Sanctification & the Food Laws: Is God King of My Food? (Pt. 1/5)

Food is an intricate part of everyone’s life.  We all have foods that we like or don’t like, as well as foods that reflect our cultural backgrounds.  But have you ever wondered about the purpose for the various food laws, or dietary laws, in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21?  I would like to begin a five part series dealing with the one thing we all enjoy: FOOD.

In part 1, I want to lay the foundation of this study, and then in part 2, get into the actual food laws, and then in parts 3-5 look at those passages in the New Testament that seem to contradict these laws.  But what I find interesting about these two chapters is that they provoke some rather interesting questions: “Why is it important to God what we eat or don’t eat?” and “How can food ‘defile us’ or make us ‘unclean’?” In this article, I would like to lay the foundation for this study by discussing FIVE reasons for the food laws given in Scripture.

REASON #1 – THE KINGSHIP OF GOD

One reason, I believe,  for the food laws has to do with God’s kingship in our lives.  God wants to be King in every area of our life, not just spiritually.  Therefore, an important question that these two chapters raise is, “Is God King when it comes to the foods we eat?”  And unfortunately, the answer for most Christians is “No, He’s not King, they are,”  since they choose to eat what they want, regardless of what the Scriptures teach.  And I do believe this is the reason many of us get sick or get the diseases that we do because we disregard God’s instructions in this area of our lives.

For example, I may like Dr. Pepper, and because I like it, then I believe that my car will also like it.  So I begin to put Dr. Pepper in my gas tank.  After awhile, my car breaks down.  Now is it the manufacturers fault that my car broke down?  No, of course not, it is mine because I didn’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  In the same way, when we don’t follow our King’s instructions, we also break down and have problems for the same reason: we didn’t follow the manufacturer’s (God’s) instructions.

And we do this because we have been erroneously taught that Yeshua (Jesus) did away with the food laws; however, as I am going to show in parts 3-5 of this series, this is not true at all.  For example, the food being discussed in Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23 were plants which are all “clean foods.”  So the discussion had absolutely nothing to do with “unclean food” at all, but it was about the ritual hand washing laws taught by the Oral Traditions of the Pharisees, not the food laws given by God.  In fact, Yeshua (Jesus) specifically says this in Matthew 15:20.

REASON #2 – THE FOOD LAWS ARE FOR OUR PHYSICAL HEATH

There are many people who see the food laws to be simply a health issue, and there’s some warrant to this, but I believe the health benefits are a side issue, they are not the primary reasons for them.  But if you are interested, there are two good books I want to recommend if you are interested in studying this aspect of the food laws.  Both books are written by Gordon S. Tessler, Ph.D., called Did God Change His Mind (TLC Associates, 1991) and The Genesis Diet (Be Well Publications, 1996).  Dr. Tessler is “a widely regarded author, lecturer, and consultant in the fields of clinical nutrition and biblical health.”

REASON #3 – SANCTIFICATION & HOLINESS

Another reason that repeated over and over again for the food laws has to do with sanctification and holiness.  For example, throughout the Scriptures, we are taught that we are to be holy because God is holy.  But, of course, this provokes the question, “What is Holiness?” HOLINESS does not refer to “MORAL PURITY” or “MORAL PERFECTION,” but to “BEING DISTINCT, SEPARATE, AND OTHER THAN” THE WORLD.  In essence, to be an imitator of God.  Throughout the Bible, God calls His people to walk in holiness: “be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 8, 26; I Thessalonians 4:7; and I Peter 1:15, 16).

THE LAW – A DESCRIPTION OF HIS WAYS

And because God wants us to imitate Him, He gave us a description of “His ways” or “His way of life” in and through His commandments, and with them He gives us do-able, concrete ways to do this, to imitate Him, and one of those ways He does this is with our food.  For example, in the book of Leviticus, we read,

You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves UNCLEAN with them, that you should be DEFILED thereby.  For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore SANCTIFY yourselves, and you shall be HOLY; for I am holy: neither shall you DEFILE yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. (Leviticus 11:42-43)

According to God’s Word, we can make ourselves “unclean” and “defile” our own holiness by the things that we eat.  Therefore, God says if we “sanctify” ourselves, then we “shall be holy.” But isn’t this a complete contradiction to the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) in the New Testament?

In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, while Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples are out in a field, a group of Pharisees from Jerusalem approach them, and they ask, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:2).  In this account, the topic under discussion has nothing to do with food, since the food the disciples were eating was “clean food,” not “unclean food.”  The actual conversation had to do with the oral tradition of the Pharisees, not God’s commandments at all.

The ritual purity laws of the Pharisees taught that to remain ritually pure, they had to wash their hands several times before eating.  Mark’s version tells us a little more:

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not.  And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. (Mark 7:3-4)

They believed if their hands were dirty (ritually unclean), then when they touched the food,  it became ritually unclean.  And then, when they ate it, the food made them ritually unclean.   Yeshua (Jesus) was not contradicting the food laws of His Father, but this man-made tradition of the Pharisees.  In fact, He says in Matthew,

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: BUT TO EAT WITH UNWASHED HANDS DEFILES NOT A MAN. (Matthew 15:18-20)

When we make the decision to eat what we want to eat, rather than what God wants us to eat, then this proceeds from our own evil thoughts within us.  And as Yeshua (Jesus) says here, sin begins in the heart, and eventually, that sin works itself out in our behavior, even in the disobedience of eating what God has told us not to eat.  And in so doing, those evil thoughts that began in our hearts defile us.

WE HAVE A ROLE IN OUR SANCTIFICATION PROCESS

Therefore, by seeking to walk in obedience to God by keeping His commandments through the empowering of God’s Spirit, we sanctify ourselves, and in so doing, with the Holy Spirit’s help, make ourselves holy.  In fact, Paul teaches us that we do have a role in our own sanctification process.  For example, let’s look at I Corinthians 6,

For ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, be separate, says the Lord, and touch not THE UNCLEAN THING; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (I Corinthians 6:16-18; Emphasis Mine)

In these verses, Paul is combining Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:12, and Isaiah 52:11.  In this epistle, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, and he is telling this congregation there that they, the group, the congregation, “are the temple of the living God.”  In fact, this is what the pronoun “ye” means.  It refers to a group.  If Paul were saying this about them as individuals, he would have used the pronouns, “thou, thee, thy, or thine,” which always indicates an individual.  For example, in the Ten Commandments, even though God is addressing them as a nation, He does not say, “Ye shall not steal,” referring to them as a whole, as a group, but “Thou shalt not steal,” meaning that each individual was not to steal.

Likewise, Paul is telling them and us, that our congregations are all part of the temple of the living God.  But what we need to realize is that our God is holy, and because He’s holy, He needs a holy environment for Him to dwell and operate in.  God cannot dwell in an unholy temple.  In the prophets, we read how God put up with Israel defiling His temple for awhile, but there came a point when God finally left it.  He would not put up with it any more, and in the same way, I believe that the reason God’s Presence is not felt in many churches, and even in the lives of many people, is because they do not live holy lives; therefore, they do not provide God with a holy environment for Him.

THE LAWS PURPOSE – IT WAS NEVER GIVEN TO REDEEM US?

There are so many things about God’s law we don’t understand because of how we’ve been taught to view it.  For example, the purpose of the law was not to bring us into a relationship with God, or even to redeem us.  For example, in the footnote for Exodus 20:1-17, in The Apologetics Study Bible, it says,

 God and Moses perceived obedience to the laws, not as a way of or precondition to salvation, but as the grateful response of those who had already been saved.  God did not reveal the law to the Israelites in Egypt and then tell them that as soon as they had measured up to this standard He would rescue them.  On the contrary, BY GRACE ALONE, THROUGH FAITH they crossed the Red Sea to freedom.  All that was required was belief in God’s promise that He would hold up the walls of water on either side and see them safely through to the other shore….Obedience to the Decalogue [“Ten Commandments”] or any other law has never been intended as the way of salvation but as the appropriate response to salvation already received. (115; Emphasis Mine)

Consequently, then, the whole argument that God’s law teaches “works righteousness” or salvation by works is completely bogus.  Our obedience to His commandments is how we are to respond to His salvation; I obey God because I am saved, not so that I can get saved.

Let me give you a modern day analogy.  Suppose someone from another country comes to the United States.  If he obeys all of our laws, will that make him a citizen of the United States?  No, it won’t.  In order to become a citizen of the United States, he has to go through a special process, called “naturalization.”  And then, once he becomes a U.S. citizen, we still expect him to keep all of our laws.  In the same way, if we obey all of God’s laws, this does not make us a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  Instead, if we want to become a Kingdom citizen, then we have to go through a special process, which the Bible calls “salvation.”

TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING

And even after getting saved, we are still expected to walk in obedience to God’s commandments, so that the Holy Spirit can work through our obedience to sanctify us.  Notice that Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11, which says that if we come out of the world, “the nations,” and “touch NOT the UNCLEAN THING,” God says, “I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.”  And based on this passage, Paul writes,

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, LET US CLEANSE OURSELVES from all filthiness (or defilement) of the FLESH AND SPIRIT, perfecting HOLINESS in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1; Emphasis Mine)

We do have a role to play in our sanctification, as Paul clearly teaches here.  And notice, we are to “cleanse ourselves” from all “filthiness (or defilement) of the flesh and spirit,” so that we may “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” The word “perfecting” is the English translation of the Greek compound word, epiteleo, which means “to finish, complete, perfect.”  This last line in the verse could then be translated as “finishing, completing holiness in the fear of God.”

This idea that we work in partnership with God in our sanctification can also be seen, or derived, from Leviticus 20:

Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.  And you shall keep My statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctifies you.  (Leviticus 20:7-8)

Notice again, we are being commanded to “SANCTIFY YOURSELVES” and to “BE HOLY.”  God’s command for us to SANCTIFY ourselves and to BE HOLY has not changed.  He expected it of the Israelites and the mixed multitude of Gentiles (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4) that traveled with them, and He expects it of us today.   To “sanctify,” or sanctification, is the process of making us holy; in fact, the word “saints” literally means “holy ones.”  And this process of sanctification is extremely important in our relationship with God.  For even in Hebrews 12:14, God’s word says that “without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”

PAUL NEVER ARGUES AGAINST THE LAW FOR OUR SANCTIFICATION

And what many people may not think about is that although Paul argues over and over against using the Law for the purpose of JUSTIFICATION, as I mentioned earlier, but did you know that there’s NOT a single verse in the whole New Testament where Paul argues against the use the Law for the purpose of SANCTIFICATION.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 would clearly seem to argue the fact that he supported the use of the law for the purpose of SANCTIFICATION.  So how do we “sanctify ourselves”?  By keeping God’s commandments, and as we keep them, the Lord sanctifies us, as the verse above in Leviticus 20:7-8 suggests.  God and His Spirit work together with us to bring about our SANCTIFICATION and to make us more like Him.  And this process of sanctification even includes the foods that we eat.  For example, at the end of Leviticus 11, God says,

For I am the LORD your God.  SANCTIFY YOURSELVES therefore, and BE HOLY; for I AM HOLY.  And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.  For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; and thus YOU SHALL BE HOLY for I AM HOLY.  (Leviticus 11:44-45; Emphasis mine)

Holiness is who God is and what we are to be, and since the primary purpose of the Torah is to teach us who God is, what He is like and what He is not like, and what He expects of us as His people, then the purpose of the food laws is to do the same, as these verses makes clear.

REASON #4 – TO SHOW WE BELONG TO HIM AND ARE PART OF HIS KINGDOM

This third reason is interlinked with the previous reason.   Many times when people go to other countries, one of the things they like to try are the different foods that are eaten and enjoyed in those areas.  The various foods are part of the culture of that particular country or group of people.  So why is it, then, that when it comes to the foods that are prescribed for those within God’s Kingdom, they are not likewise seen as part of the custom of His “Kingdom Culture”?  So by following His laws in regard to what we are to eat or not eat, we are are in a physical way participating in God’s “Kingdom culture,” and showing that we belong to Him and are a part of His Kingdom.  For example, in Leviticus 20:24-26, God says,

I am the LORD your God, which have SEPARATED YOU from other people.  You shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls [birds] and unclean: and you shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any such manner of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I HAVE SEPARATED FROM YOU as unclean.  And you shall be holy unto Me: for I the LORD am holy, and HAVE SEVERED YOU from other people, that you should be Mine.

It is the LORD who has SEPARATED and SEVERED us from other people, so that we would belong to HIM and BE HOLY.  And part of the way we demonstrate that we are His holy, set apart, and severed people is by the things that we eat and by the things that we do not eat.  God is the One who SEPARATED us, and He has also SEPARATED from us certain animals or meats that He has declared to be UNCLEAN to us, which means we are NOT to eat it or even to touch it.   He is LORD, which means “He is the MASTER,” and as MASTER, He has the right to determine what foods we can eat, and what foods we are not to eat.  And to reject these food laws is, in fact, to reject His rule and reign over that area of our lives.

I have heard many Christians say that it is impossible for us to obey God’s commandments.  However, the problem is their understanding of the Law, not the Law itself.  For example, when God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of only one tree in the Garden, when there were many other trees with fruit on them, was His instructions “too difficult” or “too hard” for them to do?  No.  Well, what about when God gave the children of Israel the double portion of Manna on the 6th day on their way to Mt. Sinai, and then told them not to go collecting food on the 7th day, but to stay home and relax.  Was that “too difficult” or “too hard” to do?  No, it was something they could do.  And the same is true of the other food laws (or “dietary laws”) as well.

REASON #5 – THE FOOD LAWS TEACH US ABOUT GOD AND ABOUT OURSELVES

God wants us to be imitators of Him, and in His commandments, He has given us concrete ways for us to do this.  In fact, God is so concerned about teaching us about Himself in every possible way, that He even uses food to try and get us to understand Him.  He wants us to understand not only what foods we are to eat and not to eat, but He wants to challenge us to think about —

  • WHY are we to eat it or not eat it?
  • WHAT do the foods I can eat teach me about God and me?
  • WHAT do these foods teach me about holiness?
  • WHAT do the foods I am not to eat teach me about what God is NOT like or that I am NOT to be like?
  • WHAT do these foods teach me about unholiness?

These are definitely not questions most people stop to consider when thinking about their food, but God wants us to think about it.  He wants to provoke our critical thinking skills and our imaginations.

For example, God says the pig or swine is “unclean” and we are not to eat it or even to touch its carcass (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8).  So what does a pig or swine teach us about what God is NOT like, or what characteristic does the pig exhibit that we are not to follow?

Well, even though people say a pig is intelligent, it is also undiscerning.  It eats whatever comes across its pathway.  It’s like a living garbage can.  However, over and over in His Word, God tells us that we are to be discerning; for example, the Levitical priests in the Temple were to make a distinction between “the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10).  And they were to teach us, the people, “to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten” (Leviticus 11:47).  But if we act like the pig, and we are not discerning in our lives, indulging in whatever comes along, then, like the pig, we too are seen by Him as being “unclean.”

TEACH MY PEOPLE THE DIFFERENCES

However, did you now when the Lord comes back, the prophets tell us that God is going to give the Levites a good verbal chewing out for allowing “uncircumcised men” into His Temple, and one of the things He’s going to do is assign the priests the following tasks:

Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.  And in a dispute they [the Levitical priests] shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances.  They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts, and sanctify My sabbaths.  (Ezekiel 44:23-24)

If God truly did away with His laws and statutes as Christians teach, then why when God has everything the way that He wants – He is in control, Yeshua (Jesus) is ruling on earth, satan and his demons are bound for a thousand years – does He bring the law, the Temple, the Levitical priesthood, the animal sacrifices, the biblical feasts, including the new moon and weekly sabbaths all back?  Maybe, the truth is that we’ve totally misunderstood the writings of Paul and these things never left.

Also, did you know at the end of Isaiah, there is the scene of the Second Coming of Messiah, where in the description of those who will be killed as part of God’s judgment, God includes the fact that they eat “swine’s flesh”?

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.  They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, says the LORD.  (Isaiah 66:15-17)

If the food laws ended at the cross, ask yourself why God is still using them to describe those who are living in rebellion to Him at His return?  I think there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that we need to rethink our whole view of the Old Testament Scriptures, particularly God’s law, including His food laws.  Are we recognizing His Kingship in our lives by eating what He has commanded us to eat?  Are we seeking to perfect holiness in our lives by living in obedience to Him?  And are we letting others know we belong to Him by reflecting His Kingdom customs and culture?

Please come back and join me for part 2 of this series, as we get into the food laws themselves.  Peace and grace.

 

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“Why God Opposes Christmas, and Why You Should Too”

The very title of this blog post may surprise many Christians, but God is, in fact, against the very celebration of Christmas.  Obviously, the question that this statement provokes is “Why would He be against it since it’s a celebration of Christ’s birth?”  I find it telling that many people will argue why they think it is right or wrong, but what we fail to ask is the question, “What does God think and feel about what we do?  Does He approve?”

CHRISTMAS DIDN’T ORIGINATE WITH GOD

In the Gospels, Yeshua (Jesus) teaches, “Every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13), and Christmas is an example of something in the church that’s “a plant” that the Father “has not planted.”  And God’s desire is that this “plant” “be rooted up” and removed from His people.

CHRISTMAS – A “CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE”?

The origin of Christmas predates the time of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) life and ministry.  It did not begin with Him.   There’s all kind of evidence that the main elements of Christmas – the tree, the yule log, the presents, the caroling, the partying, even people going out and getting drunk, etc. – all find their origin in paganism, specifically, the Roman Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra, the sun god, which was December 25.  It doesn’t take that much research to discover this.  Up through the 4th century, A.D., people were leaving the church to go celebrate the Roman Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra, so in the 4th century, the Roman Catholic Church created a “Christian alternative” to the Saturnalia and Mithra to keep people in the church, and they did this by creating a mass for Christ or “Christ mass,” which is where we get the name “Christmas.”  Modern churches are doing the same thing with Halloween today.

HAVE WE EVER ASKED GOD HIS OPINION?

But the one question that we never ask is, “Should we have done it?”  I’ve seen many different arguments for and against the celebration of Christmas, but it seems we’re more engrossed in what we feel about the whole thing than we are about what God feels about it.  After all, when have we ever stopped and asked the question, “What does God feel about what we do?  Is He happy about it, or does He not approve?”

GOD GIVES US HIS OPINION

On August 17, 2019, God spoke the following prophetic message to my wife about His feelings concerning Christmas, and He wanted us to share His Word to the church at large in America and around the world:

This Christmas Spirit you have associated with Me is not of Me, says the Lord God of Israel this very day here where you are located.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I AM, I WAS and I AM coming again.  Will you be ready or will you be doing life on your own accord and worshiping some other deity/god that isn’t Me at all?

I told you in My Words who I am and what I like and don’t like.  Why is it people who say you love Me don’t even understand Me your HOLY GOD?  Could it be that you haven’t read My Words for yourselves, or is it that you care more about worshiping the erected Christmas Tree and arraying and decking it out with all of the trimmings instead. 

Woe unto you who are doing this and saying you love Me.  Woe unto you who do the things that My Word/Scriptures speak against.  No where does My Word tell you to worship Me as a baby in a manger or to take of the pagans ways or to pick up and worship some Christmas Spirit for the whole month. Nonsense Church People – This is your doings to please and make happy yourselves and your families. (“God’s Warning to His Church: Quit Celebrating this Pagan Day!”)

As we can see, God is not at all please with His people participating and celebrating Christmas at all.  In fact, as God sees it, this celebration has absolutely nothing to do with Him at all; instead, the true focus of this celebration is on making ourselves and our families happy.

In fact, God told us through the writings of Moses that we are not to take things from the pagans and use them with Him.

Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them [pagan nations], after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods?  even so will I do likewise.  YOU SHALL NOT DO SO unto the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.  (Deuteronomy 12:30-32; Emphasis Mine)

How can we say that we are honoring God when we are directly disobeying God by the very thing that we are doing?  Christianity tries to rationalize its annual disobedience to God by saying that God’s Law or, even, the whole Old Testament, has been “done away with;” however, God has shared with us numerous times, this is nonsense.  It is the words of men, it is not His Word.  God’s law has not changed, and God’s prohibition against using pagan things with Him has, likewise, not changed.

And as far as God is concerned, Christmas is a clear violation of this command given to us by Him.  We are clearly taking something that the pagans used in the worship and celebration of their god, and we have “Christianized” it and brought it into the church and have been using it with Him, and He’s not pleased about it at all.  In fact, in this same message, God said,

I have told and taught you in My Word how to train up your children in the ways of Me and My Father in Heaven, but you throw that aside/away to teach them how to worship this pagan deity of Christmas and what you want it to bring and to comfort you with this warm fussy feeling of the Spirit of Christmas.  You say it brings love, joy, peace and kindness which are all of the fruits that I have given in My Words, but this pagan practice only is loving greed, selfishness, pride, arrogance, ungratefulness, as well as unthankfulness to say the least.  All of these are from the devil and his follies/imps.

[…] Stop profaning My name and stop doing what dishonors Us, for We do not approve or appreciate that you are prostituting yourselves out to other gods and saying it is I/US that you are worshiping. […] It’s time to wake up and stop lying to yourselves that what you’re doing is okay with Me/Us because it is not and has never been so. 

My First Commandment says to have only ONE GOD and to worship Him and No one else.  This god that you say is Me is not Me and has never been Me or My Father God/Elohim.  I AM THE ONLY GOD that you are to be serving and worshiping in your Synagogues/ Congregations and Churches this day and for always.  (“God’s Warning to His Church: Quit Celebrating this Pagan Day!”)

Obviously, here, God still views Christmas as a pagan practice that’s tied to the celebration and worship of another deity, Mithra.  There are many people who have been deceived into believing that by celebrating Christmas, they are celebrating Christ, but God says that the “god you say is Me is not Me and has never been Me or My Father God/Elohim.”  God is not “the Christmas Spirit.”  It is another Spirit that we see at this time of the year and in the Christian churches.

And not only does He see it as a continuation of idolatry, but He is appalled and disgusted by it all.  In fact, more recently, on December 5, 2019, the Lord had the following to say about Christmas:

These trees and such, that you call the christmas spirit, is not of Me, nor ever has been apart of Me, says the Lord Most High of Heaven and Earth, this day.  Put aside every idol, and every mention and thing of the ABOMINATIONS that you have taken up and put My Holy name to it. 

I AM APPALLED and I AM DISGUSTED with you who call Me Lord/Savior and continue to try and please your own deceitful hearts into believing I’m okay with this pollution that is in your everyday midst in the stories, houses, communities and even the houses of prayer where you say that I am at. (“Such Arrogance My People / Church Have Today?”)

I can imagine many Christians are probably shocked by God’s response to Christmas, but this is not news to my wife or me.  In fact, the first time that God ever spoke to her about this was back on October 31, 2015.  And this is what He said to her to share with me, and then for us to tell the American church and the church around the world:

I do not want My people to be dabbling in the things which I have said were unclean and unholy.  How can I, a holy God, be among the things that are unholy?  My people, you are profaning My name and causing Me to want to take you and remove you from My Holy Presence.  I cannot and will NOT, I say, keep dwelling among a people who do NOT covet the same holy things that I covet. (“God Says: ‘My People are Profaning My Name'”)

God has called us to be His holy people, “a holy nation.”  But instead of striving to be holy, we are acting in unholy ways by embracing these pagan practices.  In fact, God little later in the message continued His thought regarding our “Christian holidays”:

These wicked holidays that you are claiming to be yours are detestable in My eyes, says God Almighty.  How can you not see this in the Word of God that I have given you as a manual to understand the very heart of Me, says God.  I DO NOT WISH for anyone of My children to have anything to do with the things of this world.  I will go farther than this, I can’t continue in a relationship with you because you are grieving the very Holy Spirit that has come to be your Helper and to be your Guide.

Don’t profane My name and say you are trying to take something bad and turn it into something good for the sake of the church.  That is not true.  You are doing it because you don’t care about hurting Me, says God.  If you cared about Me, you would see that I detest all the things that you’re trying to push Me into.  I do NOT accept what you have done, and I don’t want any more to be involved in or have you put My name to anything that is unholy and unacceptable to what My Word teaches. (“God Says: My People are Profaning My Name”)

As we can see, God does not want anything to do with any of the pagan “Christianized” holidays that we have brought into the church, and this would most definitely include Christmas. Therefore, by continuing to celebrate Christmas, we are offending God by connecting Him to paganism, which He finds horribly offensive and to be a violation of His Word.

Now I can imagine some might wonder why God feels so strongly about our celebration of Christmas, or some might not believe that God actually said this to my wife, Karen.  So let me show from the Bible why God feels Christmas is so offensive to Him.

CHRISTMAS VIOLATES THE CHARACTER AND NATURE OF GOD.

There are many sources out there, Christian and non-Christian alike, who openly admit that Christmas has pagan elements and roots.  In fact, there are many deities who were born on December 25th, and they were worshiped on this day.  But the one most similar to our Christmas celebration is the Roman Saturnalia which led up to the birthday of Mithra, the sun god, which was December 25.  The Roman Catholic Church openly admits to taking this pagan celebration, “Christianizing it,” and bringing it into the church.  They will not argue this point at all.

CHRISTMAS – A DECEPTIVE LIE?

But when we go around proclaiming that Christmas is Yeshua’s (Jesus’) birthday, or that it began with Him, we are, in fact, spreading a deceptive lie.  Christmas was created to keep people in the church, so they would not leave the church to go and celebrate a pagan feast and be involved in worshiping another god.  Therefore, for us to go around proclaiming that “Christmas is about Christ” or “Keep Christ in Christmas” when He was never in it to begin with is, again, to promote a deception and a lie.  And deception or lies are completely against the character and nature of God.  God does not lie, nor does He endorse lying.  And yet every year parents lie to their children about Christmas being about Jesus’ birth and about Santa Claus.

Parents will say, “but Christmas is fun for the kids.”  Of course, it is.  That’s how Satan draws people into things.  He doesn’t use their evil side, but their good side, their fun side.  But think about it.  Are we legitimizing our lying to our children by saying it’s okay to lie as long as it’s fun for our children?  I mean, as long as you are having a good time, is it okay to lie and violate the character and nature of God, as well as violate His Scriptures?  Have we deceived ourselves into believing that by telling this lie,  we are really teaching them about God and what He is like?  I mean, think about it, if Yeshua (Himself) was standing right beside you, do you think that He would endorse your lying about Him when He, Himself, said, “I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life” (John 14:6; Emphasis Mine)?

No, this is not teaching our children about the true God of the Bible, nor is it teaching them about the true biblical Yeshua (Jesus), but God said when we teach and participate in the Christmas season, we are teaching them about another god, another Jesus, and we are not teaching people about Him at all.  You see, the biblical God and the biblical Yeshua (Jesus) are holy, and when we attach Yeshua (Jesus), our holy Lord, to a deceptive lie, we create confusion, and “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33).  Therefore, again, the celebration of Christmas violates the character and nature of God.  And just because Christmas is “fun” and has become a “Christian tradition” does not make it right.

CHRISTMAS – PROFANES THE HOLINESS OF GOD?

And as God said to Karen, my wife, Christmas violates and profanes His holiness. Throughout Scripture, we are told by God that He is holy and, therefore, we are to be holy, for example,

For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7)

And you shall be holy unto Me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that you should be Mine.  (Leviticus 20:26)

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

But as He which has called us is holy, so be ye holy in ALL manner of conversation [i.e., conduct, behavior]; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy. (I Peter 1:15-16)

God’s standard for holiness is seen throughout the Scriptures.  He has not changed (Malachi 3:6), nor has His standards changed.  He expects holiness of Israel, and He expects holiness of us.  And by bringing this pagan celebration into the church, we are not being holy, but we are, instead, profaning the name and the holiness of God.

Bring Christmas into the church is no different than what the Israelites did at the foot of Mt. Sinai with their golden calf, or what later Israelites did by bringing false idols into the Temple.  In all three cases, we, like they, are attempting to mix God with paganism.  God’s Holiness does not sanctify the pagan images, symbols, and rituals, so we are not “redeeming a pagan day or feast,” but we are, instead, profaning the holiness of God.  And every time that a Christian celebrates Christmas, they are not honoring God, but they are, instead, profaning Him.

CHRISTMAS FEEDS THE FLESH.

And not only does Christmas violate the name and holiness of God, but it is a pagan celebration that feeds the flesh as God said.  We are commanded to walk after the Spirit and to crucify the flesh, but instead, in this pagan “Christianized” celebration, we are doing the exact opposite.  We are feeding the flesh.  How?  By the following:

  • IT PROMOTES COVETING.  We can tell ourselves that Christmas is about Yeshua (Jesus), but this is a lie.  It’s not.  Ask any child if they are excited about Christmas, and they will tell you “Yes!” And if you ask why, they will tell you about all the presents that they are expecting from Santa Claus.  I remember as a child creating my lists of presents that I wanted, and I would spend hours going through the catalogues looking for what I wanted.  Did I think about Yeshua (Jesus) at those moments?  Absolutely not!  Christmas, to me, and to the majority of children, if we are at all honest, is about the presents and what they are going to get.

Consequently, Christmas does not naturally promote Yeshua (Jesus).  He is not the first thing that comes to mind when you mention “Christmas” to children.  Instead, if anything, Christmas promotes coveting, desiring and wanting things that people do not possess.  And in the Scriptures, we are commanded “You shall not covet” people or things that other people have (Exodus 20: 17; Deuteronomy 5:21).  And the reason most people want the things that they do is because they see other people have it, and then they want it too.

IT PROMOTES MATERIALISM AND GREED.  All anyone has to do is to go shopping and see what kinds of things are being promoted and advertised for people to buy for Christmas to see that this is true.  In fact, many people complain about the fact that Christmas promotes materialism and greed, but if you go back to the Roman Saturnalia and Mithra, you will find the same thing.  Materialism and greed is a natural part of the spirit of this pagan feast, so even if you call that spirit, “the Christmas Spirit,” it will always find its way out and express itself.

IT PROMOTES SELFISHNESS.  Finally, the focus of Christmas is not about “giving,” but about what they will be “getting.”  In fact, if most people do not receive anything for Christmas, particularly children, they feel hurt.  Parents and others will say that they give to their children or other family members, but children and family are physical extensions of ourselves, so to give to them is, in fact, a way of giving to ourselves.  And also, many people give with the expectation that they will get something in return.  Many people even pay tithes with this same motivation.  Consequently, then Christmas is a holiday that actually promotes selfishness.

CHRISTMAS VIOLATES SCRIPTURE.

In addition, Christmas violates Scripture.  For example, in Deuteronomy 12, God says,

Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them [pagan nations], after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods?  even so will I do likewise.  YOU SHALL NOT DO SO unto the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.  (Deuteronomy 12:30-32; Emphasis Mine)

Christmas is a clear violation of this command given to us by God.  We are clearly taking something that the pagans used in the worship and celebration of their god, and we have “Christianized” it and brought it into the church.

WHY CHRISTIANS CONTINUE TO DO THIS?

So if the evidence is clear that Christmas is a violation of the character and nature of God, it promotes the flesh, and it violates Scripture, then why do Christians continue to do it?  When I have asked pastors this question, I have gotten one of two different responses:

GOD KNOWS WHAT’S IN MY HEART.

One response I often hear is that “God knows what’s in my heart.”  Yes, God knows the human heart very well.  In His Word, this is what He has to say about it:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY. (Genesis 6:5; Emphasis Mine)

The IMAGINATION of man’s heart is EVIL from his youth. (Genesis 8:21; Emphasis Mine)

The heart is DECEITFUL above all things, and DESPERATELY WICKED: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9; Emphasis Mine)

Is this the heart that God knows?  Yes, He knows how corrupt our hearts are, and that they are so deceitful that they will even deceive us into believing we are doing something good when we are not.  This is why we need to place our trust in God and His Word, and not in our heart.

PEOPLE ARE GETTING SAVED.

The other response I often hear is that “people are getting saved.”  They believe that as long as people are “getting saved,” then that is all that matters.  However, what this implies, is the belief that “the end justifies the means.”  And God does not support this man-made philosophy.  Instead God is holy, and for God, not only the end needs to be holy, but so does the means.  God will not endorse unholy “means,” regardless of the outcome.  God cannot, nor will He, violate His holiness, nor will He okay us to do so in His name.

In fact, in the same August 17, 2019, message, God said this in regard to this idea:

Stop forcing Me into your pagan celebrations to bring in people to have them come to Me.  My Father and I don’t need your help in this.  My Father and My Holy Spirit will draw them unto Me in the right timing, not yours, My people, who say that you love Me and want to do good, not bad.  (“God’s Warning to His Church: Quit Celebrating this Pagan Day!”)

Many times, people get emotionally stirred up and we get them to come forward to give their lives to Yeshua (Jesus).  However, oftentimes, when the emotions subside, so does the commitment to follow Yeshua (Jesus).  Rather than continuing to follow Him, they now have this “belief” that because they went forward, they now have this “automatic ticket to heaven,” even if they never go back to church, read their Bible, or pray.  We need to do things God’s way, not trying to replace His ways with our own.

CONCLUSION

Christmas is not of God.  It is a man-made celebration that was created to keep Christians in the church, but in doing so, they brought these pagan elements into the church as well.  And one must wonder, “Why do we feel we have the need to create holidays and feasts when God gave us a bunch of them?  Why do we throw His feasts out the window, and then replace them with feasts of our own making that are deeply rooted in paganism and idolatry?”  What we are doing is not honoring to God, but we are profaning Him each and every year.

We have a choice.  We can either listen to God and His Word, and be obedient to Him, or we can ignore God and what He says in His Word, and continue to do what we are doing, and be in disobedience and rebellion.  Obedience to God and His Word brings blessings into our lives, but disobedience and rebellion only result in cursings and death.

My wife and I, as well as this ministry, Following Messiah, have made our decision.  We will no longer celebrate, support, or advocate Christmas for any reason.  As far as we are concerned, this pagan holiday will not be a part of our lives or our ministry, regardless of the cost.  It is our prayer, and God’s desire, that you will follow our example and do likewise.

Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

 

 

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Who is “Israel”? What Jews and Christians Need to Know (Part 1)

WHO IS “ISRAEL”?  This is not just a random, general question for me, but it lies at the very heart of the calling that God has placed upon my life.  By the time you finish this article, I think you will know what I mean.  I have a personal stake in fully understanding this question as I will explain.  But it’s not only important to me, it should be important to every Jew and Christian in the world since it lies at the heart of who we are, our identities in God.

MY OWN PERSONAL STRUGGLE

I did not grow up a Torah-centered life, nor did I grow up in a Jewish home, but in a very conservative Christian home.  I grew up attending a small Pentecostal church on the south side of Lansing, Michigan, and then when I was twelve, my parents began attending an Assemblies of God church close to our home.  However, over the years, the Lord has called my wife and I to an “Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.” Except for our belief in Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah, by all outward evidence, we are living a Jewish life, at least to the best of our knowledge.  There are many things we still need to learn, particularly about being “Orthodox,” but these are things that God has called us to learn, and so we continue to strive to learn them.

But growing up, I remember the more I studied the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, the more I loved it.  I actually got into an argument many years ago with someone in our Sunday School class, because he tried to argue that people could not keep God’s commandments, and I disagreed with him.  I told him we could keep them, but most of the time, we choose not to do it.  I also absolutely disagree with Christians who say that God gave us His commandments just to “show us what horrible, sinful people we really are,” I don’t know what Bible they are reading, but I sure don’t see that taught or indicated in the first five books, or even in the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures.  I also was asked to leave one church, because I had just started wearing my prayer shawl that I had just bought from the Israel Connection, a Jewish bookstore, when it was still open in Scottsdale, Arizona. The pastor told me that if I wanted to wear it, I should go to the synagogue or a Messianic service, but I was not allowed to wear it there at his church.  My wife and I did not return.

God’s law is also an act of love and grace.  He did it because He wanted us to know who He was, what He is like, what He’s not like, and how we are to interact with Him and with one anther.  And nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures do we get any indication of God’s Word being “bondage,” “legalism,” or that it has been “annulled,” “set aside,” or been completely fulfilled so that we no longer have to obey it.  Yeshua (Jesus) has been the One who has called my wife and I to this life, and He is the One who is directing us to walk “the ancient paths” of His Kingdom ways, as He invited Israel to do through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:16).  Now having laid out my general background and reason why this study is so important to me, let me ask the question.

WHO IS “ISRAEL”?

This seems like it should be an easy question to answer, doesn’t it, but it’s really not since there are many different groups, other than the Jewish people, who are claiming to be “the true Israel.”  However, my only question is, “How does God define ISRAEL?”  Many people are not aware that God Himself defined “ISRAEL” in His own word; consequently, the only definition that matters is His.

WHEN DID ISRAEL BEGIN?

First of all, I think it is important for us to remember when Israel began.  Although God called Abraham into covenant with Him, and then his son, Isaac, He laid the foundation for what Israel was to become through their lives.   Technically, though, we would have to agree that there couldn’t have been any such thing as “Israel” until God actually renamed Jacob as “Israel” (Genesis 32).   In chapter 32, Jacob was really nervous about meeting his brother Esau again, because he hadn’t seen him since he pretended to be Esau and tricked his father into giving him his older brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:1-40), rather than it going to Esau.  And he was really nervous when his servants told him that Esau was coming towards him with 400 men (Genesis 32:6), so he divided his family into two companies, hoping that one of them would at least survive (Genesis 32:7-8).

Jacob then spends some time in prayer to God, asking Him to deliver him from the hand of his brother Esau (Genesis 32:9-12).  Then he selected a large number of animals, and he divided them up into at least three groups, and to each group, he gave to a servant.  He told the servants to take the animals as a present and to give them to Esau, and by doing so, he was hoping to appease him.  He also made sure to tell the servants not to go together, but to have a large space between them (Genesis 32:13-20).

JACOB WRESTLES ALL NIGHT WITH GOD

That night, as he was on guard alone, in case one of Esau’s men would try to sneak into the camp, he ends up wrestling with someone in the dark until the breaking of the day.  And when the stranger saw that he was not prevailing against Jacob at all, the Scriptures say he touched the hollow of his thigh, and by doing so, he was able to put it out of joint (Genesis 32:24-25).  Obviously, this was not any ordinary man since he was able to do this by simply touching his thigh.  At this point, the man says to let him go, but Jacob responds, “I will not let you go, except you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  The man then asks him his name, and then when Jacob tells him, the man says,

Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.  (Genesis 32:28)

When Jacob asked him his name, he would not tell him, but he blessed Jacob there.  This scene is where Jacob is renamed as “Israel.”  From this scene, I think we can logically infer the following about Israel:

  • Although Jacob had done some unscrupulous things in his past, he had repented and he is trying to reconcile with his brother by making amends;
  • During this process of repentance, Jacob wrestles with a stranger and is given a new identity as “Israel.”  “The man” says Israel is “as a prince” has “power with God and with men,” and he has “prevailed.”

In Hosea 12, there seems to indicate that the man was God, but then there’s the indication that it was an angel:

In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God.  Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed: He wept and sought His favor.  He found Him at Bethel, and there He spoke with us.  (Hosea 12:3-4)

Consequently, based on this account, Israel is “one who wrestles with God.”  And how many of us like Jacob also wrestle with God in one way or another.

GOD CREATES ISRAEL

Then in Genesis 35, we have what seems to be God renaming Jacob as Israel all over again for a second time, but there’s more to it here than merely a renaming.  When Jacob came out of Padan-aram, God again appeared to Jacob and blessed him. (Genesis 35:9)  And God said to him:

Your name is Jacob: Your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name:

“and He called his name Israel.  And God said to him,”

I am God Almighty (Heb. El Shaddai): be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins; and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land.  (Genesis 35:10-12)

First of all, in looking at what God told him after renaming him “Israel”:

  1.  God identified Himself as “El Shaddai” (God Almighty) or “the God who is more
    than enough.”
  2.  God told him to “be fruitful and multiply.”  This indicates that this is not just a renaming, but a creation account since the only two times prior to this that this phrase was used was during the initial creation account in Genesis 1 (Genesis 1:22, 28), and after Noah, his family, and all the animals came off the ark, indicating a new creation after the flood (Genesis 8:17; 9:7).

In the book of Isaiah, God says to the people and nation of Israel:

But now thus says the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine.  (Isaiah 43: 1)

During the biblical period, the act of naming something or giving it a new name was an act of showing one’s ownership of that thing or person.  For instance, when Adam gave “Woman” the name Chavah (trans. as “Eve” in English), he was showing his ownership of her since she was his wife.  When God renames Abram into Abraham, and Sarai into Sarah, He is showing His ownership of them.  They now belonged to Him, and the same is true of Jacob here into “Israel.”

We even see this in the New Testament, when Yeshua (Jesus) renames Simon into “Peter,” He is showing His ownership of Peter as belonging to Him, and the same is true of us as modern believers, since in the epistles we are told that Yeshua (Jesus) purchased us with His blood (I Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1), and therefore, He is going to show His ownership of us by giving us a “new name” (Revelation 2:17), as well as give us three other names: “the name of My God,” “the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem,” and “My new name” (Revelation 3:12).  Notice that although Yeshua (Jesus) and the Father are One (John 10:30), Yeshua (Jesus) refers to Him after His resurrection as “My Father and your Father, and to My God and Your God” (John 20:17), and here in this passage, He also refers to Him as “My God,” and He’s even been given “a new name” by God, demonstrating God’s ownership of Him.  And these three names will also be given to those who overcome.

ANALYZING GOD’S DEFINITION OF ISRAEL

  • After giving him the name “Israel,” God then defines “ISRAEL” as “A NATION and A COMPANY OF NATIONS shall be of you.”  ISRAEL is then defined as –
    • A NATION (Heb. goy; Gk. ethne).  One of the interesting things I noticed when comparing the Hebrew with the Greek is that the Hebrew word goy is in the singular, and it means “a nation,” but the Greek word ethne is in the plural and means “nations,” and it’s where we get the English words “ethnic” and “ethnicity.”    This word, though, refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  However, in defining Israel, God doesn’t just stop there, but He adds to the definition the following element.
    • A COMPANY OF NATIONS” (Heb. q’hal goyim; Gk. sunagogai ethnon) And like the word “nation,” the Hebrew word q’hal is in the singular, and the Greek word sunagogai is in the plural.  Again, I wonder why the change from the singular to the plural.

In Hebrew, the word q’hal [H6951] can be translated to mean “assembly, company, congregation, or multitude.”  The most popular translation for this word is the word “congregation” since it is translated that way 86 times.  Now in all the online sources that I found available, the Greek word sunagogai [G4864] was translated “gatherings,” and it is the source from which we get the word “Synagogue.”

The next word is the Hebrew word “goyim” or the Greek ethnon, and in both languages, it is plural and means “nations” or “gentiles.”  Both translations are equally valid.  So then this phrase q’hal goyim in the Hebrew or sunagogai ethnon in the Greek could be translated as any of the following:

      • An assembly of nations (or gentiles);
      • a company of nations (or gentiles);
      • a congregation of nations (or gentiles);
      • a multitude of nations (or gentiles); or
      • gatherings of nations (or gentiles).

Obviously, which of these is chosen depends on the preference of the translator since any one of these could be argued as a valid choice.  What I do find interesting is that even though the Greek word sunagogai is in the plural, most English translations seem to follow the Hebrew instead, which is singular.

  • ISRAEL – A COVENANT PEOPLE WITH GOD

Throughout the Scriptures, Israel is seen as a people who are to live their lives in accordance to the covenants that God had made with them.  For example, there was the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15, 17); the Sinai covenant (Exodus 12 – Deuteronomy); the Levitic /Priesthood covenant (Numbers 25:11-13); the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16; I Chronicles 17:7-14); the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34); and the coming covenant of peace (Ezekiel 34:22-31; 37:15-28).  The whole history of Israel is of them being a covenant people.  And just as God has called Israel to be His covenant people, He has also called me to live my life in accordance to His covenants as well.

  • ISRAEL – GOD’S SERVANT, HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE

In the book of Isaiah, we learn the following about Israel from God:

But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, My friend…you are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. (Isaiah 41:8, 9b)

Israel is God’s chosen servant, who began as we saw with Jacob, whom the LORD Himself had chosen.  Israel is the descendant of Abraham, “My friend,” a covenantal term, demonstrating that Israel are God’s covenantal people.

  • ISRAEL – GOD’S FIRSTBORN SON?

Another interesting thing about “ISRAEL” is that God identifies ISRAEL as “My son, even My firstborn son.”  God is giving Moses instructions on what He is to say to the Pharaoh when he meets him, and He says,

And the LORD said unto Moses, When you go to return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.  And you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the LORD, Israel is My son, even My firstborn.  (Exodus 4:21)

Now Moses has not even seen the Pharaoh yet, and here God is identifying Israel as His “son, even [His] firstborn son.”  Obviously, if God is identifying Israel as His son, then God already has an on-going relationship with Israel right here.  Then how could the covenant at Mt. Sinai be the relationship covenant since God is already in a relationship with them before Moses even goes to see the Pharaoh or before any of the plagues or before the Exodus from Egypt has even begun?

But isn’t it rather interesting that when it came time for Israel to leave Egypt under Moses’ leadership that Israel was comprised not only of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but there was also a “mixed multitude” of Gentiles that came out with them:

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.  And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. (Exodus 12:37-38)

Notice that Israel did not leave Egypt alone.  They left Egypt comprised of both the physical descendants of Israel AND the “mixed multitude” of Gentiles, just as God defined Israel in Genesis 35: “a nation and a multitude of nations.”  And after they cross the Jordan River, they continued to grow in the amount of “mixed multitude” of Gentiles that were part of Israel; for example, with Rahab and her family, Ruth, Doeg the Edomite, etc.  And more recently, me and my wife.

ISRAEL – THOSE WHOM GOD HAS CREATED, FORMED AND REDEEMED

Just as we read earlier, God created a whole new being called “Israel.”  Before God created him, Israel did not exist.  But He also formed him in that he made him from someone who already existed, Jacob.  So Israel was both “created” and “formed.” God refers to this in this verse.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:1)

Here we learn that God not only redeemed Israel, but he was called by name.  Israel belongs to God; they are His people.  But not only did God call “Israel” by name, but I believe this implies that everyone who will comprise His people, Israel, He will also call by name.  We speaks more about this six verses later:

Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.  (Isaiah 43:7)

And then, in the next chapter, we learn,

But now listen, O Jacob, My servant; And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  (Isaiah 44:1-2)

Again we learn that Israel is God’s servant, they have been personally chosen by God.  He made and formed each one of them, as He has the rest of us, but we should remember Paul’s description of the “unsaved Gentile world,”

remember that you were at that time separate from Christ [Messiah], excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  (Ephesians 2:12)

ISRAEL – GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE

Throughout the Scriptures, Israel is seen as a people who are to live their lives in accordance to the covenants that God had made with them.  Each of these covenants build on one another, they do not replace any of the earlier covenants as Christianity teaches.  For example, there’s the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15, 17); the Sinai covenant (Exodus 12 – Deuteronomy); the Levitic /Priesthood covenant (Numbers 25:11-13); the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16; I Chronicles 17:7-14); the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34); and the coming covenant of peace (Ezekiel 34:22-31; 37:15-28).  The whole history of Israel is of them being a covenant people. And each of us, who are in Messiah, are also called to be His covenant people.  We do not keep one covenant, but in some way, we keep them all.

ISRAEL – GOD’S SERVANT, HIS CHOSEN WITNESSES

Another thing that God says about Israel is that they are God’s servant, His chosen witnesses.  “You are My Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show My glory” (Isaiah 49:3).  Six chapters earlier, God describes Israel as His witnesses:

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen.  In order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, and there be none after Me.  I, even I, am the LORD; and there is no savior besides Me.  It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you.  So you are My witnesses,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 43:10-12)

God has chosen Israel to be His witnesses of who He is, what He is like, what He’s not like, and what He has required of us.  As Micah writes,

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8)

There is so much about God and His Word we would not know, if not for Israel and the Jewish people.

WHAT GOD HAS SAID ABOUT YOU & ME

And the same callings, responsibilities and privileges that God has given to Israel, He gives to all those who are His, because He makes us all a part of Israel.  Now does that mean I believe that the believer in Messiah has in some way replaced the Jewish people? (Replacement Theology) Absolutely not!  Nor do I believe that God has placed Israel on the “back burner,” and that God is only working through “the church,” referring to some religious entity that is different than Israel (Dispensationalism).

Instead, I believe that we are engrafted into Israel, that we are to be One (Heb. echad) like God Himself.  We are to be One (‘echad) with Him, and we are to be One (‘echad) with one another, just as Yeshua (Jesus) prayed the night before His crucifixion (John 17:22-23).  And not only is God’s desire for us all, Jew and Christian, to be One, but that  we who are not of Jewish descent partake with them (the Jewish people), as Paul wrote in Romans 11,

And if some of the branches [Jews] are broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, was GRAFTED IN AMONG THEM, and WITH THEM partake of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree [Israel].  (Romans 11:17)

ISRAEL” is the name of God’s Kingdom that He began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God’s intention is that we would all be part of ONE FAMILY, just as Rahab and Ruth, two Gentile women, became a part of the family of ISRAEL.   Now does that mean that I completely endorse everything that the present state of Israel does?  No, but by the same taken, I also don’t endorse everything that my own country, the United States, does either.  But we need to understand what God wants ISRAEL to be, and I believe when the Messiah returns, ISRAEL will become all that He wants them – and us – to become.

WHAT GOD HAS SAID TO MY WIFE AND I

When my wife and I went to ISRAEL, and are planning on going again, we want to learn from the people there, to be their friends, just as we hope that they will also learn from us, and want to be our friends as well.  But this is our attitude not only when we go to ISRAEL, but wherever we go.  But God has told us in prayer and in revelations to us over the years that there are certain things that He expects of us.  The following is a list of many of those things of where we are now, but He didn’t with all of this.  It has accumulated over the years.

  • He has chosen us and called us by name;
  • It was He who created us and formed us;
  • It was His plan from the very beginning that we should get married to one another;
  • He was the One who called us to be His witnesses to the nations;
  • He is the One who has given us the insights and revelations about Him and His Kingdom;
  • He has saved us, redeemed us, and kept us safe many different times;
  • He told us that He wants and longs for a relationship with us to be a holy one, because He can’t live in an unholy Temple.  It is detestable to Him, and He will puke us out;
  • He told us that Paul remained a believing Pharisee all of his life, and that there’s many things that Paul has written that Christians do not properly understand because of many different things;
  • He told us that He does not believe that many Christians love Him because they do not talk about Him with others, they are more passionate about football and sports than they are about Him, and they do not keep His commandments;
  • He has told us that we are not to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Lent, or Halloween.  These were never His holidays at all;
  • He has told us that we are to observe His Shabbat;
  • He has told us that we are to observe all of His feasts;
  • He has told us to keep the purity laws;
  • He has told us that we are to eat only kosher, those foods that He said in His word His people are to eat, and we are not to eat anything that He has called unclean;
  • He told me in prayer that I am to live as closely to the life of an Orthodox Jewish man as possible without violating His Scriptures;
  • He has told me to wear tzitzit, to pray wearing a prayer shawl, and to wear a kippah;
  • He has called me ben Torah, the son of His Torah, and my wife bat Torah, the daughter of His Torah;
  • He is calling my wife and I to Israel; and
  • He has told us that we are to teach all people, Jew and non-Jew alike, to believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and to be baptized (or immersed) in water for the remission of sins, AND we are also to teach them to obey the Torah, the writings of Moses, and the rest of the Bible as well.

Many Christians have questioned whether I’ve really heard from God, but it was the LORD Yeshua (Jesus) Himself who audibly spoke to me in my bedroom early one morning.  It was He who has called us to do these things.  Many people don’t believe me when I tell them that the Lord audibly spoke to me, but it is true, and I know it is true.  So if we were not to do what He has told us to do, then we would be breaking His commands to us, and it would be sin to us.  Of that, I have no doubt.

I am also sure that Christianity is wrong when it comes to the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, and many of Paul’s ideas about the law.  God’s desire is that we would be filled with His Spirit, and that we would love living out His Torah, keeping the Sabbath and His feasts, and all of His other commandments, and that His Word, including all of His commandments, would reside within our minds and in our hearts.  He wants His words in the inside of us, in our guts.  He does not want His word sitting on a shelf collecting dust, as it does in many homes today of people.

But we are all ISRAEL, if we are physically descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or whether we have been engrafted into ISRAEL when we put our faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah.  All of us in ISRAEL have the privilege and the responsibility to love God; to love His word, the Torah; and to love one another.  If a Jew, Paul says, does not obey God and listen to the prophet “like unto Moses” (i.e., the Messiah Yeshua), then he is in violation of the Torah.  And like the Jew, if the Christian, or any other person, does not obey God’s word, including the commandments that He gave to Moses, then he too is in violation of God’s Word.

The division we see between ISRAEL and the Church isn’t really there.  It is a man-made division.  There have always been those who said they were God’s people, but they did not live their life in obedience to Him.  This is true of people in ISRAEL and it is true of those who identify themselves as being in the church.  They didn’t love God and they didn’t keep the Torah as God instructed them to do.

WE NEED TO GET READY FOR THE COMING OF MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM

But if we are going to be ready for the return of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth, we need to begin living in obedience to all of God’s word, not just some parts we happen to decide that we like.  If we don’t, we won’t make it.

There are many people in our churches today who think that when they die or when the Lord returns that they will be going to heaven, but they are going to be sadly shocked and surprised when they discover too late that they will not be going to heaven at all, but they will be spending eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone.  The time is quickly coming to an end, and just as God shut the door of the Ark, and then destruction fell upon the earth, so the door of salvation is about to be closed, and soon, the time will come when it will be too late, and the door will be closed.  And once closed, it will not be re-opened.  Sudden destruction will fall, as it did the days of Noah and in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all who didn’t make it will be destroyed.

Think about it and make the right choice.  We know what God has called upon our lives, and we are not going to stop now.  We will continue.  We can only ask that you think about it, seek God, ask Him what you should do, and follow His directions.  If you hear a voice that directs you to violate His commandments or to go against His Word, please know that this voice that you hear is not God’s voice since God does not violate or oppose His Word.

Blessings and Shalom be to all of you.

 

 

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Does Paul Teach a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” in His Epistles? (Part 1/2)

With movies like Thief in the Night (1972), Distant Thunder (1978), Image of the Beast (1981), The Prodigal Planet (1983) or the more recent Left Behind: The Movie (2005) series, as well as the many books written about the Lord’s return, they have presented a scenario to readers in which there are two comings of the Lord: one secret coming, called “the Rapture,” and one public coming, called “the Second Coming.”  However, even though this idea that there are “two comings” is popular within the church today, it actually only goes back to the thirteenth century, A.D., and those who embrace this teaching use biblical references, like I Thessalonians 4-5, to support their teaching.  Therefore, my question, and hopefully yours as well, is whether or not the context of this passage actually supports their derived interpretation?

WHAT IS “CONTEXT”?

The term “context” refers to that which goes along with the text that we are examining.  The immediate context would refer to those words, phrases and sentences which come immediately before and after the text that we are examining.  However, there are other contexts that we often have to keep in mind as well, such as the historical context (What was going on in history at that time?).

WHAT WAS THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT?

The believers in Jesus, Jews and non-Jews alike, were being persecuted by Rome.  As a result, there were many believers who were concerned that if they were to die as martyrs before the Lord returned to set up His Kingdom that they would miss out on His millennial reign.  Therefore, Paul wrote this passage to comfort them that they would not miss out on it.

Understanding this, we can better understand the focus of the passage, which is on the resurrection of the dead.   He writes,

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  (I Thessalonians 4:13-15)

As we can see, Paul is comparing the Lord’s own bodily resurrection with the resurrection that those believers who died being faithful to Him will experience at His return.  However, in contrast to this, there are ministers, Bible teachers, and TV evangelists who are teaching that “the rapture” and “the resurrection of the dead” are two different events, but this violates the clear context of what Paul is saying here.   By his comparison, Paul is clearly identifying the event he’s about to describe as “the resurrection of the dead,” and not as a separate event.

THE SECOND COMING & RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

Then Paul writes the following:

For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.  (I Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Obviously, as we can see, this event happens at the time of the Lord’s return.  So in his description here, we see that “the dead in Christ” will rise first, and then “we which are alive and REMAIN shall be together” with those believers “in the clouds to the meet the Lord in the air.”  This word “remain” here is important because the believers at this time are being tortured and martyred for their faith.  They are undergoing tribulation in their lives. So the context of this verse written by Paul is one of suffering and martyrdom, not one in which God is promising an escape from suffering and martyrdom, as taught by the “pre-trib preachers.”  Therefore, this is NOT a promise to keep the people in Thessalonica from experiencing tribulation and martyrdom because they are already experiencing it.  Therefore, to use this verse to say that God is promising to keep us from the persecution and suffering of the 7-year tribulation period is to take this passage out of context.

SO WHAT IS THE “BLESSED HOPE”?

So what is the “blessed hope,” and what is the promise given that we are to “comfort one another with these words”?  Is it the comfort that we will be resurrected before the tribulation and our martyrdom?  No, because that would violate the historical and textual context of the passage.  These believers are already undergoing martyrdom, they are already in tribulation, so how could that be the “blessed hope” or the promise?  Instead, the promise, or the “blessed hope,” is that “the dead in Christ [Messiah]” will not miss out on the coming Millennial reign of Messiah. They will be there, and they will experience it.  That is the promise or “blessed hope” we see Paul giving here.  This is the promise we are to comfort one another with, even today.

It is important to remember when interpreting any text, including the Bible, that it CANNOT mean anything differently today than it did when it was written.  And clearly to impose a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” scenario on this passage is a clear violation of this basic principle.

THE LORD’S RETURN & THE RESURRECTION = “THE DAY OF THE LORD”?

An interesting thing about those who teach a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” is that they don’t continue reading into chapter 5 of I Thessalonians.  For in the very next two verses after the alleged “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” passage, Paul writes,

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you.  For yourselves know perfectly that THE DAY OF THE LORD so comes as A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.  (I Thessalonians 5:1-2; Emphasis Mine)

By stating this, Paul is saying here that “of the times and the seasons” in which the Lord will return and the resurrection of the dead will happen, he does not need to teach them anymore about that because they know perfectly well that “THE DAY OF THE LORD” will come as “A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.”  Paul here is identifying the Lord’s return and the resurrection of the dead believers, as well as the catching up of the true believers who are still alive during this time of persecution and tribulation, to be “THE DAY OF THE LORD.”

The term “THE DAY OF THE LORD” is very specific in the Bible, and it is used to designate a time when God’s judgment is poured out on people who are living in disobedience and rebellion to Him and to His commandments.  And Paul says that this time of judgment will catch people unprepared, like “a thief in the night.”  He then writes,

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then SUDDEN DESTRUCTION comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and THEY SHALL NOT ESCAPE. (I Thessalonians 5:3; Emphasis Mine)

This time of judgment is going to catch the majority of the world unprepared.  They won’t see it coming, nor will they be ready for it.  Instead, the destruction will be sudden, and they shall NOT escape.  This also goes along with what Yeshua (Jesus) teaches about the day of His return as well.

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.  They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)

Notice that like Paul describes, the flood in the days of Noah caught people totally unprepared.  They were living their life the same as any other day, until the flood came, but by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late, and they were all destroyed.  The same thing happened in the days of Lot with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.  Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed [i.e., He returns]. (Luke 17: 28-30)

Again, we see the same thing:  the people of these two cities were living their life completely oblivious to the judgment that was coming until it was too late, and then they were all destroyed.

“THE DAY OF THE LORD” – A DAY OF NO ESCAPE?

As we can see, in every example that Yeshua (Jesus) gave, as well as in Paul’s statement, there is no opportunity for anyone to get saved once the flood happens or the fire and brimstone fell from heaven.  So the question I have is if “the rapture” (i.e., the resurrection of the dead) happens before the seven year tribulation or even in the middle of it, then there’s time for people to get saved after it happens, but this violates the clear pattern here.

But what will happen on that day?  In the following Old Testament Scriptures, it provides us with a fuller sense of what events will happen on that day.

THE LORD RETURNS FIRST GOES JORDAN

In Isaiah 63, we find the following prophecy:

Who is this that comes from Edom (now Jordan), with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength?  I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.  Wherefore are You red in your apparel, and Your garments like him that treads the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me; for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be SPRINKLED upon My garments, and I will stain ALL of My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation to Me; and My fury, it upheld Me. And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth. (Isaiah 63:1-6)

We know that this prophecy is about Yeshua (Jesus), because He is “glorious in His apparel,” He speaks “in righteousness” and is “mighty to save.”  But in the Second Coming, Jesus is coming to bring the wrath of God and judgment against the nations.  He’s not coming back as “the Lamb of God,” but as “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”  He’s coming back as a Mighty Warrior, who is going to kill many of Israel’s enemies in battle.

It is believed that after the Anti-Christ and his forces attack Jerusalem, that there will be many people who will escape to Jordan, specifically to Petra.  And then some of the military will pursue them, and as they are attempting to attack the people there, Yeshua (Jesus) will return and defeat the military forces coming against His people, Israel, who are there in hiding.

But we also see, in the passage above, the word translated as “SPRINKLED” in the King James is the Hebrew word Nazah [H5137], which means “to spurt, to gush, to squirt, to spatter.” So as Yeshua (Jesus) is doing battle with these military forces, beginning in Bozrah in Jordan and making His way back towards Jerusalem, their blood is going to “spurt, gush, squirt, and spatter” all over His clothes until He “will stain ALL of My raiment.”

HE WILL THEN RETURN TO HEAVEN TO GET US TO JOIN HIM IN THE BATTLE

Then at some point in His movement towards Jerusalem, He will return to heaven, get us and then lead the way back into battle.  And it is at this point in the battle that the Apostle John prophetically sees Him:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He does make war.  His eyes were a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture DIPPED in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16; Emphasis Mine)

In this passage in Revelation, the word translated as “dipped” is the Greek word bapto [G911], which means “to immerse” or “to dye by dipping.”  After doing battle in Bozrah and then heading back to Jerusalem, He then returns to heaven, gets us, and as John saw, His clothes were covered in blood, and when we put Isaiah 63 with Revelation 19 together, we can see the actual order of events and understand where the blood came from.

And then after coming to get us, He then leads the armies of heaven and us into battle.  In the last chapter from the book of Isaiah, we gain another perspective of this same event:

For behold, the LORD will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the LORD will be many. Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, following one in the center, who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things, and
mice, shall come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 66:15-17)

So not only will the LORD be coming with some of His armies on white horses, but others, apparently, will be coming riding in flaming chariots, much like the one that took Elijah into heaven. And just as we described in the earlier Isaiah 63 passage, Yeshua (Jesus) will be coming to “execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh,” and we are told here that “those slain by the LORD will be many.”

Our Warrior-King is coming! And what I found interesting is how God describes who will be slain here by them going “to the gardens, following one in the center,” which may have reference to some pagan or idol worship, but also by what things they eat: “swine’s flesh, detestable things, and mice,” all things forbidden by God in His commandments.

THE FINAL BATTLE WILL BE AROUND JERUSALEM

And this final battle will be there in and around Jerusalem. And just like in the day that Joshua son of Nun fought and the sun remained in its position until the battle was completed (Joshua 10:7:12-14), so the sun will do so again with our New Testament “Joshua” (”Jesus” is the Greek form of “Joshua”), for as we read in the last chapter of the book of Zechariah:

Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave (or split) in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove to the north, and half of it toward the south.  And you shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yes, you shall flee, like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with You. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, nor day, nor night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light…and the LORD shall be KING over all the earth: in that day shall there be ONE LORD, and His name ONE. (Zechariah 14:3-7, 9; Emphasis Mine)

ARE WE PREPARING FOR OUR COMING WARRIOR-KING?

Are we ready for our coming Warrior-King, for this coming war, and for His Kingdom which shall be established for one thousand years afterwards? And after this war, when the Lord will set up and establish His Kingdom here on earth, we are told that –

from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall ALL FLESH come to worship before Me, says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:23).

Notice that God does not say here, “All Israel,” or “All Jews,” but “All Flesh,” so this means both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) will be required to do this.  Also, in Zechariah 14, “all the families of the earth” will be required to come up to “Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts” during the Feast of Tabernacles, and any families that do not do this will be punished with drought or no rain (Zechariah 14:16-21).

Are we talking about this? Are we preparing for it? Are we learning what’s involved in this? It doesn’t seem like the dominant American church is taking any part of this seriously, but instead we are ignoring it all, and just going around like the Lord’s return isn’t for a long time yet, and not just around the corner,  and we’re just on with “business as usual.”   Clearly, we are not taking God or His Word very seriously.

BUT FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE PREPARING AND WATCHING –

However, for those of us who are watching and paying attention, and striving to faithfully serve the Lord in our lives, the Lord’s return will not catch us unprepared, like “a thief in the night,” but instead, he says,

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief.  You are all the children of light, and the children of day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. (I Thessalonians 5:4-7)

Here Paul, like Yeshua (Jesus) had done earlier (Matthew 24:44), he tells us to “keep watch” of the signs of the Lord’s return, and we are to “be sober,” and not drunken with wine or anything else that the world has to offer us to dull our spiritual senses.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.  But God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also you do.  (I Thessalonians 5:8-11)

And part of what we need to do to “keep watch and be sober” is to put on our “breastplate of faith and love,” and to put on our heads, “a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

WHAT DOES PAUL MEAN HERE BY “WRATH”?

However, Paul says, “God has not appointed us to wrath.”  Those who endorse a Pre-Tribulation rapture try to connect the word “wrath” here with the tribulation period by reading selections like the following:

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that [continue to] sits on the throne, and from the WRATH of the Lamb: For the great day of his WRATH is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:15-17)

Therefore, they argue, if God’s “wrath” is being poured out during the seven-year tribulation period, and Paul says, “God has not appointed us to wrath,” then the believer has to be removed before the beginning of the tribulation period, and therefore, a “Pre-Tribulation Rapture.”  The problem with this interpretation of this verse is that beyond the use of the word “wrath,” there is nothing in the context of I Thessalonians 5 to connect Paul’s discussion here with the Tribulation period described in the book of Revelation.  And one shared word is not enough textual evidence to logically derive the meaning given to in I Thessalonians 5:9-10 by the Pre-Tribulation teachers and supporters.

LET’S PUT THE WORD BACK INTO CONTEXT

However, to truly understand the intent of Paul’s statement in this statement, let’s look at the whole passage:

But God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10)

With the clause “whether we wake or sleep,” Paul is indicating that he is still discussing the Lord’s return and the resurrection of the dead; he has not changed topics to discuss another event called “the 7-year Tribulation.”  Also, in this same passage, the word “wrath” and “salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” are set up as opposites.

Therefore, if “salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul states, results in us living “together with Him,” then the “wrath” being spoken here would result in the opposite effect, “separation from Him,” or what is popularly known as “Hell,” or the ultimate separation being “the Lake of Fire and Brimstone.”  However, there’s no indication here that the word “wrath” makes any reference to the 7-year Tribulation, except if one purposely imposes that meaning onto the text.

CONCLUSION

Consequently, then, there is no textual evidence in I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 to indicate a secret Pre- or even Mid-Tribulation “rapture,” as opposed to the public Second Coming which Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples repeatedly taught throughout the New Testament.  The dominant American church would be doing people a greater service by teaching people how to prepare for the coming persecution during the tribulation period.  This way, if they are prepared for persecution during the tribulation, and the Lord comes before or in the middle of the tribulation, then great, but if He doesn’t return then, which is what, I believe, the evidence indicates, then people will be prepared for what is ahead.  But oftentimes, people who believe that they will not be here for the tribulation, or will face persecution, are not taking the time to prepare for those things at all, and if I am right, then they will be caught totally off-guard and unprepared for what they will need to face.

Therefore, I believe the use of this portion of Scripture to support such a teaching as a “secret rapture” or “secret coming of the Lord” is clearly based on individuals taking things out of context and imposing their own meanings into the text.  This is a violation of several of the rules of how any text, including the Bible, should be handled and interpreted.

In part 2 of this study, I want to examine 2 Thessalonians 2, and not only examine what more Paul has to tell us regarding “the Day of the Lord,” but also what advice he gives us on how we should stand in that day.

 

 

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Where Are We on the Prophetic Clock of Matthew 24?

When I was in my late teens during the end of the 70’s and the early 1980’s, there was a great deal of interest in end-time events.  I remember going with my girlfriend, who then became my wife, to various churches, so that we could watch the various Thief in the Night movies.  By doing this, we ended up watching all four of the movies in the series: A Thief in the Night (1972), A Distant Thunder (1978), Image of the Beast (1981), and The Prodigal Planet (1983).

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR PASSION FOR HIS RETURN?

But when I look at the dominant American church today, I don’t see the same desire and interest in end-time events any more.   Instead of any passionate interest in the Lord’s return, I see many churches focusing on the false “Health, Wealth & Prosperity Gospel,” and/or on learning how they can Live Their Best Life Now.  As a believer, I certainly hope that this life is NOT my best life now since heaven and the Lord’s coming Kingdom is supposed to be where I live my best life.  My life here is supposed to be dedicated to me living my life in service to my King and His Kingdom, not spending all my time worrying about my own needs and wants.

WHERE ARE WE ON THE PROPHETIC CLOCK?

But in looking at the prophetic clock and the events given and described in Matthew 24, where are we today?  The signs are all around us that we are closer now than we’ve ever been before, but the days ahead are not going to be getting better, but instead, they are going to be getting much darker for everyone, particularly the true believers in Yeshua (Jesus).  In explaining this, let’s look at Matthew 24.

After prophesying about the destruction of the Temple, His disciples come to Him, and they ask Him, “Tell us, when shall these things be?  And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)  He then responds, by saying,

Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And you shall hear of wars and rumor of wars: and see that you are not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24: 4-8)

In the first part of His description, the focus of the events are global, and deal with international conflicts.  And these verses have been read and discussed now for decades, but in the second half of His description of events, the focus changes. The focus is no longer global in scope, but individual, and how His followers would be treated by others.

And although I am not sure how many people have taken note, it is evident that we are now past this first segment of verses and are now in the second half of the events that Yeshua (Jesus) gives to describe what events will lead up to the time when, He says, “and then shall the end come.”  So let’s examine these events where we now find ourselves.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9)

Although we are just in the beginning stages of us being hated for His name’s sake in the United States, there are many countries in the world where all of these elements of this verse are already a dominant reality for most believers.  There are many stories of Christians who have been beaten up, imprisoned, tortured, whipped, raped, set on fire, beheaded, or even crucified for their faith.   In comparison to these brothers and sisters, we, in the United States, really don’t know what persecution like this is like, but I have a feeling that the tide in the U.S. may be soon changing.

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  (Matthew 24:10)

In the United States, the first phrase of this verse has already become a glaring reality.  As far as U.S. culture is concerned, the “biggest sin” we can commit today is “offending” someone.  Notice that after this, Yeshua (Jesus) said that we will experience betrayal and hatred.  The Lord recently shared with us that there’s coming a time when our family members will betray us and turn us in to the authorities, so that they will be able to get food and live.  Once this happens, this we too may be experiencing the affliction, torture, and death as our brothers and sisters in other countries.  Now is the time to prepare.  We don’t want to continue to put it off until it’s too late for us to study the Scriptures and get as much of them into our hearts as possible.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  (Matthew 24:11)

Although there have been many false religious leaders who have deceived many people, I don’t believe this verse is referring to them.  I believe this is yet to happen.  I believe that the coming wave of deception is going to be so pervasive and so convincing that, as the Bible says, “If it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived” (Matthew 24:24).

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  (Matthew 24:12)

It’s extremely important that we note the negative correlation Yeshua (Jesus) makes here between “iniquity” and love.  The more iniquity (or sin) increases, the more love decreases.   But what is “iniquity”?  In the Greek, this is the English translation of the Greek word, anomia.

And it is this same Greek word anomia that is used in I John 3:4, “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (Gk. anomia).”  In this verse, the phrase “the transgression of the law” is used to translate the Greek word anomia, the exact same word that’s used here in Matthew 24:12.  So since the Bible identifies the word “iniquity” as “the transgression of the law,” let me substitute John’s definition into the Matthew passage:

And because [the transgression of the law] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

How many pastors, Bible teachers, and TV evangelists have been erroneously preaching that “Yeshua (Jesus) has freed us from the law,” that “the law is bondage and legalism,” and the more the church has turned away from it, the colder they have become to God.

God says, “If you love Me, you will keep the commandments,” but these Christian leaders are teaching, “because we love God, we don’t follow these commandments any more.”  Anyone with even a surface-level knowledge of the Bible would realize that these men are teaching in direct opposition to God’s own instructions and teachings.  Obviously, then, for a believer to turn his or her back on the commandments of God, they are only embracing iniquity and will result in experiencing a gradual decrease of their love for God and for others.

Therefore, for any minister or Bible teacher to encourage believers to ignore or turn away from God’s commandments in the “Old Testament” (or Hebrew Scriptures) is only promoting iniquity and leading the people away from God and onto the road that leads to destruction.

But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.  (Matthew 24:13)

But notice God’s promise here.  It will be those who “shall endure to the end” who “shall be saved.”  Yeshua (Jesus) didn’t say that He would air lift us out of the world during this time, but that those who “endure” through it would be the ones who would be saved.

And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.  (Matthew 24:14)

And finally, while all hell is breaking out on the earth, the gospel of the Kingdom shall still go forth.  The threat or reality of imprisonment, persecution, torture, and even death will not prevent the message from going around the world today, no more than it did in the first century, A.D., when the Apostles and the disciples who lived at that time were likewise persecuted for His name’s sake.  May He be praised forever and ever!  And may we be bold during these coming days and hold to our confession of faith!  Amen!

 

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PRAISE – A Technique in Critical Thinking to Enhance Biblical Study

In God, whose word I PRAISE, In the LORD, whose word I PRAISE” (Psalm 56:10, NASB; emphasis mine)

STUDYING THE BIBLE – A FORM OF PRAISE?

DID YOU KNOW THAT READING AND STUDYING THE BIBLE IS A FORM OF PRAISE?  PRAISE happens when we elevate God in our lives.  It’s not just part of a church worship service, but PRAISE should be something that we live each and every day.  For example,  some ways we can PRAISE God is by telling others about Jesus, being a friend to the homeless, really listening to others, giving people a shoulder to cry on, and showing Christ’s love and compassion to those who are in need.  In all these ways, we elevate God, or PRAISE God, by being His voice, His hands, and His feet.  Another way, we can PRAISE God is by loving Him “with all of our mind,” but how do we do that?  We elevate and show Him PRAISE by reading and studying His Word.

HOW DO WE STUDY THE BIBLE?

But how do we study the Bible?  Do we just read it over and over again until we finally figure it out, or how do we do it?  And are we just to blindly accept whatever we read, or can we critically think about what we are reading?  In my two-part series, “Critical Thinking & the Bible” (Part 1 and Part 2), we discussed how God does not expect us to turn off our brains when we enter a church or read our Bibles, but we are to love God with all of our mind, and this includes our ability to engage in critical thinking.  But once we cross that hurdle, the next question that many believers have regarding the Bible is “How do I approach the Bible?  What can I do to help me understand it?”

It’s important to remember when looking at any text, not just the Bible, that not all reading materials are the same.  Some things we read for their entertainment value, like novels, short stories, poetry, etc., but there are other things we read for their instructional value, like college textbooks and the Bible.  And even among non-fictional materials, the difficulty level will vary from text to text.

SOME ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTIONS

Part of the reason why people find the Bible difficult to read and study is because they have some erroneous preconceptions about it.

The Bible is one book.  Many people erroneously view the Bible as a single book, but it’s not.  The word “Bible” comes from the Koine Greek word τὰ βιβλία (tà biblía), “the books.” The Bible is, in fact, not one book but a collection of books and epistles (a special form of letter), written over a time period of 1,500 years by 40 different authors.  In a real sense, the Bible is a portable mini-library of different types and forms of writings, and yet, in spite of that, the Bible presents a single overall narrative and perspective throughout.

The Bible is Two Separate Revelations.  There are many people who have been taught that the Bible is comprised of two separate revelations: the Old Testament and the New Testament.   However, this is not true.  What we see in the New Testament is actually God working on aspects of the Old Testament, which had not yet been addressed or completed.  Also, according to the Old Testament, there’s another covenant coming when Jesus returns, which will address other aspects and parts of the Old Testament, not to mention the 500 Messianic prophecies which have yet to be fulfilled; consequently, then, for people to say that the Old Testament has been completely fulfilled is obviously not the case.

 The Bible is Full of Stories.  Many people approach the Bible, like they would a novel, thinking that it’s the type of reading one does for entertainment, only to discover not far into it, that there are many different types of writing all mixed together.  And then they’re confused, wondering how all of these things are connected.  The fact is that the Bible was never intended to be read for entertainment, but for instruction.  Someone once said that the word BIBLE means “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” and although the concept of the Bible as containing “instructions” is correct, but a good deal of it, I would argue, is not, in fact,  “basic.”

The Bible – Our Textbook Manual?

In many ways, the Bible is “an instruction manual,” like a textbook, since it contains information that we are to learn through study and research.  In fact, the Hebrew word that’s repeatedly used throughout the Old Testament for the Scriptures is Torah (pron. “toh-rah“), which is usually translated as “law,” but it means “instruction, teaching, guidance, or directives.”  Consequently, the Bible has not been designed by God to be merely read, but to be analyzed and studied, and then incorporated into our lives.

From the beginning, God has used an educational paradigm.  He is the Teacher, we are His students (which is what the word “disciples” mean), the Bible is our textbook, and life is our classroom.  And in life, God allows us to go through various situations to “test us” to see how much of the “textbook” (the Bible) we have learned and made a part of our lives.  And just like in school, we are rewarded (blessed) when we do well on the “tests,” but we are penalized when we don’t do well.

PRAISE – A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH

As a reading specialist for eight years and as a college English instructor for twenty-five years, I have taught the same basic approach to literally thousands of students (about 6,000 students in total) on how to study various forms of writing in order to help them heighten their understanding of any topic, issue, or idea.  And I apply many of these ideas to my own study of the Bible, and I want to share them with you here, in the hopes that it will help you in your study of the Scriptures.  As students of His Word —

we want to RAISE our knowledge of the material,
we want to RAISE our understanding,
we want to RAISE our ability to discern truth from fiction/deception, and
we want to RAISE our effectiveness in communicating God’s Word to others.

And because we are studying the Bible, we should begin with prayer; therefore, when we add the “P” to “RAISE,” we get the acronym that I like to use for this approach, PRAISE.

P – PRAY.

We should always begin our study of the Word with prayer.  Unlike other books, we have the privilege to ask the author personally to guide us in our reading and understanding of the text as we are studying His Word, “our textbook.”  In your prayer, you may want to include Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful [extraordinary, miraculous, astonishing] things from Your law [Heb. Torah],” and Psalm 119:34, “Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law [Torah], and keep it with all my heart.”

R – READ.

Once we pray, we should read our selected passage the first time just to get a feel for the text.  Then once we read it, we should write down a couple of thoughts about what we read.  Then as we’re reading it the second and third time, we need to ANNOTATE the text.

What does it mean to “ANNOTATE” the text?   To annotate means to “add your own notes and comments in the margins of the text.”  The more we can actively interact with a text, the easier it is to not only understand the text, but also the easier it is to remember it.  Now there are two types of annotations: CLOSE READING and ACTIVE READING.

CLOSE READING.   In CLOSE READING, the goal is to try and understand what the author is saying.  This isn’t the time yet to interject our own feelings and thoughts, but just to understand the view point of the writer.  So in this first step, we want to write down what the author is saying in our own words (called a summary).
Also,  you may want to write down anything that sticks out for you or that you consider “memorable.”  And finally, you might also note any vocabulary you don’t know, any interesting wording or poetical language, or any particular themes you see within the text.

ACTIVE READING.  In ACTIVE READING, you want to directly and actively interact with the text, so now is the time you want to write down your own thoughts, comments, questions, arguments and any connections you may feel with the text.

The more you can connect with the text and interact with it, the easier it is to learn it and to memorize it.  Consequently, these are very helpful steps to take.

A – ANALYZE

What is “ANALYSIS“?  ANALYSIS is the process of breaking down a topic, chapter, or passage into its smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it.  And this process involves the following four steps:

Break something down into its smaller component  parts.  (Dissecting)  The easiest way to learn something is to break it down into smaller “chunks.”  The idea of analysis isn’t just to gain a surface level knowledge of something, but to go deeper, beyond the surface, to a much more intimate knowledge of the text.

Examine, identify, and understand each of the parts.  Once you’ve broken it down into its smaller “chunks,” the first thing you want to do is to examine, identify and understand each of the parts.  Who wrote this particular book?  Who was the intended audience?  What was going on at the time?  What was the author trying to accomplish in and through this piece of writing?  What does this particular part say?  What do the words mean in English?  What do they mean in the Hebrew or the Greek?

Examine, identify, and understand how the parts relate to one another.  Once you have done this to each particular part, then examine, identify and understand how the parts relate to one another.  What’s the relationship between part A and part B?  By putting these parts together the way that the author did, what is the author trying to say?  What does their relationship imply or suggest?

Examine, identify, and understand how the parts work together to formulate the whole.  Finally, examine, identify and understand how all the parts work together to formulate the overall message of the text.

As we can see, analysis involves much more than just a passive knowledge of the text.

I –  INTERPRET.

An assumed part of the process of analysis is “INTERPRETATION.”  To INTERPRET means to ascribe (or give) meaning, purpose, or significance to something.    It answers questions like –

  • What does this mean?
  • What is the meaning and/or significance of the this idea, phrase, image, or symbol to the overall piece?
  • What purpose does it serve in the text, chapter, or passage?
  • Why did the writer use this idea, phrase, image or symbol?  What was he or she trying to say by doing so?
  • What assumption(s) can be inferred (or logically drawn) from its use?
  • Do most people understand this item in the same way?  Why or why not?

So as we go through the process of analysis, we also provide our interpretation.  Obviously, the more we learn about the text, the more accurate our interpretation becomes.  In addition, we begin to see things implied and suggested in and through the text that the casual reader completely overlooks.

S – SYNTHESIZE.

What do we mean by “SYNTHESIZE“?  To SYNTHESIZE means to recombine the separate elements that we’ve now learned through the ANALYSIS and INTERPRETATION into a complete whole using our new understanding as a guide.  In essence, in ANALYSIS and INTERPRETATION we took things apart, but in SYNTHESIS, we are putting together again. but we are using our new understanding that we’ve gained as we do so.

E – EVALUATE.

The final step in this process is EVALUATION.  What do we mean by “EVALUATE“?  After going through this process, let’s now bring what we’ve learned forward to our day and time to our own lives and to our world today.  For example, as students of the Word, we want to EVALUATE our conformity (or lack of conformity) to the Word.  In what areas of our life are we conforming to what the Bible teaches?  And in what areas are we not conforming?  What do we need to continue to work on?

“BUT ISN’T THE BIBLE SUPPOSE TO BE EASY TO UNDERSTAND?”

There are many pastors, ministers and Bible teachers who have continued to teach the half-truth that “the Bible is so easy a child could understand it.”  And there are some parts that are easy on the surface to understand, but there are also other parts where this is far from the truth.  For example, I’ve yet to see a child read the book of Leviticus, Ezekiel’s visions,  Zechariah, or even Revelation and be able to sit down with me and give a comprehensive overview of the text.  And God designed His Word that way.  Some parts are for us when we are a spiritual baby, and then as we begin to grow spiritually, other parts of the Bible begin to open up to us and make sense.  Not all of the Bible is “milk” (the basics; I Peter 2:2); there are the parts that make up the “meat”(advanced level studies; I Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:12-14; ), and these parts are not digestible until we’ve “cut” our “spiritual teeth.”

PRAISE – OUR GOAL AS GOD’S PEOPLE

So as God’s people we are to live our lives in PRAISE of Him, and using this approach, we can gain a deeper understanding of God and His Word by this method of PRAISE.  So let’s not PRAISE Him in word only on Sunday mornings, or during our worship services, but let us PRAISE Him every day of our lives by how we live, by how we interact with others, by how we share Him, His Kingdom, and our “Kingdom Manual” with others and, of course, let us PRAISE Him in how we approach and study His Word.

 

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New Testament Vs. Old Testament: Another Look at 2 Corinthians 3

There are many people who give me a strange look when I tell them that I am a WHOLE BIBLE CHRISTIAN.  Many of them have heard of “New Testament Christians” or “New Covenant Christians,” but what does it mean to be a “Whole Bible Christian”? Quite simply it means that I am a Christian who believes that all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is for all people for all time.  Regardless of people’s nationality, ethnicity and race, age, sex, or background, the whole Bible is for them.

Of course, one of the questions that pop up in speaking to people about being a “Whole Bible believer” is, “How do I handle the Old Testament?” For centuries, there’s been a debate in Christendom about how to understand the “Old Testament.”  Some people believe that most of the Old Testament is for today, except for ceremonial laws and rituals; others believe that all of the Old Testament is for today, except for the law; and then there are still others who completely reject all of the Old Testament today.  However, I believe the real problem is in our understanding of what constitutes the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”

WHAT IS THE “OLD TESTAMENT” & “NEW TESTAMENT”?

The first thing we need to understand is that there’s not “one testament” or “one covenant” in the “Old Testament,” but at least SEVEN (some would argue 8-10, depending on how covenant is defined).  Therefore, the name itself is misleading, since it does not appropriately communicate the reality of what is discussed within its pages.  In saying that, I should also explain that there’s not one biblical verse or passage that defines the “Old Testament” as the first 39 books in the Bible or the “New Testament” as the last 27 books of the Bible.  The designations “Old Testament” for the first major portion of the Bible, and the “New Testament” for the second part of the Bible is completely man-made, it’s not given by God at all.

HOW DID JESUS REFER TO THE “OLD TESTAMENT”?

In fact, at no point in time does Jesus ever refer to the first part of our Bible as the “Old Testament.”  He clearly makes a distinction between oral interpretations that were being taught, such as in the “Sermon on the Mount” (“you have heard…”; Matthew 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43) and the written Scriptures themselves.  Jesus NEVER, EVER corrected or changed the Scriptures.  What He corrected and changed were people’s interpretations, but not the Scriptures themselves.

When Jesus refers to the Scriptures, in most cases, He makes it clear that He’s dealing with a WRITTEN text, for example,

  • “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 21:13; Luke 4:4, 8, 12; John 6:45)
  • “What is written in the law?” (Mark 10:26)
  • “Haven’t you read…” (Matthew 19:4)
  • “Have you never read…” (Matthew 21:16; Mark 2:25)
  • “Did you never read in the Scriptures…” (Matthew 21:42)

He also refers to them by the term “Scriptures”:

  • “the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24; 14:49; John 5:39; 7:38)
  • “this Scripture” (Luke 4:21)
  • “the Scripture” (John 10:35; 17:12)

Thirdly, He refers to them by the sections that comprise the Scriptures:

  • “Did not Moses give you the law?” (John 7:19)
  • “the law and the prophets” (Matthew 5:17; Luke 16:16)
  • “the prophets and the law” (Matthew 11:13)
  • “the law, the prophets, and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).

Finally, He referred to them by the name of the one who wrote the words He’s commenting upon:

  • Moses (Matthew 19:18; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3; Luke 20:37; John 5:45-46; 6:32;
    John 7:22-23).
  • Isaiah (Matthew 12:14; Mark 7:6)
  • David in “the book of the Psalms” (Luke 20:42)

But at no point in time does Jesus ever call it the “Old Testament.”

ABOUT THE TWO MAIN DIVISIONS IN OUR BIBLES

As I mentioned, the designations “Old Testament” for the first major part of our Bible and “New Testament” for the second major portion of our Bible is completely man-made, not a designation from God at all.  So when Paul and the writer of Hebrews uses the term “New Testament” and “Old Testament” or “first covenant,” there’s a huge confusion and/or misunderstanding as to what is being referenced.

THE ACTUAL MEANING OF THE TERMS “OLD TESTAMENT” AND “NEW TESTAMENT”

The term “Old Testament” is the English translation of the Greek Palaios Diatheke, which literally can be translated as “the older covenant” or “the older testament,” or the “covenant/testament that’s been around for a long time.”  And the term “New Testament” is the English translation of the Greek Kainos Diatheke, which literally means the “Renewed Covenant/Testament.”

In the Greek language, there are two different Greek words for “new”: neos and kainos.  The way most Christians think and talk about the “New Testament” is if the Greek had been Neos Diatheke, rather than Kainos Diatheke.  Let me explain.  If I go out and buy another car, so that I now have two cars, then I’ve made a numerical change.  I had one car and now I have two cars.  This is Neos.  It speaks of a numerical change, or it can be used to refer to the most recent thing.  On the other hand, if I fix up my car, remodel it and give it a new paint job, and show you what it looks like now, and say, “Hey, what do you think of my new car?”  This is kainos.  This speaks of a QUALITY CHANGENOT a NUMERICAL CHANGE.

Consequently, what we have in the “New Covenant” is NOT a whole different covenant, that would be neos, but what we have is the same covenant with improvements; this is kainos.  So when ministers and TV evangelists are preaching, and they say that God has replaced the Old Testament with the New Testament, giving us a whole new Divine program, they are, in fact, giving you a distorted understanding of the New Testament since it’s based on the wrong meaning of “new.”  Rather than “replacing” the “Old Testament,” He deepened it, developed a portion of it, and He modified and improved a few things here and there, but He did not “replace” it.

THE PROPHECY OF THE NEW COVENANT

Now that we understand what the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” are NOT, let’s look at how Paul uses these two terms in 2 Corinthians 3 to gain a better grasp of these two terms.  In order to understand this chapter, we need to first understand the prophecy of the New Covenant, found in Jeremiah 3!:31-34.

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 31:31-32)

In this prophecy, God specifically identifies the two groups that God is going to make this “new covenant” with: “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah.”  But who are they?  The “house of Israel” refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and “the house of Judah” refers to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  After Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam, became the king, and the tribe elders came and asked him to lighten the tax load that Solomon heaped on them to pay for all his building projects.  Rehoboam refused, and as a result, the Kingdom split into two parts: the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).  And we know that Israel violated God’s covenant over and over again.  Let’s continue.

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (the original kingdom now in two parts); after those days, says the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

What is God promising to do?  Is God promising to get rid of His law?  Is He promising that He’s going to accept us, regardless of how we live our lives?  No, not at all.  What He’s promising here is that He’s going to take this “law” that was written on tablets of stone, and He’s going to write it in our “inward parts” and “in our hearts,” and as a result of this, we will now have a new relationship with God: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Let’s move on to the final verse.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.  (Jeremiah 31:34)

Now as a result of Jesus’s death and resurrection, our sins have been forgiven when we ask God to forgive us of our sins, ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, and then repent of our sins, meaning that we turn away from our sinful lifestyle and begin living in obedience to God.  But this verse has not been completely fulfilled yet.  Why?  Because are still needing to tell our neighbor to “Know the LORD.”  Evangelism is still very much needed and required.  This verse will not be fully fulfilled, until evangelism will no longer be necessary, because “they shall all know Me.”

Therefore, we are in an age of transition.  The “Old Testament” is in the process of aging, but the “New Testament” has not been fully realized.

PAUL’S USE OF THE “OLD TESTAMENT” AND “NEW TESTAMENT”

Now that we understand the prophecy of the New Covenant, which functions as one of the main backdrops to this passage, we can now begin to discuss Paul’s use of these two terms: “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul writes the following:

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be he epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in TABLES OF STONE, but in FLESHY TABLES OF THE HEART. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that Paul is contrasting two tables: one “tables of stone” and the other, “fleshy tables of the heart.”  The “tables of stone,” Paul will later identify as the “Old Testament” (2 Corinthians 3:14), and we can see that the “fleshy tables of the heart” is a reference to God’s promise in the new covenant of Jeremiah 31.  Then, three verses later, Paul writes,

[God] also has made us able ministers of the NEW TESTAMENT [covenant]; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the MINISTRATION OF DEATH, WRITTEN AND ENGRAVEN IN STONES, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of countenance; which glory was to be done away.  How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?  For if the MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION be glory, [how] much more the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?  (2 Corinthians 3:6-9)

Now let’s examine what Paul is saying about the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament:”

“OLD TESTAMENT”

“NEW TESTAMENT”

“the letter kills” (2 Cor. 3:6) “the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6)
“the ministration of death” (2 Cor. 3:7) “the ministration of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:8)
“the ministration of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:9) “the ministration of righteousness” (2 Cor. 3:9)

To understand the backdrop of this chapter, we need to have read and understand Exodus 20, 24, 32, 34 and Acts 2; these five chapters are needed, along with the Jeremiah passage, to properly understand the point that Paul is making here.

In these two passages, Paul refers to the “Old Testament” as that which had been written on “tables of stone” (3:3) and as “written and engraven in stones” (3:7).  This then identifies the “Old Testament” as the “Ten Commandments.”  These Ten Commandments are the ONLY commandments that were audibly spoken by God for all the nation of Israel and the “mixed multitude” of Gentiles (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4) to hear who were down there at the base of Mt. Sinai.  It is also the ONLY commandments that God personally wrote upon the tablets of stone.  And it is this “covenant” that Paul is contrasting with the New Testament.

This means that the “Old Testament” does not refer to the Five Books of Moses, since these books were not written on “tables of stone.”  Nor does it refer to the whole “Old Testament” since it likewise was not written on “tables of stone.” They were all written on scrolls by different writers.  God expected His people to read and study the scrolls in addition to what was written on the tablets of stone.  The scrolls did not change; they all still need to be read and studied.  What changed was the location of where God was going to write what had been on the “tablets of stone.”

We also need to remember that both the “Old Testament” (the Ten Commandments) and the “New Testament” (the Ten Commandments written on our hearts and mind) were and are written by the Holy Spirit, and the content of both (the Ten Commandments) is the same.   Nowhere does God say that He’s changing the content of the Ten Commandments, but what He changed was where He was going to write it.

A CHANGE IN RELATIONSHIP

By writing the Ten Commandments on the inside of us, it would bring about not only a change in our relationship with God but a change with His covenant as well.  When the Ten Commandments were written on the “tablets of stone,” they were located outside of us and, therefore, they were an “outer motivator,” or a “have-to,” but when God wrote them on “the tablets of our hearts and minds,” our relationship to them changed.  They were no longer on the outside of us, they were now on the inside of us.  Therefore, they were no longer an “outer motivator,” but they became an “inner motivator,” and they went from being a “have to” to becoming a “want to.”  It was this system of using the commandments as an “outer motivator” that was “done away” or “replaced,” not the law itself.

But in another New Covenant passage, God not only promises to write His Ten Commandments upon the “tablets of our hearts and minds,” but He says that He would give us His Spirit so that He could empower us to walk out the commandments that God wrote upon our hearts, the Ten Commandments.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.  And you shall live in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.  (Ezekiel 36:26-28)

How can the New Testament “annul” or “replace” the law of God when God says that He’s going to write the law – the Ten Commandments – on our hearts and minds, and here that one of the reasons why He’s giving us His Spirit is so that it was “CAUSE” us “to walk in My statutes,” and so we’ll “keep My judgments, and do them.”

THE “MINISTRATION OF DEATH” VS. THE “MINISTRATION OF LIFE”

So again, looking back at the chart I’ve made using the terms Paul uses for the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament,” why does Paul refer to them in this way?

“OLD TESTAMENT”

“NEW TESTAMENT”

“the letter kills” (2 Cor. 3:6) “the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6)
“the ministration of death” (2 Cor. 3:7) “the ministration of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:8)
“the ministration of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:9) “the ministration of righteousness” (2 Cor. 3:9)

Paul is contrasting here the experiences of the two Pentecosts: The first Pentecost where God originally gave the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and the Pentecost experience we see in Acts 2.  In Israel, Pentecost (Heb. Shavuot; the Feast of Weeks) is when the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai is remembered.  As I said, the Ten Commandments is the only portion of the law that was spoken audibly by God to the entire nation of Israel, it’s the only portion of the law that was written by God Himself, and it’s the only portion of the law that God promises to write on our hearts and minds.  But when Moses brought the Ten Commandments, which had been written on tablets of stone, down the first time, the people were involved in worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32), and as a result, 3,000 men were killed that day in judgment from God.

God intended His laws to bring blessing and a fulfilling life to His people, but because of the sins that they were flagrantly committing down in the camp, it brought only death to 3,000 instead.  However, if we contrast that with what happens in Acts 2, then what we find are not people pulling away from God and flagrantly sinning, but people of Israel pressing in to God, praying and seeking His face, and as they are all doing this, the Spirit of God comes down, He removes their stony heart, gives them a new heart of flesh, and then writes His law – His Ten Commandments – on their hearts and mind, filling them with His life, His Being, and they then begin to speak in other tongues.

The people hear all of the commotion outside, and Peter then gives his first sermon to explain what was happening.  As a result, 3,000 people are saved, i.e, given “life.”

So the difference between the two has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, since He was involved in both, nor is it due to the words of the Ten Commandments (the law), since the same words are used in both.  But the difference was on what happened when it was first given to the people.  Whether it brought “life” or “death” was dependent on whether the people were living in rebellion against God (Exodus 32) or they were pressing in to know and experience God (Acts 2) – not on the words of the Ten Commandments or the Presence of the Holy Spirit since He’s the writer in both scenarios.

“THE VEIL OVER MOSES’S FACE”

Another part of this passage that gets horribly misrepresented is “the veil over Moses’ face.”  To properly understand this, we need to read the passage of Scripture in Exodus 34 that deals with this topic.  After the golden calf incident, Moses goes up on Mt. Sinai again to get a second set of tablets, because He broke the first set during the incident with the golden calf.  We are told that Moses was on the Mount with God for “forty days and forty nights” and during this time, “he did neither eat bread, nor drink water” (Exodus 34:28).  And it says, “he wrote upon the tables the WORDS OF THE COVENANT, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS” (Exodus 34:28).  We are specifically told here that the Ten Commandments are, in fact, the “words of the covenant.”

Upon coming down from the Mount, it says that Moses didn’t realize that as a result of him speaking with God, that it had effected the skin of his face: “the skin of his face shone” with the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).  And seeing his face shine like that scared the people:

And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him.  (Exodus 34:30)

So what does He do?  He wears a veil while he’s out with the people, but then takes off the veil when he goes back up the Mount to speak with God.

And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.  And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.  But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out.  And he came out, and spoke unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.  And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.  (Exodus 34:32-35)

In this passage, why does Moses wear a veil?  It’s to cover his face.  Why?  Because it is shining with the glory (or Presence) of God, and this glory scares them.  Therefore, so the people would not be afraid of God’s glory or Presence, Moses wears the veil when he’s down there with the people, but when he goes back up into the Presence of God, he removes the veil.

Now let’s compare this with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3.

For if that which is done away [the Ten Commandments as an outer motivator] was glorious, much more that which [continues to] remain is glorious.  Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT, which veil is done away in Christ.  But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.  Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.  (2 Corinthians 3:111-16)

Moses put the veil on his face, because the people were afraid of the glory of God; they were afraid of the effect of what God’s Presence had on the facial skin of Moses.  Now did the veil have anything to do with Moses’ “plainness of speech”?  Also, Paul says that Moses put “a veil over his face,” so “that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.” But according to the Exodus passage, he put the veil on his face because of the fear of the people.  Maybe, what Paul is saying here is that what was abolished was our fear of God and His Presence, NOT His commandments.

Paul says here that “the same veil” is “untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT.”   Could the “veil” be seen by Paul as an image representing our fear of God, our fear that if we don’t obey Him we’ll be punished, or our fear of what will happen to us, if we get too close to God?  Or perhaps, could the veil represent whatever  might separate us from the Presence of God (represented by the face of Moses)? But Paul says that “in Christ,” the “veil,” i.e., our fear of God, is done away.  But “even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.”  The fear is still covering their hearts, their fear of getting too close to God, but then he says, “when IT shall turn to the Lord.”  Is the “IT” their heart?  So when we turn our hearts to God, then Paul says, “the veil shall be taken away.”

CONCLUSION

But when we compare this chapter to the material that provides the backdrop for it that Paul assumes we’ve all read and know intimately, we cannot come away from it with the understanding that God has done away with His law.  Such an interpretation is extremely superficial, and only reveals that the person who says this has not spent the time needed in the background material to properly interpret and understand the material.

In the New Testament, the Ten Commandments, the covenant of God, has now been written on the new heart and spirit that God has given to us.  And because His Spirit has also been given to us, not only do we have all we need to walk out the commandments, but now the veil, our fear of God, has been removed, so that we can develop that close, intimate relationship with Him that God has always desired.   So rather than teaching us that the Law of God is not for Christians, this is pointing us in the directly opposite way, to God, His Presence, and His commandments.

 

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