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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. ...

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Revelation - Part 4 - The Seven Stars and The Seven Lampstands

The First and the Last

On our whirlwind tour, we come to the end of Chapter 1. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great God and Savior, sets the stage for the rest of the prophecy.

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks [lampstands]. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Rev 1:18-20 (KJV)

I purposely chose the King James Version here as I will be addressing a popular teaching among classic dispensationalists based on its wording. Before that, Let's just pause and fall at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not quoted the entire first chapter, but the Lord Jesus clearly lays out his deity. He is the God of scripture. As Revelation parallels Genesis in many ways, we are reminded that the creator God, the God who is the friend of Abraham, the God who created, destroyed, and created again is here in the Revelation, the culmination of ages.

We saw in our study "Christ Above All" that the Lord Jesus is the great "aleph-tav" of Genesis 1:1. he is the "Alpha and Omega" of Rev 1:8. He is the mighty Creator God (despite what the creeds state). He is "the first and the last," the one who declares things to come (Prophecy). This is how he addresses John from the start. We look back on this distinguishing characteristic of the God of the Christian Bible: prophecy and its accuracy.

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

Who is like me? Let him proclaim it,
let him declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be.
-Isaiah 44:6-7 
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
-Rev 1:17-18

The Mysteries of Scripture

In our opening passage, we have the word "mystery." There are a number of "mysteries" in scripture. The word is used in the Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13. It is used of Christ himself. We hear of the Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Iniquity. We shall see Mystery Babylon and the Mystery of the woman here in the Revelation. And, of course, we have the current age which my readers will recognize as the Dispensation of the Mystery (Eph 3).

God has used visions, figurative language, and imagery at times, for his purposes. In the parables of Matthew, the Lord expressly tells us his use of parables is to hide the truth. When we examine the prophets, those prophesying directly to Judah or Israel as kingdoms are more direct than the prophets of the captivity and after. Daniel. Ezekiel, Zechariah (filled heavily with visions and imagery) are written to Israel in captivity and in post-exile Palestine.

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. -2 Chron 36:15-16
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the mysteries/secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." -Matt 13:10-13 (NIV)

It seems as though God, who had cursed the line of Jeconiah (Jer 22:30), tired of Israel's rejections of his prophets and began to speak in imagery. This is how the Lord dealt with unbelief in Israel in Matthew 12. He left the house, and began to speak in parables as a judgment.

John prophesies in this way in the Revelation. His prophecy is very much like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah and those books are essential in understanding John's vision. Remember, as with the parables, hidden meanings are meant to be a judgment on unbelief, but the faithful and diligent can understand the truth. When the days come in which this prophecy is being fulfilled, the faithful (the "OVERCOMERS") will understand as the rebellious will not.

The mysteries of scripture aren't some sort of mystical truth requiring a wizard to discern. The better word is "secrets" (as used in the NIV quoted above). In the case of the current age of the "one new man," it was a secret "hid in God" until he chose to reveal it through Paul.

To me [Paul], though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the [dispensation] of the mystery hidden from the beginning of the ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. -Eph 3:8-10

The current age was not known. It was not puzzling, until revealed. It was a truth God withheld. Now, after is was revealed, for those who do not seek to examine differences or to find God's specific message to them, it may remain that way, but it is not "mysterious."

Mystery of the Stars and Lampstands

Here in Revelation 1, in the final verse, we have a Mystery which the Lord reveals to us.

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.

We will encounter lamps and stars in this book. We will have to carefully examine each usage. As we come to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3, we know they connected to seven angels or messengers. We also want to note the use of "seven" as it is prominent in this book. Not only the word itself, but when we count certain words, we find sevens. We will try to note these as we progress.

Stars refer to a number of things in scripture. It can refer to actual lights in the sky. It may refer to Israel and the children of Abraham in general. Joseph saw the stars in his vision as meaning the patriarchs of the twelve tribes. And, as we have seen, stars may refer to angelic beings.

The Lord leaves us no doubt here in Revelation 1.

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

The seven "churches" are Jewish in nature as we will see. I want to revisit a comment I made earlier in regard to the King James Version concerning our passage. Classic Dispensationalism (which correctly makes a distinction between Israel and the Body of Christ, but mistakenly places the creation of the Body at Acts 2) has put forth the idea that the Revelation gives us a history of the Christian Church. They lean heavily upon this verse, as translated in the KJV:

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter... (v.19)

It is taught that "the things which are" refers to the last two thousand years. Each of the seven churches is supposedly a revealing of the history of the Body of Christ. I won't lay out that entire teaching here, rather, I'll show a proper translation of the verse. Regardless, it is a tremendous jump to take this prophecy and try to inject a mostly Gentile Body into it.

‘Write therefore what things thou sawest, and what they are, even what things are about to happen hereafter’. (v.19)

But even if we stick with the idea of "the things which are," it is quite a stretch to insert the Body of Christ into the book. We have covered Israel as the focus of the Revelation previously. The verse immediately following gives us the pattern.

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. (v.20)

John had already seen the vision of the stars and the lampstands. He is told what they represent (what they are), and hereafter we know what we are dealing with.

As we progress through the book, we will come across a tremendous amount of imagery. We will need to look back at the keys revealed in other prophecies and in the book itself. Chapter 2 starts our trip through the seven churches. We will see the Jewish nature of these churches and we will see how they connect to the end of the Revelation. If we pull them out of this context and try to make them fit the last two thousand years, the connection is lost as is a better understanding of the vision.

Surely we can find application in the warnings and commendations, but as with all scripture, we must rightly understand the central meaning and the direct audience. The history of Israel is given "for our learning " (Rom 15:4),  but we are not Israel and we follow not her commands and we claim not her promises or hope.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Revelation - Part 3 - God's Timing and Mercy Towards Israel

The Day of the Lord at Hand in the Prophets

We've noted that the Day of the Lord is referenced all through the prophets (Charles Welch writes that "there are no less than 285 references" to the Hebrew Canon in the Revelation). We can't go through all the references, but in light of John repeating its imminency, I just wanted to note one such reference from the Book of Zephaniah.

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God:
for the day of the Lord is at hand:
for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice,
he hath bid his guests.
-Zeph 1:7

Something thousands of years away would not normally be said to be "at hand."  But something can be "at hand" if possible under certain conditions. When Jonah is sent to Nineveh with a warning of destruction in 40 days, he is never told that there is a possibility it might not happen. The overthrow of Nineveh was "at hand" in that it was in the foreseeable future.

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. -Jonah 3:4

The overthrow never happens. Why not? The proclamation has no suggestion of a way out in it. Well, we read Nineveh's reaction to Jonah's warning and then Jonah's reaction to God relenting.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them... And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. -Jonah 3:5,10
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. -Jonah 4:1-2

God did not destroy Nineveh. He had mercy upon them. Mercy is an attribute of God. In the same way, he continually gave Israel a chance to repent. If he looked upon the gentiles of Nineveh with compassion, how much more so with his people Israel?

Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? -Jonah 4:10-11

When the Lord Jesus Christ is ministering to his own people he references Jonah several times. In addition to "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (three days and three nights in the belly of the fish as the Lord would be in the tomb), the Lord points to the repentance of Nineveh.

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. -Matt 12:41

Jonah was also an Galilean. The chief priests and Pharisees mocked the Lord for being a Galilean. "They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52). They had forgotten about Jonah (perhaps because he ministered to Gentiles).

Jeroboam took back Israel’s land, which ran from the Lebo Hamath to the Arabah Sea. This happened as the Lord of Israel had told his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. -2 Kings 14:25

Gath-Hepher was just northeast of Nazareth in Galilee.

As Jonah taught that judgment and destruction were "at hand," so the warnings to Israel in Zephaniah. Nineveh returned to its idolatrous ways, and destruction will come to it. Zephaniah prophesied two centuries after Jonah and speaks of a future destruction of Nineveh just as he speaks of a future judgment of Israel.

And He will stretch out His hand against the north,
Destroy Assyria,
And make Nineveh a desolation,
As dry as the wilderness.
-Zeph 2:13

Israel's King came "to confirm the promises made to the fathers" (Rom 15:8) and was rejected. But the Lord sent his messengers out to continue to minister "to the circumcision" (Gal 2:7). This is the sewing we see in the Parable of the Sower in the parable of the kingdom in Matthew 13.

[A theological note here: notice in Nineveh that gentiles are spared by faith. They are not put under the law, required to come to Jerusalem, etc. The Law was given to Israel alone as her promises and covenants are hers alone.]

The Lord on His Cross and Peter in the Acts

When it comes to Israel, God's forbearance is well in view. Even as the Lord is being rejected and mocked by his brethren according to the flesh, he asks that they be forgiven. That forgiveness is seen in the continual offering of the kingdom and the promises to the fathers [of Israel] all through the Acts Age.

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. -Luke 23:34-35
But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye [men of Israel] therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you... -Acts 3:18-20

As the Day of the Lord is the time of Jacob's trouble, even though at times it was "at hand," God has delayed it and delayed it. It will come to fruition in the Revelation, but even there it will be feature mercy and rescue. As we look at the book, and the events in the world around us, we may very well be close to the Day of the Lord being "at hand" again.

We now live in the great parentheses of Israel's time as "not my people." This age started with Paul's declarations in Acts 28 and will continue until Israel is once again God's time-clock and channel.

Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews

Well did Nathaniel say, and unwittingly did Pilate, a Gentile, pronounce that the Lord Jesus Christ is, in fact, the King of the Jews! But at first, Nathaniel had the same thought as the Pharisees. He is a microcosm here of Israel's rejection and then acceptance of her Prophet-Priest-King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Revelation is the unveiling of Israel's King.

Nathanael said to him [Philip], Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth [Galilee]?-John 1:46a 
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. -John 1:49

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. -John 19:19

The Lord told Israel that he was leaving their house desolate UNTIL they called his name blessed. And that day will come.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” -Matt 23:37-39

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.

This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

-Psalm 118:22-26

The passage in Matthew is immediately followed by the Lord leaving the Temple (Matt 24:1), for their house had been left desolate by their unbelief. He then shares with his disciples his discourse on the end times events paralleled in the Revelation.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” -Matt 24:3

It is to Israel that he will come, after Israel is purged and a believing remnant remains. These will be the OVERCOMERS central to the Book of the Revelation. We continue our studies with the idea that the Day of the Lord will soon be upon Israel as she readies to, once again, take her place at the center of God's plan for the ages.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Revelation - Part 2 - Timing and Audience

For a Future People in a Future Age

As we start on the book itself, I want to reiterate that this is somewhat of a panoramic view. There are primarily two reasons for this. First, an in-depth study would require tremendous groundwork in the rest of scripture. Our short studies will hopefully enable us to put a framework to this sometimes intimidating book, allowing further study. Second, since this book is written for a future people in a future age, much of it is speculative. Mind you, it is not blind speculation, but as with those who could not understand the exact meaning of the prophecies of the Lord's first coming until he came and accomplished all, we, too, cannot see all that is depicted in this prophecy in all its clarity.

We do have the advantage of the prophets and guidance from the Lord himself in regard to "the Day of the Lord" (the tribulations and the millennial kingdom, the subjects about which much of this book concerns itself). We can try to make some sense of what we are reading based on formerly unclear passages and pictures made clear by history (their fulfillment).

But as with any book, passage, or verse, we must determine to whom it is written and why. If we come across topics previously addressed, I will try to link those studies.

What Must Soon Take Place

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near. -Rev 1:1-3

 We have looked at the idea of the kingdom and the return of the Lord being called "nigh" and "at hand" and similar in a previous study. Suffice it to say here that this immediacy (also seen in the next to the last verse at the end of the book) places it in the Acts Age.

The Book of Acts starts with the enlightened and Holy-Spirit-filled disciples expecting the restoration of Israel's kingdom (Acts 1). They elect a twelfth apostle in anticipation of the promise of sitting on "twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel... in the regeneration" (Matt 19:28). The Acts Age still had Israel and "the hope of Israel" well in view.

The expectation of tribulation and the return of the Lord to rescue the remnant as promised Israel through her prophets were the conditions of that age. This anticipation of the tribulation helps us understand Paul's instructions and even the words of the Sermon on the Mount. They lived in expectation of the Antichrist, and the second coming to establish the kingdom in Israel which also frame the epistles of that age. Peter offers this kingdom in his early messages in the Acts just as the Lord had offered it in his earthly ministry was to Israel. We recall that the "gospel of the kingdom" was sent to Israel alone, as that was the Lord's ministry.

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.’ -Matt 10:5-7
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” -Matt 15:24

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs [fathers of Israel]. -Rom 15:8

John on Patmos for the Sake of the Vision

The writing of this book is often placed late in John's life (around AD 95), but that is based on tradition and certain ecclesiastical interpretations and extra-biblical sources. The dating of books is an entirely different subject. Having looked at various arguments, I am proceeding with the thought that the Revelation was written much earlier than AD 95 based on the above arguments (it matched the other Acts Age writings and expectations) and because of what John writes in his introduction.

No matter the witness of men, we must seek compare scripture with scripture and the witness of scripture says to us that John lines up with the Acts Age expectations and differs from the Post Acts hope and witness. We must "compare the things that differ."

Here is how Mounce translates Rev 1:9 in his interlinear Bible:

I, John, · your brother and partner in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island · called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

John was carried away to Patmos for the reception of his vision. We see the phrase "the word of God came" twice in John's gospel. Both times it refers to a special revelation from God. It is also used twice in the Old Testament in regard to prophetic utterances. The idea of being carried away is seen in the Acts Age in regard to Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch ("when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away...). The remnant of Israel is also said to be "caught away" when the Lord comes back to Israel in the clouds in the same manner he left (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 4:17).

While John does not use the phrase "the word of God came" in its fullness in verse 9, if we look back at verse 2 we see that being a witness to the word of God is John's purpose on Patmos.

And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

John was not banished to Patmos because of "the word of God," rather he was brought there to receive the vision ("all things that he saw"). Paul was send to Arabia (Gal 1:17) to receive his revelation as well. Paul further witnesses of one who was "caught up to the third heaven."

Paul refers to one who had a vision of God some fourteen years before he wrote 2 Corinthians.

It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

This points to John's experience and witness in the Revelation.

And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." -Rev 4:1

Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” -Rev 10:4

And he showed me... In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, [which is in the midst of the Paradise of God - Rev 2:7] which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. -Rev 22:2

Regardless, John, as the prophets who came before him, is clearly writing to and for a remnant of Israel. Israel was set aside at Acts 28:25 for a short while (as were the conditional expectations of the Acts Age). This prophecy will one day become alive for them during "the time of Jacob's trouble." Israel will again be "my people" after approximately two thousand years of being "not my people" (Hosea). The adulterous wife will be restored (we shall see this in John's vision). We are not the Bride.

We do ourselves a great disservice when we ignore what God has said. As with James and Peter clearly writing to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" and "the dispersion" respectively, we cannot take for ourselves that which is not given to us. Most of Christendom seeks to rob Israel of her New Covenant in this regard.

We cannot add much more concerning the timing here, so I will quickly move onto the audience.

To the Seven Churches (A Continuation of the Acts)

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia. -Rev 1:4

 We must let the word "churches" trip us up. The word "church" is applied to a number of different groups in scripture including Israel in the wilderness (Acts 7), the many churches in the Acts and Acts Age epistles, to followers of pagan Diana (Acts 19), and finally to the singular church of the one new man found in Ephesians.

John, writing before Paul's revelation of the one new man, and pointing to the prophecies which were given to Israel, place this book in a Jewish context. Paul's revelation of the one new man in Ephesians was unknown to the prophets whereas the "hope of Israel" and the "hope of the promise made by God to our fathers" to which Paul witnessed in the Acts Acts (Acts 26:6; 28:23) involved only things revealed to "Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22).

We will end here by noting that this vision involves "the Day of the Lord," which points us to the prophecies which have to do with Israel's future. No matter anything else in regard to timing and audience which can be argued from various scholarly viewpoints, this internal setting erases all other options.

We dare not call Sunday "The Lord's Day." Such a thing shows an ignorance of "The Day of the Lord" and its place in scripture.

I was in the Spirit on the Day of the Lord, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see [in a vision], write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” -Rev 1:10

And as we look at Revelation 1:10, let us be reminded of the source of this vision; one who is the First and the Last, the Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior! Christ above all!

This book will take us through the coming Tribulation, the coming millennium,  the great war, the judgment of the Great White Throne, the new Jerusalem, the new heavens and the new earth... but not to the end! The end is found in another book!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Revelation - Part 1 - Figures of Speech

We Must Create a Context Lest We Fall Back on a Pretext

When I was 12 years old, my brother Joe gave me a Bible for Christmas. He had recently become a Christian and I had seen him reading his own bible in his bed just a few feet from mine. He created in me a curiosity. I had seen plenty of bibles in religion class, but we didn't really study them. That is, we never took them down and read them on our own apart from the context of a class or a religious service. We certainly never attempted to interpret the contents. But I started to carry that Bible with me anyway.

As an altar boy, one of my responsibilities was to kneel for hours in front of the monstrance during the annual Eucharistic perpetual adoration (feel free to look that up if you're curious). When we weren't taking our shift kneeling, we were sitting in pews waiting to kneel. During one of those times in waiting, I decided to read the Bible I had received for Christmas. I had heard about the Book of the Revelation, so I decided to start there. Yikes. While fascinated, I was a bit overwhelmed and lost. Coming at it blindly, it is impossible to understand (and I had yet to know the Lord as my Savior).

How many have come at it blindly, with little or no context, and have come away with fantastic interpretations. Cults and various doomsday groups have enslaved thousands to an odd marriage of pride and fear. Lives have been destroyed and lost by ripping its words from their contexts. I present nothing in these coming studies as definitive or authoritative. I only present my work for your consideration.

The Book is Both Literal and Figurative

As we step into the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in this series, I don't want us to be overwhelmed. There are a number of things we must address lest we find ourselves flailing about and haphazardly trying to interpret its message. In addition to having some understanding of the prophetic works upon which it is built and determining the intended audience, we must step back even further and answer the "literal versus figurative" question.

I don't believe we have to make a choice between a purely literal or a purely figurative (allegorical) position on the book. However, we do need to take a position on whether the book refers to literal events or is just contains clever literature revealed to teach us life lesson (fables having no attachment to actual events). The Bible is not a book like Aesop's fables. The Lord Jesus witnesses to the veracity and historicity of the Hebrew canon from Adam to his own prophetic backdrop. We have no reason to believe John's vision should be seen differently.

The Bible is replete with figures of speech. When the Lord says "I am the door," he is obviously. speaking figuratively. I am a Bible "Literalist," but that does not prevent me from recognizing figures of speech. Obviously, the Lord is not a literal door, but he literally said that he is and he literally acts as a door in regard to a number of things; opening and closing the way.

There are countless figures of speech, but I'll just point to some examples to help us understand that the Bible can speak literally using figurative language.
Simile: Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves
Metaphor: I am the bread of life.
There is a more complex metaphorical version in statements such as:

  • Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
  • O generation of vipers!
  • Dogs have surrounded me.
  • Beware the leaven of the Pharisees.

These verses speak of literal people and things, yet some listeners confused the figure. Various groups asked:

  • How can anyone build the temple in three days?
  • How are we to eat his flesh?
  • Beware leaven because we have no bread? 

 What they missed is the proper middle ground. The Lord's use of figures of speech refer to very real things. His body would be laid down and taken up again. The doctrines of the Pharisees (the traditions of men) do infect the pure Word of God and expand it beyond its intentions, etc.

When we approach the Revelation, we must see that figures of speech also refer to literal events, people, and things.

And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.
-Dan 7:3

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
-Revelation 13:1

Daniel and John are seeing literal beasts in their respective visions, but we understand the picture to represent a real entity. We do not treat their visions as always seeing literal events or as speaking in fables. Sometimes what John writes is clearly a metaphorical visions, other times he may be giving us his own metaphor for what he is witnessing.

A literal beast before him as a metaphor for a literal event.

I Understand the Revelation is Not Easily Understood

The concepts in this introduction might seem self-evident, but I did want to make it clear that I take a literal approach to the Revelation (as I do all prophecies), while recognizing the challenge in trying to interpret metaphorical language. In explaining that I recognize the book often speaks in metaphors, I am saying that understanding exactly to what those metaphors point is not always easy. Even if know from other scriptures part of the answer, we cannot know the timing or exactly how the full manifestation of the literal will come to pass.

The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven; and I heard him swear by him who lives for ever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time; and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be accomplished. I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. -Dan 12:7-9

Just as Daniel wasn't quite sure what he was seeing and hearing because he was seeing future events in metaphorical language, so we must admit that may not clearly understand the pictures given in the Revelation. This is partly because the Revelation is not given directly to us. It will be well-understood by those in a coming age who will need to understand it. Even John "marveled" at what he was seeing.

Think of the prophecies surrounding the Lord's first coming. How many fully understood the prophecies? None. And even after his ascension, further explanation of prophetic truth had to be given via the inspired apostles. So we can't be too hard on ourselves if we don't always come down flat-footed on a particular section or even if we modify our understand as we study more.

But, remember, while there are countless interpretations out there, we are each responsible for only one: our own. Our gracious and loving Father knows we are but dust, and if we humbly seek his guidance with a pure heart apart from our own agenda, he will help us find the truths we need to find in this book in him timing.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Our Brothers and Sisters in China and Hong Kong: Suffering and Reward

I had on my heart a desire to start a study on the Book of the Revelation. I am still intent on doing so. And whereas this book is primarily for Israel and certainly specific to an age which is yet to come, we can take some powerful lessons for our own day. We will look at some parallels to the judgments in the Revelation that are found in both the Acts Age and Post Acts epistles (for this current dispensation).

There are some sobering thoughts in scripture in regard to the Lord's examination of our service. Surely, the gift of eternal, immortal resurrection life is indeed a gift. It was fully secured in the death, burial (lack of decay in the tomb), and glorious conquering of death in resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But all of us shall have our service and lives examined beyond that.

It may come as a shock to some, but the Great White Throne judgment is not for unbelievers. It is a judgment of service and loyalty for those in a coming age. We must abandon the tradition of men in regard to this topic and see it in its context. We looked at at the GWT in a previous study, but I hope to bring more clarity to this future event as my own understanding has advanced and come more into focus.

There are elements of our inheritance and certain rewards to be gained and lost in future ages. These may vary among hopes and different companies in the family of God, but in all, service and loyalty to our Master is at the center. We saw some of this in our various studies of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and 25) dealing with Israel. The weeping and gnashing of teeth in Matthew is in the context of "children of the Kingdom." 1 Cor 6 and loss of inheritance in the earthly kingdom is aimed at believers in that Acts Age epistle.. The free gift of life by grace alone through faith alone is never in question, but suffering loss is a real possibility.

If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. -1 Cor 3:15

Christians all over the world have been suffering increased persecution in these last days. From places like Iran and Nigeria all the way to true believers in the USA, those who hold to Christ alone have come under assault (physically, mentally, and attacks against their families coming from men and from principalities and powers). Our brothers and sisters in Christ in China and Hong Kong, and their suffering for Christ, in particular, have been in the news recently.

This blog has seen and increase in traffic from the far east. I hope they have found the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ exalted above all else. I hope they have found hope in the scriptures shared and the blessed hope of his awaited appearance and manifestation to his own. But to those who may be facing the loss of all in this world, I hope they are filled with the notion of the glory which is to come when the Lord reviews their service and loyalty to him.

In Paul's final epistle, closing out the revelation of God, he shares this thought:

For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him
-2 Tim 2:11-12

In our multi-post, parallel studies dealing with Walking in the Spirit and Walking Worthy, we realized that Christians who walk in the flesh are capable of some terrible things. We will look at some of those terrible things through the eyes of the Revelation. Even though the judgments there pertain to that coming age, they are reminders of the warnings found in our own epistles.

Walking in the flesh may mean engaging in wicked activities such as fornication and greed and envy, but it can also mean cowardice and unbelief. A fear of the opinions of men can make some deny the Lord in their words. It may mean failing to defend his finished work on Calvary lest we offend other religious traditions (especially those under the umbrella of Christianity).

A carnal life and mind seek the approval of men in the form of what is called "virtue signaling," This involves making statements such as "I'm a Christian and I love all transgender people!" knowing that approval will pour in from the world as we throw scripture and our brothers and sisters under the bus.

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with loving people? Of course not, but love and truth go together. The failure to follow truth with love in fear of backlash or in the hope of approval is wicked. As countless thousands around the world are beaten and killed for their testimony for Christ, seeking approval from people who can't really do us any real harm here in the West is even more detestable.

And I do not just point the finger of guilt at others. I know in my heart I have stayed quiet in fear of rejection or even professional backlash. And such silence is as grievous as vocal cowardice. Part of my hope for this study is to find courage to stand for the Lord despite what men might do. And in light of the real cost faced by Christians in China, Hong Kong, Iran, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Vietnam, North Korea, and all over parts of Catholic-controlled central and South America, my fear of repercussions seems even more cowardly.

Western Christianity wastes a lot of time and energy on arguing about stupid things like music and Bible versions, all the while our opportunities to preach Christ and teach truth slip away. We must exalt Christ and teach Christians how to live in light of Paul's revelation of the current dispensation. How we handled Christ and our obedience to the call to "study to show [ourselves] approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth," shall be judged along with our daily walk and our willingness to suffer with him and for his testimony.

Beware Christian ministries which teach only comfort and riches for believers. These are "the enemies of the cross of Christ" about whom Paul warns us. Their god is their flesh. They seek comfort and discard the cross and its shame in this life. We must embrace the cross. How we handle Christ, the call to suffer, and his Word will be examined by the God of all ages.

I support in a small way (and I wish I could do more) Christian Freedom International. If your place of employment allows you to have something set aside, I'd urge you to consider a Christ-honoring ministry seeking to bring comfort to our brothers and sisters who face true persecution. And be not fooled into comfort, real persecution is coming to the West in the not too distant future. For some who have lost jobs and homes to the mob, it's already here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Reluctant Post on the King James Bible Version

Here is a link to a previous short study on the names of God which may help in how we approach names and titles in scripture and in our English Bibles: LINK


There are far too many Christians (and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt) who spend day and night arguing that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is inerrant and inspired in its entirety. That argument falls apart with just the first two verses in Genesis.

This obsession leads them into finding supposedly secret Satan-worshiping in the other English versions. They particularly hate the NIV. What I'm about the do in addressing just one fantastic accusation against the NIV is to use their own reasoning. I do this a lot in my general apologetic work (I do it with my own reasoning), so I just continue that methodology here.

One KJV-Only site pointed to the NIV's use of "Morning Star" in its translation of Isaiah 4:12. This title is give by the Lord Jesus Christ to himself in Rev 22:16. They argue the NIV i supposedly calling Jesus "Lucifer." If that was their intent, they've done really terrible job of it. We'll also see that titles given to Christ are sometimes given to men and angels and even to fallen angels in one form or another. This is true in the KJV. No one with could honestly believe anyone is trying to equate these other creatures with Christ

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
-Isaiah 14:12 (NIV from Hebrew)

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” -Rev 22:16 (NIV from Greek)

If the verse from Isaiah 14 (even without the rest of the context) somehow makes you think they're trying to bring some kind of glory to Satan or some equivalence to Christ, your blinders are pretty dark and tight.

Now let's look at how the KJV handles these two:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! -Isaiah 14:12 (KJV)

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star. -Rev 22:16 (KJV)

Before we go anywhere, let's look at how Strong in his concordance handles the Hebrew "hey-lel."

From H1984 (in the sense of brightness); the morning star: - lucifer

We could look at a number of other commentaries, but I'll leave us with E.W. Bullinger's note on Is 14:12.

Lucifer = Morning-star. Worshipped by the Assyrians as male at sunrise, female at sunset. A name of Satan.

Let's Stick With their Line of Reasoning

The argument is that the same title is used of Lucifer and of Christ ("morning star").  When we look at Strong's Concordance and Bullinger's notes, we see that the Hebrew name "Lucifer" has the connotation of "morning star." The use of the same words or titles being used of different entities in scripture (from God to angels to Satan, to men) is not unique to these two verses as we shall see.

The KJV limits itself to the English as KJV-Only adherents believe it is the inspired word of God in English. So, let us look at an example in the KJV English of this practice. This example is found in the Revelation. 

For some reason the KJV translators translated two different Greek words as "beast(s)" thus putting the Cherubs in the same category as the Antichrist. Context supplies the difference, but it's still a bad choice of words. But the KJV-only crowd don't care much about context when it comes to another duplicate wording.

We note here that both of these words are not only in the same language (Greek) but in the same book (The Revelation). If you hold the KJV to be inspired, "beast" thus is the God-breathed word for both the Cherubs of God and the Antichrist despite being different words in the Textus Receptus Greek Texts (used for the KJV translation).

This practice of using the same English word leads to confusion in the KJV's handling of John 21 as well. There, different words for "love" in the Greek are translated by a single word. Let's compare the KJV with the Rotherham translation.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao] thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee. -John 21:15 (KJV from Textus Receptus Greek)

When, therefore, they had broken their fast, Jesus saith unto Simon Peter—Simon, son of John! lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him—Yea, Lord! thou, knowest that I am fond of thee. -John 21:15 (Rotherham)

If we say that for the English reader, he must accept the KJV as God-breathed, we can lose some of the majesty of this exchange.

Same Title Given to God and His Creations

We are still using their line of reasoning.

In Job 38:7, the angelic host are called "the morning stars" (KJV). As Lucifer, not yet fallen, he would have been counted in that number (singular: morning star). They're also called "the sons of God" in Job (KJV). In Genesis, even fallen angels are still called "sons of God" (KJV). Do we equate them with Christ? Of course not. Do we argue the KJV is calling Jesus a fallen angel? Nonsense conclusion.

The NIV passage in question in Isaiah 14 refers to Lucifer as "son of the dawn." The NIV also uses "morning star." It's a legitimate rendering of the Hebrew. Others do use "Lucifer," but there is some variety across translations.  But the replication of the English "morning star" is no more offensive or blasphemous than the KJV's use of "beasts" in the Revelation.

The point Isaiah is making is that Lucifer was once part of the heavenly host surrounding God. Ezekiel refers to him as "the anointed cherub that covereth" (KJV). Interestingly, the KJV casts this in the present tense, "Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth." So, is the KJV teaching that Lucifer hadn't fallen yet? (Yeah, silly conclusion, I know.)

Ezekiel further adds, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee" (KJV). As Lucifer, he was "perfect" in his ways and "perfect in beauty" (KJV). After he exalted himself, he was deemed "profane." Scripture distinguishes his high calling as Lucifer from his fallen state as Satan.

As Lucifer, he did have "brightness" as a "son of the morning" and as "the anointed cherub" and as a "son of God." Ezekiel continues, "thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness" (all KJV). The perfect creation of God, was corrupted. He fell. This is not hidden in the NIV. It is not even hidden in the very verse in question.

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
-Isaiah 14:12 (NIV from Hebrew)

Ezekiel is called "son of man" by the Lord. Jesus is also called "son of man." Is God equating Daniel with Christ? Is the KJV doing this? 

David is called "the LORD's Messiah [anointed]" (1 Sam 26:9). Cyrus is called God's "anointed" (Messiah). Is that a blasphemy? Is the KJV lowering Christ to Cyrus or exalting Cyrus as Christ? No, in context we understand it.

Ironically, the KJV, takes the Hebrew word for "oil" in its 23 uses in Hebrew, and only once translates it as "anointed," Zech 14:4. There, the KJV reads, "two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." Are they saying there are two Messiahs? The Hebrew words used are literally "sons of fresh oil" not "Messiah," but, since the KJV-only folks want to deal in "inspired English," why do they use "anointed" for men and for the Lord? Is this also blasphemy?

The reason "Messiah" or "anointed" is used of Lucifer, men, and Christ is because that is how God breathed it in the original Greek and Hebrew. The Holy Spirit is not blaspheming Christ!

When it comes to our own experience, we know the the scripture refers to "spirit" and sometimes it means our new nature and sometimes it means the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the KJV fails to make this distinction and we lose precious truths such as those in Romans 8, thus leading many into bondage to fear. It leads to a denial of the finished work of Christ.

For more on that, see our series on Walking in the Spirit.

Selectively picking verses like Isaiah 14:12, picking two words, ignoring context and other examples while screeching that the NIV equates Lucifer with Christ is the kind of gnat-swatting many in the KJV-Only crowd engage in.

I'm not a big NIV fan. I don't use it much. But if you think they secretly wanted to equate Lucifer with Christ, you're predisposed to believe it. And let's assume they set out to do just that for a moment. Has anyone reading Isaiah in the NIV ever concluded, "Hey, Jesus is Lucifer!" Only if you're looking for it, I suppose.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Fresh Look at "How Great Thou Art"

We have covered the topic of hymns and the use of music in Christendom before. The overarching goal is to have us treat songs as we do everything that comes our way. That is, we need to filter all through doctrine. We've also noted the role of music. Its primary function is not to take the place of teaching, but rather to supplement teaching and for praise (Psalm 150; etc.).

I have nothing against the hymns. There are many hymns I love and cherish. If you follow this blog, you know I was raised in a conservative Catholic diocese and parish. We had hymns, many (most?) of which contained dangerous heresy. So the word "hymn" does not absolve us of the duty to test all things.

We've seen in our studies on this topic how some hymns used historically in Evangelical or Fundamental Christendom can also contain terrible error. We compared some hymns to certain contemporary Christian songs as examples of why doctrine is what matters. We also revealed how the trappings surrounding the hymns are also inconsequential (robes, organs, altars, beats, etc.).

We examined some of the criticisms of contemporary music by "discernment" ministries. In some cases we turned their man-made standards onto certain hymns. We've looked at other "sacred hymns." The Bible must be our arbiter.

If you search the internet for a list of the most popular hymns, there is only little variation. On one particular list, "How Great Thou Art" comes in at number 2 (behind "Amazing Grace"). As an aside, both of these hymns appear on the CD, "How Great Thou Art: 30 Catholic Songs of Worship." This does not taint the hymns, but it does reveal that the doctrines are only particular to Evangelical Christianity because we filter them as Evangelicals. There's nothing wrong with filtering (when possible), it is what a biblical mind should do.

So let's take a closer look at the beloved hymn.

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout
The universe displayed

Lovely. No doctrinal complaints. The creation surely shows his handiwork. But on its own, It could be sung by a follower of just about any religion in the world. It is only "deep" and "doctrinal" because we want to perceive it that way.

I once worked with a number of African Muslims (including an Imam). When a beautiful butterfly flew into our workplace I commented how idiotic it is to believe that such a creature happened by accident for no reason. The Muslims agreed. But that hardly made them Christians. Fortunately, we were able to have other conversations about the uniqueness of Christ and his work on our behalf. Nothing in the verse would objectionable to them.

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

 This second verse is only slightly better in that it includes "Savior God." But, again, completely applicable across almost any and all religions.

When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim

Ah, finally the name of Christ! This mention does exclude the religions which deny the second coming of Christ, but says nothing about qualifying for salvation. In addition, it neglects the fact that not every believer's hope is in the heavenly places. For many, their hope is on the earth and he will come back and rule and reign here. Those of us who understand the distinction between the "parousia" and the "epiphenea" of the Lord may get something out of this verse, but that truth is not clearly taught here (I doubt the writer understood it anyway).

In the end, it is nice song. Nothing wrong with it. It's not sinful. And it does allow us who know the true God to praise him for his creation and the promise of the return of Christ. But that hardly makes it deep, sacred, or particularly doctrinal. As we have noted in studied on the name of the Lord and in the scriptures use of pronouns, the Lord knows who are his and he knows our hearts. You can sing "How Great Thou Art" and include in your hymnal and on a CD, but if you don't know the Savior personally through resting in his finished work, it's useless.

Yesterday in our local meeting, one of these songs we sand was "Reckless Love." I'm not a big fan of the song for a number of reasons, but be that as it may, it's just as focused as "How Great Thou Art" and in some ways even more so.

O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
O, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

"I couldn't earn it" is more Evangelical that anything in the "sacred hymn." I'm not a big fan of either Elevation Music or Hillsong Worship, but the lyrics in Hisllsong's "The Passion" are equal to or superior to most of the lyric on the top hymns list. Certainly these lyrics are far more precise and doctrinal than anything in "How Great Thou Art:"

The passion of our Saviour
The mercy of our God
The cross that leaves no question
Of the measure of His love 
Our chains are gone, our debt is paid
The cross has overthrown the grave
For Jesus' blood that sets us free
Means death to death and life for me 
The Innocent judged guilty
While the guilty one walks free
Death would be His portion
And our portion liberty

I've covered this before, but the lines, "the cross has overthrown the grave," and "death to death," have more truth about what was accomplished in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ than almost any hymn about the cross.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Israel and the Resurrection

We've looked at Israel in God's Plan in recent studies. We've seen that Israel has a future role to fulfill. The New Covenant with the House of Judah and the House of Israel.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."

-Heb 8; Jer 31

We also looked at how the plan includes the promises to David and the ‘sure mercies [blessings] of David' (Acts 13:34). These blessings are connected to that covenant.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure blessings of David. -Isaiah 55:3

So what does this have to do with the resurrection? I didn't point this out in our recent study, but notice the context of the blessings.

And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the [Jewish] fathers. God has fulfilled this for us [Jews] their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure blessings of David.’ -Acts 13:32-35

Israel's future blessings are made possible by the resurrection of their Messiah.

There is a horrible teaching about that Israel was done away with at the cross (and a similar teaching that she was done away with at Pentecost). But "Men of Israel" and "House of Israel" (etc.) are referenced throughout the Acts Age. The "church" as we know it is NOT "Israel." Christians are NOT the "real Jews."

What was being preached to Israel in the Acts Age is that the resurrection, in part, shall be the restoration of the Israel. As we have seen in recent studies, the earthly kingdom in Israel is dependent upon her repentance. Peter declares to the men of Israel that if they repent God will bring the Restoration and that he will send back Jesus (Acts 3). This restoration of the earthly kingdom is what the enlightened by the Holy Spirit apostles asked about after 40 days being taught by the risen Lord (Acts 1:6).

But the resurrection was hardly the end of Israel, it was just the beginning of an offer that will some day come to fruition.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. -Acts 5:30-31

The forgiveness of Israel's sins is expressly stated in the New Covenant.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. -Heb 8:12-13

Note that the Old Covenant was still active ("becoming obsolete"), waiting for Israel's repentance. The resurrection of the Lord was the affirmation of the complete work of payment for sin.  God was waiting for Israel to repent (nationally) allowing the Kingdom to be restored and the stony heart removed.

Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them [Israel] far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” ’Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” ’ And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. -Ezek 36:16-20

The "them" and "their" in this passage refers to Israel. This is not a "gospel" passage for today. I does not apply to Christians. And Israel is currently "Lo-Ammi" or "Not My People" (Hosea). God is not working through Israel in the present dispensation. But he will again soon.

Then God said:

“Call his name Lo-Ammi,
For you are not My people,
And I will not be your God.

“Yet the number of the children of Israel
Shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass
In the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There it shall be said to them,
‘You are sons of the living God.’
Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel
Shall be gathered together,

And appoint for themselves one head;
And they shall come up out of the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel! -Hosea 1:9-11

 We see the parallels to Ezekiel and to the New Covenant.

Later in Hosea we get a glimpse of how long Israel shall wait.

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,

That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth. -Hosea 6:1-3

This "two days" may refer to "two thousand years" as we are told by Peter, "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Thus, the third day would be the Millenium. But I would not argue about this being absolute.

The promises of Israel's repentance and restoration and God's blessings are all through the prophets. We cannot simply apply these to the current church (Israel is called "the church in the wilderness" by Stephen and repeatedly in the Septuagint. There are a number of "churches" in scripture. Israel has its own calling and hope. It is an earthly hope, in the promised land, and it shall come to pass.

They will look on the one they crucified and the one who was raised from the dead and mourn for their brother according to the flesh, the Lord Jesus as a Son of Israel.

It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. -Zech 12:9-11

I would encourage the reading of all of Chapter 8 of Zechariah to see again the restoration and cleansing of Israel as she once again takes her place as the people of God.

But in this present dispensation, she is set aside and God knows no Jew or Gentile. He calls all to come to him and to find our blessings "in the far above the heavens." (Ephesians). If you have not come directly to the Lord to ask for forgiveness and a new nature based solely on his death, busial, and resurrection, I implore you to do this today. 

The end of days may soon be upon us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Our 200th Study - The Importance of Making Distinctions

I started writing out my personal studies in 2003. It started with the Book of Romans. I was puzzled as to why Paul seemed to go back and forth addressing Jewish believers and then Gentile believers. I was trying to work through the "grafting in" in chapter 11 along with the threat of being "cut off" in the same chapter, aimed at Gentile believers only.

You [Gentiles, v.13] will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. -Rom 11:19-22

I believe I had written out about 11 pages when I realized there was still a piece missing. I could never close the "Acts 2 Church" loop. I continued this habit of writing out studies and inevitably the "classical [Acts 2] dispensationalism" I had come to understand since leaving the Roman Catholic Church 12 years prior seemed insufficient.

I had come out of a Roman Church in which I was educated and in which I taught Religious Education. A church which embraced Replacement Theology. A church which took a mystical and allegorical view of many parts of scripture. A church which embraced all of the earthly ministry to Israel for itself. I had come out of that system and struggled to understand scripture on my own. That journey took 12 years (ironically) and left me just shy of truly grasping the fullness of this age.

I will not recount here the next year of study which led me to fully embrace the Dispensation of the Mystery (revealed secret) laid out by Paul in his post Acts epistles. But what I learned in my study of Romans is that writing out my personal studies (attempting to show my approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, 2 Tim 2:15), is that my theology is my responsibility.

That is one the major emphases of this blog. Your theology is your responsibility. Surely, I am responsible for what I present here (and will answer for it), but I am quick to say that I am not a guru and I claim no authority. My only authority is scripture. When I am wrong, I want to be sure to admit it. When I am unsure, I hope to be clear that I am unsure.

The Lord knows we are but dust and that we have limited, failing minds. He is loving and patient. But what scripture makes clear is that God is opposed to the proud and arrogant. I would also add that he does not take kindly to those who claim things which are not theirs.

I have presented several series of studies on this blog. I believe the parallel series on Walking in the Spirit and Walking Worthy were very profitable to me. But one of the most important series concerns the book "Who Is A Jew?" It treads a very dangerous and truth-destroying path by taking one verse in Romans, wrongly dividing it, and claiming the promises to Israel and to the fathers for Gentile believers in this age. This is horribly dangerous theology.

Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. -Rev 3:9 (Letter to the Church in Philadelphia)

We see in our own day how the "Black Hebrew Israelites" are attacking the physical sons of Abraham in New York. In Christendom we have seen "British Israelism" and the Catholic Church claiming it has the priesthood of the New Covenant. Almost all Christendom claims the New Covenant. The Plymouth Brethren abandoned their own doctrine of seeing the New Covenant as for Israel in the future and have claimed it as their own. This foul doctrine is at the heart of much heresy and blinds eyes to a right division of the Word of Truth.

If you ever want to even begin to understand the Plan of God for the Ages or how to live the Christian life or what lies ahead for you as a child of God, you must make distinctions where God makes distinctions. Again, we are but dust and will make mistakes, but we cannot get anywhere. we cannot grow, if we fail in this area or is we surrender our responsibility to study to some "authority" outside of scripture. 

Regardless of all that has been said here, I want to stress that Christ must be the foundation. His work on Calvary, his lack of decay in the grave, and his glorious undoing of the curse in his resurrection is central to everything. We cannot understand scripture. We cannot live the Christian life. We cannot understand our hope apart from a personal knowledge of the Son of God. If you do not yet know him personally as your great God and Savior from your sin, I urge you to read the Book of John

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 20:30-31

For Reference:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Immediate Return of the Lord in the Acts and Now

We have recently looked at the Plan of God for the ages. No matter where we fall on the details or the order, one element is beyond contradiction: Israel will one day have all the promises to her fulfilled. These promises are all through the New Testament. Israel is specifically mentioned and the promises and covenant are looked at as being yet future. If we do not see Israel and distinct from the Body we will make a mess of Bible study. There is a Kingdom coming to Israel (Acts 1:6). It will be "restored to Israel."

One of the distinguishing marks of the Lord's earthly ministry and the Acts Age is the continued references to the closeness of the kingdom. It was "nigh" and "at hand" after "a little while" and "soon," as "the ends of the ages are come."  Some who were "alive"  would be "caught up" in the clouds upon his return. Some were expecting to "be changed." All because "the judge standeth before the door." Peter states, "the end of all things is near." All these things (and more) consistently given in the Acts Age.

Were all these apostles wrong?

This coming kingdom was inexorably connected to Israel and her promises and to the promises to David and his descendants. These promises had nothing to do with Gentiles. They are an "everlasting covenant" promised to Israel.  The Lord Jesus "is He who has been born King of the Jews." The Body is not "Jew" and we can never be "the house of Jacob." 

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. -Luke 1:31-32
And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the [Jewish] fathers. God has fulfilled this for us [Jews] their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure blessings of David.’ -Acts 13:32-35
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure blessings of David. -Isaiah 55:3

The promises to Israel and David are absolute. Although a time of testing and chastisement will come, the covenants are sure.

“If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
If they break My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah
-Ps 89:30-39

A colossal error is made in placing the start of the current dispensation at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter's Pentecost message, spoken to Jew only as no Gentile had any claim to Pentecost, is specific to Israel. The entire chapter here is important, but for the sake of this study, I pull out verse 39.

For the promise is unto you [Men of Israel, v12], and to your children, and to all that are afar off [the dispersion], even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

This centering on Israel is continued in the 3rd chapter of Acts. Again, it is good to read the entire chapter, but we will simply quote a few verses. The key to the coming of the Lord is in Acts 3. Israel had to repent.

Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go... Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you...

This is the condition the Lord had during his earthly ministry. As we saw in our study on the Parable of Matthew 13, the gospel of the Kingdom had gone out to Israel alone (Matthew 4, Matthew 10) and was rejected (Matthew 12). But the offer was always present. The Lord was presented to Israel by Pilate and Israel chose Barabbas. But the Lord prayed that they may not have this held against them, thus Peter offered the kingdom to Israel again in the Acts.

Going only to Israel is consistent with the Lord's calling (Matt 10; Matt 15) to Israel alone ("sent to none but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel") as Paul also notes in his letter to the Romans.

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

James' epistle is addressed to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (the dispersion) as are Peter's epistles. Peter uses the specific term "dispersion,"

When the door to the kingdom is opened to Gentiles (Acts 10, for the expressed purpose of making Israel jealous, Rom 11), Peter says in part to Cornelius, "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ..." again stating that the word of peace by Jesus Christ was sent to Israel. This is true all through the Acts and Acts Age epistles. Paul teaches clearly that Gentiles were "grafted in" to the root and were told they could also be "cut off" from the root. This is not a loss of salvation, but a loss of status.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you [leaders of the Jews, v.17] and to speak with you: because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. -Acts 28:20

Israel was still front and center in the plan of God. Paul speaks of the "twelve tribes" in the present tense as late as Acts 26 at his trial before Agrippa.  We've noted that James writes to the "twelve tribes." Israel had not yet been put aside. the "secret" of the "one new man" revealed in Ephesians (Post Acts) which God had hid in himself "since before the foundation of the ages" was unknown.

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. -Acts 26:6-7

As an aside, we note that Paul does not say "Judah" or "two tribes," but all twelve tribes serve God hoping to attain the promise. There are not ten "lost tribes" and Christians are not Jews nor are we Israel. These are gross errors which will cripple your understanding of scripture.

We may also see the differences between the Acts Acts and the Post Acts Age in Paul's epistles. We previously looked at Paul's instructions for widows. In light of the "near" coming of the Lord, Paul recommends widows not bother to marry (1 Cor 7). After the change in dispensation, he states that widows should marry (1 Tim 5). No contradiction, bit a change in administration and conditions.

Those who want to have an "Acts church" need to read the conditions in Acts 2 and 4. They sold everything and had everything in common. When I pointed this out to a Sunday School teacher who told me his church is an Acts 2:42 church ("And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers"). 

But what did they practice in regard to these three things? We need to keep reading.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need [apostles' doctrine]. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple [prayer], and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart [breaking of bread].

Blindness in Part

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. -Rom 11:25

The first thing we must note is that there is still an Israel at this time and that Israel's blindness was "in part." Israel was not "put aside" at the cross or at Pentecost. Our minds go back to the blind man healed by the Lord who had partial vision at first. Also, Paul's own blindness in Acts 9. One day Israel will have the scales afll from her eyes and see her Savior. Zechariah lays out this future realization beautifully is his prophecy.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. -Zechariah 12:10

In the Acts we see this blindness in picture in the actions of Peter and Paul. Israel had a choice between blessing or being blinded. Peter and John, in healing the man in the temple in Acts 3, use the example as a type of blessing awaiting Israel. This act is the catalyst for the preaching of Peter in Acts 3 to which we referred already. It is what leads to him saying "Ye men of Israel... Repent ye... that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you..."

Paul, in Acts 13, "preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" and called down blindness upon a Jew there. 

Where do you draw your line?
The Lord is "the King of the Jews" and he will "reign over the house of Jacob." These have never been fulfilled. We cannot say that Israel has been set aside forever. Some draw their line at the cross or at Acts 2 and say God is forever finished with the Jews. But even for those who say Israel was set aside at Pentecost until the "Rapture," does your line fit scripture?

We've noted how the Acts 2 line does not fit Peter's preaching at Pentecost. We saw how it does not fit Paul's teaching in regard to widows. We saw how, until the very end of the Acts, Paul was still witnessing to the hope of Israel (also note how miracles such as healing followed his ministry in the Acts, but not after, etc.). Again, from Acts 3:

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed...

Israel is promised to be the channel of blessing to the nations one day. Her covenants are hers alone and no Gentile can claim them apart from Israel (Eph 2:12). This condition was true from Abraham through the Acts Age. We hear of no Gentile in scripture apart from a connection to a Jew or to Israel as a nation.

We go back to Paul in Acts 13. To whom was he giving this warning if the Jew was done at Acts 2? Who is the "you" in this warning? The Holy Spirit tells us: "Men of "Israel" and "Jews." 

Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:
‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish!
For I work a work in your days,
A work which you will by no means believe,
Though one were to declare it to you.’ ”

Paul continues in the chapter:

Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first..."

Again, who is the "you" here? Paul was still going "to the Jew first." Israel was not yet put aside. The Jew was still first.

Let's move on to Paul's ministry in Acts 17.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures

Paul still going to the Jew first. The "Jews" here are not Christians as some heresies teach (we covered this in our review of the booklet, "Who is a  Jew?"). These are still of the nation of Israel which has a hope of the earthly kingdom and covenant before them.

There are other verses in the epistles of the Acts Age and in the Acts which treat Israel as still in the picture and Jewish believers as separate from Gentile believers for certain purposes.

If you are interested in a wonderful summation of Israel's repentance and the return of the Lord, you can listen to Stuart Allen's message here CLICK HERE

Our Hope Now

The underlying doctrine of this blog is an understanding of the Dispensation of the Mystery. That is, after the Acts Age ended, Paul revealed the "one new man" in his epistle to the Ephesians. It is after the Acts Age that "the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was taken down. This current dispensation was hidden in God from BEFORE the overthrow (foundation) of the ages. It was not know to Moses or the Prophets.

This dispensation cannot be "gentile salvation" as that has always been possible (by grace through faith). From Adam to Abraham to Nineveh to the Centurion in Matthew 8 to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 to the malefactor on the cross, the gift of resurrection life was always available to the uncircumcised.

But even though in this age we are not looking for the Davidic, earthly kingdom, we do have a blessed hope. Whereas in the Acts Age believers were on the earth awaiting a restoration of the kingdom in Israel predicated on the repentance of  the nation, in this age, our hope has always been imminent, but the expected end differed.  Although always in the hearts of believers, Paul sets out the conditions of its immanency in 2 Tim 3.

Regardless, the "blessed hope" of his manifestation and appearing to his own warms our hearts and drives us to be more like him.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. -Titus 2:11-14

As this hope had no time-frame, we can see why Paul instructed young widows to marry.  Whether in marriage or not had no bearing in the appearing, but in the Acts Age, expecting the Day of the Lord and the kingdom, on earth, meant all were better off untangled by family matters (1 Cor 7).

The Lord's warning in Matthew 24 states:

And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.

 We also see the Sabbath noted here. This passage (which we covered in previous studies) has a Jewish context and points to the Revelation. Israel and the Jews have a future. They will once again be God's timepiece when the current dispensation of the Mystery is ended.

We must be careful to "mark the things that differ" in scripture and not confuse Israel's hopes, promises, blessings, and warnings with our own. This error is at the heart of much error in Christendom.