What is Satan – A Seraph, A Cherub, or an Angel?

In my last post, called “What are the Three Types of Created Being’s We’ll See in Heaven?” I discussed the differences between the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Angels, and at the end of it, I asked the question, “Which of the three do you think Satan is?”  So in this article, I want to give my answer to that question, and on what evidence from Scripture do I believe supports that position.

WHAT IS SATAN’S NAME?

The word “Satan” is actually NOT a name, but a title, and it means “Adversary.”  Many believe that Satan’s name is LUCIFER, which is seen in the following verse:

How are you fallen from heaven, O LUCIFER, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!  For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.  (Isaiah 14:12-14; Emphasis Mine)

However, contrary to the beliefs of many, the word “LUCIFER” is actually a Latin word that’s not part of the actual Hebrew text.  The Hebrew word here is actually hêlêl (Strong’s #1966) or “morning star.”  Some have suggested the translation of “morning star” is a conspiracy to deny the deity of Messiah (Christ) since He is the only true “Morning Star.”  However, if there’s a conspiracy, it was committed by the King James translators who kept a Latin word in a Hebrew text, rather than just translating the Hebrew term.

I believe that we are not supposed to know his name because by denying him a name, it is a way for God to completely strip him of any identity, any status, any influence or position.  And who knows?  Maybe, Satan influenced the KJV translators here to retain the Latin term so that he could give himself a name and, therefore, attempt to reclaim for himself what God originally intended to deny him.

WHAT ABOUT THE NAME “BEELZEBUB”?

After Jesus casts out a blind and dumb demon, and healing him, He was accused by the Pharisees of casting “out devils, but by BEELZEBUB the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:22-24; Mark 3: 20-21).  In response, Jesus says,

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.  And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?  And if I by BEELZEBUB cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Consequently they shall be your judges.  But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

In this passage, it seems like the words “Satan” and “Beelzebub” are being equated; however, the word “Satan” here is being used in a generic sense, rather than specifically referring to “THE SATAN.”   The word “Satan” means “Adversary” or “Opponent,” and the proof that Jesus is using this term in a generic sense, rather than referring to the specific Satan is the second use of the word Satan in the phrase “if Satan casts out Satan.”

Jesus just cast out a blind and mute demon, and He is calling this demon “Satan,” so if the second “Satan” in the phrase can be used to refer to a blind and mute demon, then it’s just as likely that the first “Satan” in this phrase, referring to Beelzebub, can likewise be someone other than “THE SATAN” as well.  He could be one of Satan’s generals for all we know.  But the point that Jesus is making here that any kingdom that’s divided, or working against itself, cannot stand and endure.

“IS ISAIAH 14:12-17 ABOUT SATAN?”

This passage is a TAUNT [MOCKING] against the King of Babylon.  As we’ve discussed, the name “LUCIFER” is a Latin word, and it’s not part of the actual text.  Once you remove that from the text, then the only other thing to explain are the five “I WILL” boasts within the text:

But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.  (Isaiah 14:13-14)

But in spite of these boasts of what this individual will do, God responds by saying,

Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol [the grave], to the recesses of the pit.  Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, “Is this THE MAN who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness, and over three its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home.  (Isaiah 14:15-17; Emphasis Mine)

In fact, we can see a parallel of this in the life of Nebuchadnezzar.  In Daniel 4, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream warning him about what would happen to him due to his pride in thinking that he was solely the one who can be credited for Babylon’s greatness (Daniel 4:4-23), and what was prophesied to happen to him due to his pride:

This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord and king:  that you be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever he wises.   And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.  (Daniel 4:24-26)

And one year later, just as God warned would happen and Daniel explained, the king was glorying in himself by saying, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30), and as soon as he said those words, his dream came to pass (Daniel 4:31-33).

I can see people scoffing and laughing as “the Great King Nebuchadnezzar” who ruled with such glory and power, now lost his sanity, and they watch as he forages for grass to eat like cattle.  Am I saying that Isaiah 14:12-17 is about Nebuchadnezzar?  I’m just saying that the prophecy and what happens in Daniel seem to match, so it’s at least a possibility. Also, since the taunt identifies it as being aimed at a MAN, rather than a spiritual being, I don’t believe there’s enough textual evidence here to say that this text applies to more than just the king of Babylon.

IS SATAN A FALLEN ANGEL?

The typical description by most Christians of Satan is that he’s “a fallen angel.”  Part of this speculation comes from 2 Corinthians:

For such men are false apostles deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for EVEN SATAN DISGUISES HIMSELF AS AN ANGEL OF LIGHT.  Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.  (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Emphasis Mine)

Obviously, if SATAN DISGUISES HIMSELF AS AN ANGEL OF LIGHT, then an “Angel of light” is not who he truly is.  It’s a mask, a false front, a disguise, something that he pretends to be.  So if he’s pretending to be an “angel of light,” then logically, he must be  something else other than an “angel.”

In the Scriptures, Satan is pictured coming before God with the angels, the sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1), but nowhere does it identify him as an angel.   Also, in Zcehariah 3, when Joshua is standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan on his right hand to accuse him, it still does not identify Satan as an angel.

Instead, in Revelation 12:9, we learn the following:

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and HIS ANGELS were thrown down with him. (Emphasis Mine)

Although the Bible does not identify Satan as an angel, it does teach that there are angels who work for him and serve his needs.

“IS EZEKIEL 28 ABOUT SATAN?”

Although Ezekiel 28 is specifically addressing the overthrow of the “king of Tyre,” I do believe that there is enough textual evidence here to support the idea that this passage is discussing more than just the king of Tyre.   Instead, I believe that a portion of this text about the fall of the king of Tyre is also being used to present us with a picture of the fall of Satan.

In Ezekiel 28:13, this verse begins by saying, “You were in Eden, the garden of God.”  Obviously, there’s no chance that the king of Tyre could have been in Eden; however, we know that the serpent, who is called Satan (Revelation 12:9), was, in fact, in the garden of Eden.

The passage then goes on to describe him:

Every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your SETTINGS AND SOCKETS, was in you.  On the day that YOU WERE CREATED they were prepared. (Ezekiel 28:13; Emphasis Mine)

There’s three things I want to point out about this verse:

  1.  Four of the jewels that are listed here as “his covering” are also used as the “foundation stones” of the New Jerusalem that will come down out of the New Heaven: the topaz, the beryl, the jasper, and the emerald.  Therefore, at least alluding to a heavenly connection to this individual whose covering is being described.
  2. There is a dispute on how the phrase translated in the NASB as  “SETTINGS AND SOCKETS” should be translated.  Many translators claim that this phrase in the Hebrew is extremely difficult to interpret.  For example, many translations translate the phrase the same way as the KJV as “TABRETS AND THY PIPES,” but one translation, the Orthodox Jewish Bible, translated it as “HAND DRUMS AND OF THY WIND INSTRUMENTS.”   While others, like the Amplified, the New International Version, the Christian Standard Bible, the Tree of Life Version and others translate it like we find in the NASB.  Many people believe that Satan was the worship leader based on the KJV, OJB, and others which describe these as musical instruments, but if the other translations are correct, then there’s no basis for such a claim.
  3. Another indication that this is alluding to someone other than the “king of Tyre” is the statement that “on the day that YOU WERE CREATED were they prepared.”  If this was a man being discussed, God would have said on the day you were CONCEIVED, or on the day that you were BORN, but not “on the day that you were CREATED.”  This again suggests that Ezekiel is alluding to more than just a human king.

In verse 14, we are finally given information about this heavenly being.

You were the ANOINTED CHERUB who covers, and I placed you there.  You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire.  (Ezekiel 28:14; Emphasis Mine)

Obviously, a man, the king of Tyre, is NOT an “ANOINTED CHERUB;” indicated that both the king of Tyre and this ANOINTED CHERUB suffered a similar fate, they both were thrown down from their positions of power and authority, which is why the king of Tyre is being used to present us with a glimpse into the fate of this ANOINTED heavenly being.  Consequently, I believe that as we continue on, we will find that there’s more textual evidence to strongly suggest that this heavenly being, who was cast down from his position of power and authority, is Satan.  And as a result, then, this identifies Satan, not as one of the Seraphim or a “fallen angel,” but as a fallen Cherub.

As a cherub, then, this means that Satan also has a human form with “four faces and four wings.” His legs are straight, and his feet are “like a calf’s hoof.”  He, like the other cherubs, have “the face of a man, the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and the face of an eagle” (Ezekiel 1:5-12).  This is definitely not the way that Satan is also pictured.  There’s no horns, no tail, and no pitchfork, and he definitely isn’t red all over.  Much like the angels and cherubs, the picture of Satan that’s often presented does not line up with the biblical record.

In verses 15, we read,

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, UNTIL unrighteousness was found in you.

When God originally created Satan, he was “blameless in his ways.”  He was not created as a sinful, evil being, but like humanity,  it is apparent that all of the heavenly being created by God were also given the freedom of choice.  Satan was perfect, “blameless in his ways,” UNTIL he chose to rebel, and Satan must be quite a charismatic speaker because he convinced one-third of the angels to join him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4); therefore, proving that the angels, likewise, have the freedom to choose.  And then Satan, the serpent, deceived the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) to make the same choice that he and the one-third of the angels who followed him made, to rebel against God.  And since that time, Satan and his angels have been convincing people to do the same thing over and over and over again.

But let’s continue,

By the abundance of your TRADE you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the MOUNTAIN OF GOD.  And I have destroyed you, O COVERING CHERUB, from the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:16; Emphasis Mine)

In this verse, we read, “By the abundance of your TRADE you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned.”  What was this “TRADE“?  And how did it internally fill him “with violence,” and result in him “sinning”?   The word translated as “TRADE” is the Hebrew word r’chullatecha (Strong’s #7404), and means “traffic” or “merchandise.”  Today, I think we could include the idea of “peddling.”  But what the king of Tyre and Satan were each “peddling” led to their downfall, and as we will see, also led to the downfall of others.  It is for this reason, that God cast him as something “profane” (common, average; opposite of holy) from the “MOUNTAIN OF GOD.”

And God destroyed him, “O COVERING CHERUB,” so again, God identifies him as a CHERUB, but this time as the “COVERING CHERUB.”  Perhaps, Satan was originally one of the two covering cherubs over the throne of God, but due to his sin, he was stripped of his name, his office, his position, and even his authority in heaven, and he was branded with the name “SATAN” (Adversary, Opponent).

And what led him to believe that he could his own god?  We are told in the next verse:

Your heart was lifted up because of your BEAUTY; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your SPLENDOR.   I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you. (Ezekiel 28:17; Emphasis Mine)

Satan got wrapped up in his own beauty and splendor, and as a result, he thought he could be a god as well, and that all those in heaven should bow down in reverence to him as they do God.  And so his pride and narcissistic belief that he should be the center of all things were the seeds that led to his downfall.  And apparently, he was not only beautiful to behold – contrary to the ugly, hideous picture we commonly have of him – but he was also extremely charismatic and convincing.

By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned, you profaned your sanctuaries. (Ezekiel 28:18a)

The term “sanctuaries” may be a reference to not only to God’s temple in heaven, the three heavens, but the angels who were corrupted into following him.  So what did God do as punishment besides throwing him down from the “Mountain of God”?

Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you.  And I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you. (Ezekiel 28:18b)

According to the text, God brought “fire from the midst of you,” the fire of his pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, and it consumed him, turning him “to ashes on the earth.”  The word “ashes” here is a description of his appearance.  He is now burnt, dark, ashen in appearance, the opposite of the beauty that he once possessed.  The statement that he would be thrown “on the earth in the eyes of all who see you” is yet future.

In Revelation 12, we are told that there will be a war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and Satan, the Great Dragon, and his angels.  And that Satan and his angels would be thrown down to earth  (Revelation 12:7-9).

All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have become terrified, and you will be no more. (Ezekiel 28:19)

During the tribulation, Satan will be on the earth with humanity, but he will know then that his time will be short, so he will seek to destroy as many of God’s people as possible.  Believers will be “appalled” at him, but once the Lord returns, he will be “terrified,” realizing his coming punishment in the bottomless pit and, then, into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone where his memory among God’s people “will be no more.”

CONCLUSION

As we’ve seen, the best textual evidence seems to point to Satan originally being one of the covering cherubs over the throne of God.  However, he became enamored with his own looks and beauty, became filled with pride and rebellion, and began to spreading it to the angels within God’s Kingdom.  A third of the angels joined him in his rebellion and were cast out of heaven, and their names were erased from the writings of God.

His appearance was changed by the hideous fire that burned within him to a dark, black, ashened figure, and no longer the beautiful being that he once was.  He now rules as Satan, “the adversary,” the “god of this world,” and “the prince of the kingdom of darkness.”

 

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The Gospel of Hanukkah: “Does Its Message Burn Brightly in Your Life Today?” (Part 2/2)

In the first part of this study, we examined how aspects of the Temple and story of Hanukkah picture for us the Gospel message.  In this second part, we will look at the application of our study in our lives as believers.

BE THE TEMPLE OF GOD

However, this is where I feel where many leaders and believers are stumbling.  Most of them are good as far as getting people to come to Messiah to be cleansed, but it’s moving or transitioning from “being cleansed by God” to being taught to actually “become the Temple (or dwelling place) of God” where the problem is.   It seems “natural” for us to sin and to continue needing “cleansing” from God, but it does not seem natural for us to live holy and upright lives before God.  And yet God requires this of us in both the Old and New Testaments. It is evident that this is a major problem area because there are as many, or even sometimes more, problem areas in the lives of many believers as there are outside in the unsaved world, which is not what we would normally expect.  Therefore, I believe that’s an indication that there’s a problem here.

The main focus of many TV evangelists, for example, is on “the love of God,” or “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity.”  What you do not hear hardly anything about is the “Holiness of God,” or that as believers in the Messiah, we have been called to live a life of holiness.  In fact, living a life of holiness is so important to God that the Scriptures teach us that “without holiness, no man (or person) shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Yet how many churches and pulpits are quiet regarding this topic?

Obviously, since many believers in Jesus [Yeshua] today reject the Old Testament, specifically the Pentateuch [first five books of the Bible] , the very Scriptural basis and foundation which teaches us about the need to be “holy, for the LORD our God is holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7-8, 26), then we can understand why this idea is not being taught.  In fact, I’ve heard many believers say that since they are “sinners saved by grace,” they cannot be holy, and to even attempt to be holy is a waste of time and effort.  They say this in spite of the fact that God commands us to be holy, not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament, such as in the following:

For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (I Thessalonians 4:7)

Or another we find is the following:

but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16)

As we can see in both the Old and New Testaments, we are called by God to walk in holiness.  It is a consistent message throughout; God has not “changed His mind,” nor has He “changed the program” as far as His expectations of us.  It is God’s desire for all His people to live holy and upright lives, and to run after His Torah (“God’s Teachings, guidance and instructions”) and to keep it.  In fact, this is the word that God has spoken to my wife and I not long ago:

I want My people to be upright and holy people who follow and run after My Torah and keep it.  This is what makes your LORD God happy and blessed.  I want for all My children to be blessed and sanctified to where they have no doubt that I love them.

On another account, God spoke to us about the need to live obediently and “not to play with fire,”

My laws and ways/commandments are not burdensome or heavy. They are easy to those who choose to obey them and want a close relationship with Me.  Don’t taste, play, or pretend you will be all right by doing wrong and sinning for a time, and then come back running and expect the door will be opened for you.  Playing with danger is destructive and dangerous, and you will get burned, and you don’t ever just hurt yourself but the ones you say you love the most. Don’t fornicate and commit adultery, it hurts Me.  I say again, keep your eyes and hearts steadfast on Me, says God, and don’t prostitute yourself around for I hate sin, and sin will destroy you and all relationships.  Trust is so hard to rebuild.  Hear My words and do them.  I love you.

So then, since God’s desire is for all His people to live in holiness before Him, and unfortunately, this is not a topic that is discussed much by believers anymore, let me go ahead and ask the “million-dollar question,” “What does it actually mean to ‘be the temple of God’”?  How do we live so that we are conscientious of our new identity as His Temple, His dwelling place?  As I sat here contemplating this question, a few of the following thoughts came to mind.

THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE SANCTIFIED AND CONSECRATED FOR SERVICE TO GOD AND GOD ALONE.

When we look at our own lives, even how we live behind closed doors, are we living for God, are we serving Him, or are we living and serving our own agenda and needs?  Who really is on the throne of our hearts and lives?

For too many years, I would go to church on Sunday, pay tithes, even help out ushering or singing in the choir, but then Monday through Saturday, I was living my life, following my dream, my wants, my needs.  Was I living as a Temple of God?  Obviously not.  I came to the awareness in my life that there’s more to living in service to God than just going to church and doing those things I did once, twice, or even three times a week.  I became “hungry and thirsty” for intimacy with God – not just “to be saved” – but to experience God in a tangible way and to experience and walk in “His righteousness.” With all my heart, I wanted (and continue to want) to know and understand what it means “to be holy, even as the LORD [my] God is holy.”

THE TEMPLE WAS GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

The Temple was where God’s Presence dwelt and was experienced.  It was by His Presence that God consecrated His Temple (Exodus 29:45).  One day, which I believe will be soon, God’s Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and then all those commandments which deal with the Temple will once again be able to be followed and obeyed.  But according to the Scriptures, not only did God’s Presence consecrate the physical tabernacle, and then later on, the Temple in Jerusalem, but it’s also God’s Presence that consecrates us and separates us from all other people in this world to be His living Temple:

For then how can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people?  Is it not by You going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?  (Exodus 33:16)

According to Moses here, it is the Presence of God in the lives of His people that distinguishes us, separates us, from all other people on the face of the earth.  It is not what list of faith statements that we believe, or what church or synagogue we happen to attend, or even how much money we have donated to various ministries, but the thing that makes us distinct as the people of God is His Presence in our lives.  Without His Presence truly being in our lives, and we experiencing Him in a real and tangible way, then we really aren’t any different than any “unsaved” individual.  It is His living, holy Presence in us that makes the difference.  And an even greater gift is that He has chosen us to be His own special possession:

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all peoples who are on the face of the earth.  (Deuteronomy 7:6)

As God’s chosen people, He desires to dwell within each of us, as well as within us corporately, as His living Temple.  This same idea was taught by Paul  in I Corinthians 3:16, “Know you not that you are God’s Temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament)  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself the question, “Is God’s manifested Presence dwelling within me, consecrating me for His service?  Am I living as His Temple today, or are there areas of my life that I am still holding back from Him?”

THE TEMPLE WAS WHERE THE TORAH WAS KEPT AND STUDIED

The Torah, the “Law” of God, was placed in the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies (which was the heart of the Temple).   And when reading the Torah, the five books of Moses, it is taken from the Ark and read.  In much the same way, all of the Scriptures should be written on our hearts and minds, and when we recite and live its words, it should come from the “ark” of our hearts where it had been stored.

The problem is, of course, that there are many people who have not been storing God’s Word within their hearts and minds.  Tragically, a great many believers in America do not even crack their Bibles to read them, much less store them in their hearts and minds.  The problem with this is far reaching and can even interfere with our relationship with God.

From the Scriptures,  it is clear that not every human being belongs to God or are a part of His kingdom.  But only those who have accepted the gift of His Son’s death, burial, and bodily resurrection for them and been baptized in water for the remission of their sins, and who then continue to seek intimacy with God and to walk in obedience to Him are in His kingdom.  Jesus [Yeshua] taught us in the Gospel of John that the way we remain in His love was through our obedience to His commandments, His teachings:

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments (or teachings), you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments (or teachings), and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:8-11)

Unfortunately, when many believers read about Jesus’ [Yeshua’s] commandments, they have been taught that refers to the two commandments He quoted from the Torah: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  However, it was God, the “I Am” (Exodus 3:14), who gave to Moses and Israel the Torah on Mount Sinai, and in the Gospel of John, Jesus [Yeshua] identifies Himself as the same “I Am” (John 8:58).  Consequently, then it was the same Jesus [Yeshua] in His pre-incarnate state, who gave to Moses and the children of Israel the Torah and the commandments on Mount Sinai, and then centuries later, it was the same Jesus [Yeshua] in His incarnate human form, who is ministering and teaching in the Gospels.  In other words, the words of the Torah and the commandments found in the first five books of the Bible should be as much in red letters as the words of Jesus [Yeshua] in the Gospels.  Why?  Because the same individual is speaking in both places.

Therefore, I am convinced, based on my own research and study, that when Jesus [Yeshua] is referring to “His commandments,” it involves everything taught within the Scriptures – not just the two commandments He quoted.  In addition, I need to also point out that it is not our obedience to the commandments that saves us, or justifies us before God, for we are saved by grace through faith in the Messiah’s death and resurrection, and by our public testimony of being baptized in water,  but as a result of our salvation, our obedience to His commandments/Teachings is expected of all those who have been redeemed and are a part of His Kingdom.  Our obedience to His commandments is like a thermostat; it measures our passion and love for God.

In fact, in John 14, Jesus [Yeshua] told His disciples,

He who has My commandments (or teachings) and [continues to] keep them, he it is who [continues to] love Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him….If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word (or teachings); and My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.  He who does not [continue to] love Me does not keep My words (or teachings); and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:21, 23-24)

When we observe and keep what Jesus [Yeshua] taught from our hearts based on our love and commitment to Him, then the thermostat of our heart indicates that we love Him, but if we do not keep and observe His teachings, then the thermostat of our heart indicates that we do not, in fact, love Him, even though we may be saying that we do with our words.  I added the phrase “continue to” in brackets in the above verses in order to indicate the verb tense that’s used in the original Greek text, which was a continuous or repeated action, not just a one-time occurrence.

Our level of intimacy with God is dependent on our level of obedience to His commandments.  This is something that I learned through experience. When I wasn’t living in obedience to God, God felt distant, far away, and it seemed like there was a “bronze ceiling” between Him and me.  There was no sense of His Presence in my life or any sense of intimacy with Him at all.  however, when I seriously committed myself to living in obedience to Him and His Word from my heart, there was a definite change.  I began to experience God in a way I never had before.

What about you?  Have you ever considered that the same Jesus [Yeshua] whom you read about in the Gospels is the same one who gave Moses and the children of Israel the commandments on Mount Sinai?  If that’s the case, then how can the teachings in the Gospels be in conflict with the teachings and commandments given by God to Moses, which I have heard some ministers teach, when they come from the same source?

It is the Torah (His Teachings, guidance and instructions) that God wants written on our hearts.  This is something we see within the Psalms:

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The law (Heb. Torah) of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip. (Psalms 37:31)

It is also seen in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah,

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law (Heb. Torah) within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33; see also Hebrews 8:8-12)

What about in your own life?  Is the Torah written on your heart? Do you spend time studying His Instructions and learning how to walk it out in your life? There are a couple of verses in Psalm 119 that I have used as a prayer.  They are the following:

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (Heb. Torah)… Teach me Your statutes.  Make me to understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders. (Psalm 119:18, 27)

Have you ever thought that there were “wonders” hidden within God’s Torah  (Teachings or Instructions) that He is keeping only for those who are willing to dig to find them.  Why?  Because “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but it is the glory of kings to search it out” (Proverbs 25:2).

I have spent many years digging in the Scriptures, but this past fall, God has specifically told us that we are to embrace the commandments He taught within the Torah:

Keep My Torah and My commandments because that is where you will find the rest and comfort you so much are searching after….You do good to be on My side and to follow My Torah and My commandments.  Do you know My beloved children that when you obey Me, you are doing what honors Me and pleases Me the most…. Remember to keep My Sabbaths and be careful to keep My commandments because they are still very important to Me, says God.  I haven’t changed, My people, they are important to Me for such a time as this.

God has made it clear to us that He has not changed His mind about His expectations of us, and it is clear to my wife and I what He has called us to live and to embrace.  We did not grow up keeping the Torah, but we are learning.  There were some things we had learned before, but now the learning is going deeper than we’ve ever gone before, and yet we are excited for the journey ahead, because we know who it is that is directing our path.

THE TEMPLE WAS A PLACE OF WORSHIP

In addition, as God’s Temple, we are to be a place of worship.  But what is “worship”?  Is it just singing songs from a hymnal or singing choruses in church?  What is it?  Some may be surprised to discover that there’s more to worship than singing songs, choruses, or hymnals.  According to the book Prayer and Worship,

Our English word worship comes from two roots.  Weorth means “honor” or “worthiness,” and scipe means “to create” (Dawn 1995, 76).  To worship someone or something is to create an expression of honor or to attribute worth to the object of worship.  So when we acknowledge God’s infinite value in our lives, we lift our souls to Him in praise and we offer our bodies to Him as living sacrifices.  We could say this is essentially “worth-ship” (153).

God wants us to live a lifestyle of worship as His people and as His holy nation (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:9).  God has revealed Himself to us, and we are to respond to Him, and “in the process, we are transformed” (Prayer and Worship  153).   Further on, the writer explains that “Transformation, renewal, and living in the center of God’s will – these all combine to produce a lifestyle of worship for the believer” (154).

In consideration, then, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I live a lifestyle of worship before God, or have I limited worship to singing only a few songs on Saturday or Sunday?”  “Am I continuing to be transformed and renewed?”  “Am I living in the center of God’s will? Do I even know what God’s will for my life even is?”  Am I presenting my body, like Paul writes in Romans 12:1, as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [my] reasonable service,” my reasonable act of worship before Him?

THE TEMPLE WAS “THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD”

In Jesus’ [Yeshua’s] renowned teaching, the “Sermon on the Mount,” He taught the crowds, “You are the light of the world, a city cannot be hid on a mountain situated” (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).  The phrase “light of the world” was a common expression for the Temple, particularly during the feast of Tabernacles, when the Temple was all lit up with lights and could be seen for miles.  Also, the Temple was as large as a city, employing some 3,000 workers and, of course, it was located on the Temple Mount, so that people had to ascend up to go to it.  Jesus [Yeshua] was teaching the Jewish crowds who had come to hear Him that they were the Temple of God, the “light of the world.”  He also taught them in this sermon, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  What about your works?  Do they glorify God?  Are you being that light that Jesus [Yeshua] taught us that we should be?

THE TEMPLE WAS “THE HOUSE OF MEETING”

Finally, the Temple was where people came to meet God.  Wherever we go, we are to present individuals with an opportunity to meet Him.  The question we should ask ourselves is, “Am I living in a way so that they can see Jesus [Yeshua] in me, or does my life only reflect me, my wants, my needs, my dreams?”  Because if people do not see Jesus [Yeshua] in us, or if we do not tell them about Him, then how will they have the opportunity to meet Him?  What changes would you need to make in your life so that your life could become that “House of Meeting” between individuals and the Messiah Jesus [Yeshua]?

SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

In looking at all these thoughts and questions about the Temple, I must ask myself, “Am I being the best Temple that I can be for God?” There are areas where I can see improvement in my life this past year, but there are other areas that still need work.  I have not arrived, but I am striving to move forward.  I am not content in simply being “a sinner saved by grace,” nor am I content in just doing the minimum for God.  Jesus [Yeshua] gave His all for me, and the least that I can do is give Him my all in service to Him and to His Kingdom.  I have not attained where God wants me to be yet, but I am further along than I used to be.  God is continuing to work in my life by His Spirit, and I continue to see the changes He is doing in my life.  But what about you?  Are you being the best Temple that you can be for God at this point in your life?  Are there areas in your life where God has changed you, transformed you?  Are there areas where you still need work?

SO FOR THIS HANUKKAH SEASON, HOW ABOUT TRYING TO DO ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:

  1. If you have not been living your life as God’s Temple, pray and ask Him to come into your life and dedicate yourself to Him for His use. Seek Him each day and strive to be His Temple in your day-to-day life.
  2. Write down those areas this year where you’ve seen spiritual growth and development, and then thank Him for Him working in your life.
  3. Write down those areas where you still need work, and submit them to Him, and open those areas of your life to Him and to His Spirit.
  4. Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith, who like Chana and her seven sons, as well as the others who through the years have died for their commitment to God and to His Word.
  5. Try reading Luke 1:26-38, the account of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary and letting her know that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, which many researchers believe occurred during the Hanukkah season.

 

Have a blessed holiday season, and may you experience the Presence, Power, and Holiness of God and His Messiah Jesus [Yeshua] this coming year!

 

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What are the Three Types of Created Beings We’ll See in Heaven?

ARE ANGELS THE ONLY CREATED BEINGS IN HEAVEN?   Many people believe that all the various created beings in heaven are angels, and that angels actually have two wings.  But is this actually true, according to the Bible?  And what about the cherub?  Does it actually look like a cute little baby with wings?  But if cherubs are angels too, then why are they called “cherubs” and not “angels”?  In this study, I want to look at what the Bible actually teaches us about these heavenly beings that God created.

In contrast to what many people believe, or have been erroneously taught, there are actually different types of beings in the heavenlies, not just one.   I find it problematic in the church that we want to simplify what the Bible teaches for people, but oftentimes, we oversimplify to the point where what we’re saying isn’t actually true.

For example, the inclusion of the wise men at Jesus’ birth.  We have them arrive at the manger, and we even identify them as “kings,” but this isn’t what the Bible teaches.  The Bible says that they were “wisemen,” and no where does it identify them as “kings,” and they didn’t show up at the manger, but by the time, they arrived, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in a house, and Jesus is described NOT as a “babe” or an “infant,” but as a young child (Matthew 2:11).  So why do we continue to teach something that’s not biblically true?  It’s tradition!  In the same sense, why do we continue to teach that all the living beings in heaven are “Angels”?  For the same reason, it’s tradition!

But as I’ll show, they are not all angels at all, but three different types of created beings: the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Angels.  In other words, they are NOT all angels.  Each of them live in heaven and have a part to play in God’s Kingdom.  But interestingly, the pictures we often visualize of them are often partially inaccurate, such as with Angels, or completely inaccurate, such as with the Cherubim.  So what does the Bible teach actually us about them?

A VIEW OF GOD’S THRONE IN HEAVEN

In Revelation 4, the Apostle John has a vision of him going up into heaven, and he describes the throne of God:

and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.  And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne like an emerald in appearance.  And around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. (Revelation 4:2-4)

The “rainbow” around the throne is an allusion to the covenant that God made with humanity and the earth, not to destroy the whole earth again with a major flood.

WHO ARE THE 24 ELDERS?

Now there’s a variety of opinions as to the identity of the twenty-four elders.   The reason for the diversity of opinion is that the Apostle John NEVER identifies who the twenty-four elders are.  Some of these opinions are the following:

  • Angels;
  • They are comprised of Adam, Abel, Seth, and his family line down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
  • They represent the combined priesthood of all believers (Old Testament Israel and New Testament believers combined, Jew and non-Jew);
  • The 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 Apostles;
  • The Old Testament glorified Jewish saints who were raised “first in the firstfruits” resurrection of Christ;
  • They are representatives of the raptured Church; or
  • They represent the completed body of redeemed humanity.

As we can see, there’s a great diversity of opinion as to who these 24 elders are; however, the one thing that most sources agreed upon was that they were glorified human beings.  Those who argued that they were angels were few.  But moving on,  John then goes on to say,

And from the throne proceed flashes of lightening and sounds of peals of thunder.  And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God; and before the throne there was as it were, a sea of glass like crystal;… (Revelation 4:5-6a).

The “flashes of lightening and sounds of thunder” are the same sights and sounds that Moses and the children of Israel saw at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16).  The number “seven” represents completeness, and we can see that there are “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are,” we are told, “the seven spirits of God.”  The Holy Spirit is pictured here as “seven spirits,” because God’s Spirit is complete in His power and revelation.  It is here at this point that the first of the four created beings is introduced.

TYPE 1: THE SERAPHIM

I’ve chosen the Seraphim (pron. “Ser-ah-feem“) to describe first because they are the ones John mentions here in his vision, and they are continually involved in worship in heaven.  The Seraphim are not only described by John, but they were also described by Isaiah centuries before in Isaiah 6.  In English, we indicate that something is in the plural when we add the letter “s” to the end of a noun (like “house” sing.; “houses” pl.) but in Hebrew, this is done sometimes by adding an “im” (pron. “eem“) at the end of the word (“Seraph” sing, “Seraphim” pl).

The word “Seraphim” means “Burning Ones,” because of their continual zealous passion for God, and they continually fly around the throne of God, calling out to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty.”  The are described here in Isaiah 6:2-4,

SERAPHIM stood above Him [the LORD], each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.   And one called out to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”  And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the Temple was filling with smoke. [Emphasis Mine]

The Seraphim as we can see do not have two wings, but six wings.  A pair of wings covering the face is a position of humility, a pair of wings covering the feet is a position of respect, and with the other two wings, they use to fly and get around.  John also saw this same sight, as I mentioned, in Revelation 4:

and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.  And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.  And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who to come.” (Revelation 4:6-8)

Now although John calls them “four living creatures,” rather than Seraphim (this word may not have translated well into Greek), I believe they are the same ones from Isaiah’s vision.  Like in Isaiah’s vision, these created beings are flying around the throne, they have six wings, and they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty.”  And in these three details, these two scenes are exactly alike; however, in John’s account, there are some added details not given by Isaiah.

  • Their bodies and wings are full of eyes in front and behind; and
  • The first creature was like a lion; the second like a calf; the third had a face like a man’s, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.

So what’s the purpose for all the eyes and what do each of their faces represent?  I believe these two characteristics are symbolic of certain traits of God, such as the eyes representing the eternality of God.  Only He can see the past, present, and future all at the same time, and so the eyes are able to look forward and back. 

But what about the four faces?  Although the Bible never indicates their meaning, the following is my own thoughts.  The “lion” could represent Jesus as “the lion of the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:9; Revelation 5:5);  the “calf” could represent Jesus as “the ultimate sacrifice of sin” (Hebrews  9:12, 14; 10:10-14); the “face of a man” could represent Jesus, “the son of man” (Daniel 7:13-14); but it was my wife, Karen, who suggested the last one, “the flying eagle” could represent God’s statement to Israel that “I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to Myself” (Exodus 19:4).

TYPE 2: THE CHERUBIM

The next type are the Cherubim.  The Cherubim are different from the Seraphim, but as we shall see, they do share a few characteristics.   Although the Seraphim’s function is primarily worship, the primary function of the Cherubim is to be guardians of God’s Holy Presence and His Throne, in addition to worship and serving God.   In fact, in many ways, I imagine the Cherubim as being like God’s “Secret Service Agents,” thus giving them a high ranking and position among God’s created beings.

Some might wonder, “As great as God is, why does He need Cherubim to guard or protect Him and His Throne?”  Rather than Him personally, they protect the sanctity and purity of His holiness and Presence, as well as the holiness of His Throne.  God is at war with the Kingdom of Darkness, and Satan, the prince of Darkness, would do anything to defile any and everything that belongs to God, if given the chance.  Consequently, the reason for God’s Cherubim and His angels, His military force.

The first place the Cherubim are mentioned is in Genesis.  Adam and Eve have sinned against God, and as punishment, they have been driven out of the Garden of Eden.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the CHERUBIM, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.  (Genesis 3:24; Emphasis Mine)

Noticed it was NOT angels that God posted there, but cherubim.   But aren’t angels just another name for cherubim?  No, for as we will see in this study, angels and cherubim look nothing alike, nor do they have the same duties.  In describing the Cherubim, God provides Ezekiel a vision of them in two passages: Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10.

THE BIBLICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CHERUBIM

In this first passage, Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, is at the river Chebar with the other exiles in Babylon, when the heavens are opened, and he sees this vision of God.   It is in this vision, where he first sees what he later identifies as the cherubim.  This is how he describes them:

And within it there were figures resembling four living beings.  And this was their appearance: they had human form.  Each of them had four faces and four wings.  And their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides were human hands.  As for the face and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward.  As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man, all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces.  Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies.  And each went forward; wherever the Spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they go.  (Ezekiel 1:5-12)

In this initial passage, we learn that the cherubim are not anything like what they are often portrayed as cute little babies with wings.  Instead, Ezekiel describes them as being human in form, but with four faces and four wings with feet “like a calf’s hoof” that “gleamed like burnished bronze.”  Their four faces were those of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle.  Each of the faces of the Seraphim are combined to compose the face of each of the Cherubim.   By combining these four faces onto one face, this may be a way of indicating their higher position.  But unlike the Seraphim, the Cherubim only have four wings, rather than six, and as we shall see further into this study, neither the Seraphim or the Cherubim look anything like angels.

In Ezekiel 10, he not only identifies this time that what he is describing are, in fact, Cherubim, but he also discusses in great detail about the wheels associated with them. Now in my research, I discovered that there are many speculations and ideas about who or what the wheels represent, but since this post is already rather lengthy, I want to stay focused on only the cherubim themselves.

And their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them.  The wheels were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels.  And each one had four faces.  The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.  Then the cherub rose up.  They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar (those he described in chapter 1).  (Ezekiel 10:12-15)

Here we can see a shared description with the Sepharim, their bodies being covered in eyes and, of course, this would have been for the same reason.  But in this description, what’s translated as “the face of a cherub” would have been “the face of an ox” that He gave earlier.

In Ezekiel 10, the glory of the LORD is seen leaving the Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonian conquest began, but afterwards, Ezekiel again reiterates his description, and that these were, indeed, cherubim.

These are the living beings that I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were cherubim.  Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands.  As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar.  Each one went straight ahead.  (Ezekiel 10:20-22)

Obviously, the Cherubim do not look anything like a cute little baby with wings.  But from Ezekiel’s description, we learn that they have a human-like male form with four faces.  They have the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.  They have straight legs, and the soles of their feet look like the hoofs of a calf.  They also have four wings: two wings are used to fly and two wings cover their bodies, and their bodies and wings, like the Seraphim, are covered in eyes.

As God’s guardians of His Presence, it is NOT surprising, then, that God would have their images stationed within the Tabernacle and, then later on, in the Temple.  For example, we find,

  • Two cherubim stationed on either side of the mercy seat, representing His throne and where He would meet with His people (Exodus 25:18-20, 22; 37:7-9; Numbers 7:89; I Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; I Kings 6:23-28: 8:6-7; 2 Kings 19:15; I Chronicles 13:6; 28:18; 2 Chronicles 5:7-8; Hebrews 9:5).
  • Two cherubim woven into the Temple Veil, guarding the way into the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35; 2 Chronicles 3:10-14).
  • Cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers are carved into the walls of Solomon’s Temple (I Kings 6:29; 2 Chronicles 3:7) and in the two doors of the Temple (I Kings 6:32, 35; Ezekiel 41:24-25).
  • Cherubim are also carved on the borders between the ledges and on the plates of the ledges (I Kings 7:29, 36).

Although the images of the cherubim are seen throughout the tabernacle and later Temple artistically, I do not believe this implies that they are only artistic expressions and do not really exist, as I read in one Internet article.  Instead, I believe that this demonstrates artistically those who are the guardians of the sanctity and holiness of God’s Presence and His throne in heaven.

INSIGHT INTO THE TRIBULATION TEMPLE?

Also, in describing what I believe to be the Temple that will be built and used during the Tribulation period (Ezekiel 40-42), the carvings of the cherubim in the wall have a pattern of a cherub with man’s face, palm tree, cherub with lion’s face, and a palm tree, and this pattern is repeated throughout this Temple (Ezekiel 41:18-20).  What are not portrayed are the cherubim’s four faces that Ezekiel described them having earlier (in chapters 1 and 10). 

The change of the faces of the cherubim might be indicative of two possible reasons:

  • To communicate the denial of the reality of the biblical cherubim, and that they themselves are the true guardians of God’s Presence: cherub with a man’s face, representing humanity, and the cherub with a lion’s face, representing the tribe of Judah being the common image for Israel; or
  • To communicate that Israel at that time only accepts the two faces of the cherubim (the man and the lion), while rejecting the meaning of the other two faces (the ox and the eagle). 

These are only speculations on my part, but the cherubim described here are not representative of the cherubim we see in the earlier part of the Ezekiel’s writings.

TYPE 3: THE ANGELS

Unlike the Seraphim and the Cherubim, there’s NOT ONE single verse in the Bible that ever describes Angels as having wings.  Our belief that they have two wings is actually derived from paintings, sculptures, and other artistic works, rather than on the Bible.  Instead, the Bible consistently describes as only “men” or “good-looking men.”  For example,

And when he [Abraham] lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three MEN were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth.  (Genesis 18:2; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that although we discover later that these men were angels, there’s no indication in the account of them having wings.  We can also see this is in the following chapter in the account of the destruction of Sodom.  In Genesis 19, we read,

Now the TWO ANGELS came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.  When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.  (Genesis 19:1; Emphasis Mine)

Later the men of Sodom come pounding on Lot’s door.  Notice how they describe these TWO ANGELS,

and they [the men of Sodom] called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the MEN who came to you tonight?  Being them out to us that we may have relations [i.e., sexual relations] with them.”  (Genesis 19:5; Emphasis Mine)

There’s no indication that the men of the Sodom saw these visitors as anything other than good-looking men.  Again, not even the slightest hint of them having wings.  How about in the New Testament?  In Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, he writes,

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.  And HIS APPEARANCE was like lightning, and his garment was white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.  (Matthew 28:2-4; Emphasis Mine)

Again, we see in the description of the angel that he was brilliantly bright like lightning, and even his garment (or clothes) was white as snow, but there’s absolutely no mention of him having wings.  It seems evident that if he would’ve had wings, the women would have told Matthew about it.  How about one last example in the book of Acts?  As Jesus was ascended into heaven TWO ANGELS appear to Jesus’ disciples.  Notice how they are described:

And as they [the disciples] were gazing intently into the sky while He [Jesus] was departing, behold, TWO MEN IN WHITE CLOTHING stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”  (Acts 1:10-11: Emphasis Mine)

Again, did you notice that they were described as “MEN IN WHITE CLOTHING,” who were just suddenly there, but there’s no mention or hinting of them having wings.  Consequently, there’s absolutely no biblical basis for the idea that angels have wings.

BUT WHAT DO ANGELS DO?

The angels serve four functions in God’s Kingdom.  Their primary function is as God’s military force, but they also serve as servants, worshipers, and messengers.  

AS GOD’S MILITARY FORCE

For example, as mentioned earlier, God sent out two of His angels as a detail to rescue Lot and his family and to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  There’s also the example of the Angel of the LORD who was sent out to defend Jerusalem from an attack by the Assyrians.  In response to this threat, the Angel of the LORD “struck (or killed) 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when [the other] men arose early in the morning, behold all of these were dead.  So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed and returned home, and lived at Ninevah” (Isaiah 37:36-37). 

There’s also the example of the Archangel Michael being dispatched because another angel, who had a message for Daniel, had been detained in warfare with “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” (a fallen angel over Persia) for three whole weeks (Daniel 10:12-14).  The fact that there’s continuing war in heaven between God’s Kingdom and the Kingdom of Darkness (Satan and his angels) in Revelation 12:7.

Jesus also alludes to them as God’s military force when He speaks about His return (Matthew 16:27), and the angels will be sent out to round up, gather, and if need be rescue His people (Matthew 24:31; Mark 26:26-27).  He also refers to them as such in the Garden of Gethsemane when He tells Peter,

Jesus said to him [Peter], “Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal MORE THAN TWELVE LEGIONS OF ANGELS?”  (Matthew 26:52-53; Emphasis Mine)

One LEGION is equivalent to 6,000 troops. so more than 12 LEGIONS would be MORE THAN 72,000 ANGELS,” and this would be abundantly more than enough to deal with the soldiers who were there to arrest Jesus.  And in saying this, Jesus was clearly indicating that one of the functions of Angels is as God’s military force.

AS GOD’S MESSENGERS

The word for “angel” in Hebrew is mal’akh (Strong’s #4397), and it means “angel” or “messenger.”  So we see them bringing messages from God to different people, such as to Lot and his family (Genesis 19:12-13, 15-21); to Manoah and his wife (Judges 13: 2-5, 9-20);  to Daniel (Daniel 8:16-26; 9:21-27; 10:10-21); to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist 1:11-20); to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-37); to Joseph (Matthew 1:19-21), and to others in the Scriptures. 

In addition, here are some sample references which discuss some specific things that Angels do:

THEY GUARD, PROTECT AND RESCUE US.  For example,

  • Exodus 14:19, “And the angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and STOOD behind them.”
  • Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to GUARD you in all your ways.” (Emphasis Mine)
  • Daniel 6:21-22, “Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and THEY HAVE NOT HARMED ME, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” (Emphasis Mine)

THEY LEAD AND GUIDE US.  For example,

  • Exodus 23:20, “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to GUARD you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.

THEY FIGHT AND DELIVER.  For example,

  • Exodus 33:2, “And I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.”
  • Numbers 20:16, “But when we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent an angel and BROUGHT US OUT FROM EGYPT; now behold, we are at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory.”
  • Numbers 22:31-33, “Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.  And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times?  Behold, I have come out as an ADVERSARY, because your way was contrary to me.  But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times.  If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.”

THEY STRENGTHEN US.  For example,

  • Luke 22:43, “Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him [Jesus], STRENGTHENING Him.”

THEY RESTRAIN THE WIND.  For example,

  • Revelation 7:1, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, HOLDING BACK THE FOUR WINDS of the earth, so that no wind should blow in the earth or on the sea or on any tree.”

ANGELS ARE SENT BY GOD TO MINISTER

According to Hebrews 1:14, “Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”  Consequently, angels are sent to minister to those who are the true believers in Jesus Christ.  As an example of angels saving us when we are in trouble, let me offer this example from my own personal experience:

MY OWN TESTIMONY

My family and I was driving down to visit my mom in the middle of December; however,  the day before we left, we got this horrible snow storm.  But regardless, I decided we were going to go anyways.  It took us forever to get there.  What should have been an eleven-hour drive ended up taking us twenty-three hours!

But as we were going down the free way, we were in the middle lane between semi trucks on either side of us.  Then, out of nowhere, we hit an ice patch and our van was twirling in circles in between these two semis.  We cried out, “Jesus!”  But no sooner had we cried out for His help, the van was on the other side of the highway, facing in the opposite direction.  Even to this day, I have no explanation how I got on the other side of the freeway without hitting a single semi or car.  The only explanation I have is that God sent His angels to help us and to move our car to the other side of the highway.  I can’t offer any other explanation.

CONCLUSION

As we’ve seen, there’s more than just ANGELIC BEINGS up in heaven, there are SERAPHIM, CHERUBIM, and the ANGELS.  These three classes of spiritual beings, each have their own tasks and responsibilities in God’s Kingdom, just as you and I have our own tasks and responsibilities that we are to do as part of God’s Kingdom.

God’s Kingdom is more than just “the people and nation of Israel” or “the church,” since both of these would exclude the spiritual realm and these created beings by God.  Instead, God’s Kingdom involves both the spiritual realm, as well as the physical universe, which includes Earth, and all the people and nations on this planet.  These two realms constitute God’s Kingdom and territory.

Now in considering these three types of celestial beings, I’d like you to consider these three types and then ask yourself a question: Which one of these three types is Satan?  He is one of these three, but which one?  In my next post, I’ll give you my own answer and reasons, but until then, which one do you think he is?  To provide your answer, just click on the following link:  “Which One is Satan?” Survey.

 

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The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us About God’s Grace (Part 4/4)

In this last part of this 4-part series, we are going to examine the last three things that the Old Testament teaches us about God’s chesed [or grace].

CHESED [GRACE] IS ASSOCIATED WITH GOD’S BLESSINGS.

Since by God’s grace, His chesed, and His redemptive acts is the way God brings us into a relationship with Him, and it is also by His grace that we are able to continue in our relationship to Him, which includes our obedience to His commandments, then it is only logical that grace [God’s chesed] should also be associated with God’s blessings.  For example,

Surely goodness and MERCY [Heb. chesed] shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  (Psalm 23:6)

For the word of the LORD is right; and all His works are done in truth.  He loves righteousness and judgment:  the earth is full of the GOODNESS [Heb. chesed] of the LORD.  (Psalm 33:4-5; Emphasis mine)

In both of these psalms, David is praising God for His blessings, His “goodness and chesed (‘mercy’),” which he said would “follow me all the days of my life,” as well as to connect God’s “goodness,” His chesed, with the Torah, “the word of the LORD,” i.e., God’s law.

SOME OF THE THINGS GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] DOES FOR US

Here are a few specific things that God’s chesed [grace] does for us in our lives:

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] QUICKENS MEN.

Psalm 119:88.  “Quicken me after Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed]; so shall I keep Your testimony of Your mouth.”

Psalm 119:159.  “Consider how I love Your precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace].”

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] COMFORTS.

Psalm 119:76.  “Let, I pray You, Your MERCIFUL KINDNESS [Heb. chesed] be for my comfort, according to Your word unto Your servant.”

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] PRESERVES.

You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and Your truth will continually preserve me. (Psalm 40:11; Emphasis mine)

You will prolong the king’s life; His years will be as many generations.  He will abide before God forever; appoint LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and truth, that they may preserve him.  (Psalm 61:6-7; Emphasis mine)

LOYALTY [Heb. chesed] and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.  (Proverbs 20:28; Emphasis mine)

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] IS POURED OUT UPON INDIVIDUALS.

God pours His chesed [grace] out on individuals, for example, Lot, Joseph, David, and Ezra.

Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed], which you have shown by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. (Genesis 19:19; emphasis mine)

But the LORD was with Joseph and extended KINDNESS [Heb. chesed] to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.  (Genesis 39:21; emphasis mine)

Then Solomon said, “You have shown great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed], that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  (I Kings 3:6; emphasis mine)

Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king’s mighty princes.  Thus I was strengthened according tothe hand of the LORD my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Isael to go up with me.  (Ezra 7:27-28; emphasis mine)

In the next examples, David is asking God about His chesed that he had experienced before.  In other words, he’s going through a difficult time, and he wants to experience those times of blessings again in his life.

Psalm 89:49.  “Lord, where are Your former LOVINGKINDNESSES [Heb. chesed], which You swore unto David in Your truth?”

Psalm 90:13-14.   “Return, O LORD, how long?  and let it repent You concerning Your servants.  O satisfy us early with Your MERCY [Heb. chesed]; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

Perhaps, you’ve gone through (or are currently going through) some really hard times, and you, like David, have asked God, “Where are those former times of blessing that I experienced before?  Why can’t I experience them again?”  And God does respond with a blessing, by giving us His grace, which helps us through those difficult times.

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] IS POURED OUT UPON ISRAEL AS A NATION.

But not only does God pour out His chesed [grace] upon individuals, but also upon the nation of Israel.

In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] I will have compassion on you.  (Isaiah 54: 8, 10; emphasis mine)

I shall make mention of the LOVINGKNDNESSES [Heb. chesed] of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion.  (Isaiah 63: 7; emphasis mine)

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed].   (Jeremiah 31: 3; Emphasis Mine)

In the next examples, David is asking God about His chesed that he had experienced before.  In other words, he’s going through a difficult time, and he wants to experience those times of blessings again in his life.

SHARING GOD’S CHESED [GRACE]

Not only is chesed [grace] associated with God’s blessing, but we are encouraged to praise God for His blessings which He gives to us, among which is His chesed [or grace].

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] in the morning, for You have been my stronghold, and a refuge in the day of my distress.  O my strength, I will sing praises to You; for God is my stronghold, the God who shows me LOVINGKNESS [Heb. chesed].   (Psalm 59:16-17; Emphasis mine)

I will sing of the LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] of the LORD forever; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men.  (Psalm 89:1; Emphasis Mine)

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Your name, O Most High.  To show forth Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night.  (Psalm 92:1-2; Emphasis Mine)

I will sing LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and justice, To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.  (Psalm 101:1; Emphasis Mine)

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name…Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and tender mercies.  (Psalm 103:1, 4; Emphasis Mine)

Let them give thanks to the LORD for His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed], and for His wonders to the sons of men!  (Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, 31; Emphasis Mine)

I will bow down toward Your holy temple, and give thanks to Your name for Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and Your truth.   (Psalm 138:2; Emphasis Mine)

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] IS A PLACE OF REFUGE

God’s chesed [grace] is also something that we can rely on and turn to when we are in trouble, or when we need God’s forgiveness or protection.

Psalm 130:7.  “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is MERCY [Heb. chesed; grace], and with Him is plenteous redemption.”

Psalm 144: 1-2.  “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.  My GOODNESS [Heb. chesed], and My fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and He in whom I trust; who subdues my people under me.”

SHARING GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] WITH OTHERS.

God’s chesed [grace] is not only something that we receive for ourselves, nor is it something that’s only for the nation of Israel, but it’s also something that we can share with others.

I have NOT hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and Your truth from the great congregation.  (Psalm 40:10; Emphasis mine)

Because Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] is better than life, My lips will praise You.  (Psalm 63:3; Emphasis mine)

I believe this is one of the reasons why Paul begins his letters with greetings of “peace and grace.”  It not only combines typical Jewish and Gentile greetings of the time, but it also fulfills Scriptural teaching about sharing God’s chesed [grace] with others, and not “concealing” it “from the great congregation.”

GOD WILL JUDGE THOSE WHO DO NOT WALK IN HIS CHESED [GRACE].

And finally, the last thing that the Old Testament teaches us about God’s chesed [grace] is that God will judge those who do not follow His example and walk in it.

Our fathers in Egypt did NOT understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant KINDNESSES [Heb. chesed], but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.  (Psalm 106:7; Emphasis Mine)

For this says the LORD, “Do not enter a house of mourning, or go to lament or to console them; for I have withdrawn My peace from this people, declares the LORD, “My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and compassion.  (Jeremiah 16:5; Emphasis Mine)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their FAITHFULNESS [Heb. chesed].  (Jonah 2:8; Emphasis Mine)

Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or KINDNESS [Heb. chesed] or knowledge of God in the land.   (Hosea 4:1; Emphasis Mine)

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?  What shall I do with you, O Judah?  For your LOYALTY [Heb. chesed] is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early.   (Hosea 6:4; Emphasis Mine)

CONCLUSION

In summary, then, in this four-part series, we’ve discovered that the Old Testament, like many things, has a much broader scope to God’s chesed [grace] than what we see in the New Testament.  The New Testament highlights those aspects of grace that deal with sin and redemption, but this is not the only aspect and views that the Bible has regarding God’s chesed [grace].  And I believe when we consider these twelve things that the Old Testament has to say about His chesed [grace], then we should realize what a large disservice we are doing when we focus on only what the New Testament teaches about it, instead of what ALL of the Bible has to say about it.

 

 

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The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us about God’s Grace (Part 3/4)

IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN GOD’S LAW AND GRACE?    In this last part of this series, we will examine what the Old Testament teaches us about the connection between grace and the law.  This is an extremely controversial point, since for centuries, Christianity has argued that Grace and Law were opposites, and that if someone tried to follow the Law, then they were attempting to earn their way to heaven, and the cross of Christ was no longer beneficial to them (Galatians 5:4).  But is this correct, or has the writings of Paul been taken out of context and misunderstood?  In this third part of this four-part series, we are going to look at this controversial topic.

CHESED [GRACE] IS CONNECTED TO OBSERVANCE TO THE LAW.

Interestingly, the first One to explicitly connect law and grace (Heb. chesed) together in the Bible is God Himself at Mt. Sinai as He is giving Israel the Ten Commandments.  So am I saying that God taught that we are justified by the keeping of the law?  Did He not know about the cross here?  I have heard many ministers make the claim that in the Old Testament, God taught a “legalistic approach” to Him, but as we will see, the Old Testament does NOT teach what they claim.  Those who think it teaches a “legalistic approach” do NOT really know the commandments, nor have they given them any real consideration beyond just a superficial reading of the text.

In the giving of the commandments, God first of all introduces Himself to the people of Israel:

I am the LORD [Heb. YHVH] your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  (Exodus 20:2)

I am the LORD.”  The word “LORD” here in all capitals is YHVH, the covenantal name of God, and when it was originally written, as all words in the ancient Paleo-Hebrew of the Old Testament, there were no vowels added to the words.  The vowels were added to the written text much later, and as a result, there’s been a lot of dispute as to how His name should be pronounced, which is why I just gave the consonants here.  But in this introduction, He not only tells them His name, which is what we do when we introduce ourselves to someone, but He reaffirms their relationship with Him by saying “your God.”

But not only does He introduce Himself to them and tell them that He is their “God,” but He also tells them that He is the one who had just redeemed them from slavery in Egypt; consequently, then, His relationship to them is based on the redemptive act that He had just done for them [i.e., His act of grace], “which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”   And so even in the New Testament, our relationship with God is based on His grace, i.e., His redemptive act: Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins.   So has God changed?  Absolutely NOT!  In fact, throughout the Scriptures, we find a consistent portrait of the behavior of God: He redeems us by an act of grace, His chesed, in order to establish His relationship with us.  This is true in the Exodus, it is true in the New Testament, and it is true in our lives today.

THE LAW’S TEACHING ABOUT GOD’S GRACE [CHESED]

It is only after establishing His identity and His relationship to them,  which is based upon His act of grace, His redemption of them from slavery, that He then gives to them His commandments.  The first one being,

You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)

So what we learn here in the law is that once we are in a relationship with God, which is based on His redemption, an act of His grace, then we are expected to live in obedience to Him.  So what the law teaches us, contrary to what many mainstream ministers teach,  is that OBEDIENCE FOLLOWS REDEMPTION (i.e., “salvation”), which is always an act of grace, and the obedience does NOT cause or bring about the redemption or salvation.  Therefore, the law teaches the exact same thing as Paul in the New Testament.  Grace and law are NOT in conflict at all, but both of them do have a purpose and a role in our relationship with God.

But there’s more that God wants us to learn here about His grace, God’s chesed, but to see it, we must continue on.  The first thing God requires in our obedience to Him is that He is to come FIRST and FOREMOST in our lives, and nothing else.  If we put anything before Him, including our own needs, wants, our dreams and desires, our families and yes, even our own lives, then we are in violation of this commandment.  And secondly,

You shall not make unto you ANY graven image, or ANY likeness of ANY thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  (Exodus 20:4; Emphasis mine)

God clearly prohibits here the use of ANY type of pictorial representation of Him.  But it’s in the next two verses, which is actually a continuation of this commandment, that we find the next connection between God’s commandments and His chesed (or grace).  Although in the King James, the word chesed here is NOT translated as “grace” but as  “mercy”:

You shall not bow down yourself to them [idols or other gods], nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing MERCY [Heb. chesed] unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.”  (Exodus 20:5-6; Emphasis mine)

So in this part of the commandment, we are also NOT to “bow down” and “serve” any other gods.  To “bow down” was the common position of worship, so God here is telling them (and us) that we are not to worship any other god or idol, only Him.  And we are also NOT to “serve” any other god.

What does it mean to “serve” any other god?  The word “serve” is the English translation of the Hebrew word ‘avad (Strong’s #5647), which means “to serve, work, or toil, or to work as a slave.”  I think a good modern example of this can be seen in traditional Buddhism.  The Buddha (“the Enlightened One”) is a title given to Siddhartha, the son of a king in India, who renounced his position, wealth, power, and even left his wife and child, to go and discover the cause of human suffering.  Siddhartha lived the same time as the prophet Isaiah, about 500 years before Christ.

In traditional Theraveda Buddhism, although the Buddha is not seen as “a god” (since there are no gods in Theraveda Buddhism), he and his teachings do come first and foremost in the minds of his followers; consequently, then making him an idol. And every year on his birthday, his statue is cleaned, a ritual called “bathing the Buddha.” And another form of this happens during the “Vesak Ritual,” in which devoted followers “pour scented, blessed water over an image of an infant prince [the Buddha].” In “bathing the [statues of the] Buddha,” these followers are “serving” him and, therefore, violating this commandment that we are not to serve any other god (or idol), but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But you say, “I don’t have any statues in my home, nor do I serve any,” but do you spend all your time working?  Is your job an idol in your life?  Does your service to your employer come before your service or obedience to God?  What about sports?  Do you spend all your time watching one game after another?  Do you serve your enjoyment of the games by learning all you can about them and the players, rather than spending time with God by reading your Bible?  What about other possible idols: video games, parties, money and materialism, drugs and alcohol, or even your own family?  ANYTHING that comes first and foremost in our lives before God is an idol; it doesn’t have to be a statue.  But regardless of what it is, do you “serve” it?

And why are we NOT to “bow down” or “serve” them?  For three reasons,

  • Because God says, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” 

This word “jealous” is the English translation of the Hebrew word qanna (Strong’s #7067), and it’s only used of God.  In doing some research, I found out in Chris Poblete’s online article “The Names of God: Qanna,” that he writes,

The fundamental meaning relates to a marriage relationship. God is depicted as Israel’s husband; He is a jealous God, wanting all our praise for Himself and no one else.

So just as any human spouse would expect complete loyalty and faithfulness, so God, as Israel’s husband, is expecting complete loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness from His people.  In the next part of the verse, God alludes to the fact that God faithfully keeps His covenant, and when that covenant is broken, God will faithfully punish those who violate it, which is what He means when He says,

  • visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.

And finally, it’s in this third reason where the next chesed-connection is seen.

  • and showing MERCY [Heb. chesed] unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.

Throughout the Scriptures, God consistently describes Himself, or is describes, as Him being a God who “keeps covenant” and “mercy” (Heb. chesed; or “grace”).  For example,

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, which KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with them that love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Emphasis mine)

What is it that we are to “KNOW” about YHVH, our God?  There are FIVE important things I’d like to point out from this verse:

  • “He is God.”  There’s no other God but Him.  Hes “the real thing,” all other gods are man-made and false.
  • He is “the faithful God.”  The word “faithful” is the Hebrew word ‘emunah (and it can mean “faith” or “faithful” or both at the same time).  So this could also be translated as “the faith God” or “the God of faith.”  So then how does God demonstrate His emunah, His “faith” and His “faithfulness”?
  • “which KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with them.”  But who are the “them”?
  • “that love Him…”  Notice that our “love for Him,” is mentioned first.  So just as we discussed before, RELATIONSHIP COMES FIRST, and then secondly,
  • “and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.”  OBEDIENCE always follows RELATIONSHIP, NOT the other way around.

From this, we can see that “grace,” God’s chesed, is not only involved in us coming into a relationship with God, but it is also central to our on-going relationship with God, which includes our obedience to His commandments.   So to see grace [Heb. chesed] and our obedience to God as being diametrically opposed to one another is a clear misrepresentation of what is taught here within the Scriptures.  These two things are not opposites, nor are they opposed to each other, but it is this connection between God’s grace [Heb. chesed] and our obedience to His commandments that traditional mainstream Christianity has not correctly understood.

So now let’s look at some more examples of this connection being made:

And he [Solomon] said, ‘LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] with Your servants that walk before You with all their heart.  (I Kings 8:23; Emphasis mine; see also 2 Chronicles 6:14)

And I [Daniel] prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, KEEPING THE COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments.  (Daniel 9:4; Emphasis mine)

And [Nehemiah] said, ‘I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed] for them that love Him and observe His commandments.  (Nehemiah 1:5; Emphasis mine)

As we can see, Solomon, Daniel, Nehemiah, all understood that the God of Israel was a God who “KEEPS COVENANT AND MERCY [Heb. chesed; or grace]” and the people who He “keeps covenant and chesed [grace] with are described consistently the same way: as those “who love Him and keep His commandments.” So as Christians, we might ask the question, So why is “keeping His commandments” important?  It is NOT just about the obedience, there is something more here.

THE REAL INTENT AND PURPOSE OF THE COMMANDMENTS

God introduces Himself to His people – His Bride, Israel – His “new family,” and He wants her to know who He is and what He’s like, and what He’s NOT like.  This is the ultimate intent and purpose of the commandments, to describe God to us.  And by having us “keep His commandments,” He is trying to teach us, by using concrete examples, how we can become imitators of Him, which is what Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (NASB).  In the King James, it states, “Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children.”  A “follower” is one who imitates the teacher, the one they are following, so in actuality, the same message is being taught here: to “be imitators of God.”

And like any loving father, God wants us, as His sons and daughters, to imitate Him, and the commandments He gave to Moses teaches us how to do that. But another essential concept that most traditional mainstream American Christians don’t understand is the concept of KINGDOM.   In Myles Monroe’s book Rediscovering the Kingdom: Ancient Hope for our 21st Century World (2004), he points out the importance of this word:

The concept of “KINGDOM” is critical, essential, necessary, required, and imperative in order to understand, appreciate, and comprehend the purpose, intent, goal, and objectives of God and mankind’s relationship to Him and the creation.  (25; Emphasis mine)

For one thing, what we need to understand is that a KINGDOM is NOT a democracy.  God does NOT rule and reign in a democracy.  What He has is a KINGDOM, and in describing the citizenry of a KINGDOM, Monroe describes them in the following:

The Citizenry is the people that live under the rule of the king.  Citizenship in a kingdom is NOT A RIGHT, but a PRIVILEGE, and is a result of the King’s choice.  The benefits and privileges of a KINGDOM are ONLY accessible to citizens and therefore, the favor of the KING [called “grace”] is always a privilege [“unmerited favor”].  (65)

Notice that we put the Scriptures back into a “KINGDOM CONTEXT,” everything that Paul taught about how we are “saved” [become citizens of God’s Kingdom] make sense.   For example, in a democracy, citizenship is a right, but in a kingdom, it is NOT a right, but a privilege.  In a democracy, we can earn the right to become a citizen, but in a KINGDOM, there isn’t anything that anyone can do to earn that right; it is entirely a result of the King’s choice.

IT IS THE KING WHO CHOOSES

Consequently, when the King chooses who He wants in His Kingdom, then by choosing them, that person is receiving the King’s favor, or in other words, His grace.  Throughout the Gospels, it is Jesus, the Anointed King, who chooses His followers, the people of His Kingdom:

You have NOT chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:…” (John 15:16; Emphasis mine).

It is NOT us who found or choose God, but it is God who found and chooses us to be in His Kingdom.  This is the right and privilege of a King.  For example, God chose Abraham, He chose Isaac, and He even chose Jacob, as well as Joseph.  And in Deuteronomy 7, God tells the people and nation of Israel,

For you are a holy people unto the LORD your God: the LORD your God HAS CHOSEN YOU to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.  The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor CHOOSE YOU, because you are more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, has the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Emphasis mine)

God is telling them that He chose Israel and redeemed them because of the oath He had sworn to the fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And even among the prophets and kings, it is God who chooses them.   And because God chose and redeemed them, He led them to Mt. Sinai to make them a part of His KINGDOM by giving them His KINGDOM LAWS.  Israel, itself, is NOT the whole KINGDOM, but it is part of the KINGDOM, just as the church is NOT the whole KINGDOM, but a part of the KINGDOM.   And just because people begin in the KINGDOM does NOT mean they’ll finish in the KINGDOM.  We see this in the Exodus, and we see this in the life and ministry of Jesus.

THE ROLE AND RELATIONSHIP OF THE LAW

Another concept we in American Christianity don’t understand is the role and relationship of the Law in God’s Kingdom.  In His book, Monroe describes it this way:

The Law constitutes the standards and principles established by the king, himself, by which his kingdom will function and be administered.  The laws of the kingdom are to be obeyed by all, including foreigners residing in it.  The laws of the kingdom are the way by which one is guaranteed access to the benefits of the king and the kingdom.  Violations of kingdom law place one at odds with the king and thus interrupts the favorable position one enjoys with the king.  (65-66)

Every word spoken by a king is law, so how much of the Bible is “the law of God”?  All of it, since all of it is the spoken word of the King.  Any violation of kingdom law is what the Bible calls “sin.”  In the United States, when someone “breaks the law,” we call it “a crime,” but in God’s kingdom, it’s called “a sin.”  But what I found really interesting about Monroe’s discussion of Kingdom law is the following:

The laws in a kingdom CANNOT BE CHANGED by the citizens, nor are they subject to a subject to a citizen referendum or debate.  Simply put, the word of the king is law in a kingdom.  Rebellion against the law is rebellion against the king.  (66; Emphasis mine)

WE CANNOT ADD OR DELETE FROM IT

Nowhere in the Bible does God ever give people the right to alter or change or even delete any of His commandments; in fact, twice in the Bible, He prohibits this.

You shall NOT add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish aught (subtract or delete) from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2; Emphasis mine)

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall add thereto, nor diminish from it.  (Deuteronomy 12:32)

Consequently, then, whenever Christians say, or teach, that any or all parts of the Law, or the any other part of the Bible is not for today is, in fact, a violation of these two commandments.

ABRAHAMIC OR MOSAIC – WILL THE REAL RELATIONSHIP COVENANT PLEASE STAND UP?

And finally, a third point that traditional mainstream Christianity has NOT understood is that the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, is NOT the relationship covenant between God and His people.  Instead, the RELATIONSHIP COVENANT of the Old Testament is the ABRAHAMIC COVENANT.  We see this repeatedly alluded to throughout the Scriptures.  For example,

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  (Exodus 2:24)

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [Heb. El Shaddai], but by My name the LORD [Heb. YHVH] was I not known to them.  And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, where they were strangers.  And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.  (Exodus 6:3-5)

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary to Me;…Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.  (Leviticus 26:40, 42).

O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen.  He is the LORD [Heb. YHVH] our God: His judgments are in all the earth.  He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.  Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac; and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:…”

Over and over again, we can see that the covenant that God remembers is NOT the covenant He made with Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, but the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Why?  Because the covenant He made with Abraham, that was then passed down to Isaac, and then again with Jacob, is the RELATIONSHIP COVENANT of the Old Testament, NOT the Mosaic covenant.

The Mosaic covenant is, in actuality, an extended development and explanation of the Abrahamic Covenant.  In Genesis 17, God tells Abraham to “walk before Me, and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1), as well as to give him the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14).   But what does it mean to “walk before Me,” and “be perfect”?  To “walk before Me” means “to have an ongoing relationship with God” and the word “perfect” is the English translation of the Hebrew word tamiyd (Strong’s #8549), which means, to walk or live in “integrity, truth:- without blemish, complete, sincerely, without spot, undefiled and uprightly.”  But what does that look like?  How are we suppose to understand what all is involved in that?  And God’s answer to these questions is the Mosaic Covenant, the commandments God gave to Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

So what’s my point??  Throughout the Scriptures, RELATIONSHIP ALWAYS COMES BEFORE OBEDIENCE, and GOD’S GRACE (Heb. chesed) IS ALWAYS THE BASIS OF THE RELATIONSHIP, and the BASIS ON WHICH THE RELATIONSHIP CONTINUES, WHICH WILL ALWAYS INVOLVE OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND TO HIS COVENANT.   This was true with Noah, Abraham, the children of Israel, Jesus’ disciples, and with us today.  To teach that we’re saved by grace through faith, which is true, but that NO OBEDIENCE IS REQUIRED FOR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD is absolutely NOT TRUE, and is a clear misrepresentation of Scripture.

The final part of this series, which will come out in two days, will cover the last three things that the Old Testament teaches us about God’s grace.

 

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The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us about God’s Grace (Part 2/4)

GRACE IS A MAJOR CONCEPT THROUGHOUT THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS.   As I discussed in the first part of this series, grace is NOT a New Testament revelation as mainstream Christians usually teach, but it is seen throughout the Old Testament as well. The reason that Christians do NOT see the same amount of discussion of “grace” in the Old Testament is because of how the Old Testament equivalent of “grace” has been translated into English.

THREE HEBREW OPTIONS

Although there are three Hebrew words – chen, techinnah and chesed – that contain the meaning of “grace,” only one of them is used in the same way as the Greek word charis (“grace”) in the New Testament.  Over the years, most ministers and teachers have erroneously thought the Hebrew word chen was the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek charis since both are translated in English as “grace.”  The Hebrew word chen (Strong’s #2580) does appear 67 times throughout the Old Testament, but in most cases, it is not translated as “grace,” but as “favor.”  For example, we do find it translated as “grace” in Genesis 6:8, “Noah found GRACE in the eyes of the Lord,” and in Ruth 2:2 when Ruth tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find GRACE.”  But even when the word chen is translated as “grace,” it still carries with it the idea of “favor,” rather than being used in the context of the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation that we see used in the New Testament.  Another word translated as “grace” is the Hebrew word techinnah (Strong’s #8467), such as in Ezra 9:8,

But now for a brief moment GRACE has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in this Holy Place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.

This noun is translated as “grace” in this verse, but in Joshua 11:20 as mercy,” and then again as “supplication” (i.e., a cry for mercy) in Psalm 6:9; 55:1; and 119:170.  So although the Ezra 9:8 reference comes close to the use of the meaning of charis (“grace”) in the New Testament, this is not the word’s dominant use.   However, the best choice for the equivalent of the Greek word charis (grace) is the Hebrew word chesed (Strong’s #2617).  Regularly, the Greek word charis (grace) is translated by Jewish scholars and in songs translated into Hebrew by the word chesed, as my wife and I experienced in the three months we spent in Jerusalem (Aug. 2 – Oct. 31, 2016).  And chesed is seen and used throughout the Old Testament just as the Greek word charis is seen and used in the New Testament, as I’ve also shown in part 1 of this study.  But now in this second part of the study, I want to continue discussing what I’ve learned about chesed [grace] in the Old Testament.

INDIVIDUALS MAY WISH GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] ON OTHERS.

In the Old Testament, we are taught that we may wish God’s chesed [grace] on others.  For example, in 2 Samuel 15:20, David offers “mercy [Heb. chesed; grace] and truth be with you” to Ittai the Gittite, a Gentile.  Consequently, Paul may be following David’s example by offering “Grace and peace” to his Gentile audience in his epistles.  We do see it used in reference to forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God as in the New Testament, such as the following passage in Hosea,

Who is God like unto You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in MERCY [Heb. chesed].  He will turn again, He will have compassion on us; He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the MERCY [Heb. chesed] to Abraham, which you have sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.  (Micah 7:18-20; emphasis mine)

God not only forgives us of our great sins against Him, but He casts them “into the depths of the sea,” and all of this He does as a result of the promise He made to the fathers, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  But in addition to this use of grace, the Old Testament provides us with a wider array of its use and understanding.

ISRAEL’S RELATIONSHIP TO GOD IS BASED ON HIS CHESED (“GRACE”).

Throughout the Old Testament, we read how Israel’s relationship was based on God’s chesed [or grace].  In many of the references, the word chesed is translated either as “lovingkindness” or “mercy.”  For example, in Hosea 2:19, God prophecies about His future restoration of the Northern Kingdom back to Himself:

And I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.  Then you will know the LORD.

And then after the Babylonian exile, after the Jews had returned and were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, we read in Ezra 3:11,

And they sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For He is good, for His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] is upon Israel forever.’  And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

So in what specific ways has God shown chesed [grace] to the people and nation of Israel?  Some of these will fit our Christian understanding of grace, but others will challenge Christians to look at other unexpected expressions of God’s grace.

GOD LED THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL OUT OF EGYPT BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].  In the Song of Moses [Exodus 15[, Moses is exalting God for His redemption of the people, and he says,

In Your LOVINGKINDNESS [chesed] You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. (Exodus 15:13; emphasis mine)

Has God changed?  No, He still leads His people by His chesed [grace], and it is in His strength that He guides us to His holy habitation.  Another place we see this is in Psalm 136.  This Psalm provides a beautiful overview and reminder of all the acts of chesed [grace] that God did in the Creation (Psalm 136:5-9) and in Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.  And throughout the Psalm, we read the same refrain: “For His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] is everlasting.”  And what were His acts of chesed [grace]?

  • He “brought Israel out from their [Egypt’s] midst with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” (Psalm 136:11-12);
  • He “divided the Red Sea asunder, and made Israel pass through the midst of it” (Psalm 136:13-14); and
  • He led “His people through the wilderness” (Psalm 136:16).

It was only AFTER redeeming His people by His grace, His chesed, and bringing them through the waters of the Red Sea [a picture of baptism], that God gave to His people His commandments.   He did NOT give them His commandments and THEN redeemed them, which would be a legalistic approach to God, but He redeemed them FIRST, and only AFTER REDEEMING THEM, did God give His commandments to His people, consisting of both Jew and Non-Jew.  This hardly sounds like the “legalistic approach to God” that Christians often accuse the Old Testament of teaching.

GOD DESTROYED ISRAEL’S ENEMIES BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

This is a point that I believe many American Christians will find challenging to their preconception of grace.  We have been taught to view grace only within the context of “forgiveness” and love, not in the context of God destroying our physical enemies, and yet this is exactly what the Old Testament teaches us about grace as well.  For example, in Psalm 136, and again as before, there is this repeating refrain after each statement, “For His LOVINGKINDNESS, His chesed [or “grace’] is everlasting.”

  • To Him who smote [or killed] the Egyptians in their firstborn (vs. 10);
  • To Him who smote [killed] great kings (vs. 17);
  • And slew [killed] mighty kings (vs. 18);
  • Sihon, king of the Amorites (vs. 19);
  • And Og, king of Bashan (vs. 20);
  • and gave their land as a heritage (vs. 21)
  • even a heritage to Israel His servant (vs. 22).

Does our Christian concept of grace include the idea of God taking human life for the benefit of His people?  Some say, “Well that was the Old Testament.  God is not like that since the death of Jesus on the cross.”  Really?  Did you know if you treat the Communion /the Lord’s Supper (a covenant meal) in an “unworthy manner,” we eat and drink God’s judgment upon ourselves:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord…For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are WEAK and SICK, and a NUMBER SLEEP [i.e., have died].  (I Corinthians 11:27, 29, 30; emphasis mine].

Am I saying that when a Christian becomes physically weak, or sick, or even dies, it is because they have irreverently ate of the Communion?  No, it’s not the only reason for these things to happen, but Paul is saying that it is A REASON.  So even in the New Testament, God does judge us for our sin, including killing those who does not reverently treat those things that are holy to Him.

Has God changed?  No, He hasn’t.  He is still the same God who punished the Egyptians with plagues, who drowned the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, who oversaw the destruction of the Canaanites so that Israel could inherit the land, and it is the same God who judges those who irreverently treat His holy things.  So when we think about this aspect of our God, do we see all of this as “God’s grace”?

GOD ESTABLISHED DAVID AS KING BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

According to Psalm 89, God had NOT only made David king by His chesed [grace], but unlike Saul, God would NEVER remove His chesed [grace] from him or his family line.

I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him…And my faithfulness and My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed;  grace] will be with him, and in My name his horn [rule] will be exalted.  (Psalm 89:20, 21, 24; emphasis mine)

God then again reconfirms His covenant with David,

My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.  Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.  His descendants shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me.  It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.  Selah.

GOD ESTABLISHED SOLOMON AS KING BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

After Solomon is made king, He prays to God and says,

You have shown great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed] to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed], that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  (I kings 3:6; emphasis mine)

GOD SHALL ESTABLISH THE MESSIAH ON DAVID’S THRONE BY HIS CHESED [GRACE].

Throughout the writings of the ancient Hebrew prophets, there are prophecies of the coming son [or descendant] of David who will come and one day rule and reign from his throne over Israel and the nations.  For example, in Isaiah 6-7, we read,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, ON THE THRONE OF DAVID and over His Kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. [Emphasis mine]

Notice where will this future “son of David” rule and reign?  “On the throne of David,” but where is his throne?  It is in the city of Jerusalem in Israel.  Consequently, the throne in heaven belongs to the Father, but the throne in Jerusalem belongs to the Messiah, the son of David: the Messiah Yeshua /Jesus.  This means that Yeshua/ Jesus has not yet ascended His throne.

In Isaiah 16:5, we also read,

A throne will even be established in LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace], and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; Moreover he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.  (Emphasis mine)

MESSIAH SHALL ALWAYS POSSESS GOD’S CHESED [GRACE].

Not only will the Messiah, the son of David, be made king by God’s chesed [grace], but He will always possess it.  In Psalm 89:28, we read,

My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] I will keep for Him forever….But I will not break off My LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] from Him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.

GOD’S CHESED [GRACE] CANNOT BE PROCLAIMED FROM THE GRAVE.

Finally, the Old Testament teaches us that we cannot proclaim God’s grace from the grave:

Will You perform wonders for the dead?  Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?  Selah.  Will Your LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. chesed; grace] be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon?  Will your wonders be known in the darkness?  And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10-12; Emphasis mine)

And the obvious answer to this rhetorical question of whether God’s grace, His chesed, will be declared in the grave is “No, it will not be,” but Jesus did rise from the dead to continue to proclaim forevermore the grace of God in His reign and rule over our lives within His Kingdom.

When I began this study, I thought I could do it all in two parts; however, after completing part two, I realize that a third and final part is necessary.  I have already started it, and I will have it ready in a couple of days.  I hope you have found this study so far a blessing to you.

 

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Romans 14: “Does It Do Away with the Food Laws & Feasts?” (Part 2/2)

CAN FOOD AND SOCIAL STATUS AND PRESTIGE CAUSE A PROBLEM IN THE CHURCH?  Yes, it can.  As we discovered in part 1 of this series, food in ancient Roman culture was associated with social status and prestige.  The poor could not afford to buy fish and meat usually, and therefore ate fruits, breads, and vegetables; whereas, the rich, wealthy affluent Romans had the means to buy whatever food they wanted to eat.  The rich were looking down upon the poor when they came together for fellowship and meals.  Paul addresses this issue here in Romans 14, as well as in I Corinthians 8.

As we went through and examined Romans 13:14 – 14: 9, it became apparent that the text was dealing with issues surrounding Roman food and festival practices, as well as social status and privilege, and NOT with the biblical food laws nor the biblical feasts, such as the Sabbath.  There have been a number of Christians who have taken verses from Romans 14 out of context, and they have misapplied them to try to prove that God’s food laws and His biblical feasts, including the Sabbath, is no longer relevant to the Christian, nor is it to be observed.  But as we saw, this is a heinous misinterpretation and misapplication of the Scriptures.  So now in this final part of the study, we want to complete the chapter and see how Paul completes his argument regarding this issue.

WHY DO YOU JUDGE YOUR BROTHER?

In Romans 14:3-4, Paul asks the question, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?” And in these two verses, he says that we should not judge one another when it comes to these two preferences of eating.  Again, as I mentioned last time, Paul is NOT dealing with the biblical food laws in Leviticus 11 or Deuteronomy 14: 3-21; instead, he is dealing with man-made Roman customs and culture concerning food, festivals, and social status and prestige that was associated with these things.

Again, as we saw by comparing Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 with I Corinthians 5, we are NOT to judge another Christian when it comes to choices of personal opinion about things that the WHOLE BIBLE, i.e., from Genesis to Revelation, does NOT explicitly address, but we are to judge other Christians when it comes to them violating what God has said and made clear in the WHOLE BIBLE.  In other words, the WHOLE BIBLE is the Bible for Christians, NOT just the New Testament.  Christians and ministers who teach that any part of the Bible is not for today is not teaching the truth.

PAUL NOW ADDRESSES THE RICH BELIEVERS

Now beginning in the following passage to the end of the chapter, Paul’s focus is again on the rich, wealthy believers (“who eat all things”) for judging the poor believers (those “who eat only vegetables”).

But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, “As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)

In this passage, Paul reiterates the questions of why are they judging and showing contempt for the poor on this non-biblical issue about food?  He points out that each of us will one day “stand before the judgment seat of God” to give an account of our lives before Him, and to back this statement up, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23.

The very fact that he quotes from the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh) over and over again in his writings demonstrates that Paul is using the Old Testament to back up and support his teachings, AND that the Old Testament is the context in which he understands what is happening in his life and ministry (i.e., the New Testament).  He then continues by writing,

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – NOT to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.  (Romans 14:10-13; Emphasis Mine)

It was the rich, wealthy ones who were buying the meat in the “meat markets” that had been offered earlier to idols before it reached the market that was causing “a stumbling block” to the poor believers.  Again, this reaffirms who Paul is addressing.  But we should understand that when it comes to personal opinions about NON-BIBLICAL ISSUES, we should NOT put “an obstacle or a stumbling block” in the way of other believers, who are likewise trying to serve Christ in their life.

COMMON OR UNCLEAN?

This next verse, though, seems to complicate the understanding that we are still dealing with a NON-BIBLICAL ISSUE (i.e., it’s not discussed in any of God’s commandments):

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is UNCLEAN in itself; but to him who THINKS anything to be UNCLEAN, to him it is UNCLEAN.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  (Romans 14:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

First of all, the word “THINKS” is a present participle verb, and therefore refers to “repeated or continuous action.”  This means that the person thought it was “UNCLEAN” before they got saved, and they still think it is “UNCLEAN.”  The idea that the food was “UNCLEAN” did not happen because they got saved, and this only re-affirms that we are NOT dealing with the biblical food laws or the biblical feasts, which most non-Jews at the time would not have known that much about.

The thing that throws most readers off, of course, is the word “UNCLEAN” (Gk. koinos), but what’s interesting is that this Greek word is only translated as “UNCLEAN” here in Romans 14:14According to Strong’s #2389, the Greek word koinos means “common,” or literallysomething that’s shared by all or several.”  In fact, it is translated as “COMMON” nine (9) out of the fifteen (15) times it is used in the New Testament.  For example,

And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in COMMON [Gk. koinos]. (Acts 2:44; Emphasis Mine)

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were COMMON [Gk. koinos] property to them. (Acts 4:32; Emphasis Mine)

To Titus, mine own son after the COMMON [Gk. koinos] faith:… (Titus 1:4; Emphasis Mine)

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the COMMON [Gk. koinos] salvation,… (Jude 3)

As we can see in all four of these verses, the word translated as “COMMON” is the same exact Greek word that’s translated as “UNCLEAN” in Romans 14:14.  Am I trying to suggest a conspiracy here among the translators to hide the truth?  No, I am trying to get us to deepen our understanding of Romans 14 beyond the surface English text.

AKATHARTOS – ANOTHER WORD FOR “UNCLEAN”?

In the majority of passages (28 of them) in the New Testament, the word “UNCLEAN” is NOT the English translation of the Greek word koinos, but the Greek word akathartos, which means “impure (ceremonial, moral [lewd], or special  [daemonic]) :- foul, unclean.”  Koinos is translated three (3) times as “UNCLEAN” but ONLY in Romans 14:14.

What I found interesting about the Greek word akarthartos is that it’s used only in reference to “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” but NOT to food.  For example, in his epistles, Paul states that if two parents are unsaved, then their children are “unclean” (I Corinthians 7:14), and in another epistle, he lists the “unclean person” among others who will “not inherit the kingdom of God” (Ephesians 5:5).  And in 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11, in saying that we are not to touch “the unclean thing” (i.e., we are not to touch anything unclean).  So if we are not to touch anything that’s “unclean,” according to Isaiah and Paul, then how can the biblical food laws have ended at the cross, as most Christians teach, since there are certain foods which are designated by God as being “unclean”?

KOINOS – A MAN-MADE LAW?

But unfortunately, in our English translations, there’s no way for someone to know which Greek word is being used unless they consult a Concordance.  So even though the Greek word akathartos is only used for “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” the word kainos is dominantly used to refer to something that “commonly shared” or “commonly experienced.”  However, the word does appear once in all of the Gospels, and then it’s used in reference to man-made “ceremonial laws,” as opposed to the biblical food laws given by God:

Then came together unto him [Jesus] the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled [Gk. kainos], that is to say, with unwashed, hands, they found fault.  (Mark 7:1-2)

Nowhere in the Bible does God ever command people to wash their hands before eating.  This is a MAN-MADE RULE, created by the Pharisees, and they are attempting to use shame and fault-finding as a way of coercing Jesus and His followers to submit to their authority.  And anyone who knows the account knows that Jesus does not submit to them, but rebuffs them for substituting their own MAN-MADE RULES for Scripture.  And again, this account has nothing to do with the food laws that God handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai.

KAINOS VS. AKATHARTOS

So although the Greek word akathartos is used to refer to “unclean spirits” and “unclean people,” the Greek word koinos is used to refer to something that’s “COMMON,” “commonly shared” or to a “man-made rule” about something, such as food.  And in Acts 10, we find the Greek word kainos paired up with the word akathartos in Peter’s vision of the unclean animals in the sheet.  In this account, we read,

Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: and he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  And there came a voice to him, “Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.” (Acts 10:9-13)

Many people read this part of the vision and automatically assume because Peter was hungry, and he’s shown all these animals and told to “kill and eat,” that the point of the vision is about food. However, as we will discover later, this is not the case.  When Peter is instructed to do this in his vision, how does Peter respond?

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is COMMON [Gk. koinos] or unclean [Gk. akathartos]. And the voice spoke unto him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, that call not COMMON [Gk. kainos].” (Acts 10:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

Notice, that there are TWO categories in which something can be described: “COMMON” (Gk. koinos) ORUNCLEAN” (Gk. akatharthos). These are not the same category, but two different categories.  And also notice that God did NOT say, “What God has cleansed, that call not COMMON or UNCLEAN,” but he was only told NOT to call them “COMMON” (Gk. koinos).  For as we’ve seen, Paul continues to use the word “UNCLEAN” (Gk. akathartos) in reference to the children of the unsaved (I Corinthians 7:14) and to the “unclean person” who won’t make it into the kingdom of heaven, and he even quotes Isaiah to remind us that we are not to “touch the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Consequently, to understand this vision to be about food is to have an extremely superficial view of the vision.  Peter is a Jew having a vision about animals.  This imagery should provoke a memory of another Jew who had a vision about animals, the prophet Daniel.  And in Daniel 7-8, the animals are used in his vision to represent Gentile (non-Jewish) people and kingdoms.  And the same is true here in Peter’s vision, and this is the way Peter, who saw the vision, understood the meaning and point of his own vision:

And he [Peter] said to them, “You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call ANY MAN COMMON [Gk. kainos] or UNCLEAN [Gk. akatharthos].” (Acts 10:28; Emphasis Mine]

Although God didn’t tell Peter NOT to call ANY MAN “UNCLEAN” in Acts 10 :15, I find it interesting that Peter understood the comment to include “UNCLEAN.”  But in either case, the animal imagery was about non-Jewish (i.e., “Gentile) people, NOT about food.  Consequently, I think it is extremely arrogant of mainstream Christianity to give a different meaning to Peter’s vision when it was he who had it, he who interpreted it, and it was he who acted on it, NOT them.

SO WHY DOES PAUL USE KOINOS IN ROMANS 14?

Now getting back to Romans 14, let’s review the verse again,

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is UNCLEAN in itself; but to him who THINKS anything to be UNCLEAN, to him it is UNCLEAN.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  (Romans 14:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

What does Paul mean that “nothing is UNCLEAN [Gk. koinos] in itself”?  When it comes to MAN-MADE CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS, as we saw the term used in Mark 7:1-2, nothing is UNCLEAN in itself.  It is NOT inherently UNCLEAN by creation, but it is “CLEAN” or “UNCLEAN” because God is the King of His Kingdom and, therefore, He is the ONLY One who has the right to decide what His people should eat or not eat.  NOT People.  And as we’ve seen here in Romans 14, since the food is representative of people and their social prestige and status, we also know from Peter’s vision that no PERSON, once cleansed by God, should be called “UNCLEAN.”

So now that we understand the meaning of the Greek word koinos, why would Paul use this word here in Romans 14?  I believe the reason is two-fold:

  1.  He is addressing these man-made Roman laws and customs – NOT the biblical food laws handed down by God; and
  2.  He’s use of this word alludes to the fact that the food is something they are to hold in “COMMON,” something they “COMMONLY SHARE,” so it should be enjoyed, and NOT used as a weapon to judge the poor among them.

THE FOCUS OF THE KINGDOM

In the next verse, Paul contradicts their behavior with what should be seen as the appropriate focus of “citizens of the Kingdom:”

Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is NOT eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who in this way SERVES Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  (Romans 14:16-18; Emphasis Mine)

What service to Christ “is acceptable to God and approved by men”?  “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  So as a result, how are we supposed to act?

So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.  Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. 

Should we “tear down the work of God” in a person’s life merely to hold on to our man-made customs and traditions?  No, absolutely not.  Again, Paul is not dealing with the biblical food laws handed down by God, but Roman customs and traditions.

All things indeed are CLEAN, but they are evil for the man who EATS and gives offense.  It is good NOT to EAT MEAT or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.  (Romans 14:19-21; Emphasis Mine)

The word translated as “CLEAN” here is the Greek word katharos, and it is the opposite of both koinos and akathartos.  According to Strong’s #2513, it means “Clean in the sense that something is lawful to be eaten or used.”  It does not, in fact, violate any biblical command.  Remember, we have to keep Paul’s comments in context.  Paul is addressing the rich, wealthy believers who are bringing their meats to the community meals, and then using them as a basis for judging the poor believers, who are only able to bring “vegetables.”   So in what sense are all these meats “CLEAN“?

According to Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke, “all things are CLEAN” when they have been given as alms (Luke 11:41).  What are “alms”?  They are gifts to the poor.  By them bringing their meats to the meal, it is a form of alms, in which case, “all things are indeed clean,” just as Jesus taught.  But again, Jesus nor Paul is dealing with biblically “unclean” food, but “unclean” according to Roman custom and tradition.

However, even if the food brought is given as a gift, it can still be used to cause offense, which Paul describes as “evil.”  Paul then clarifies that it is “NOT good to eat meat, drink wine, or do anything to cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.”  In all the years I’ve heard this chapter taught, I’ve never heard any minister or Christian teacher even suggest, using this verse, that Christians should NOT eat meat.  The point here is that we should not use our money and personal preferences to cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble, and he is applying this principle to their situation.  Obviously, then, Paul is not teaching us that we can “do our own thing,” and disregard the beliefs, values and feelings of the other believers that are also there within the congregation.

BE CONVINCED ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE

In this final verse, Paul re-affirms that we need to be convinced about what we believe and what we do.  Logically, to be convinced that something is true implies the existence of evidence for that belief.  In fact, the word “faith” (Gk. pistis; Strong’s #4102) is a word rooted in Greco-Roman logic and argument, and it means “to persuade or to be persuaded.”  How do you “persuade” people about something?  Obviously, this requires evidence.  So what evidence do we have?  The teachings of the Whole Bible and our experiences with God in our lives.

For example, in 2 Timothy 3:16 it states,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [lit. “God-breathed”], and is profitable for doctrine, FOR REPROOF, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. [Emphasis Mine]

The word “reproof” in English literally means “to prove again.” In the Greek, one of the meanings of the word elegchos (Strong’s #1650), translated here as “REPROOF” is “evidence.”  Have you been convinced by the evidence of God’s Word and what He’s done in your life that God is real, that He loves you, and that the same God we read about from Genesis to Revelation is the same God who is at work in your life?  And it’s this same God who says in His Word that He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6), and because He doesn’t change, His Word and His standards, likewise, do not change.

Are you convinced by the whole Bible that your faith is real?  Are you convinced by the whole Bible that you are still on the right path and have not fallen away from Him?  Are you convinced by the whole Bible that your thoughts, words, and behavior are “pleasing in His eyes”?  Or are there things about your new life in Christ that you’re not convinced of yet from the whole Bible and, therefore, doubt those things?

Are you convinced from the whole Bible that God wants to rule and reign over every aspect of your life, including what you eat? Have you been convinced through the whole Bible of what God says about this?  Apparently, there were those in Rome who were not:

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not CONDEMN himself in what he approves.  But he who DOUBTS is condemned if he EATS,  because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.  (Romans 14:22-23; Emphasis Mine)

The word “faith” in these verses does not mean “mental assent or agreement,” but it means to be convinced from the evidence of God’s Word.  When we are so convinced about something that we act on it, then our actions are based on our “CONVICTIONS.”  A “CONVICTION” is something you are convinced is true.  And if you are not convinced by the whole Bible that what you are doing is right, then Paul says that “whatever is not from faith” (i.e., being persuaded or conviction) is sin.  Are you convinced, even about your food?  Paul alludes to the fact that we can be convinced, we can act in “faith,” but to get there, we must spend time studying the whole Bible – NOT just certain parts.

CONCLUSION

Can Romans 14 be used to argue that Christians are not required to follow the biblical food laws handed down by God to Moses?  No, as we’ve seen in this two-part study, Romans 14 does NOT, in any way, deal with the biblical food laws, or with the biblical feasts, such as the Sabbath, but it deals with Roman customs, traditions, and feasts.  Consequently, to use Romans 14 in the manner that most Christians do, to disprove the Old Testament Scriptures, only demonstrates their lack of understanding regarding the historical, social-cultural context of the book of Romans, the issues within the Roman congregation, and its actual intended meaning for believers today.

What this chapter should teach us today is that we are not to judge other believers when it comes to our own personal opinions and preferences about things, or NON-BIBLICAL ISSUES.  If a Christian does do something that’s in clear violation of Scripture (Old and New Testament), then we do have the right to address that issue with the person privately first, and then if the person does not repent, we are to try again with two or three witnesses, and then only if they still will not repent, we are to inform the pastor or elders about it, and let the church approach the issue (see Matthew 18:15-17).

What we are NOT to do is tell others about it in your own little clique (gossip), slander the reputation of the person in the church, nor are you to put it on Twitter, FaceBook, or any other social media.  We are to build one another up, encourage one another, and support one another – NOT tear one another apart!  The church is NOT supposed to be a “piranha pool” where we devour one another and then “spit” the person out.  Unfortunately, this is what many churches have become.

And when it comes to social gatherings, do not try and use your food to build yourself up, to impress others, or to make someone else feel bad because they could not bring a meal just as nice.  Be nice to that person, encourage them, and love them, invite them to sit with you and your family.  Can you imagine what the church would be like if people actually followed the Bible, rather than their own personal views and opinions?

 

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