land, only to have them defeated because of Achan's greed. The Lord provided a victory, Achan "coveted." Many lost their lives. 

So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the[d] hearts of the people melted and became like water.

-Joshua 7:4-5


“Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”

-Joshua 7:21-22

Let's us change gears and look at "confessions" concerning ourselves. Those who have confessed Christ, and believe God has raised him from the dead, these have the power to be called the children of God.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
-John 1:12

if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be delivered
-Romans 10:9

When the Lord shows himself risen to Thomas, he announces a blessing to those who trust in Him and believe in the resurrection.

“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed [in the resurrection]. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

-John 20:29-31

So, it is proper and good to rejoice in the fact that we can have life in His name. It is a wonderful thought that we are "translated into the kingdom of His Dear Son."  But such blessings have nothing to do with us. Our future resurrection and our current place in His kingdom are all of him. We are but wretched sinners delivered from the curse of death and decay by the grace of God.

Those who chastise us for referring to ourselves as wretched sinners, need to look to the apostle Paul. We do not use such a confession to signal how wonderful we are for admitting the obvious, we confess this truth to bring glory to God and to exalt the work of Christ and His resurrection..  

Note how Paul's "confession" moves. All of these verses are from later in the great apostle's ministry.

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 
-1 Corinthians 15:9 (Approx AD 58)

Paul notes that he is unworthy of being called an apostle. He places himself as the least among that august group. This is no "woe is me" or "look how humble I am" moment, this is the inspired apostle of God rightfully acknowledging God's grace. But Paul does not stop there.

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ... 
-Ephesians 3:8 (Approx AD 62-63)

Paul's first Post-Acts epistle which speaks of "unsearchable riches of Christ" in the far above the heavens has the apostle taking an even lower place than his previous declaration. He now places himself as the the least of all the saints. This man, who was alone given the revelation of the current age, understands how unworthy he is. And that understanding of his own unworthiness again brings glory to God and exalts God's grace.

Imagine Paul declaring he has a "spark of deity" and screaming that is "a child of the King!" and thus expecting riches and glory and accolades from the world. I believe Paul would be horrified by the thought. 

And finally, Paul places himself as the chief of sinners.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 
-1 Timothy 1:15 (Approx AD 64)

This is Paul's confession. He is least of the Apostles, less than the least of all the saints (believers), and the chief of sinners. Job was also a believer when he confessed:

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
Behold, I am vile;
What shall I answer You?
I lay my hand over my mouth.

-Job 40:3-4

Perhaps it would do us good to remind ourselves how vile our sin truly is. Our arrogance. Our pride. Our self-exaltation. And when we take our place as the chief of sinners, we are saddled with the flesh which wants to celebrate how humble we are. The carnal nature is surely wicked and vile, and the grace of God is surely beyond comprehension.

In the Acts age, as they anticipated the coming Tribulation, they didn’t demand of God wealth and comfort. They merely trusted in his promises in an age to come. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

-Romans 8:35-37

What a foolish notion it is that these bodies of death can offer anything in light of the glorious resurrection of our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. All we can offer is faith and we can only do that because of his grace and love. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Disparaging the Chosen Apostles of Christ

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

-Acts 1:6 

I have come across yet another site accusing the enlightened Apostles (Luke 24:44-45) of being less informed than its 21st Century staff.

 "Jesus has spent forty days since being raised from the dead giving the disciples information on the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Now, He is about to ascend into heaven so the Holy Spirit can come (John 16:7). The disciples are still confused." -BibleRef . com

Yeah, the Apostles are the ones who are confused. This is terribly arrogant.

 "He opened their [the apostles'] understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures."

-Luke 24:45 

In Acts 1:6, they understand after 40 days of being taught by the risen Lord the things concerning the Kingdom, that the Kingdom would be restored "to Israel." Their only question is in regard to the timing of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, and the Lord does not correct them. Forty days... being taught about the Kingdom... by the risen Lord... with their understanding of scripture opened.

But, again, somehow we know better. Again, this is modern arrogance

And these same ministries will try to tell us that the "second and third century" Christians and the "early church fathers" understand scripture better than we can because they're closer to the Lord's time. So, I'm supposed to submit my mind and theology to some 3rd century theologian (or 13th Century in the case of Aquinas), but I'm free to correct the doctrines of the chosen Apostles? In fact, from what these sites propose, they're all pretty much incompetent and ignorant for most of the Book of Acts. 

Do we dare do the same with Paul?

Paul's epistles (in the Acts and after) are essentially for the purpose of correcting error among believers. And in his last epistle, he notes that all in Asia had abandoned him. Yet somehow ALL errors were gone by the third century? 

This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

This is the Demas of whom Paul wrote not too long before he penned 2 Timothy:

For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. [Colossians]

All is Asia had abandoned Paul. His trusted friend, Demas, had forsaken him. This is all during the lifetime of the great Apostle. Paul was surrounded by departures from the faith, most notably late in his Apostleship. 

having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

First century, contemporary with the Apostles, former students of Paul, who spreading false doctrines "like cancer." Yet we today feel free to insult the chosen apostles of Christ as they exalt men who wrote years later. 

  • Men, for the record, who contradicted each other on a number of doctrines. 
  • Men who were not the chosen Apostles of Christ. 
  • Men about whom we are never told "had their understanding opened" by the risen Lord. 
  • Men who were not taught for 40 days by the Lord himself concerning the things of the Kingdom. Men who were not promised to sit on thrones (12) judging the 12 tribes of Israel. 

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes OF ISRAEL.

They make the Lord out to be a deceiver.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.


We answer to Him alone. We can read the ECF, but they have no authority over us.

Sola Scriptura.

Friday, January 20, 2023

A Carpenter? From Galilee!? The Lord Didn't Have a Degree

This is an apocryphal scene from the 1977 TV miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth." One line has stuck in my head for decades and I finally bothered to track it down. It's an off-screen remark when Nicodemus suggests that the Lord Jesus could very well be the promised Messiah of Israel.

“With respect to those more learned than I, there is one possibility that is seems no one here is ready to consider.”

“What is it?”

“The possibility that Jesus of Nazareth may be, in fact, the Messiah awaited by our people.”
"A carpenter? From Galilee!?"

It is roughly derived from an encounter the Lord had in John 7. The people marveled that the Lord could speak with such authority having had no formal education. The people had been taught to think this way by the educated class. This reveals much of what is in the heart of religionists and their oft unwillingness to move from a position they were taught in this age. They were taught by “learned” men and they have no authority to diverge from “accepted” dogma. Then they turn upon their flocks and inflict this same standard upon them. There is an irony in there that I hope is not lost on the reader.

Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. Then the Judean leaders were amazed, saying, “How does this man know so much, having never been taught?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

-John 7:14-16

This requirement that one have formal teaching is evident everywhere today in the modern church. We submit will and intellect to "experts" and "scholars" and "catechisms" and "councils" and "church fathers" and "pastors," etc. Men with "letters." Men with titles. May it not be said of the true workman.

Study to shew yourself approved unto God [alone], a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -2 Tim 2:15

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were accuse of having no education as well, but they had something better, the holy spirit and knowledge of the Lord.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were UNEDUCATED and UNTRAINED men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 

-Acts 4:8-13 

But seeing the boldness of Peter and John, and perceiving that they were unlettered and uninstructed men, they wondered; and they recognized them that they were with Jesus. 
-Acts 4:13 (Darby Translation)

It should not be lost on us that many who hold "letters" (degrees) disagree rather vociferously with each other. There are many schools of thought in theology. There are not only competing theologies, there are completely contradictory theologies, all taught by teachers with "letters."

The most well-known rift in what we understand as Christendom, came as the result of very educated men (Wycliff, Tyndale, Hus, Luther, Zwingli, etc.) who held even advanced degrees in the common faith of the day, denouncing their own education for the greater truths revealed by scripture alone.

"The layman, armed with scripture, is greater than the mightiest pope without it." 

-Dr. Martin Luther 

“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.”

-William Tyndale

  • James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea 
  • Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus 
  • Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Is the End "At Hand" or Not?

 The phrase "at hand" is used 16 times in the New King James Version of the New Testament. Let's take a quick look at its uses in regard to time:

  • [John the Baptist] “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)
  • From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
  • And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10:7)
  • And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” (Matthew 26:18)
  • Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Matthew 26:45)
  • Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:46)
  • “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
  • Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:42)
  • Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)
  • Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. (John 7:2)
  • The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)
  • You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)
  • But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)
  • And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. (Rev 22:10)

The 14 verses above clearly have the meaning "very close by" in regard to time. The Greek word used is "engízō" and essentially means "near." It is used some 42 times in the Greek Received Text. It is not always translated "at hand." This Greek word is used 17 times in Luke and is translated "near" or "nigh" [KJV] 16 times and "approacheth" once. 

Our word is used 6 times in the Acts and is translated "near" or "nigh" all 6 times. Likewise, all the uses in James (3) and Hebrews (2) are translated as "near" or "nigh" or "approaching" [KJV]. Let us just quote Hebrews 10 for now:

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

-Hebrews 10:25

There is one difference I need to note with the English and Greek. In 2 Tim 4:6, Paul's tells us his departure is "at hand." That will become relevant as we progress, but I should note that Greek word used is "ephístēmi" and means "at present." Different word, similar connotation.

Now let's compare the above verses with Paul's only use of  the idea in his Post Acts epistles.

  • Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil 4:5)
  • For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. (2 Tim 4:6)

We must stop and notice that Paul expecting his death to come "presently" is hardly an anticipation of the coming of the Lord or of the Kingdom. He is also not expecting the events of the Tribulation. In Philippians, "the Lord" is said to be nigh, not His coming. We have studied elsewhere the difference between the Lord's "Parousia" and his "Epiphenea." That is, there is a different expectation between the Lord coming back to live among men in the Kingdom (his physical presence) and his sudden appearing.

Paul never speaks to us in this age of the Lord's "Parousia" (physical presence). That is, the idea is abset from is seven Post Acts epistles. In previous ages and in the age to come, they looked and will look for his physical return in the clouds, to the land. We look for his appearing. These are different things. This is not the "rapture" spoken of in Thessalonians as they were also looking for his "Parousia." The coming in the clouds there to meet believers is his coming in the clouds back to the earth to set up the Kingdom in Israel. 

This is an earthly hope. The hope of this age is in the "far above the heavens." 

We cannot say "at hand" or "near" or "approaching" or "at present" can mean "any time in the future." It means what it says. The subject or event is close by. It has not yet come, but to those to who the words are spoken, these things are close at hand.

The verses quoted above state: 

  • The Kingdom was close at hand.
  • The Lord's betrayal was close at hand.
  • The return of the Lord was close at hand. 

But the Lord's return was conditional. Peter said Israel had to repent nationally first (Acts 3). None of those can mean "any time over the next two thousand years." 

Literalism is the only way to interpret scripture. But we must take the words in their contexts. The Kingdom was literally "at hand," but that condition and promise is not a generic or symbolic truth for all men of all ages. Again, if that's how we want to read "at hand" or "approaching" or "near," then the idea becomes meaningless. Not everything in scripture is directed TO us while all is FOR us.

If people think every word in scripture is to them, they are free to read it that way. But, inevitably, they'll end up spiritualizing and explaining away almost everything, and disobeying most of it, but that's their right. "At hand" will lose its meaning. Events will become symbolic. And the very Word they claimed all for themselves will no longer mean what it says. Ironic.

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