MESSAGES FROM GOD TO HIS PEOPLE

The following are a sample of the messages that God has spoken to my wife, Karen, over the past couple of years.  God has verified His words to me through my own research and study of the Bible, and other ways as well.  Many have looked at our teachings and wondered where we are getting our ideas.  Most of it has come from what God has told us and from my study of the Scriptures.  I have placed here some of God’s thoughts regarding His Torah, His Word, and His commandments.  So rather than hearing my own study and research, you can read what we were told by God Himself.   If you would like to read more about what God has told us, you can go to my wife’s blog at KarensShofar.wordpress.com.

YOU NEED TO BE HOLY

“Just remember I tell you the truth.  You cannot, and won’t, be one of My disciples, if you keep carrying on the way that you do.  For I am telling you the truth.  Because I cannot, and will not lie, because I am God Almighty, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this day and for all of eternity and forever.  I am a Great Big God, and I can and will love you always, but even I have My limits.  Because I am God, I need for you to be holy as I am holy, for a vessel that’s not purified and cleansed in water and My blood can not ever come into My Presence or My Father’s Presence.”

WHY DO YOU PROFANE MY NAME?

“My heart breaks to see My creation treat Us the way that you do.  You take what we have made Holy, and profane and blaspheme Our name by doing and eating what We have told you in Our Word that which is not kosher and not fit to eat nor consume with your mouth.  Why is it that you don’t care, My children?  You say you love Me, but you’re very far from Me, says God Almighty, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I ripped My heart in My Holy of Holies place that day, because My Son had just died for you.  My heart hurt so much for what I saw My only begotten Son go through.”

I DID NOT BRING THE TEMPLE SYSTEM TO AN END

“How ludicrous you think that I have done away with My sacrifices and offerings.  I did what any good Jewish father would’ve done if one of their children would’ve died.  My people knew exactly what happened.  They weren’t in the dark.  Why do you think they wanted to have My tomb guarded?  They realized I was their true Messiah and they didn’t want Me to get away.  But little did they know that death couldn’t hold Me down.  For if they really truly believed who I has said I was, they would’ve known that, but they didn’t want to believe because they loved living in sin and taking from My true followers all that they could, in order to make their lives miserable and as hard as they could.”

I WANT TO BRING MY TORAH BACK TO MY CHURCH

“I do want a close relationship with all My people from all around the world.  How is it to be done, if My people who are called by My name don’t follow the call that I God have called and shown them to do?  Be strong.  I do not wish to bring harm or disharmony among My children, but what I do wish to do is to bring back to My church what they have robbed from Me and took from My heart, says God Almighty.”

“I want for all My children to walk in Torah [God’s Law] and to be led by My Spirit, and to delight in all of My Torah and precepts, says God Almighty. Yes, and I’ll say it again, My child, I, who am King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I change not. I love all of you, My children.  Trust Me and your Father to have your best interest at heart. I am not trying to be mean or harsh, but I am a holy God, and I will not, nor cannot, be amongst unholy detestable things.”

“Why does this hurt you so much?  Why do you not care about My heart, says God?  Why doesn’t it bother you or make you sick to your guts to follow such heathenistic ways that are detestable in My eyes, says God Almighty.  I will say this again, because you, My children, are a bunch of proud, prideful, stubborn people, who choose to obey man over God.  I do not want My name on anything that is unholy or that comes from an unholy background or custom, says God Almighty.  Just like the Seleucid Greeks fought the battle against Judah, and they profaned My very Temple and Holy Place with unkosher pigs.  I hate that you don’t care about My heart and would rather please men and your bellies, says God Almighty.”

“If My so-called children would just listen up and observe My Sabbaths and My Feasts/ Festivals, I would just love to lavish My love upon them and show them My mercies that are new every morning to the setting of the sun at night.  Oh, how I love My Church, My so-called Church of today.”

I AM THE LIVING TORAH

“Choose life over death, My children.  My church is dying because of their disobedience to the Torah, which is Me.  I am the very life and breath.  I am the Living Torah that My Father has set Me to be.  I walk with you every day, says God, if you would just dare to open Me up and draw life from My very pages.  Why do you not see this?  I kept telling you if you believe what Moses has written down about Me, you will know and understand Me, and know that I am the very One you are looking for.”

I HAVE NOT CHANGED

“Reach for Me, seek Me, and know that I have not changed anything I have written down in My Torah.  Believe Me not because I say this, but believe Me because I have the proof in My Torah/words to back up what I have spoken, says God Almighty.  Keep My words, keep My sayings, keep everything, jot and tittle.  Don’t take away, don’t add, not one yodh (letter) or dot, says your Lord God and Savior.  Amen.”

“Trust Me, Obey Me, Follow Me, Keep my Commandments , Keep My Torah , Keep my whole Torah/Scriptures for they are life and breath and food to all that are hungry and starving for more of Me, says the Lord God Almighty, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I said I come quickly and very soon.  Are you gonna be ready for My soon arrival or are you gonna be left behind, says God Almighty?  I say this again and again, DO NOT take away from My Words nor add to them .  If you do, My children, My creation, there will be no place for you in Heaven where I have been preparing for you since the time that I have left you.”

“How many times do I keep repeating Myself to you, My people, My children, who say they are walking in My ways but are acting like the one I kicked out of heaven over 6,000 years ago because he thought he could be greater and replace Me, His Creator and Lord of Lords and King of Kings, says your Almighty God.  How dumb he was to think that My creation could one day rule the world.  How ridiculous you all are today, living your lives and taking Me for granted, assuming you can do whatever you want and won’t lose your free gift of salvation.”

MY WORD AND I ARE ONE

“Drink of Me, says God, and you will never thirst again or lack for any good thing.  Trust Me, says God, and know that all things will work out for good to those who seek Me, My Torah, and has My words, says God Almighty, because My words, My Torah, and I are one and the same.  You take away My Torah, My Holy Scriptures, and you have taken Me away.  You cannot pick and choose what you want to believe.  All of My words are “Yes” and “Amen.”  Not one of them is better than the rest.  They all, I say, have an importance to them.  I say, Do not take anything from the beginning or the middle away.  It is all valid and important for you today, My children.  The Old Testament is just as valid as the Newer Testament.”

ABOUT THE SABBATH

“I want you to tell My children that this is My Sabbath and that is My day, says God, and that it is My very heart and soul; it is who I am.  It is My very heart and soul and breath of who I am wanting you to walk in and study My Torah and to proclaim it amongst My people, says God.  I love you all, and I so desire that you love Me also, says God.”

“Yes, My Sabbath is one of My holy days that I have set up from the very beginning, and how dare any one of you to throw it to the curb because you think it isn’t important any longer.  How foolish some of you are today and have been for such a long time.”

I AM A HOLY GOD, QUIT TESTING ME

“I love you, My children, with a love that’s so very perfect, but like I said before, I am a holy God and cannot, and will not, live amongst an unholy and wicked people.  Don’t keep testing Me, says God Almighty, because I can, and will, remove you from Me, says God.  If I can remove My people Israel from amongst the tree which they were birthed into, how much easier will it be for Me and My Father to uproot and cut you off My Church, who has been grafted into it, by and through Me, who had bled, died and arose and ascended back to My Father in Heaven once and for all.”

THE MEANING OF THE TEARING OF THE TEMPLE VEIL

“My Son has accomplished what I had set for Him to do, and it is finished.  He has opened the gateway, so that Jews and gentiles can both come to Me because of the rent and split of My robe and tallit (prayer shawl) in My very Holy Tabernacle.  That very moment when My Son took His last breath, My heart also took its last breath, and it pained Me so hard that I split My very heart of who I am from the top to the bottom to show you how much that I love you, My people.  The veil, My heart, the very source of who I am, who I was with your fathers, which I was a fire by day and a cloud of smoke by night in the wilderness.  This is Me, says the LORD God Almighty, I change not and can’t change because I am that I am, says God.”

“I ripped the veil from top to bottom because that was My sign for My people Israel.  They knew exactly who My Son was and what an evil and perverse people they had become by crucifying the One and Only Lamb of God who came to bring light and love into a sick and dying world.  They tried to kill the One they proclaimed to be seeking after, but when I did come and I didn’t look like they had perceived Me, they called Me cruel and vicious names, and also called Me, “a son of Beelzebub.”  They were caught up in so many legalistic doctrines of their father, the devil, that they who thought they were doing right had become blind and could not see.”

“They were so blinded by their doctrines of men, just like you, My Church, is today.  Don’t keep continuing in your self-righteousness and unholiness, says God Almighty, because I love you so very much and desire My Church, both Jew and Gentile, to become One as I am to My Father is One.  My very heart yearns for you, My children.  Don’t stay lost in your sins.  Repent and do your first works over again, so that our hearts can relight that once relationship I hungered so very long ago to have with Adam and Eve in My Garden.”

THE COMMANDMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN DONE AWAY

“You say, My Church, that they [My commandments] have been done away with, but I say, ‘No, how can that be because I am still here.  You do away with My Torah, My commandments, then I do not exist,’ says God.  I love My people, but you are so lost to Me, not lost to where you aren’t Mine, but lost to where I’m about to spit you out in disgust.  Remember, My Church/people, I do not like sin or can live where it is, so choose you this day if you are going to serve God or manna.”

“My dying on the cross didn’t do away with My Torah or any of the things you so think that it did. I came to bring you life and life more abundantly.  I did this so you could have a place and a home with Me and My Father for all of eternity because we love you so very much and want for you and your families to have a relationship with Us.  I made a promise with your father, Abraham, when I walked through the pieces while I put him in a deep sleep, and I kept My end of the bargain, like I keep all My promises to a thousand generations.  I took care of the sin issue on the cross.  I did not do away with My very own words I spoke at the very beginning of creation which was and is Myself, and I didn’t do away with the words I spoke to Moses up on the mountaintop and had written on the tablets of stone with My very own finger.  How stupid such nonsense you people have become.”

THE CHURCH’S BLINDNESS TO GOD’S TORAH

“Believe that I am with you and that I will never leave you alone.  I come quickly, says the Lord, and many that say that they are Mine will be turned away because of their misconceptions of Me and My Torah.  Keep following Me and keep following My Torah.  Keep My words and follow them because they are life and breath to those that do.”

“I have not come to demolish any one of My sayings in the Torah.  They are Me.  Why would I destroy Myself?  That is nonsense.  They have Me so confused.  They don’t have ears to hear or eyes to see because they are blinded by their own foolishness.  If they would only pray to Me and ask Me to give them wisdom to know what is right and true and lasting and to have good judgment and self-control, I would be so happy to give them the understanding so that none should perish but have everlasting life.”

“The problem is that they are too much into themselves and what they can gain, ‘the name it and claim it’ message, that they have become so blinded and cannot see where they have gone astray.  In the meantime, they are leading millions away from Me, and My heart aches.  I have given each and every one free choice to decide what they want to believe, so this is out of My hands.”

I AM NOT YOUR GENIE IN A BOTTLE

“For I am a jealous God, and I choose to be served by you as you call out to Me for daily help and survival.  You ask Me for things on a regular basis like I’m some genie in a bottle at your beckoning call.  I don’t mind you asking Me for things as long as your are doing what My Torah, My very word, is telling and showing you what to do.”

“The problem is that most of you are just ‘naming it and claiming it,’ and that angers Me, and I am fed up to the top with all of you, to tell you the truth.  Just follow Me, and you will not fall to the wayside or curb, and you will find My gift of everlasting life and the fountain that will never run dry, says the Lord God Almighty.”

ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO DESTROY MY TORAH

“A lot of folks are trying so hard to do away with My Torah and My commandments.  They are blinded by Satan, so that they won’t see what I have for them.  Because as soon as the blinders come off My people’s eyes, they will come running back to Me, seeking My face like never before.”

“I tell you the truth, My words do not, and will not, be destroyed by people who do not, and will not, covet My Torah, which gave them life everlasting through believing in Jesus My Son.”

“I am sick and tired of the church today and all of these TV evangelists who spread such lies about Me, says God.  They take My word and use it to benefit their pockets, and it will benefit them for a time, but there is coming a day that this will be a BIG eye opener for many millions.”

YOU NEED TO STUDY MY TORAH, MY WORD

“But remember, you have to be reading My Manual, the Torah, My Scriptures, and studying it too, says God, because this is the one clause that is necessary for My Holy Spirit to have.  He will be your Helper, not your genie in a bottle.  You have to do your part and then He will do His part.  Come on, don’t be lazy people and want everyone, including God Almighty, to do everything for you.”

CHOOSE ME AND MY WAYS

“The world likes to replace Me with every whim and doctrine, but that doesn’t please Me, says God Almighty.  Choose Me, says God Almighty.  Choose Me, says God, and don’t abuse Me either, says God.  I am not like a child’s story that you get from one of your unholy days that you set up to replace some detestable pagan holiday, and try to attach My name to the front of it, and think I will be okay with it.  Not so, My people.  I would rather you to be hot or cold, rather than lukewarm because this makes Me sick and want to puke you up and vomit you out of My mouth, says God.”

“My children, if that is what you say you are to Me, shape up and start acting that way.  Stop listening to everything that everyone is telling and teaching you and listen to My servants today.  They are not lying to you like you have been told.  They are My children who I have raised up for such a time as this to proclaim My truths that the church and religious leaders have been lying to you, for such a very long time.  Oh, there are others, but you think they are false teachers because they go against the flow of your own doctrines taught to you from your religious leaders and your religious zealots of times past.  The Roman Catholic church is a very big part of it, and they don’t even deny it.  You say, it is fine; after all, we are building God’s Church, but that is just another lie from the enemy.  You just keep teaching and preaching fallacies.  You put My name amongst the heathen gods and bring the Easter bunny and Santa Clause, and think it is so cute to take pictures of them with your children as they bounce them upon their knee and tell lies to them while you watch and smile.”

“MY PEOPLE ARE PROFANING MY NAME”

This message was given to my wife from the Lord on Saturday, October 31, 2015, Halloween night.  In order to understand the Lord’s feeling about the holidays celebrated by the Church, I felt you should read the entire message that He gave to her.  The information on the holidays He likewise confirmed to me through various means, including my own study and research.

This message begins with the impressions and thoughts that the Lord was giving to her.

“God expects for us, and desires for us, to humble ourselves and to cleanse ourselves from all unrighteousness and to be holy and anointed, set apart from the likenesses of the world.”

Then the message shifts.  It was after this that the Lord began to speak to her through the Holy Spirit.

“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.

“Yes, I have in My commandments which I gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai, which says to not covet what is not yours, says God Almighty.  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! says God.  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 anything any more to be involved or put My name to that which is unholy and unacceptable to what My word teaches.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Aleph and the Tav, and last but not least, the Bright and the Morning Star, says God Almighty.  Why can’t you get this?  Why is this so difficult for you?  My word is so clear a baby can get it and understand it.  Why don’t you care?  Why don’t you want to know Me?  Why am I just an escape for you?  Don’t you love Me?  Why don’t you love Me?  I am your Father, the Bridegroom, I have done only good things for you, My dearly beloved children.  I want to call you Mine, but you are growing so cold, and I can hardly sense your presence anymore.  I long for you.  Yes, I am God, but you are the ones who need Me, and how is that going to happen if you are so lost and hard of hearing to where our relationship falls apart?

“You have not sought Me in a very long time.  You are becoming, or should I say are, so cold.  If you were lukewarm, it would be better because then I would spur you out of My mouth and be done with you, says God Almighty.  My Spirit is a very good thing.  I, your God, only gives good gifts to His children who seek for Me.  I love My children who do not hide from Me, but who delight in Me and do all that I tell them to do.

“My words are life to those who find Me and seek Me with their whole hearts, says God.  But such words can also be death, My people, if you do not heed My word / Torah / commandments.  I desire for you to search your hearts, minds, and souls and set forth on a new path, says God, and show Me your fruit that you say you have gotten by following Me.  You are always saying that you trust Me, but now I am throwing it back in your face.  You show Me and prove yourselves to Me, says God!  Because I am so fed up with a wishy-washy people who are just trying to fit in with this world of pukiness and unrighteousness, says God Almighty, your soon coming King.

“Get your bags and pack, My true believers of My Torah, because I love you, says God.  My true believers know what I mean by ‘get your bags packed’.  Yes, do I have to tell you too?  I’m talking about getting your hearts and minds set on the very life that I spoke to you from the beginning of time in the book of Genesis.  I’ve spoken the world into existence with words, the very Word that I AM.  It was Me from the very beginning until the very end.  I change not.  I remain the same today as I did then.

“Why is this so hard for you, My Church, to see this?  I have sent a life boat and a Savior to your rescue.  Reach out, grab ahold of Me.  Trust Me, Obey Me, Teach what I have given to you, My holy commandments.  I have not changed My mind, My children.  You have decided for yourselves to change My mind for Me.  I say stop profaning Me, stop trying to change Me.  I have chosen you, not you Me.  You need all of Me, says God Almighty.  I need for you to be holy, set apart, because you say you are My Bride, and the only way possible for that to be is if you start searching your hearts today and repent from all of your wickedness towards Me, My children.

“Time is short, and I am not pleased with how our relationship is doing.  You, My people, so-called children, have already turned your backs on Me and profaned My holy name.  You have prostituted yourselves to many other gods and still you say you are Mine.  Don’t you get what this does to a relationship when a partner cheats on the other?  It brings such bitterness and resentment, which ends in hate and then to death, which is DIVORCE.  The word I hate, says God.  I have only allowed it because of the hardness of your hearts.  I permitted it, but not because it was what I wanted for you.  Amen.”

 

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DID JESUS NAIL THE LAW OF GOD TO THE CROSS? (Part 1 of 2)

DID JESUS NAIL THE LAW OF GOD TO THE CROSS AND BRING IT TO THE END?  The traditional Christian interpretation of two passages, Colossians 2:14 and Ephesians 2:15, is used to prove that the law of God was nailed to the cross with Christ at His death; therefore, none of the laws in the Old Testament are valid, we are taught,  anymore for any Christian.  However, when we look at these passages in context, as well as take them back to the original Greek, we discover that the traditional interpretation and understanding of these verses are, in fact, a misreading and a misinterpretation of these texts.  In this first part of this study, we will examine Colossians 2:14.

 

EXAMINING COLOSSIANS 2:14

>>WHO WAS THE AUDIENCE?

The book of Colossians was written to the Christian congregation at Colosse.

>>WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?

Epaphras, a native of Colosse, came to Paul in prison with the news of how things were going in the area, but also news of a heretical group who had gained a foothold within the church.  This heretical group was GnosticsGnosticism is a word derived from the Greek word gnosis (or “knowledge”).  Gnosticism was a religion of syncretism with Hinduism as its root core.   Syncretism often takes place when foreign beliefs are introduced to an already existent belief system and the teachings are blended. The new, mixed religion then takes a life of its own. “What is Religious Syncretism?” Gotquestions.org).

Gnostics would search different religions to mix with their already growing mixture.  But at its ultimate core is basic Hinduism.  For example, basic Hindu teaching is that Brahman (the Supreme Spirit in Hinduism) is all things, and all things are part of Brahman.  Ultimately, with the right teacher (think “guru”), and enough “insight” (or special teaching) and ascetic practice, the person can discover and experience the form of Brahman within them (called atman), and in that discovery, the person can finally experience “freedom” or “liberation” from the continuous wheel of reincarnation (or what Hindus call moksha).

Gnosticism, much like Hinduism, teaches that within each individual is “god,” but people don’t know it, so with the right teaching or instruction, including asceticism, we can come to know and experience the “god” within ourselves, but rather than experiencing “freedom from reincarnation” (as Hinduism teaches), Gnostics teach that one will experience “salvation.”  In essence, then, Gnostics believed that salvation is not found outside of ourselves in God and Jesus Christ, but it’s found within each individual.   And this syncretic belief system, Gnosticism, was a problem for the Jews and for the early Christians.

Consequently, then, the Christians at Colosse were NOT struggling with a sect of Jews who were trying to convert them to their form of Judaism, but they were struggling with a group of NON-JEWS (or GENTILES) who were very heavily involved in GNOSTICISM.

 

BURIED & RISEN WITH CHRIST

To properly understand Colossians 2:14, we need to examine it within context, so I want to examine Colossians 2:12 – 23.  Beginning with Colossians 2:12, we read,

Buried with Him in [water] baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead.

In this verse, Paul again reminds these believers that their old life died with Christ and has been “buried with Him in [water] baptism.”  The sins that once controlled them no longer has any hold or control over them.  But not only did their old life “die” with Him, but “you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him from the dead.”  Just as the Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead, so He raised them as “new creations” in Christ when they came up from the waters of baptism to walk in newness of life.

Paul then continues this same idea in the next verse.

And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has He quickened [made alive] together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Colossians 2:13)

We’ve not only been raised in newness of life, but God has also forgiven us from all of our trespasses of sin.

WHAT WAS “BLOTTED OUT” AND “NAILED”?

It is here in verse 14, we come across one of the passages that’s traditionally been used to prove that Christians are no longer required to obey God’s Laws.

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.

Now it is important to remember that verse 14 is a continuation of verse 13.  In verse 13, it was our “sins” and “the uncircumcision of [our] flesh” that was “forgiven.”  So logically, since verse 14 is a continuation of verse 13, then what is being “blotted out” is “our sins” and “the uncircumcision of [our] flesh,” not something different.

THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES

The phrase “handwriting of ordinances” is the English translation of the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin.   The first word cheirographon is a compound word made up of two parts, cheiro (hand) and graphon (to write), or as it is translated here, in its simplest sense, “handwriting,” or more accurately, “a handwritten document.” However, other than Colossians 2:14, the Greek word cheirographon does not appear in the Bible, nor is it used anywhere in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint.  Consequently, we cannot use the Bible to interpret the Bible in this case.

However, when we move outside of Scripture, we discover that the word cheirographon is used in extra-biblical Greek documents.  From these documents, we learn that the term is a legal term that’s used to refer “to the written evidence of a person’s guilt in a courtroom.  It is the written record of a person’s crimes – the laws he has broken and the penalty he owes for his law-breaking.” (Botkin).   Using Dr. Daniel Botkin’s explanation, we could imagine the scene in this way.

John X has committed several crimes.  He has been arrested and brought to trial.  He is now standing in the courtroom, and in the middle of the courtroom, called tou mesou in Greek, there is the space where the prosecuting attorney stands and reads the cheirographon, the document with John’s crimes, the day and times he committed them, the locations of the crimes, and even the witnesses and evidence that the prosecutor has to prove that John, in fact, undeniably did commit these crimes.  In addition, this document is recognized as a valid legal document both by the judge and John’s own attorney as being valid, accurate and true.   Therefore, there’s absolutely no doubt that John X is, in fact, guilty and deserves the penalty for those crimes.

Each of us is “John X.”  We have transgressed the laws of God, and one day we will stand in the courtroom of God, to stand trial for our sins [or crimes] against God and His Kingdom.  In our culture, when we break the law, it is called “a crime,” but in God’s Kingdom, when we break one of God’s laws, it is called “a sin.”  So “crime”and “sin” are really synonymous terms.  In our culture, when we commit a “crime,” we would be called “a criminal,” but in God’s kingdom, when we break one or more of His laws, rather than using the word “criminal,” the Bible uses the word “sinner.” Therefore, a “sinner” is a “criminal” in the eyes of the Judicial system of God and His Kingdom.

The prosecuting attorney, “the accuser of the brethren,” Satan, will stand in the tou mesou (“the middle”) of the heavenly courtroom, and he will present his cheirographon to God, our Judge.  Everyone there will know that this is a legal, accurate and valid list of every sin (or crime) against God we have ever done during the course of our life.  And that we are indeed guilty of each and every one that’s being listed, and that we deserve the penalty demanded for each of these sins, which is “the Lake of Fire” and eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:11-15).

However, if we have placed our trust and faith in Christ, and have continued to faithfully serve Him during our lives, then Jesus Christ, who is our Advocate, Mediator, and High Priest, will stand up, and say, “But the sins (or crimes) that ‘John X’ has committed, I have all ready paid for by My death upon the cross and by My resurrection.”  And because the penalty has been fully paid, God, who is our Judge, will dismiss the case and tell the Prosecutor, the Adversary Satan, that his cheirographon that was “against us,” and “which was contrary to us” is now inadmissible and can no longer be used.   It will be removed from the hands of Satan, for it was “nailed to the cross,” proclaiming Christ’s victory over sin and Satan.

The article “Colossians 2:14 and the ‘Handwriting of Requirements’,” by Grace Communion International Church adds to this understanding of Cheirographon by noting,

The meaning becomes more clear if we notice that cheirographon is singular and dogmasin is plural.  It is the cheirographon, the note of debt [the list of our sins], that was [singular] against us, which was [singular] contrary to us.  And He has taken it [singular] out of the way, having nailed it [singular] to the cross.”

So what was “nailed to the cross” was the cheirographon, the singular note [or document] that contained the list of our SINS and the JUST PENALTY OF OUR SINS, which Jesus took upon Himself for us, AND NOT GOD’S LAW, which follows naturally from what Paul states in verse 13.

The author of another website, fogwhistle.ca, however, makes a rather interesting point about the word “ordinances” (Greek dogmasin):

God’s laws, ordinances, instructions, and commandments are mentioned many, many times in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) that was used by Greek-speaking people of Paul’s day.  But how many times does the Septuagint use the word dogma (or any of its forms) when referring to God’s laws or instructions?  Never.  Every occurrence of dogma in the Old Testament refers to man-made decrees or rulings.  Usually it’s the decrees of pagan rulers.

Was Paul ignorant of the Greek Scriptures?  If Paul was referring to God’s law, he could have easily used one of the same Greek words that is frequently used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to God’s law such as nomos, entole, krima, dikaioma, or rhema.  But Paul didn’t use any of these words.  Instead Paul used dogma, a word that was never used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to any of God’s laws or instructions.

I think the question here is an interesting one.  If Paul was using the word “ordinances” to refer to God’s law, then why didn’t he use one of the multiple terms he could have used from the Greek translation of the Scriptures.  Why did he use a word which is not found in the Bible?  My guess, at this point, would be that none of these other words are used in a courtroom scenario; however, again, this would be a guess.

The author of the commentary written for BibleTools.org, Earl L. Henn (1934-1997), also believed that it was the “written document” that was nailed to the cross, not “the ordinances.”  He gives the following historical example,

only two objects were nailed to the stake of crucifixion: 1) the condemned person and 2) an inscription naming the crimes for which he was being punished.  Thus, when Jesus was crucified, only His body and Pilate’s inscription (“This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”; see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19) were nailed to the cross.”

Pilate’s inscription, “the writing that was against Jesus,” in this case was written in three languages, “Hebrew, Greek, and Latin” (John 19:20), and it was nailed above His head while He hung there upon the cross.  Interestingly, the author of the article “Colossians 2:14 – What was Nailed to the Cross?” on the website fogwhistle.ca, likewise goes back to the example of the cross.

If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture as we should, Col 2:14 would be interpreted to say that it was some man-made handwritten document that was nailed to the cross.  We can confirm this in the story of Christ’s death as recorded in the New Testament Gospels.  There we find that a man-made handwritten document actually was nailed to the cross.  It was the placard written in three languages that stated the “crime” of which Jesus was accused and that was placed on the cross by Pilate’s order.

That kind of placard is what Paul was evidently referring to in Col 2:14 – the personal placard listing my crimes that belongs above my head on my cross at my own execution.  Jesus took that placard of mine and put it on his cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for the crimes listed on my placard.  I have been redeemed.  Justice has been served and the law has been satisfied (not abolished).  Jesus took your placard too.

 

Whether the “written document,” “placard” or “sign” that was supposed to be upon our own cross listing all of the crimes against God we have committed, Christ has removed it from us by placing it upon His own cross, and paying the debt of sin and the penalty of sin for us as our substitutionary atonement.  And it is for this reason that Paul then writes in verse 15,

And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Jesus triumphed over all the “principalities and powers” through His death on the cross for our sins and the penalty of our sins.

LET NO MAN JUDGE YOU

Notice that the very next verse then states,

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Colossians 2:16)

This verse has traditionally been interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what this verse actually states.  The traditional church has used this verse to say that people cannot judge us for not doing these things, but that is not what this verse says.

Remember that the Christians at Colosse were dealing with Gnostics who were criticizing them for not living an ascetic lifestyle.  The word “therefore” means that they are to obey this command because of what Paul has just told them. They are new men and women of God, their old lives of sin have been forgiven by Jesus’ shed blood on the cross and through their identification with Him in the waters of baptism.

OPPOSING GNOSTICISM

Therefore,” Paul writes, “let no man judge you in eating and drinking.”  Gnosticism promoted asceticism, sometimes severe asceticism, and indulging in “eating and drinking” would have been highly criticized by such a group.  Consequently, they are not being “judged” for what they are NOT doing, but for what they ARE doing.   A better understanding of this verse would be,

Therefore, let no man judge you for eating or drinking, or in respecting of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Colossians 2:16)

So rather than being judged for NOT keeping these things, they are being judged by the Gnostics because they are keeping them.  This interpretation is in keeping with what we know of early church history.  The early believers, both Jew and non-Jew, were considered to be “a sect of Judaism” (Acts 24:5), although a “heretical group” (Acts 24:14), and they still continued to live their lives in obedience to the commandments handed down by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  And this the non-Jewish believers in Jesus did up until the 4th century, A.D.  It was the Roman Catholic Church who eventually stomped out obedience to any of the practices listed in the first five books of the Bible.  The Jewish believers never stopped obeying them.  Therefore, at this point in history, in which Paul was writing, the criticism and judgment would’ve been coming from the non-Jewish world for doing these things, particularly from the Gnostics.

Notice verse 17, “Which ARE a shadow of things TO COME; but the body is of Christ.”  There’s three important things to note here.

  1. Paul writes that these things in the law “ARE” – A PRESENT TENSE VERB, NOT PAST TENSE – this is important because it demonstrates that Paul did NOT see the Law as something ended, contrary to traditional Christian teaching, but as something that was still continuing.  Also, notice that these things are “a shadow of things TO COME” – FUTURE TENSE, NOT PAST TENSE – stating that the full meaning of these things are YET FUTURE, they were not completely fulfilled or completed by Christ in His first coming.  Again, this is contrary to what traditional Christianity teaches.

    You have to watch modern translations here, because they will use past tense verbs when, in fact, the Greek verbs are PRESENT and FUTURE TENSE, not PAST TENSE.

  2.   After “sabbath days” in the King James is a colon and then after “to come” is a
    semi-colon.  This clause, “Which are a shadow of things to come” is an appositive
    clause.  Its function is to provide added information to the word it is modifying, or
    telling us more about, which are these various things listed.  It is not part of the
    core statement.
  3.   The word “is” at the end of this verse, “but the body is of Christ,” is italicized,
    meaning that it is not in the original Greek text, but some later editor inserted it.
    Therefore, these two verses, as Ray Foucher, in the third part of his article
    “Colossians 2” could be better seen to mean,

Let no [individual] man judge you….. but the body of Christ.
Let no [individual] man judge you….. but rather the body of Christ.
Let no [individual] man judge you….. except the body of Christ.

In the book of Acts, we can see that instead of Paul allowing “individuals” to judge his presentation of the gospel, he returns to Jerusalem, and he presents his message to James and the other elders there, that his message may be “judged” by “the body of Christ.”  Therefore demonstrating that Paul followed his own teachings.   Consequently, the teaching that “the body of Christ” has replaced these practices from God’s law is, in fact, a misreading and misinterpretation of the text.

But in looking at more modern translations, look at how the modern translation has altered the text from what we’ve just seen:

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.  (Colossians 2:16-17, NASB)

Notice that the indication the Colossian Christians are being judged FOR DOING these things has been removed.  In addition, notice the inclusion of the word “mere” which is not in the Greek text in order to demean or decrease the importance of these “shadows,” as well as changing the word “body” to “substance,” and the added editorial word “is” to “to.”  Thereby, completely changing the meaning of verse 17 from the original Greek.

Finally, I should add, that the word “shadows” was as close as Paul could get to the idea of an “image” or picture without violating God’s commandment about using any “images” with God.  In today’s world, we would say that these various elements from the law actually present us with “pictures” (rather than “shadows”) of Christ, who He is, about what He is like, and about His ministry (in His first coming, now in heaven, and in His return).

LET NO MAN BEGUILE YOU

Right after making this statement, Paul writes,

Let no man beguile [deceive] you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)

Again, we see another deception based on human opinions, not based on Scripture, since Paul these things came from their “fleshly mind,” not their “spiritual mind.”  He then continues by saying,

And not holding the Head [Christ], from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God.  (Colossians 2:19)

AVOID GNOSTIC LEGALISM

And then he ends this chapter by asking why there are getting tangled up with the non-Jewish (Gentile) legalism of Gnostic asceticism.  He is not discussing the commandments of God at all here.  We know this because in verse 22, he even refers to them as “the commandments and doctrines of MEN,” not God.

Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? (Colossians 2:20-22)

Obviously, if we are dealing with “the world, and the “ordinances” are “the commandments and doctrines of men,” then we are not discussing God’s law at any point here.  But I find it sad that most Christians will use this passage as proof why they do not have to obey the commandments of God, even though they are not even being discussed here.  But interestingly, Paul does acknowledge one fact about Gnostic asceticism,

Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship [as opposed to the worship of the Spirit], and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.

Much of the benefits that come from this type of life is superficial, and are not of any eternal value at all.

CONCLUSION

Does Colossians 2 argue that the Law of God was indeed nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ, and that Christians are no longer responsible for keeping any of God’s commandments.  Absolutely NOT!!  Such an interpretation and application of this chapter is a complete and total misuse of Scripture to try and prove a point which this chapter does not make at all.  Rather than abusing the word of God for our own benefit, we should be learning how to properly interpret and apply its teachings to our lives.

 

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23 SINS THAT WILL KEEP YOU FROM GOD’S KINGDOM?

HELL IS REAL, AND ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, THERE ARE 23 SINS THAT WILL SEND PEOPLE THERE AND KEEP THEM OUT OF GOD’S KINGDOM.    The idea that one can go forward to the altar, say the sinner’s prayer, and then go out and live any way one wants to, and still go to heaven, and not to hell, when they die is NOT scriptural.  It is a DECEPTION of the Enemy.  The Bible says that “…without holiness, no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Consequently, then, “without holiness, no man [or woman] shall” go to heaven, since in heaven, we will “see the Lord.”  Therefore, we must not only ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and be our Lord and Savior, but we must live holy, sanctified lives, if we are one day to inherit the Kingdom of God.

WHAT IS A “SIN”?

A “sin” is defined in the Bible as disobeying any of God’s commandments given to Moses during the Exodus, found in the first five books of the Bible.  Contrary to what many Christians have been erroneously taught, the New Testament does not contradict the Old Testament, nor does it “do away with it” or annul its teachings, but it builds upon, develops, and further elaborates what God has said in the Old Testament.  Doing away with the Old Testament is like yanking out the foundation and framework of a house and still expecting it to stand.  It just doesn’t work.

WHAT IS TRUE REPENTANCE?

According to the writings of the Apostle Paul, if anyone practices one or more of the following 23 sins, then they “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (i.e., go to heaven).  This is because true repentance is more than telling God we are sorry for our sins.  It also involves turning away from our sins, and beginning to walk in obedience to God.  If you “repent,” but then continue to practice one or more of these sins, then you have not truly repented, according to Scripture.

WHAT ARE THE 23 SINS?

The 23 sins are found in I Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-20, and Ephesians 5:5.  In all three of these passages, Paul writes that those who practice the sins listed in these three passages “will not inherit the kingdom of God,” and in Ephesians 5:5, he writes, that they will not have “any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”  And it should be noted that these three letters – I Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians – are letters written to Christian congregations, not to unsaved masses.  Paul is, then, warning these Christians that if they continue to practice these sins they “will not inherit” God’s Kingdom.

So what are these 23 sins?  I have divided them up into the following four areas: physical sins (sexual sins, physical addictions), spiritual sins, mental/emotional sins, and social sins.  The categories are not divinely inspired, they are just the best way I saw to group these sins together.

At the end of the list in I Corinthians 6, Paul says, “…and the like,” which means that this list of 23 does not include all the sins that will keep you out of the kingdom of God, but they are the ones that Paul specifically listed.

PLEASE HEED THIS WARNING:

It is not my intent here to bring judgment against anyone.  Instead, it is my intent to warn anyone involved in these sinful activities that you need to stop what you are doing, and to repent of these sins before it is too late.  Merely going to church, paying tithes, and going to church functions will not save you, so that you go to heaven, if you are still involved in doing one or more of the following sins.  Please take this warning seriously.

PHYSICAL SINS:

Sexual Sins.

  • ADULTERY (“cheating” or “having an affair”).  Adultery is defined as having an intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse.
  • EFFEMINATE (or CATAMITE).  An Effeminate or Catamite is defined as a boy or youth who is in sexual relationship with a man.
  • FORNICATIONFornication is a general term for any form of sex outside of the marriage bond, that includes sex between an unmarried man and a woman (called “hooking up”); adultery (sex with someone other than one’s spouse), beastiality (sex with animals) or incest (sex with one’s family members).
  • HOMOSEXUALITYHomosexuality is defined as sexual relations with someone else of the same sex or gender.
  • WHOREMONGERSWhoremongers is defined as either one who frequently consorts with or has sex with prostitutes (“a John”) or one who sells a prostitute (“a pimp”). 
  • UNCLEANNESSUncleanness is defined as “moral lewdness” or physical impurity, and could include sex with a woman during her menses (Leviticus 18:19; Ezekiel 18:6).

Physical Addictions:

  • LASCIVIOUSNESS.  Lasciviousness is defined as any uncontrolled indulgences of physical pleasures; this can include any physical addictions (food, sex, drugs, etc.).
  • DRUNKENNESSDrunkenness is defined as being intoxicated with some substance, usually alcohol or drugs.
  • FORNICATIONFornication comes from the Greek word porneia, and it’s the source for the English words “porn” and “pornography.”  Porn and pornography are not innocent pictures, but they are a form of sex that begins as mental/emotional images and fantasies that will harm the image and expectation of one sex with another, and if over-indulged, it can make one dependent on it in order to sexually perform.

SPIRITUAL SINS:

  • IDOLATRYIdolatry is defined as a servant of, or worshipper of, an image, a false god, or anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • WITCHCRAFTWitchcraft is defined as sorcery, witchcraft, or magic (literally or figuratively).

MENTAL/EMOTIONAL SINS:

  • COVETOUSNESSCovetousness is defined as desiring something that does not belong to you; dishonest gain, avarice or greed.
  • EMULATIONSEmulations is defined as  the stirring up of jealousy, envy, or malice in others, because of what we are, or have, or profess.
  • ENVYEnvy is defined as a feeling of discontented or resentful or ill-will longing aroused by someone else’s possession, qualities, or luck.
  • HATREDHatred is defined as a “heart” sin, and any hateful thought or act of hostility is an act of murder in God’s eyes for which justice will be demanded, possibly not in this life but at the judgment.
  • VARIANCEVariance is defined as the acts of anger that result in quarrels, strife, discord, or contention.  Variance often results in division, sects, divorce, and even church splits.
  • WRATHWrath is defined as an emotional outburst that’s violent and fierce, but short-lived.  It occurs stops as suddenly as it flared up.

SOCIAL SINS:

  • EXTORTIONExtortion is defined as the practice of excessively grasping or obtaining something through force or threats, such as money, valuables, or property.
  • HERESIESHeresies is defined as opinions held by individuals or groups that ran divergent from clear biblical teachings that resulted in divisions, schisms, and factions.
  • LIARSLiars is defined as a spurious witness, a bearer of an untrue testimony, a false witness.
  • MURDERSMurders is defined as the criminal, or at least an intentional, act if taking another’s life, i.e., homicide.
  • REVELLINGSRevelling is defined as people going wild without any moral restraint, such as in “wild celebrations or partying,” “rioting,” “orgies,” etc.
  • SEDITIONSSedition is defined as a forced or superficial commotion caused by a group of people, that rise up in opposition to law or the administration of justice, with the intent of overthrowing that authority, and resulting in disturbing the general peace of the area, land, or country. 
  • STRIFEStrife is defined as conflicts, arguments, quarrels, hatred between people.intrigue, faction, contention, contentiousness, strife
  • THEFTTheft is defined as stealing or taking something from someone without their permission.

SALVATION – NOT JUST ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL

God’s salvation is not just about who we are spiritually, but His salvation is for every area of our lives: Physically, mentally/emotionally, spiritually and socially.  The problem with Christianity is that it has restricted “salvation” to a “spiritual salvation,” rather than one that entails every area of our lives.  Another issue is that it is misleading people into believing that as long as you went down to the altar and said the sinner’s prayer that you are now set to go to heaven, even though you are involved in one or more of these above listed sins.  Please be advised, that this is not the case.  The Apostle Paul is clear that those who indulge or practice these sins “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

The time of Christ’s return and His judgment is quickly approaching.  Please repent, ask Him to be your Lord and Savior, and ask Him to help you stop these sins and change your life.  He will do it if you ask Him.

 

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WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM”?

WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM”?  Mention the word “Gospel,” and most Christians will tell you that it is about Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, so that when we die, we can go to heaven.  Many people are surprised when I tell them that there’s more to the “Gospel” than this.  Much of the “Gospel of the Kingdom” is actually found in the Old Testament Scriptures, a part of the Bible that many Christians do not study or thinks that it applies to their life.  As a result, most Christians do not have a comprehensive view of what the Gospel message really fully entails or the relationship of the cross to the KINGDOM‘s previous teachings.

The fact is that the KINGDOM message was first uttered to Abraham (Galatians 3:8-9; Genesis 12:3), and God began building with him, and it culminated with the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  The cross opened the way to the KINGDOM that God had been building from Abraham until Jesus, and beginning with Jesus and His disciples, the invitation of God to become a citizen of His KINGDOM has been going forth from person to person.

WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR PARADIGM!

The problem with the traditional Christian message is that we have divided the Bible in two separate parts, ignoring for the most part the first 60% of the Bible (the “Old Testament”) and solely focusing on the second 40% (the “New Testament”).  That’s like ignoring the first 60% of a film, and focusing solely on what happens in the last 40%.  There’s no way we can fully understand the film, if we ignore 60% of it.  And likewise, our paradigm (our overall “picture”) we use to understand the Bible is flawed.  It’s like trying to figure out a puzzle when you’ve only got 40% of the cover picture.  We need the full picture – not just part of it!

And because the full picture is not being taught within most churches, we believe that all of the Bible has to do with RELIGION, but it doesn’t.  Instead, it is about God, from Genesis 1:1, working to establish His KINGDOM down here on earth.  God’s ultimate goal is not taking humanity into heaven, but to bring Himself and His Kingdom down here on earth.  Just read the last two chapters of Revelation to check this out.

I mean just think,  Jesus did not go through being whipped, beaten, spit on, tortured with a crown of thorns, and then crucified, dying the worst death possibly known to humanity, so He could establish a world RELIGION.  NO!  Instead, Jesus came to the earth to teach us about the KINGDOM (Luke 4:43), and then He went through this gruesome death to open the way, so all people, both Jews and non-Jews alike, could come and be part of His KINGDOM, NOT PART OF A RELIGION.

Our message, our lives, and all that we do to communicate the message of Jesus should be KINGDOM-ORIENTED AND FOCUSED, but most of the time, that’s not the case.  For example, in all the years growing up, I NEVER heard the term KINGDOM, unless we were talking about missions, and then, very rarely.  As disciples today, We need to learn how to be KINGDOM people – NOT religious people.

TRANSFORMING A KINGDOM INTO A RELIGION?

Theologians and researchers say that the phrases used by Jesus, “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” are not used anywhere in the Old Testament.  Jews say that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” was first coined by the Pharisees during the Intertestamental period.  However, their meaning for this phrase is much more RELIGIOUS in orientation, and it is used to mean, to live one’s life in submission to the teachings of the Torah.  And by Torah, they mean the following:

  • THE WRITTEN TORAH (the first five books of our Bible);
  • THE ORAL TORAH (called the Mishnah);
  • THE CUSTOMS THAT DEVELOPED SINCE THE TIME OF EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.

In addition to these, the word Torah would have also included a whole range of interpretations, forms of interpretation and levels of interpretation.  And by adding their own teachings, practices, and interpretations, they were transforming the KINGDOM of God from what it was in the Old Testament to what they wanted it to be, A RELIGION.

GOING BACK TO KINGDOM?

Although Jesus did use these phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God,” I do not believe He used them to mean the same thing.  I believe that He wanted to take people back to the Scriptures, back to a KINGDOM understanding of things, rather than a RELIGIOUS understanding of things, being taught by the Scribes and Pharisees of His day.

THE ERROR OF BOTH JEWS AND CHRISTIANS

You see, just like the sages, Pharisees, and later rabbis, who were adding their own teachings and practices to the Bible to transform it into a RELIGION, so we find Christianity doing the exact same thing in late 2nd century and onward, including in the church today,  Christians have also approached and understood God’s KINGDOM as a RELIGION.  They both have done the same thing, and both perspectives are wrong.  Why?  Because it is clearly evident in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament that God does not want His Kingdom viewed as a RELIGION, but as a KINGDOM.

But why is this important?  What does it matter how we view the KINGDOM?  Because what we don’t stop to realize is that a KINGDOM is controlled by the KING (God), but a RELIGION is controlled by people.  And this is why people want a RELIGION, so that they can maintain control over their lives and what they choose to do.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD – A POLITICAL ENTITY?

In I Chronicles 28:5, David is speaking and telling the people who God has chosen to be the next King:

And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons,) He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD over Israel. [Emphasis Mine]

In this verse, the phrase translated as “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD,” is in Hebrew malkhuth Y’HWAH.  The context for this is POLITICAL, since David is explaining that God has chosen Solomon, his son, to be the next king over the nation of Israel.  But by the first century, the covenant name of God was no longer being used, and synonyms were being used in its place, one of which was “heaven” and another one “God.”  So “the KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut Y’HWAH) became “the KINGDOM of heaven” (Heb. malkhut hashamayim) or “the KINGDOM of God.”  (Y’HWAH is what is written in the Hebrew text of the Bible, and is translated as “The LORD” in our English Bibles.)

This is important because there’s a law when it comes to proper biblical interpretation, called “The Law of First Mention.”  This law states that wherever a word, concept or phrase FIRST appears in Scripture, this establishes the basic, foundational meaning of the word, concept or phrase.  Later biblical passages may build on and further develop this meaning, but they cannot contradict or override it.

Consequently, the basic, foundational meaning of “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD“, “The KINGDOM of heaven” or “the KINGDOM of God” as used in the Scriptures and by Jesus must be understood within the context of a political KINGDOM.  This is true, not only of this specific phrase, but it is also true in reference to God’s KINGDOM in general.

GOD’S KINGDOM – A HOLY NATION MADE UP OF JEW AND NON-JEW

From the very beginning, God’s KINGDOM has been made up of both JEWS and NON-JEWS.   When Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, a “mixed multitude” of people went with them.

And a mixed multitude went up also with them;… (Exodus 12:38)

This “mixed multitude” was comprised of people from different non-Jewish nations who had joined themselves to Israel, and this mixed group of Jews and non-Jews were called “Israel” by God.  “Israel” is the name God has given to His KINGDOM, which is comprised of those people He has redeemed from the Jewish people AND from those people God has saved from the other nations of the world.  And what was it that God has told this nation of Jew and non-Jews?

Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant. then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And you shall be unto Me a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION.  (Exodus 19:5-6; Emphasis Mine)

Moses was to speak these words to “the children of Israel,” but who were the “children of Israel” at Sinai?  They were a mixed nation, comprised of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob AND the “mixed multitude” that had come out with them. Therefore, it should be obvious, then, that God’s Law (Torah) was not given just to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, as Christians have erroneously taught and continue to teach, but to a nation of people made up of both Jews and non-Jews together.

THE FIRST GENERAL REFERENCE TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD

In fact, before getting to Mt. Sinai, the first general reference to God’s KINGDOM in the Bible is in the song of Moses.  In the first three verses, Moses proclaims:

I will sing unto Y’HWAH, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and the rider has He thrown into the sea. 
Y’HWAH is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.  Y’HWAH is a man of war: Y’HWAH is His name. 
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the sea.  The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.  (Exodus 15:1-5)

Y’HWAH is the covenant name of God there in the Hebrew text that’s usually translated as “the LORD.”  The context here is clearly God’s triumph over the military might of the Egyptian army.  At the time, Egypt had the strongest military might in the world.    Moses then continues on for another twelve verses praising Y’HWAH God, for His victory over the Egyptians.  He culminates his song with the first reference to the Kingship of God in the Bible:

Y’HWAH yimloch l’olam v’ed (“Y’HWAH reigns forever and ever”).
(Exodus 15:18)

The context here is clearly a military victory of God’s KINGDOM over another political power, the kingdom of Egypt.  Nor is this the only place where we see God’s KINGDOM triumphant over the military might of another nation.  We see God’s victories over and over again, not only under Moses but Joshua as well.

JUDGES – A DARK TIME IN ISRAEL’S PAST

In the book of Judges, we see a dark time in Israel’s distant past.  Why?  They turned their back on God and His KINGDOM.  The Bible says that “they did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).  They ignored the kingship of God, so He allowed them to be conquered time and time again, and it wasn’t until they cried out to Him, that He would raise up a “savior,” “a deliverer,” or “a judge” to rescue them from their oppression and to rule over them.  But as soon as that judge died, the cycle would then repeat.

ISRAEL WANTED ANOTHER KING

Ultimately, Israel did not want to be “God’s own special people,” ruled over exclusively by Him anymore, but they wanted to be like the other nations around them.  They wanted to have a human king, a human government, as opposed to the government of God.  And when Samuel complained about their rejection of him as “judge,” God responded,

Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, that I should not reign over them.
(I Samuel 8:7; Emphasis Mine)

And this was the beginning of Israel’s downfall in the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”).  After Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, assumes the throne, four generations later, Israel splits into two Kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Both KINGDOMS fell into idolatry and gross sins before Y’HWAH.  The prophet Hosea was sent to warn the Northern Kingdom to warn them of God’s punishment, if they did not change.  God gives the names of Hosea’s children as an illustration of His coming judgment against them:

  • Jezreel – “I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4).
  • Lo-ruhamah – “for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (Hosea 1:6).
  • Lo-ammi – “for you are not My people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9).

Ultimately, as God promised through Hosea, Amos, and others, after their 19 rebellious kings, God’s gives the the Northern Kingdom of Israel “a bill of divorcement” (Jeremiah 3:8), and it is taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C., and they are removed from the land and dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire.  In addition, in Amos 9, God promised them that He would “sift” them “among all nations” (Amos 9:9), and the prophet Hosea also told them that they would be “swallowed up among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (Hosea 8:8).

Then in 586 B.C., after 20 kings, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was taken captive by the kingdom of Babylon.  The city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and many of its people were taken into captivity into Babylon.  Although God divorced the Northern Kingdom, He did not do so to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  And it is while they are in Babylon, that those who came from the Southern Kingdom were first called “Jews,” a shortened form of “Judeans.”

THE PROMISE OF A NEW COVENANT

The promise of the New Covenant (translated as “New Testament”) was made with these two kingdoms of Israel.  This is easily seen in Jeremiah 31:31-34, the prophecy concerning the New Covenant:

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL and with THE HOUSE OF JUDAH. (Jeremiah 31:31)

Notice to whom God is making this covenant: It is with “the House of Israel” and “the House of Judah.”  These are the two kingdoms of Israel.  This covenant is NOT made with the world, as I’ve heard Christians erroneously teach.  To even teach this is to completely ignore Scripture.  God then goes on:

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.

God says there will be a difference between the covenant of Sinai and this new covenant that He’s about to make.  The difference though is primarily one of location, rather than in content.

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, says the LORD, I will put My Law (Heb. Torah) in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The New Covenant, unlike the Sinai covenant, will not be written on tablets of stone [i.e., be an outside motivator], but it will be written on our inward parts and heart [i.e.,  it will be an inner motivator].  In essence, the new covenant will make God’s Law (Torah) a “want-to,” instead of a “have to.”

As we read the New Testament, we see that there’s been some additions made to the covenant, but it did not do away with the covenant.  Why?  Because a covenant CANNOT be destroyed, done away with, annulled, suspended, or not kept.  For God to completely to do away with the Old Covenant, and to begin “A NEW PROGRAM” as Christians teach would make God a sinner, nor different than any human being on this planet.  In which case, the human race would be damned to Hell with no chance of redemption.

But it’s important that we note that the New Covenant is not being made with the world, but with the same two kingdoms we have seen since the Kingdom of Israel split: the Northern Kingdom of Israel/Ephraim AND the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  And it is with these same two kingdoms that God is promising to bring back into fellowship with Him and with one another.  But some may say, “But didn’t God divorce the Northern Kingdom?”  Yes, He did, but 135 years AFTER He divorced the Northern Kingdom, He promised through the writings of Ezekiel to reach back into the earth IN THE LAST DAYS and to bring the descendants of the Northern Kingdom back to Himself.

In another passage of Ezekiel, we see more of God’s prophesy about this future restoration:

Say unto them, Thus says the LORD God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim [the Northern Kingdom], and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah [the Southern Kingdom], and make them one stick [one kingdom], and they shall be one in Mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:19)

The prophecies all add up to God bringing the two kingdoms back together again, and making them one nation again under one King, Messiah.  This reunited Kingdom will be a utopian kingdom:  there will be universal peace, prosperity, blessings, long life and no sickness, no diseases, no hunger, no starvation, etc.  All the things that plague our world today will no longer exist in this KINGDOM.  The “Good News” [or Gospel] that Jesus and His early disciples proclaimed was that the time had come for this process of reuniting these two KINGDOMS had arrived!

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand [“has arrived”]; repent, and believe the GOSPEL.  (Mark 1:15, Emphasis Mine)

Then beginning in the book of Acts, we see a dual message being proclaimed:  the gospel of the Kingdom AND Jesus Christ.  For example,

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, they were baptized, both men and women.  (Acts 8:12)

I was shocked the first time I noted this dual message.  We see it again at the end of the book of Acts, in regard to the ministry of Paul:

And Paul lived two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in to him, preaching THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and teaching those things which concern THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.  (Acts 28:30-31)

According to this, Paul PREACHED THE KINGDOM OF GOD and TAUGHT JESUS CHRIST.  In the Christian church, we PREACH CHRIST and more or less ignore the concept of the Kingdom.  Am I the only one who recognizes something very wrong with this picture, or does anyone else?

BUT WHAT ABOUT US GENTILES (or NON-JEWS)?

Just as a “mixed multitude” was part of the people of Israel in the Exodus, and we see other non-Jews join the Jewish people – Rahab, Ruth, Doeg – and others, so in the New Testament, non-Jews are also invited to become a part of God’s people and His Kingdom.  Just as God called Abraham, while he was an uncircumcised gentile [non-Jew], and entered into covenant with him, still being uncircumcised, so Abraham becomes the father of all uncircumcised gentiles who believe.  And likewise, just as Abraham was then circumcised, he also became the father of all those who are circumcised as well.  So then, Abraham then becomes the father of us all. the circumcised and the uncircumcised.

The KINGDOM preached by Jesus, His disciples, and even Paul is the RESTORED AND REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH prophesied and promised throughout the writings of the Old Testament.  If we do not study the Old Testament, then Christians do not understand the KINGDOM that is being talked about in the writings of the New Testament.  These are NOT Two Separate Kingdoms; they are the SAME KINGDOM.  It is a KINGDOM comprised of three central groups:

  • JEWS [those from the Southern Kingdom],
  • RETURNING ISRAELITES [from the Northern Kingdom], and
  • GENTILES [those of us from the nations of the world].

These three groups are the ones who make up God’s KINGDOM. This RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM could also be called REDEEMED ISRAEL.  Just as Israel during the Exodus, and much of its history, was comprised of both Jews and non-Jews, so is REDEEMED ISRAEL.  So what Christians call “the Church Age” is actually God continuing to reach out into the nations and returning to Himself those He has called from these three groups.  God has not changed His program.  He is still working on establishing His KINGDOM here on earth.  Again, the cross made this restoration possible, as I will soon explain.

PAUL’S SYNONYMS FOR THE KINGDOM

Because Paul was ministering out in the Roman empire, and not in the land of Israel, he did not want people to think that their relationship to Messiah (Christ) in God’s KINGDOM was to be like their relationship to Caesar in the Roman Empire.  One could be a Roman citizen without having to be in a personal relationship with Caesar; however, to be a citizen in God’s KINGDOM, an intimate relationship with the KING was absolutely required.  Consequently, to not confuse the issue, Paul used other words that were meant to be synonyms for this RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH (CHRIST).

In addition, these synonyms were necessary to avoid the monotony of saying “redeemed Israel” and “unredeemed Israel,” “redeemed Israel,” “unredeemed Israel.”

EKKLESIA (the word we translate as “church”).  Originally, in the Greek and Roman culture, the word Ekklesia was a POLITICAL TERM, NOT A RELIGIOUS ONE.  It was an alternative name for the Roman Senate, as well as groups of full citizens who would meet for a particular reason.  We would call meetings like this, “a town meeting.”  Christianity took this POLITICAL term and turned it into a RELIGIOUS one.

THE BODY OF MESSIAH.  The word “Messiah” is predominantly used in the Old Testament in reference to the KING of Israel, an obvious POLITICAL use, but it is first used of Aaron, the High Priest, an obvious RELIGIOUS usage.  So it is both, RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL, but Christianity tends to focus more on the RELIGIOUS meaning than the POLITICAL one.  So obviously, if you are part of “THE BODY OF MESSIAH [CHRIST],” then you are part of His KINGDOM.

ONE NEW MAN.  The RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH [CHRIST] is also referred to as the ONE NEW MAN in Ephesians 2:15.  This section is really interesting to examine.  In the prophets, God divorced the Northern Kingdom because of their disobedience to God’s Laws.

In verse 15, it states that Jesus abolished in His flesh “the accusation against us.”  What does the prosecuting attorney use to try and prove someone guilty of a crime?  The Law.  So by “abolishing in His flesh the laws” that were being used to condemn the Northern Kingdom, the Southern Kingdom and us GENTILES, through His death on the cross and resurrection, He was able to provide the means by which God could once again RESTORE and REUNITE these TWO KINGDOMS into what Paul calls ONE NEW MAN.

Now when crimes have been punished, does that mean that we do away with the law in the United States?  Of course not.  It is just these broken violations of the law are no longer brought up.  In the same way, when Jesus died on the cross, His death did not do away with God’s law, but only those broken violations of His law are no longer brought up.

IN CHRIST.  This is another favorite synonym for Paul.  Again, if one is “IN CHRIST,” then one is “IN THE KINGDOM,” since Christ [Messiah] is the Anointed KING of the KINGDOM.

THE RESTORED REUNITED KINGDOM – A MISSING MESSAGE IN TODAY’S CHURCH

Therefore, in our churches today, the one message I do not hear about is the RESTORED REUNITED KINGDOM prophesied and promised throughout the Old Testament.  Is this missing message why we erroneously think God’s program has changed, instead of realizing He is still working on the SAME PROGRAM?  For example, if we were discipling people to become KINGDOM PEOPLE, instead of people for our own religious denominations, we would focus our teaching and training by answering such questions as the following:

  • What is a “KINGDOM“?
  • When did God’s KINGDOM begin?  What is it like?  What comprises the KINGDOM?  What is not in the KINGDOM?
  • How does one become a KINGDOM citizen?  What are the benefits to that citizenry?
  • What is God’s expectation as to how we, as God’s “KINGDOM PEOPLE,” are to live?
  • What is God’s Constitution, laws, statutes, and judgments?  How do we apply them in our current world situation?
  • When KINGDOM LAW contradicts U.S. Law, which one do we follow?
  • How will the coming KINGDOM be similar and/or different than the KINGDOM of David or Solomon?

These are just a few questions to consider.  Now I do need to point out that our KINGDOM does have RELIGIOUS aspects to it.  For example,

  • our King is God, and He is an eternal Spirit being who exists outside of time, space, and matter.
  • We cannot just pick up the phone and call God, or text Him.  Prayer is the way we communicate with Him.
  • Our KINGDOM’S homeland is not located on this planet or, in fact, in this physical universe.  However, that does not mean it is any less real.  It does exist in a parallel dimension, usually referred to as the “spiritual realm.”  Although unlike Patrick Swayze, in the movie Ghost, it does physically exist, you cannot put your hand through things.  People who have been there, either in dreams, visions, or come back after they’ve died, have all described things they could see, hear, taste, smell, and touch or feel.  It is a physical place by all measures of our senses, although better in every physical way imaginable.

ANOTHER UNIQUE FEATURE OF THE KINGDOM

Unlike American Presidents, who change every 4-8 years, God has not given up His throne.  He maintains His place of Kingship in HEAVEN, while His Son, Jesus Christ, will rule and reign over His KINGDOM here on earth.  And if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, you will not be allowed into God’s KINGDOM.  Why would any government allow people in who have no intention of obeying the government or its laws?  That would only be asking for trouble.

QUESTION:  Are you in an ongoing relationship with the Lord and King, Jesus Christ?  Do you have a KINGDOM on god, the Bible and life, or do you still believe all of this is simply about a RELIGION.  You can begin the process of changing your perspective by simply praying from your heart something like this:

Dear Lord Jesus,
I am tired of living a RELIGION, and I want to really experience what you intended me to live, as a citizen within Your KINGDOM.  Please, Lord, let this be a beginning point for me to learn to look at Your word as a KINGDOM MANUAL, rather than as a “religious book.”  Open my eyes and heart to Your KINGDOM.  Open my eyes and heart to what it means to live Your KINGDOM in my daily life.  Guide me by Your Spirit, and teach me Your Constitution, laws, statutes and judgments.   As my KING, Lord, You have complete and total control and rule over every aspect of my life.   I’m not holding anything back.  It is all Yours from this day forward.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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SALVATION: A TRIUNE PROCESS, NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT? (Part 1)

“COME FORWARD TODAY AND RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR!”  For most people, this was the moment when we went forward in church to confess our sins and to give our lives to the Lord.  Usually, the pastor would explain what we were about to do, and then he would have us repeat a prayer after him.  After completing this prayer, he would say that each of us have now been saved.  He might even quote Romans 10: 9-10,

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Most Pastors would say that “You are now saved and are a child of God.”  Although I would most certainly congratulate you for your decision to give your life to the Lord, but I would differ in that I would say that you have now taken YOUR FIRST STEP on the journey of salvation with the Lord.

A TRIUNE SALVATION FROM A TRIUNE GOD

Rather than salvation being a one-time event, it is a triune process, which comes from God, a Triune Spirit.  In Exodus 3, Moses asks God His name, and in His response, He gives Moses the name YHWH.  This name is derived from the verb “to be” (Heb. hayah), and it’s repeated 6,000 times in the Scriptures.  In fact, in the book of Revelation, it is translated into Greek and English by the three tenses of the verb:

…which is, and which was, and which is to come;…” (Revelation 1:4, 8)
…which was, and is, and is to come… (Revelation 4:8)
…which art, and wast, and art to come… (Revelation 11:17)
…which art, and wast, and shall be… (Revelation 16:5)

In all five verses, the covenant name of God is translated out into Greek by these three verb tenses: past, present, and future.  God exists outside of time, space, and matter, and as a result, He can see the past, present, and future all at the same time, and so He is always the Great “I AM.” But just as His name translates into three tenses, “I WAS, I AM, and I SHALL BE,”so does His salvation that flows out to those call upon Him, for as the Bible teaches, “for whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

So just as God Himself is a Triune Being, so salvation, which comes from God, is likewise Triune in its nature.    The three stages of salvation are the following:

  • NEW BIRTH (“I WAS SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN”)
  • SANCTIFICATION (“I AM BEING SAVED FROM THE POWER OF SIN”)
  • GLORIFICATION (“I SHALL BE SAVED FROM THE PRESENCE OF SIN”)

And all three stages comprise the one life-long process, whose overall purpose is to transform each of us from being a broken “slave of sin” into a son or daughter of God that’s been conformed into the image and likeness of Christ.

THE PROCESS OF NEW BIRTH (“I WAS SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN”)

This process also includes conversion, justification, and adoption; consequently, sometimes these other names are used rather than “NEW BIRTH.”  However, I like this one because it emphasizes that something NEW is being BIRTHED in and through this experiential process.

In John 3, Jesus enters into a discussion with a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus by night, and tells Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with Him.”  Jesus then responds to Him by saying,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

But Nicodemus is confused by this.  He asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4)  But in response to this question, Jesus repeats what He had said in verse 3, but He elaborates further on what He meant by being “born again.”  To show this, I’m going to put the two verses side by side.

JOHN 3:3

JOHN 3:5

Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

So what Jesus has done in a very Jewish way is to define being “BORN AGAIN” as being “BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT.”  Jesus here is not defining “BORN AGAIN” as simply being “BORN OF THE SPIRIT” as I’ve heard numerous times from ministers, believing that “being BORN OF WATER” was only a reference to physical birth.  In Jewish thinking, there’s an intricate connection between the water and the Spirit, which many Christians do not realize.

THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST IN THE NEW BIRTH

To be “BORN AGAIN,” it is imperative that we understand that this can only happen when we sincerely come to Christ, confess our sins, and ask Him to come into our hearts and lives to be our Savior, Lord, and King.   Our salvation is only made possible because of His shed blood and death on the cross, and His bodily resurrection.  Although we tend to put more focus on His death on the cross, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that without His resurrection our faith would be in vain:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  (I Corinthians 15:13-20)

Consequently, Christ’s resurrection is extremely important to our salvation, and not just the His sacrificial death on the cross.   But being “BORN AGAIN” is a process, and not an event.  For example, Jesus taught His disciples prior to His ascension:

Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

As we can see, the process of the NEW BIRTH occurs in two steps: “(1) Believe and (2) is baptized shall be saved.”  So obviously, if you are not willing to do the first step, “believe,” then you are not going to end this process by doing the second step, being “baptized.”

Then in the book of Acts, we see two more people teaching the same thing and re-affirming this two step process for the NEW BIRTH.  First of all, Peter, in his initial sermon on the day of Pentecost:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?  Then Peter said to them, “REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:37-38)

What did Peter say? “REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED.”  The word “Repent” here involves BELIEVING the message of the gospel and accepting Jesus as their Lord, Savior and Messiah (or King), and then “BE BAPTIZED.”  The same two basic parts of the process as we see from Jesus in Mark 16:16.  Then the next person we see teach this same two parts is Paul, when describing his own conversion in Acts 22.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which lived there, came to me, and stood, and said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  And the same hour I looked up on him.  And he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of His mouth.  For you shall be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why are you waiting?  ARISE, AND BE BAPTIZED, and WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:12-16)

Paul here is recounting for the crowds what happened to him during his conversion (or NEW BIRTH) experience, and notice what Paul says that Ananias told him to do,

Arise, and BE BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)

By “calling on the name of the Lord,” “BELIEVING” is an assumed intricate part of this.  But in addition, Ananias told him to be “BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS.” Consequently, there are at least three witnesses here that teach the same thing, “Repent (or Believe) and Be Baptized, and you shall be saved”: Jesus, Peter, and Ananias through Paul.  There are also 10 examples in the book of Acts that demonstrate this two-part process as well.   For example, all the following were baptized after they believed,

The 3,000 people saved on Pentecost (Acts 2:41) The Apostle Paul (Acts 9:18) The Philippian Jailer and his household (Acts 16:33)
The Samaritans (Acts 8:12) The Roman Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:47-48) Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue (Acts 18:8)
Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:13) Lydia (Acts 16:15) The Ephesian believers (Acts 19:3-5)
The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:28-40)  

So with three people, including Jesus Himself, teaching the same thing and 10 examples of this being done throughout the book of Acts, why is it that most Christians do not believe that water baptism has any part in the salvation process?

Another example we can see of water being a part of birth is in the natural birth process.  The process of physical conception and birth presents us with a picture of what it means to be “BORN AGAIN.”  Throughout the Old Testament, there are numerous passages where water is used in the process of rebirth.  For example, the first picture of this in the Bible is in the account of Noah and the Flood.  The earth was full of sin and violence, and God told Noah that He was going to flood the whole earth; that is, He was going to fully immerse the planet under water (“baptize it”).

But to preserve Noah and his family, as well as the land animals, He had Noah build the ark.  The ark is a picture of Christ, and just as those who were in the ark were saved,  so those who are in Christ will likewise be saved.  However, when God brought the world up out of the waters, the world was “clean” once more, and the sin was gone.  So there in this account, we have the combination of both salvation (pictured by the ark) and water baptism (pictured by the flood).  Those who made it through the flood (by being in the ark/Christ) are saved.

There are many other such pictures in the Bible as well, like Israel crossing the Red Sea.  To save their first born, they had put the Passover Lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintel, demonstrating their faith in God.  So as we are saved from our Egypt’s of sin, so we too must rely on THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB and our FAITH IN GOD, but notice that Israel was not out of Egypt (a symbol of sin) UNTIL they CROSSED THE SEA.

It was only when they came out on the other side that the people were saved from the Egyptians.  If they had put the blood on the doorpost and lintel, but had not left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they would not have been saved from their slavery in Egypt.  They would have remained slaves.  Their coming out of Egypt happened as a PROCESS, not just a ONE-TIME EVENT.

In like manner, physical conception and birth are also two ends of the same process, and of course,  conception is when new life begins within the womb of a woman, which can be compared to us asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins and be the Lord of our life, because it is at this moment that the conception of our spirit happens, and we experience that new life within us.  To demonstrate this further, there’s an interesting verse in I John; it says,

Whosoever is born of God does not [continue to] commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot [continue to] sin, because he is born of God.  (I John 3:9)

There’s two things to point out about this verse.  (1) The verbs “commit” and “sin” are both present participles, which mean they refer to “repeated or continuous action,” which is why I put “continue to” in brackets. But (2) the word “seed” in this verse is the English translation of the Greek word sperma.  It is from this word that we get the English word “sperm.”  In this verse, the Holy Spirit is being pictured as “the sperm of God.”  God’s “sperm,” of course, is not physical, but spiritual, since it alludes to His Spirit.  However, interestingly, this image of God having “sperm” (although spiritual in nature) does most definitely identify God in a very masculine way (contrary to the many feminists and those in the LGBT camp who are now trying to say that God should be referred to with neutral, genderless pronouns).

God’s Spirit (His “sperm”) comes into us when we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life, and a new spiritual life begins to exist.  However, just as our physical conception results in a physical birth, where we are born into this life out of the water of the womb, so our spiritual conception results in a spiritual birth, where we are born into the kingdom of God out of water, a picture of the womb.   This picture of being “BORN AGAIN” should have been quite familiar to Nicodemus, but it wasn’t, which is why Jesus is surprised when Nicodemus doesn’t understand what He’s saying.

JEWISH WATER IMMERSION

In Jesus’ day, people were not “baptized” or “immersed” in water like Christians do today, where one person lays another person down into the water.  Instead, each person immerses themselves.  The other person is there just to make sure that the process is done correctly.

The person being immersed, steps into the water until it is waist deep, and then crouches down into a fetal position.  The water must cover them completely.  It is then that the water takes on the image of a womb, and the person in the water is in the same fetal position they would’ve been in the womb.  Then the person stands up straight out of the water, representing their “new birth,” or “new life,” i.e., they are now “born again.”

When looking at the baptism of Jesus, by John the Baptist, you will note that John did not lift Jesus up out of the water; instead, it says,

And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:… (Matthew 3:16)

And it was when He came up out of the water that the Holy Spirit came down and lit on Him as a dove.  In essence, He was “born of water and of the Spirit,” and if Jesus was “born of the water and of the Spirit,” shouldn’t we do likewise as His disciples today?  In Judaism, there were many reasons why Jews would immerse in water:

  • To indicate a change in status, such as a person was “unclean” and they now have become “clean” (whether ritually, or in their health, or spiritually).  For example, after the completion of their monthly cycle, women would immerse, so that their relations with their husbands could resume.  One also indicated a change in status when they began a new phase in their life, began a new career, or they wanted to develop a more intimate relationship with God.
  • To initiate one’s priestly office.  A priest had to wait until they were 30 years old, according to the Scriptures, before they could initiate their priestly office (Numbers 4).
  • For completing the process of conversion.

These are not all the reasons, but a few examples.  Jesus, though, was baptized in water, not for conversion or for the forgiveness of His sins, since He was sinless, but because He needed to indicate a change of status (He was changing from being a carpenter to being a rabbi), and He also needed to initiate His High Priestly office.  So in truth, when He came up out of the water, He was, in fact, “BORN AGAIN,” because a carpenter went down into the water, but He came up out of the water a rabbi and High Priest.  And so as His disciples, we too need to be “BORN AGAIN OUT OF THE WATER” just as He was.

But we must remember, it is not enough to be “BORN OF WATER,” we must also be “BORN OF THE SPIRIT.”  BOTH ARE NECESSARY.  Many times when I discuss this, people ask me about the thief on the cross.  However, the thief on the cross is the only man in the New Testament who was saved without being baptized in water afterwards.  He should be seen as the exception, not the rule.  Obviously, the Romans were not going to take the man down, allow John, who was standing right there, to baptize him, and then give the guy back to the Romans, so they could nail him back up on the cross.

It is important that we remember that the NEW BIRTH is a PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT.  The thief on the cross had begun the process, but obviously, he was not able to complete the first stage of the salvation process, but he went as far as he could.  But throughout the book of Acts, there are 10 accounts of people being saved, as I said earlier, and every one of them was baptized right afterwards.  There’s not one single exception to this in all the book of Acts, whether the person was a Jew or a non-Jew.  Consequently, we should be defining this first stage of the NEW BIRTH based on what is TYPICAL – what we find in the majority of cases in the Bible – NOT THE EXCEPTION.  This, in fact, is the rule when coming up with a definition.  In any definition, you my note the exceptions and rare occurrences, but you always base the meaning on what is TYPICAL, on what you find in the majority of cases.

Now in part 2 of this series, we will examine “Sanctification,” and then in part 3, the final part of this series, we will examine “Glorification.”

 

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“DID CHRIST BRING THE LAW TO AN END?”

DID CHRIST BRING THE LAW TO AN END?  This all depends on what “law” you are talking about.  If you are referring to the “law of sin and death,” then the answer is “yes,” but if you mean “the law of God,” then the answer is “yes” and “no.”  I would argue that the following did come to an end with Christ:

  • The time when we did not have Christ as our goal and model of what a Torah-observant man looked like has come to an end.
  • The time when the law was an outside motivator to obedience to God has come to an end.
  • The time when we did not have the Holy Spirit empowering us to live out the commandments of God has come to an end.
  • The time when God was still waiting to fulfill His promise to Abraham when He walked between the pieces has come to an end.
  • The time when we did not have an Advocate, Mediator, and High Priest in heaven to intercede and pray for us to help us walk out the commandments of God has come to an end.

But has the Law (Heb. Torah) of God been abolished, destroyed, annulled or done away with and is no longer relevant to our lives as believers?  Then the answer is a definite “NO!”  What most Christians do not understand is that God’s relationship with His people was not based on the covenant that God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, so what would be the point of abolishing or destroying it?  Did God throw out His plan and program that He had going in the Old Testament to start a whole new program with Christ?  No, He didn’t.  Those who believe this only demonstrate how much of the Old Testament they really do not understand.

THE ORIGINAL PASSAGE

So let’s go back and begin to unravel this mystery about how to view Romans 10:4.  To do this, we need to examine the original passage on which this misunderstanding is based.

For I bear them [Israel] record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.  (Romans 10:2-4)

I didn’t just want to look at the one verse in question, but I wanted you to see it in context.

THE REAL ISSUE

The issue here is not about the commandments themselves, but on whose standard of righteousness are we using when we keep them?  Are we using God’s standard of righteousness or are we following the standard created by Israel, or more specifically, the Pharisees?  The problem with traditional Christianity’s interpretation of Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) writings is that they take him and his writings out of their historical, cultural, and religious contexts, and as a result, they misinterpret what he has to say, particularly when it comes to the law.

“IS CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW?”

The problem in correctly understanding Romans 10:4 is how most people understand the word “end” today.  You see most people today understand the word “end” to mean one thing, but the word “end” in 1611 and in the Greek has a different meaning in mind.  As a college English instructor for 25 years, I can tell you that the meaning of words do not remain static or stay the same.  As the culture changes, so does the meaning and use of words.  For example, when I was growing up, “Aids” were people who helped out in the principal’s office, but now when you say that word, the first thing that comes to mind is a horrible disease.  Another example is the word “computer.”  Prior to WWII, a “computer” was a person who was hired to do mathematical computations, but after WWII, a computer became a machine, like we know it today.  It was during WWII when the machine “computer” was created to do what the human “computer” did but at a faster and more accurate rate.

Likewise, the primary meaning of the word “end” has also changed in the past 400 years.  In this verse, the word “end” is the English translation of the Greek word telos (Strong’s #5056), which means “to set out for a definite point or goal, or properly the point aimed at as a limit, result, purpose.”  However, this word does not mean “to terminate” here. The word “end” is still used to mean a “goal” or “point aimed at,” when we say, “What end did you have in mind?” meaning “what’s your goal or what are you aiming to achieve?”  And it is in this sense that the word “end” is to be understood.   Finally, this understanding of the word “end” is also supported by The Apologetics Study Bible, which points out in its footnote for this verse that the word “end” also means “goal” (1695).

PLACING IT BACK INTO CONTEXT

But the real test is to place this meaning back into the text and see if it makes sense.

For I bear them [Israel] record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.  (Romans 10:2-4)

What is the destination point, the target that God’s law is aiming to achieve within our lives, its goal?  Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) response is “Christ.”  He is the living embodiment and example of the Law [Torah].  In other words, if we could take all the commandments of the Law and use them to formulate a man, who would it be?  Christ.  This understanding of this verse fits with what follows in this passage.

TWO TYPES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

In the next section of verses, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) goes on to describe two types of righteousness, both of which deal with God’s law.

For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which does those things shall live by them.” (Romans 10:5)

In this verse, I have placed the quote in bold print.  Paul is quoting here a line that is found in five different verses: Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20: 11, 13, 21.  In all five cases, the phrase is used to contrast God’s expectation that people live their lives guided by His commandments.  However, in each case, that was not what they were doing.  This is the meaning of this line in its original context.

After making this statement, Paul then begins to make the argument that the standard of righteousness that the Jews are using in their obedience to the law [Torah] is man-made and, therefore, like the above quote, it does not satisfy God’s expectation.  But the standard that is of faith is when we walk out our love for God by obeying His Word, including His commandments, with Jesus [Yeshua] as our goal and destination point.  And to prove his point, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30:12-14.  But to show you the context of the Deuteronomy passage, here are verses 10-11:

If you shall hearken unto the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law [Torah], and if you turn unto the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.  For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden [or too difficult  for/from] you, neither is it far off.

Clearly here, the context of this passage is the Torah, the commandments of God.  It is at this point that Deuteronomy 30:12-14 begin.

Deuteronomy 30:12

Romans 10:6

It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, Say not in your heart, Who shall ascend into heaven” (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

In comparing these two verses, we can see that Paul is taking what Moses writes about the Torah and he is applying it to Jesus.  Why?  Is Paul suggesting that Jesus has replaced the Torah?  No, instead, according to archaeologists and the remains of the homes in Israel that belonged to believers, the earliest term for Jesus [Yeshua] is HaTorah, “The Living Torah,” that Jesus [Yeshua] was the living embodiment and expression of all that the Torah was and represented.  So what was true of the Written Torah was likewise true of the Living Torah.

Deuteronomy 30:13 Romans 10:7
Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

In this comparison, we see an apparent difference between these two passages.  However, as seen from Romans 6, Paul identifies the water (or seas) with death, so for him to interpret Romans 10:7 in this way is consistent with his pattern of interpretation.  But again, we can see that he is applying what Moses writes about the Torah to the person of Christ [Messiah].

Deuteronomy 30:14 Romans 10:8
But the word is very nigh unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. But what says it?  The word is nigh you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

But it is here that Moses explains why the words of the Torah are not “hidden” or “are not too difficult” for the people to obey.  It is because the words are “nigh them, in their mouth, and in their heart.”  This is why, I believe, most Christians say they cannot obey the Torah, because the Torah is not “in their hearts” and it is not “in their mouth.”  Why the two places?  Because as Jesus [Yeshua] taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).   When Torah comes out of our mouth, Moses is saying, then it is in the “abundance of their heart.”  The problem is that most Christians don’t read and study the Torah, so then how could it come out of their mouth, and therefore, how could they possibly keep it?

Notice that the Torah that is “in their hearts and in their mouth” and that has Jesus [Yeshua] as its goal and target “is the word of faith,” Paul writes, “which we preach.”  You see, when the Jews are describing “the righteousness which is of the law [the written and oral Torah],” it misses the purpose and plan of God because the Pharisees (and later rabbis] would take the interpretation of the Scriptures in the direct opposite direction than what God originally intended; however, with Christ [Messiah[ as the goal and destination point of the Torah, then with that view in mind, then believers could obey the commandments in a way that God had originally intended, rather than what was being taught by some of the Pharisees at the time.  [Some had some good ideas and interpretations, but not all of them.]

THE REALITY OF GOD’S TWO TORAHS

So just as God’s written Torah [the first five books of the Bible] becomes a reality to us when it is in our hearts and in our mouth, and then, we are able to do it, Paul applies this same concept to the Lord Jesus Christ [Heb. Adon Yeshua HaMoshiakh].  So how do we make Jesus [Yeshua] a reality in our lives?  The same way we make Torah a reality in our lives: Him being in our hearts and in our mouth.

That if you shall confess with YOUR MOUTH the Lord Jesus, and shall believe IN YOUR HEART that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with THE HEART man believes unto righteousness; and with THE MOUTH confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:9-10; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that according to these two verses, if all you do is “believe in your heart” that God has raised Jesus [Yeshua] from the dead,” you have righteousness, but not salvation.  It is only when we combine the belief of Christ’s [Messiah’s] resurrection with our confession from our mouth that we are saved.  And in the combination of these two elements, we begin our life-long walk of salvation with God, a walk that is not complete until we come into His Presence, either at His coming or at death.

May Christ [Messiah], the Living Torah, and the Written Torah of God both comprise the abundance of our hearts and the confession of our mouths to the glory of God, Amen.

 

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PAUL AND THE TORAH: A BASIC INTRODUCTION (Part 3)

HOW WAS THE WORD TORAH USED DIFFERENTLY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT THAN IT WAS USED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?  As we discussed in part 2 of this series, the Hebrew word Torah was used to refer to the first five books of the Bible.  However, when we come to the New Testament, the word Torah has a wider, more diverse usage than what we see in the Old Testament since there were new institutions (Sanhedrin, synagogue}, groups (Pharisees, sadducees, Essenes, Zealots), teachings (midrashim), traditions (Oral Torah or Mishnah) and customs that did not exist at all during the time period of the Old Testament.

TORAH — ITS WIDE SPECTRUM OF USE

In the New Testament, the word Torah has a wider spectrum of use.  For example, Jesus [Yeshua] uses it to refer to the five books of Moses, and Paul [Sha’ul Paulus] also uses it to refer to the five books of Moses, but also uses to a prophecy in the book of Isaiah ( ).

THE PHARISEES’ VIEW OF THE TORAH

In order to begin to understand Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) view of the Torah, we first must understand the Pharisaic view of it since he repeatedly claims to be “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”  Their view of the Torah involves so much more than our Christian concept of the same word.  We read the word “Torah,” and we think about the first five books of the Bible, the Pharisees (and later Rabbinical Jews) read the word Torah, and at its most basic, they think about the following chart:

TYPES FORMS LEVELS
Written Torah Halakhah P’shat
Oral Torah Aggadah Remez
    D’rush
    Sodh

And there’s been much more added to the Rabbinical concept of Torah than what existed during the 2nd Temple period of the New Testament.  In order for you to have a basic understanding of what was in Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) mind as a Pharisee when he used the word Torah, I want to go through now and briefly explain the various terms within this chart.

THE TWO TYPES OF TORAH

The Pharisees, as well as Rabbinical Jews today, believes that God gave to Moses two Torahs on Mt. Sinai:

  • The Written Torah, which constitute the first five books of the Bible, AND
  • The Oral Torah, which is comprised of teachings of the Pharisees and the ancient sages, explanations for how to do the things taught in the written Torah, and customs that developed among the Jewish people as well.

This Oral Torah was later collected and written down in 200 A.D. by Judah the Prince, and is now called the Mishnah.  I have an English copy of the Mishnah, and it is 1,137 pages in length.  In fact, the first teaching in Tractate Avoth, the oldest Tractate in the Mishnah, dating back to at least 200 years before Christ, is the teaching –

Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it down to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and elders to prophets, and prophets handed it on down to the men of the great assembly.  They said three things: Be prudent in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence for the Torah.  (Tractate Avoth 1:1)

Consequently, this phrase “Raise up many disciples” was carved into the doorway of the Great Synagogue about 200 years before the time of Christ, and was the heartbeat of every rabbi.  And it was this same rabbinic heartbeat, “to raise up many disciples,” that was handed down by Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) to His disciples, in what Christianity calls “the Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In the Oral Torah, there are a total of 6 divisions that are divided up into a total of 63 Tractates.  The 6 divisions are the following:

  • Zeraim (“seeds”) — this section deals with agricultural laws.
  • Mo’edim (“feasts” or “appointed times”) — this section deals with the Sabbath and the other feasts.
  • Nashim (“Women”) — this section deals with marriage, divorce, and contracts.
  • Nezikim (“Damages”) — this section deals with tort laws and other financial laws.
  • Kodashim (“Holy Things”) — this section deals with sacrifices and the Temple.
  • Toharot (“Purities”) — this section deals with laws of ritual purity and impurity.

Therefore, as a Pharisee, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) would’ve had the entire Old Testament, the Mishnah, and Pharisaic interpretations and applications of both memorized.  So that when he thought of the word “Torah,” it would’ve included much more than just the first five books of the Bible.

Therefore, what we as Christians need to understand about Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) being a Pharisee is that one was not born a Pharisee, but one became a Pharisee because of what one believed and practiced.  So when Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee,” he was not only identifying himself as a Pharisee, but he was also identifying and reaffirming his own belief system and practices, as well as saying that he was continuing in the Pharisaic beliefs and practices held by his father, and perhaps even his grandfather before him.

TWO FORMS OF TORAH

In addition to the two types of Torahs, the Pharisees (and Rabbinic Jews today) also believe that Torah included two forms of interpretation: Halakhah and Aggadah.

HALAKHAH: lit. “the way of walking,” or how we interpret and apply the commandments of God to our day-to-day life.  When a Jew talks about “Jewish Law,” he is talking about Halakhah — not Torah.  One’s view and understanding of the Torah is demonstrated by one’s halakhah, or how one interprets and applies it.   And each group during the 2nd Temple period of the 1st century, A.D., had their own halakhah, or interpretations and applications of the Torah.

For example, when two Jews were discussing halakhah, if person A thought that person B had misinterpreted or misapplied the Scriptures, he would say, “You are destroying the law!”  However, if person A thought person B had correctly interpreted and applied the Scriptures, he would say, “You have fulfilled the law!”

Understanding this, Matthew 5:17 takes on a whole new meaning:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law [to weaken or annul them by incorrectly interpreting and applying them], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy [to misinterpret and misapply them], but to fulfill [to correctly interpret and apply them].

As further proof this is the correct understanding of this verse, in just 4 verses after saying this, Jesus [Yeshua] begins to teach saying, “You have heard…but I say unto you.”  In these teachings, He is not correcting or changing Scripture, as I’ve heard Christian ministers erroneously teach, but interpretations and applications that were being taught by different groups.  When Jesus [Yeshua] referred to the Scriptures, He said, “It is written…” or “Haven’t you read….” But here, He says, “You have heard…” referring again, not to the Scriptures, but to popular misinterpretations and misapplications of the Torah.

AGGADAH:  These are teachings, including rabbinic teachings, that’s not considered halakhah (or legally binding), consisting of stories, parables, legends, history, and witticism.  Although aggadah is not legally binding, they are held in high esteem concerning one’s insight into the Scriptures and piety.

Although Jesus [Yeshua] did not spend a lot of time with Halakhah,  He was clearly a Master of Aggadah (spec., the telling of parables).  On the other hand, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) spent much more time with halakhah in his writings than He did with aggadah.

FOUR LEVELS OF TORAH

Not only are there two types and two forms of Torah, but there are also four levels of Torah.  The first letter from each of these four levels are put together to formulate the acrostic PaRDeS, which means “garden” or “orchard.”  It is taught that how much one gains from the study of the Torah depends on the amount of work one puts into it, just like how much “fruit” you gain from a “garden” or “orchard” depends on how much work you invest into it.  These four levels are the following:

P’SHAT.  The plain, simple grammatical meaning of the text.  It is at this level that the study of the Scriptures begin.  Also at this level, it was considered as one was studying the “breadth” of the Scriptures, and it was likened to one entering into the city of Jerusalem.

REMEZ.  There’s something in the text that seems to hint at or allude to a deeper truth, such as a word, phrase, image, etc.  At this level, it was considered as one was studying the “length” of the Scriptures.  The purpose of studying the use of remez within the Scriptures is to enlarge and strengthen one’s understanding of the Scriptures and one’s knowledge of God.  And studying the Scriptures at this level was likened to gaining access to the Temple Mount.

Not only was Jesus [Yeshua] a Master of Aggadah, but He was also a Master of Remez.  He was constantly alluding or hinting or pointing people back to the Old Testamental Scriptures.  For example, the title He most used for Himself “the Son of man” is itself a remez, alluding back to Daniel’s prophecy of the “Son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, as well as the discussions of the “Son of man” in the Apocryphal Book of Enoch, a book not found in our Bibles, but quoted in Jude 1:14-15.

DERUSH.  Also called “Midrash”.  lit. “investigation,” it is “to seek,” “to search,” “to explore” the concepts and teachings within the Scriptures.  It is the non-literal, homilectic (sermon) interpretation of Scripture (the moralistic meaning).

This level of understanding is based on a detailed level of analysis involving certain rules of logic.  It implies a level of understanding that’s arrived at only after delving beyond the literal wording of the text.  And at this level, it is said that one is searching the “depth” of the Scriptures.  Therefore, the purpose of studying at this level is “to seek out and search the deep and profound mysteries” found within the Bible.

SODH.  A “mystery” or the “hidden” or “secret” meaning of the text.  At this final level, it is said that one is searching the “height” of the Scriptures, and its purpose is to “cross over, lift up, and elevate to the sky the hidden, secret, or foundational meaning of the text.”  There are those who compare this level of interpretation to “being the most privileged among the privileged and entering into the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s manifested Presence.”

 In his writings, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said that the church was “a mystery,” or in other wise, one’s understanding of it comes only through a sodh-level interpretation of the Scriptures.

Although these four levels allow one to mine more material from the Scripture, it should be remembered that the three deeper levels – Remez, D’rush, and Sodh – are to further develop and expound upon the p’shat (or plain, simple grammatical) meaning of the Scriptures, but they cannot contradict the plain simple meaning of the text.

So when we consider the terms, “breadth,” “length,” “depth” and “height,” it should remind us of Sha’ul Paulus‘ (Paul’s) statement in Ephesians 3:17-19,

So that Christ [Messiah] may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend the breadth [p’shat] and length [remez] and height [sodh] and depth [derush], and to know the love of Christ [Messiah] which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

As we can see, there was a lot more to the Pharisaic view of the Torah than what most people think about in the church when the word “law” is used or thought about.  One of the biggest reasons why we do not realize the differences between Paul’s view and our own is that we tend to view Paul as someone like us, a “Christian” from our denominational backward, who believes things that we do.  However, I am hoping that through this study, we are beginning to see that this is not the case.

Jesus did not reveal Himself to Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) and transform him, and then throw away all of his previous preparation and training as a Pharisee.  Instead, the Lord made use of it.  For example, I was a college English instructor for 25 years, but two years ago, God called me to be a missionary.  Did God just throw away my 25 years of academic preparation and experience?  No, everyday He uses it to help me dig into the Scriptures, to mine out the treasures within its pages, and to share that information with others.  In much the same way, God did not just throw away the preparation and training of the Apostle Paul.  God used his Pharisaic background and training in the teaching and development of these beginning congregations, and in the writing of half of our New Testament.

Sha’ul Paulus‘ (Paul’s) faith in Jesus [Yeshua], the Risen Lord, Savior, and Messiah, did not remove him from 2nd Temple Pharisaic Judaism; instead, it gave his faith even deeper meaning, purpose and significance.  In truth, in and through the Messiah Jesus [Yeshua], God is keeping His promise spoken of by the prophet Isaiah:

The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law [Torah], and make it honorable.  (Isaiah 42:21)

 

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Proclaiming the Messiah & His Kingdom to a Hurting World