Was Jesus and His Family “Tzaddik Nazarites”?

I am asking this question due to Eusebius’ description of James (actually “Jacob”) in his book on early church history.  Eusebius (260-340 C.E.), who was born in Palestine and was the bishop of Caesarea, is commonly known as “The Father of Church History,” since he was the first to trace the rise of the early Christian church in its first three centuries.

In his book, he quotes an earlier historian, Hegesippus, whose writings have been largely lost to history.  But in his history, Hegesippus, provides us with this description of “James the just.”

James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles.  This apostle was concentrated from his mother’s womb.  He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food.  A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath.  He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary.  He never wore woolen, but linen garments.  He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people, so that his knees became as hard as camel’s, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias (or Zaddick and Ozleam) which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him. (Book 2, chapter 23, lines 4-7)

Now according to this description, James was a Nazarite from birth, just like the Samson, Samuel the prophet, and John the Baptist.  In addition, he was a vegetarian, since he didn’t eat meat.  Now when he writes that he “never used a bath,” I’m wondering if he meant that he never used any of the “public baths,” which were associated with Greek and Roman idols?

Now if James was called “the Just” because of all this, could it be that Joseph was the same way?  In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is also called “Just” (Matthew 1:19).  And, of course, the ultimate in “Just” men is the Lord Jesus Himself.  So is it possible that all the men in Jesus’ family were not only “Nazarites,” but also “Tzaddiks” who were “just”?

A Tzaddik is a technical term that “carries the meaning of doing what is correct and just” (“What is a Tzaddik?” Chabad.org)  He goes to great pains to make sure that everything is done exactly the way that God commanded, even if it jeopardizes his own life.  For example, in the Scriptures, we learn that Jesus’ family went down from Nazareth to Jerusalem for Passover every single year.  Not only was this journey expensive, it was extremely dangerous since there were thieves waiting to rob unsuspecting travelers (remember, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan?)  Most people made it down at least once in a lifetime, or perhaps, a few times more.  But for jesus’ family, it was an annual journey!

Another interesting thing about Jesus’ family was that Mary was the political activist in the family; whereas, Joseph was more religiously wired.  When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he talked to her about political things: Her Son, Jesus, would be given “the throne of His father David,” and He would “reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33), but when the same angel, Gabriel, goes to Joseph, he doesn’t say any of these things to him.  Instead, he gives him a spiritual reason why he is to name the baby “Jesus:” “and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Can you imagine the scene?  The family gathering of an Orthodox Jewish family, and perhaps by the standards of the day, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family of Tzaddik, Nazarite men, the daughters we’re really aren’t told anything about them, but then there’s this political activist mother in the midst of them all.  For her, who probably expected so much from Jesus, “a liberated homeland for her people,” based on what the angel had told her, the crucifixion of Jesus would’ve indeed been “a sword piercing her heart” (Luke 2:35).

And if this was the character and nature of Joseph and his household, then I can’t think of a single Jesus film that’s been made that comes even close to representing this view of Jesus and His family.  what about you?  Can you think of a film that comes close?

Of course, all of this is speculation based on what information is provided in the Bible and in the writings of Eusebius.  But what are your thoughts on this?  Do you also see this as a possibility, or do you disagree?  I’m curious to hear your ideas on this.  Because the better we understand Jesus and His family, His home life, I think we have a deeper insight into the person of Jesus, and the character and nature of His original movement.

 

Return to the top

 

“Circumcision: What does the Bible teach about it?” (Part 2)

What does the Bible say about circumcision? In part 1, we examined what the book of Genesis teaches us about it, and discovered that the first half of the book deals with Gentiles (non-Jews), and there were three specific Gentiles (non-Jews), all descendants of Seth, Adam’s third son, who were said to “walk with God,” prophesied, and experienced something miraculous in their life: Enoch, Noah, and Abram.

The second half deals with the descendants of Abraham.  In this part, we noted that Israel came into existence when God renamed Jacob as “Israel,” and that the word “Jew” was not possible, until the birth of Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, since it’s a shortened form that’s derived from his name.  But the term “Jew” did not begin to be in use until the Babylonian exile, when those from the southern kingdom of “Judea” started being called “Jews.”

Finally, we concluded that Genesis taught that one did not need to be circumcised to be a worshiper of God, but it was required to be a part of the Abrahamic covenant, and to be ONE with the family of Israel.  We are now continuing  in our study through the rest of the Pentateuch.

CIRCUMCISION IN THE BOOK OF EXODUS

Israel’s Relationship with God

The book of Exodus builds upon what we’re taught in the book of Genesis.  There’s a very interesting comment made at the end of Exodus chapter 2:

Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died.  And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.  So God heard their groaning; and GOD REMEMBERED HIS COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB.  And God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.  (Exodus 2:23-25; Emphasis Mine)

In Genesis 15, when God entered into covenant with Abram, He prophesied to him the events of the Exodus, and it was now time for God to make good His promise to bring the people of bondage and to take them to the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   In other words, the Exodus didn’t just happen, but it was the literal fulfillment of what God verbally promised Abraham in Genesis 15 during his vision.

It should also be noted that there’s no example in the Bible of God beginning a relationship with the use of a covenant.  Instead, our relationship with God begins with Him calling us to repentance, just as He called Abram to public repentance by leaving his old life behind: his country, his family and relatives, and his father’s house, all of which were involved in pagan worship and practices.

Once Abram repents by leaving it all behind, there’s a time when Abram gets to know God more BEFORE he enters into covenant with God in Genesis 15.  One of the purposes of a covenant is to move the relationship to a deeper level,  to intensify and strengthen it.  God does not begin the relationship in Genesis 15, nor in Genesis 17, but He is moving it forward.

And just like God called Abram to repentance by leaving his old life behind, God requires the same of all his seed.  And in the book of Exodus, God calls the children of Israel and the mixed multitude of Gentiles (non-Jews) who joined them to leave their old life in Egypt behind.  There is a leaving that God requires of anyone who desires a relationship with Him.   Therefore, it is critical that we understand that the purpose of circumcision was not to establish the relationship between an individual and God, but it was an outward sign that this individual had been sanctified, or set apart, for God’s use.

For example, in Exodus 4, look what God tells Moses he is to say to Pharaoh:

And the LORD said unto Moses, When you go to return into Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.  And you shall say unto Pharaoh, Thus says the LORD, ISRAEL IS MY SON, EVEN MY FIRSTBORN: (Exodus 4:21-22)

Notice that God identifies Israel as “My son, even My firstborn.”  Obviously, for God to identify Israel as “My son, even My firstborn,” God must already be in an intimate covenant relationship with Israel.  Many have been erroneously taught that Israel’s relationship with God began at Mt. Sinai, but this statement contradicts this teaching.  Since God and Israel are already in a relationship, even before the ten plagues or the exodus from Egypt, then Israel’s relationship with God couldn’t have possibly begun at Mt. Sinai.

AN AMBIGUOUS PASSAGE

So Moses is to tell Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ISRAEL IS MY SON, EVEN MY FIRSTBORN; however, the following verse, verse 23, is rather ambiguous as to who is being addressed.  On the on hand, it seems to be a continuation of what Moses is to tell Pharaoh, but then we get to verse 24, and all of a sudden, verse 23 seems to indicate that God has changed the direction of the conversation, and He is speaking now to Moses:

And I say unto you, Let My son go, that he may serve Me: and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your son, even your firstborn.  And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. (Exodus 4:23-24)

As we can see, these two verses raise many questions: “Who is the ‘you’ here: Pharaoh or Moses?” “Who is the ‘him’ that the LORD met at the inn: Moses or his son?” “And why does the LORD seek to kill him?”  Then in the next two verses, we read the following:

Then Zipporah [Moses’ wife] took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband are you to me.  So He let him go: then she said, “A bloody husband you are, because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:25-26)

These two verses also raise questions: “Why did Zipporah circumcise her son?  Why didn’t Moses do it?” It might be that since Zipporah and her family were descendants of Midian, who was the fourth son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2), that they may have followed the practice of descendants of Ishmael, circumcising their sons at the age of thirteen, rather than at eight days old.  But it’s apparent that Moses did not circumcise his son at the appropriate age.  Also, we’re not sure if Zipporah circumcises her son to save Moses’ life or to save her son’s life.  But this scene seems to suggest that by Moses not circumcising his son, he was keeping him from serving God.   And it seems God was going to kill him for his disobedience.

And of course, this raises an important question, “If by Moses not circumcising his son could keep his son from serving God, then how does that fit in with the example of men from Seth to Abram who ‘walked with God,’ served Him, and were yet uncircumcised?  The Bible does not give us an answer to any of these questions, but the narrative of the Exodus simply continues.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “UNCIRCUMCISED”?

If the point of being CIRCUMCISED is to be a part of the Abrahamic covenant, to become ONE with the family (now tribes) of Israel, and to be an outward sign that we have been sanctified, or set apart, for God’s use, then what does it mean to have “UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS“?

And Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS?  (Exodus 6:12; Emphasis Mine)

And Moses said before the LORD, Behold, I am of UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me? (Exodus 6:30; Emphasis Mine)

Certainly in making these statements, Moses is alluding here that there’s something even deeper about CIRCUMCISION than what we’ve learned so far.  In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45); therefore, “UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS” is the result of an “UNCIRCUMCISED HEART.”  And we also see this in a passage in Leviticus:

If they confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary to Me; and that I also have walked contrary to them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their UNCIRCUMCISED HEARTS be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.  (Leviticus 26:40-42; Emphasis Mine)

Here we can infer that an “UNCIRCUMCISED HEART” is proudful, arrogant, stubborn, unyielding, unrepentant, and disobedient.  Consequently, “UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS” would be those that speak words reflective of these attitudes.  So if “UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS” reflect an “UNCIRCUMCISED HEART,” then why would Moses, who is described in the Bible as the humblest of all men, describe himself as having “UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS” after Israel refused to listen to him?

I think many times we read over the biblical accounts, but we don’t stop to really consider what is being said and why.  And as a result, we end up missing the deeper lesson that God has for us in these accounts.

PASSOVER – THE FULFILLMENT OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

I think it’s wondrous that the event that freed the children of Israel and the mixed multitude from slavery was the Passover.  By having the Passover happen on the same night that Genesis 15 happened, 430 thirty years earlier to the day, God is connecting the two events.

Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came about at the end of four hundred and thirty years, TO THE VERY DAY, that all of the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.  (Exodus 12:40-41; Emphasis Mine)

Nor is this my interpretation of this statement.  Paul also makes this connection as well in his epistle to the Galatians:

What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise..  For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.  (Galatians 3:17-18)

God keeps His promises.  What He promised Abraham, He fulfilled to the very day.  And we are taught in Scripture that Passover is one of the LORD’s feasts (Leviticus 23:2, 4-5), and it is to be observed FOREVER.

And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it A FEAST TO THE LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a FEAST by an ordinance FOREVER.  (Exodus 12:14; Emphasis Mine)

Obviously, if it is to be kept as an ordinance FOREVER, then it could not have possibly ended at the cross, as many today teach.

PASSOVER AND CIRCUMCISION

And it is also during His instructions regarding Passover that God again gives instructions regarding circumcision.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover: There shall no STRANGER [Heb. nekhar] eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when you have CIRCUMCISED him, then shall he eat thereof.  (Exodus 12:43-44; Emphasis Mine)

  • Nekhar (Strong’s #5236):  That which is foreign, a foreigner, strange, a stranger.  It is used of a foreign god, of feign altars, a foreign country, and everything foreign.

A FOREIGNER [Heb. toshav] and a hired servant shall not eat thereof.  In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall you break a bone thereofAll of the congregation of Israel shall keep it. (Exodus 12:45-46; Emphasis Mine)

  • Toshav (Strong’s #8453):  A non-native settler, inhabitant, a foreigner, an alien, an emigrant.  Someone who sojourned and inhabited in a foreign country where he was not naturalized.

And when a STRANGER [Heb. ger] shall sojourn with you, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males BE CIRCUMCISED, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no UNCIRCUMCISED person shall eat thereof.  ONE LAW shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the STRANGER [Heb. ger] that sojourns among you.  (Exodus 12:47-49; Emphasis Mine)

  • Ger (Strong’s #1616):  It denotes a stranger, foreigner, alien, pilgrim, sojourner, guest, visitor.  The patriarchs were called by this term while they sojourned in the land of Canaan, and the majority of their descendants were called by this term while they were in Egypt (Exodus 23:9).  In fact, Moses named his son Gershom to commemorate his stay in Midian (Exodus 18:3).  This classification meant that one enjoyed certain civil rights but not property rights.  Much of the law of Moses applied to those who preferred to live among the Israelites.

Now in consideration of these three Hebrew terms for non-Jews, I found a couple of things interesting.  (1) The terms Nekhar and Ger are translated by the same term, “STRANGER,” even though they are the furthest apart, and Toshav, which is closer to Ger, is translated as “FOREIGN.”  (2) Regardless of the classification, God makes it clear that an “uncircumcised person [specifically a man, since women did not get circumcised] were not to eat the Passover sacrifice.

DID THE NEED FOR CIRCUMCISION END AT THE CROSS?

The majority of Christians would argue that the law, including the need for circumcision, ended at the cross; however, there’s a problem with that point of view.  And that is, during the Millennial reign of Christ would Jesus is ruling on this planet and the physical presence of God will also be on this planet, dwelling within His Temple, the law, the Temple, the Levitical Priesthood, the animal sacrifices, the feasts, the Sabbath and new moon celebrations will all come back in full force, including the requirement of circumcision.

In fact, God is very specific in Ezekiel 44:9, that no uncircumcised person is allowed in His Temple:

Thus says the LORD God; NO STRANGER, UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART, NOR UNCIRCUMCISED IN FLESH, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.

Now does this mean that Christians will not be in the Millennial Kingdom?  No, we will be there, but it does mean that we have been circumcised, we will not be allowed into the Temple.  We will be able to go as far as the outer courtyard, but no further.  And we will not be able to eat of the Passover sacrifice, unless we have been circumcised.  So ask yourself the question, if all these laws are in full force on earth when God and Jesus are in charge of everything – and everything is being done their way – then does it make any sense at all to say that Jesus died to do away with something that He’s only going to bring back when He returns?  Jesus died to do away with the law of sin, NOT the law of God.

Our problem in Christian church is that we have looked back to the cross (which we should do), but we have failed to look forward to the coming Kingdom Age of the Millennium and to form doctrines that are consistent with these two ends of the spectrum.  And there are many, many Christians who are continuing to do the same thing.  And until we start looking at both ends of the spectrum, we will continue to get it wrong.

CIRCUMCISION IN THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS

And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be CIRCUMCISED.  (Leviticus 12:3; Emphasis Mine)

So again, here in the book of Leviticus, God is just re-affirming the fact that male infants are to be circumcised on the eighth day.  But then, seven chapters later, we are met with another question:  If UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS are words that come from an UNCIRCUMCISED HEART, then what does it mean to have UNCIRCUMCISED FRUIT FROM A TREE?

And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then you shall count the fruit thereof as UNCIRCUMCISED: three years shall it be as UNCIRCUMCISED unto you: it shall not be eaten of.  (Leviticus 19:23; Emphasis Mine)

Remember to be CIRCUMCISED is an outward sign that has been set aside for God’s use and purpose, so if the FRUIT OF A TREE is UNCIRCUMCISED, then it’s not been set aside by God to be used for His purpose.  And as His people, we, likewise, are only to eat what He has declared to be CLEAN or CIRCUMCISED.  If God does not permit us to eat it, then it is wrong for us to do so.  He is the King; He sets the rules, NOT US.

CIRCUMCISION IN THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

Now in the book of Numbers, there’s to be one practice regarding offering, whether they are made by Jews or by a STRANGER (or Ger):

And if a STRANGER [Heb. ger] sojourn with you, or whoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, or a sweet savor unto the LORD; AS YOU DO, SO SHALL HE DO

After stating this, God proclaims this legislative policy to reaffirm the equality that’s to exist between the children of Israel and the non-native Gentile (or Ger):

ONE ORDINANCE shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the STRANGER [Heb. ger] that sojourns with you, an ORDINANCE FOREVER in your generations: AS YOU ARE, SO SHALL THE STRANGER [Heb. ger] be before the LORD.  ONE LAW and ONE MANNER shall be for you, and for the STRANGER [Heb. ger] that sojourns with you.  (Numbers 15:14-16; Emphasis Mine)

Just as the Passover laws are to be the same for both the native-born children of Israel and the Ger (“Stranger”; Gentile, non-Jew), so we find the general principle here in regard to the other laws as well.

CIRCUMCISION IN THE BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY

Then, finally, in the book of Deuteronomy, we again see the connection being made between CIRCUMCISION OF THE FORESKIN to be an outward sign of the CIRCUMCISION OF ONE’S HEART.

CIRCUMCISE therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.  (Deuteronomy 10:16)

The opposite of having a CIRCUMCISED HEART is to be proudful, arrogant, stubborn, stiff-necked, unyielding, unrepentant, and disobedient.   These are qualities and characteristics that take us away from God, NOT to God.

AN END-TIME PROMISE

Near the end of the book of Deuteronomy, God gives the children of Israel and the mixed multitude of Gentiles with them a promise that God is still working on fulfilling today, but it will reach its complete fulfillment during the Millennium:

That then the LORD your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from ALL THE NATIONS, wherever the LORD your God has scattered you.  If any of yours be driven out unto the THE UTMOST PARTS OF HEAVEN, from there will the LORD your God gather you, and from there will He fetch you: and the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers.  (Deuteronomy 30:3-5; Emphasis Mine)

And the LORD your God will CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEART, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and that you may live.  And the LORD your God will put all these curses upon your enemies, and on them that hate you, which persecuted you.  And you shall return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command you this day.  (Deuteronomy 30:6-8; Emphasis Mine)

CONCLUSION

So in ending our study of CIRCUMCISION within the Pentateuch, we’ve discovered that it involves so much more than simply a surgical procedure.  Men and boys who are CIRCUMCISED are identifying themselves with the Abrahamic Covenant, the family and people of Israel, but they are also identifying that they have been sanctified, or set apart, by God for His use and purpose, and are, therefore, pledging to live with CIRCUMCISED HEARTS AND MINDS (bare, open, soft and pliable) before God all the days of our lives.  To do anything else would be to defile our CIRCUMCISION.  The rest of the Bible may develop these ideas more, expound and elaborate upon them, and perhaps even add to them, but it cannot CONTRADICT them or OPPOSE them.

Now in saying this, some may wonder if I am saying that Paul was in error in his teachings about CIRCUMCISION?  But as you will see, Paul’s position was as a result of things that were going on during the first century, C.E., which had nothing to do with what God taught in His Word here in the Pentateuch.  And because most Christians do not study the Bible as a whole, since many believe that “the law” or the “Old Testament” ended at the cross, or is not to be a part of the Christian experience, they end up with a distorted view of Paul and his writings, as I will show when we get there.

 

Return to the Top

“Circumcision: What does the Bible teach about it?” (Part 1)

What does the Bible teach about circumcision?  Why was it given?  And why was it practiced without protest throughout the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”), but then 400 years after its close, why do we find in the New Testament, Paul, a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus, arguing against it for Gentiles (non-Jews)?  Is the circumcision the problem, or was there more to it than that?

CIRCUMCISION – A PART OF THE MILLENNIUM?

Some may argue that these are past issues that are not relevant any longer.  If so, then why in Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the soon-to-come Millennium, when Jesus will be ruling and reigning on earth, does God inform the Levitical priests,

Thus says the LORD God; No stranger [Gentile; non-Jew], UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART, NOR UNCIRCUMCISED IN FLESH, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.  (Ezekiel 44:9; Emphasis Mine)

God here clearly says that non-Jewish males – who are not circumcised in heart and in flesh – will not be allowed to enter the Millennial Temple.  So obviously, circumcision is a topic that’s highly relevant since we are just around the corner from the return of Jesus and His Millennial reign.

WHY ARE WE NOT DISCUSSING THIS?

Therefore, since circumcision is in our past, present, and will be in our future, shouldn’t we be discussing it?  Far too many ministers, Bible teachers, and evangelists only look at what the New Testament teaches about it, and then leaves it at that; therefore, ending up with a distorted view since they’ve only examined the last 40% of the Bible, instead of what all of the Bible has to say about it.

MY INTENDED APPROACH

To really understand the issue that Paul is facing, we first have to see what the Old Testament has to say about it, and then see what happened in those 400 years between the Old and the New Testaments to properly understand the issue at his time.  But this is what most Christians do not do, but this is what I am going to do in this mini-series on “Circumcision: What Does the Bible Teach About It?”

A COMMON CHRISTIAN MISCONCEPTION

There’s a common Christian misconception that I would like to address: “that the Old Testament is only about Jews.”  This is not true at all.  In fact, both testaments are full of Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews), not just the New Testament.  And this is important, because there’s a huge misconception that getting circumcised in some way makes “a Gentile” into “a Jew.”  And this can be easily disproved simply by studying the book of Genesis.  And this is an important piece of the puzzle to understand Paul’s argument in the New Testament.

DEFINING TERMS

First of all, before discussing this issue, we need to define some terms.  What is a “Gentile”?  What is a “Jew”?  How are they defined? The word “Gentile” comes from the Hebrew word goy, which literally means “nation;” therefore, a Gentile (Heb. goy) is one from the nations (Heb. goyim).  And in the book of Genesis, from Adam to Isaac, every human being was a Gentile.  Next, what about the word “Jew”?  According to Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin’s book, To Be A Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life (1974):

The terms Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew have historically been used synonymously and interchangeably.  The Bible refers to Abraham as Ibri (Hebrew), probably because he migrated from the other side (east) of the Euphrates River and Ibri means “from the other side.” (7)

Although Abraham and Isaac were “Hebrews,” they were not “Israel.”  Why?  Because Israel did not exist yet.  So obviously, if there were no “Israel” yet, there weren’t any “children of Israel” either.  Well, then, when did Israel begin?  When God renamed Jacob into “Israel.”  And finally, according to Rabbi Donin,

Jew is derived from Judah, the son of Israel, the most prominent of the Twelve Tribes.  This became the prevalent name for the entire people when the Judeans from the Kingdom of Judea survived the downfall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. when Ten Tribes were led into captivity. (7)

These Ten Tribes were not only “led into captivity,” but they were also scattered among the nations throughout the Assyrian and later empires, and they’ve become known as “The Lost Ten Tribes.”  But it wasn’t until the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C.E., that the term “Judean” was shortened down to “Jew,” and we find it in use.

DO WE NEED TO BE CIRCUMCISED TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?

Let’s start with the first big question, “Do we need to be circumcised to have a relationship with God?”  Now, it should be pointed out, that God has never required circumcision of females, ONLY of males.  So this is not an issue that directly deals with girls or women, but only of boys or men.  But if we look in the first twelve chapters of the book of Genesis, every male from Adam to Abram were Gentiles (non-Jews), and in this group, there’s three I want to highlight: Enoch, Noah, and Abram, all three of them descendants of Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son.

According to the Bible, Enoch and his great-grandson, Noah, both “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22; 6:9).  And not only did they “walk with God,” but they also both spoke prophetically of the future.  Enoch’s prophesy is recorded in the New Testament book of Jude:

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.  (Jude 14-15).

Noah’s prophesy is in the book of Genesis.  After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard and made some wine, and he had gotten drunk.  I personally think he may have been suffering from PTSD, but then something happens when his son, Ham, goes into the tent, sees him passed out and naked, and his other two sons get a blanket, and back into the tent and cover their father up.  Noah wakes up, realizes what had happened, and then gives the following prophesy:

Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brothers.  And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.  (Genesis 9:25-27)

Now it’s extremely critical that we note that Noah did not curse Ham, but one of Ham’s grandsons, Canaan.  For years, there were those who tried to use the cursing of Ham to justify the slavery of African-Americans, but this is a blatant misuse of Scripture.  Noah cursed Canaan, the father of the Canaanites, NOT Ham or his other sons: Cush, Mitzraim, and Phut (Genesis 10:6).

And finally, Enoch was taken into heaven without dying (we would say he was “raptured” today), much like the prophet Elijah centuries later, and Noah was preserved through a global catastrophe, the flooding of the whole planet, with only He, his wife, and his three sons and their wives (8 people) saved, along with the animals on board the ark.  They could not have prophesied or experienced being “taken into heaven” or being saved through the flood, if they had not been in a relationship with God.

Abram was the tenth generation from Noah, through his son, Shem.  And like Enoch and Noah, when God called Abram to leave his old life, city, and family to follow Him to a land that He would show him, i.e., “to walk with Him,” Abram does so, and changes not only his own life, but ultimately, he has impacted the world by his “walk with God.”   But it should be noted that Enoch, Noah, and Abram all walked with God, and yet they did so without the need of being circumcised.

ABOUT CHAPTER 17

The practice of circumcision does not begin in Scripture UNTIL Genesis 17.  This chapter is two chapters after God had already entered into covenant with Abram.  In fact, in Genesis 15, it specifically says, “On that day, God entered into covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15: 18).  And in the Hebrew text, b’yom ha-hu (“On that day”) comes before the verb for emphasis.  God is emphasizing the fact that it was ON THE DAY when He entered into covenant with Abram.

So is chapter 17, another stage in the covenant process, but if so, why does God emphasize the fact that it was in chapter 15 when He entered into covenant with him, or is chapter 17, another covenant, following chapter 15, that builds upon and extends the chapter 15 covenant? God’s covenants are eternal, and they cannot be simply “replaced” or “annulled;” consequently, the Genesis 17 covenant cannot have “replaced” the Genesis 15, nor is it “an addition,” but it’s another covenant that builds upon and extends the previous one; both continuing on together.

THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION

In Chapter 17, we read the following,

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.  And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.  And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.  A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for everlasting covenant.  (Genesis 17:10-13)

Now let’s take a sincere look at what God says here.  God tells Abraham that he is to circumcise every male, whether he’s a physical descendant or a Gentile servant, it doesn’t matter, both are to be circumcised.  And every male child, whether he’s a physical descendant or a Gentile child, if he is part of Abraham’s “camp” or Community, he is to be circumcised at eight days old.  And this is NOT a temporary covenant or commandment, but it is eternal.

Now if this covenant is eternal, can God turn around centuries later and say, “You know, I’ve changed My mind, I’m not going to do that anymore”?  No, He can’t, because the moment He does, then He lies, because He specifically said that this covenant is to be an “everlasting covenant.”  And the moment God lies, He is no longer “holy” and, therefore, no longer “God.”  Consequently, He cannot overturn it, not even with the crucifixion of Christ.

DOES CIRCUMCISION MAKE ONE “JEWISH”?

In saying this, does circumcision make one “Hebrew,” “a member of Israel,” or “Jewish”?  Let’s consider the following:

Abram circumcised himself, Ishmael (who was thirteen at the time), and all the men in his camp.   Now if being circumcised makes one Jewish, then Ishmael should be considered “Jewish,” but he’s not.  Even to this day, Arab boys get circumcised at the age of thirteen, because that’s how old Ishmael was when he was circumcised.  But because they’re still being circumcised, are these boys “Jews”?  No, they are not.

When Isaac is born, he is circumcised at eight days old in obedience to God’s command (Genesis 21:4).  And the covenant is passed on to him, not because he’s circumcised, but because God chose him to be the one to receive the covenant.  After Sara dies, Abraham has six more sons with Keturah: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 25:1-2).  These are likewise “sons of Abraham,” and there’s no reason to believe that Abraham did not circumcise these boys as well.

So if all eight sons of Abraham were circumcised, but only Isaac is considered to be one of Israel’s patriarchs (or “Jewish”), then what made him “Jewish” could not have been the fact of his circumcision, since all eight of Abraham’s sons were circumcised; instead, it had to be the fact that God had chosen to make His covenant with Isaac, and with Isaac alone.  Paul makes this same point in the book of Romans.  I’m not sure why he doesn’t include Keturah’s sons in his argument, but he doesn’t.

neither are they all children because they are all descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of promise are regarded as descendants. (Romans 9:7-8)

In addition to his eight sons, Abraham also circumcised a number of Gentile servants who had come out of Ur with him and whom he had accumulated along the way (Genesis 17:12-13, 23-27) .  This group of freshly-circumcised men were also part of Abraham’s “household,” “camp,” or “community,” but are they ever called “Hebrew”?  No, they’re not.  So again, circumcision, in of itself, does not make one a “Jew.”

Therefore, just from Abraham’s life, we can infer that God calls us to public repentance FIRST (Genesis 12:1-3), and then He enters into covenant relationship with us NEXT (Genesis 15), and THEN the circumcision flows out from that relationship (Genesis 17); therefore, circumcision does not come before the relationship, nor does it in itself guarantee one a covenant relationship with God.  This, as we can see, is the biblical pattern seen in Abraham’s life.

ISAAC AND REBEKAH

Isaac and Rebekah has two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Like Abraham, Isaac is circumcised and has the covenant, and so he, like Abraham, circumcises his two sons.  Although this is not explicitly stated, there’s no reason to believe that he didn’t circumcise them. But even though Isaac did circumcise them, Esau, his eldest son, is considered to be “Gentile,” not “Jewish.”  Why? Because God chose Jacob, and not Esau, to be the one who would inherit the covenant; therefore, again demonstrating that circumcision in itself does not guarantee a covenant relationship with God.

THE RAPE OF DINAH, JACOB’S DAUGHTER

Although the Bible does not explicitly say that Jacob circumcised his twelve sons, it can be inferred from the account of Dinah’s, his daughter’s, rape by Shechem, the son of Hamor (Genesis 34) that he did.  After the rape is discovered, Hamor and his son, Shechem, meet with Jacob/Israel and his twelve sons.  Shechem desires Dinah’s hand in marriage.  However, Jacob/Israel tells them that they cannot intermarry with any one who does not believe in and worship the same God they do, and they need to be circumcised before they can be ONE PEOPLE (Genesis 34:14-24).  On the third day after all the men of the city are circumcised (Genesis 34:20-24), Jacob’s sons, led by Simeon and Levi, use this time of recovery to go into the city to kill all the men, to pillage the city, and to retrieve their sister back (Genesis 34:25-31).

From this account, we can see that there were two requirements here for a Gentile (or non-Jewish) man to become one with the people of Israel:

  • They must believe in and worship the same God; and
  • They must be circumcised.

However, being one with the people of Israel was not a requirement for one to be a worshiper of God.  Since everyone from Adam, Shem and his lineage down to Abram, as well as the High Priest, Melchizedek, that Abram honored with tithes (Genesis 14:17-24), were worshipers of God and, yet, all were Gentiles who had not been circumcised.  So does the book of Genesis prove that you must be circumcised to be a believer and worshiper of God?  No, circumcision is only required if one wishes to become one with the family and people of Israel.

JOSEPH, MANASSEH AND EPHRAIM

The book of Genesis ends with the life and death of Joseph, the firstborn son of Jacob/ Israel and Rachel.  Due to things his brothers do to show disrespect and dishonor to their father, Israel passes on the leadership to Joseph, represented by giving him “a coat of many colors.”  His brothers now hate him for this, and instead of killing him, the sell him into slavery.  He is ultimately taken to Egypt where he’s abused, falsely accused, and sentenced to an Egyptian prison.  But as a result of his gift to accurately interpret dreams, Joseph ends up being made the governor of all Egypt, second highest position to the Pharaoh himself.

Also, his name is changed to Zaphenath-paneah (a Gentile name), and he’s given an Egyptian woman, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, to be his wife (Genesis 41:45).  But right before the arrival of a seven-year drought, Joseph and Asenath, his Gentile wife, have two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 41:50-51).  But it’s then during the drought in the Middle East, his brothers come down to buy from the stored up food supplies, but they don’t recognize Joseph with his new Gentile name, his new Gentile appearance and speaking Egyptian, a Gentile language.   But ultimately, after some times of testing to see if they changed, he reveals himself to them, and the family is reunited.

GENESIS IN SUMMARY

In the book of Genesis, we see God’s creative hand in calling out one man, Abram, from all the other Gentiles in the world, and from his eight sons, God chooses one son, Isaac, and from his two sons, God chooses one son, Jacob, and then recreates and transforms him into a new entity in the earth that would ultimately become a nation, called “Israel.”  But until there was an “Israel,” there could not be an “Israelite.”  And, of course, the sons of Israel would ultimately become “the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Therefore, to call the book of Genesis a purely “Jewish” book would be a clearly flippant misrepresentation of the facts.

However, what we do learn about circumcision is that it was part of the Genesis 17 covenant with Abraham and his seed,

  • Every male, who is to be part of Abraham’s “camp” or “family” is to be circumcised, whether he’s a physical descendant or a Gentile servant, it doesn’t matter, both are to be circumcised;
  • An uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be “cut off” from his people; and
  • This is an everlasting or eternal covenant.

And from Jacob’s interaction with Shechem, we learn two things that are required to be ONE with the people and family of Israel:

  • They must believe in and worship the same God; and
  • They must be circumcised.

In Part 2 of this series, we will continue to examine what the Bible has to say about circumcision in the rest of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible).

 

Return to the Top

HARDWARE ESPIONAGE – A MODERN PARABLE AND INTERPRETATION

“John, Are we ready to release the new model tomorrow,” Mr. G. was indeed excited about the new computer program he had designed.  It would make all the modern computers look like the old PAC-MAN games in comparison.

“Yes, sir.”  John smiled as he made sure they were ready for mass production tomorrow.

“Good, let’s go home then.  We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”  Mr. G, John, and the other workers go home for the night.

During the night, though, Mr. S., the owner of one of the competing companies, broke into Mr. G.’s factory.  He found the reproduction model and spent some time altering some of the basic hardware in the board.  “By the time they figure out what happened, they will have so many recalls, it will take them years to fix.”  After making several slight alterations, he was able to sneak out without being detected.

The next day, Mr. G. and his crew began mass production of their new computer, and as Mr. S. predicted, it was about a month or so into production when they started getting the first complaints.  Looking into the original model, the technicians found what someone had done.  “Sir,” they asked, “should we recall all of the new computers?”

“Let’s notify the public about the recall, and then as each computer comes in, we can begin the process of fixing it,” Mr. G. saddened by what one of his competitors had done to damage his new computer system.

GOD’S ORIGINAL DESIGN

In much the same way, God’s original design, Adam and Eve, was the grandest of all His creations.  He had made them “in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27).  He was excited at the prospect of them reproducing and filling the earth with descendants who would also be in God’s “image and likeness.”

God had designed this beautiful planet for them to love on, wondrous animal and plant life for them to enjoy, and everything was at peace.  There were no sickness, disease, killing or death.  It was a place that left one in awe of the God who created and designed all of its most intricate features.  He told them they could enjoy all that was there in the Garden; however, there was only one rule:  They could not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden.  All the other fruit trees and food growing in the Garden, they could eat, just not that one tree.  If they ate from it, God warned, they would die.

SPIRITUAL ESPIONAGE

But like in the parable, the serpent came into the garden and committed “spiritual espionage,” by bringing about a “hardware” defect in the original man and woman.  By getting the man and woman to begin to question their Creator and Manufacturer, they planted a seed for a defect that was formed when they broke the one and only rule of this wonderful Garden.   The serpent had succeeded in bringing about an alteration in their basic programming, creating what I call, “An Inversion Program.” The alteration, though, is not in the “software” of their design (their learning and experiences) but in their very “hardware” (a level deeper than even their DNA).  This alteration changes the desired outcome from the couple reflecting God to reflecting a distorted “Fun House” image of God.

THE IMMEDIATE RESULTS

The immediate result was that they were “disconnected” from the Creator.  He was their spiritual life force, and without Him, they died spiritually.  The Creator realized that His perfect design had been altered and changed.  As a result, it was necessary to drive the original couple out of His perfect Garden since there was another tree, “The Tree of Life,” that had fruit that, if they ate it, they would’ve lived forever in their current “disconnected” and altered condition.  This would not be acceptable since they would spend eternity in a progressive state of death, so He drove them out.

Also, each was punished with hard labor.  The man in working the soil to bring forth food, and the woman in working to bring forth children.  In addition, since the man and the woman had died spiritually, they brought into God’s perfect earth sickness, disease, misery, pain, and death.

Also, this “disconnect” from His perfect, holy character led to them reflecting imperfect, unholy traits and qualities, such as lying, coveting, stealing, disobedience, and even murder. And after several millennium, we can now see the results of the disintegration of the Creator’s original designs within humanity to what it is today.

ABOUT THE DESIGN DEFECTS

In the Bible, the “hardware defect” is called “the law of sin” or, sometimes, “sin” for short. It’s a defect in our hardware in that it alters, changes, or completely inverts what God has given to us in its purpose.  For example, He gave us a mouth to speak love, kindness, and blessing, but due to the defect, we use it to speak hatred, anger, cruelty, and cursing.  The complete opposite of what God intended.

The ultimate problem is because God, the Creator, is perfect, and everything where He lives is also “defect free” (there’s no sin) in its own design and purpose; consequently, He cannot allow anyone in where He lives (we call “heaven”) who has these “hardware issues.”  Also, it’s not just an “easy fix,” because depending on the person and their experiences, the “hardware issues” vary, so it’s not the same areas that needs to be “fixed” in each person.

THE FIRST ATTEMPT – A “NO GO.”

God did not just come up with a plan to “correct” the problem; instead, He began working on this issue right away.  However, most people ignored His re-call that there was a problem and that they needed readjustments made to their design.  Instead, it got to the point where if they kept going, they would have completely annihilated one another.  He had no choice but to destroy almost everyone on the planet, and begin again, with one man and his family; he was the only one who had been allowing Him access into his life. His name was Noah.

GOD “CLEANS” THE ENTIRE OPERATING SYSTEM

God has Noah build an ark large enough to save him, his wife, three sons and their wives, and certain animals.  At that time, the species of each animal was not as diverse as it is today; consequently, the issue was not as problematic as many scientists make it out to be.   Also, all aquatic animals did not need to be placed on the ark, so it was only land animals and birds that needed to be there.

Once the ark was built and Noah, his family and the animals were safely on board, God shut them in, and He then began cleansing the system.  God immersed the entire planet under water by —

  • having the subterranean water table break through the ocean floor around the world (evidence of which is still seen on the ocean floor) into the atmosphere;
  • the added precipitation resulted in a 40 day and 40 night deluge of rain; and
  • added to that, the water canopy that surrounded the planet collapsed in on the planet.  This water canopy protected everything on the earth from the sun’s deadly RV rays, slowing the aging process to the point where people prior to the flood lived up to almost 1,000 years old.  However, after the flood, we see a dramatic 88% drop in human life expectancy, from 1,000 years to 120 years.

With the collapse of the water canopy and the breaking open of the ocean floor, this likewise caused a quick break-up and movement of the continents (evidence of which is still seen on the ocean floor, not the slow movement erroneously taught by most scientists).  Consequently, the world after the flood was, in fact, a very different world than the one Noah and his family, and even the animals, knew before they had entered the ark.

GOD’S “RE-CONNECTION” PROGRAM

The basis of God’s “re-connection program” is much more complex in structure than what is often presented.  First, the foundation of the program had to be established, and then structural elements, as well as other necessary details, before the final stage of the program could be enacted.  The problem with mainstream Christianity’s presentation of this program is that it only pays attention to the final stage and completely disconnects it from the previous required stages that were needed to set up the foundation, framework, and context of this entire program.

Ten generations after the flood, God begins laying the foundation of His new “re-connection program,” called “covenant,” which He made with a man named Abram.  The basic promise of what this program would accomplish can be found in the first book of God’s Kingdom Manual, commonly called “the Bible,” in Genesis 12:1-3.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Get out of your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, and into a land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: And I will bless those who bless you, and curse those that curse you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

The goal of God’s plan was to establish a nation of people in the earth that He might bless, so that they, in turn, might be a blessing to others and, ultimately, become a blessing to the whole world.  And what we see in the Bible, and through history, including today, is God’s continuing struggle, working with people, to bring about this ultimate goal.

THE DIAGRAM OF GOD’S PROGRAM

In Genesis 15, we see the basic diagram of this “re-connection program” called “covenant.”  It was a process already known to Abram, but now, he would be entering into covenant with God.  To do this, God told him to get the following:

a heifer of three years, a she goat of three years, a ram of three years, a turtledove and a young pigeon. (Genesis 15:9)

God then had Abram cut the animals in half lengthwise, except for the two birds.  He then laid the two halves on opposite sides of one another, forming an aisle, called “the walk of death.”  Usually, two people would walk between the halves and then meet in the middle, where they would exchange promises (or vows) and curses of what would happen to the other person, if he were to violate the covenant).

But when it came time for Abram to enter into this covenant with God, he was placed in a deep sleep, and God walked these pieces alone.  By doing so, He was promising not only to keep His covenant with Abram and his seed, but He was also promises to die a physically, painful death, if Abram or any of his seed should sin.

HE BEGINS BUILDING THE PROGRAM

And when was this covenant made?  We are told in Exodus 12:

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even THE SELFSAME DAY it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41; Emphasis Mine)

And about fifteen centuries later, Paul writes about this same moment:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He says not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ.  And this I say, that the COVENANT, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, which was FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS AFTER, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but GOD GAVE IT TO ABRAHAM BY PROMISE.  (Galatians 3:16-18; Emphasis Mine)

In the Exodus from Egypt, the verbal part of this covenant was fulfilled 430 years later, but on the cross, the nonverbal part of this covenant was fulfilled.  God came down, in the person of Jesus Christ, and He kept His promise to Abram: He died a physically, painful death, and so now the entry requirement to the covenant is no longer based on a vision, but on a historic event: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By asking God to forgive us of our sins and accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are made part of “the seed of Abraham,” and we become heirs of all that God promised to Abraham and his seed:

And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (Galatians 3:29)

THE PROGRAM IS READY – WILL YOU ASK FOR GOD’S DOWNLOAD?

Our Creator and Manufacturer, God, has developed a process that will allow Him to “fix” the defects and problems that Mr. S. (“Satan”) has caused within the original “production models.”  He, like Mr. G. in the parable, has also put out a “recall” for every one to come and be “reconnected” to Him.

This “reconnect” involves us “downloading His Spirit into our hearts and lives,” which will restart our own “spirit,” allowing God access to all the various parts of our lives to begin working on the various areas of defect and associated issues and problems. This recall is known as “the Gospel” (or “Good News”).  The Good News is that God has opened the way for everyone to come, “reconnect” with Him, experience real spiritual life and begin the process of having our “hardware defects” corrected.

The first step in this process is accept God’s “download”:  by coming to God, admitting we are a sinner (we’ve violated His instructions in His Manual), asking Him to forgive us of our sins, and then asking Jesus to come into our hearts and be our Lord and Savior, but not to give Him a part of our lives, but all of it over to Him completely, so that He can get into every area of our lives and make all those needed “corrections,” “changes,” “adjustments,” and alterations.”  Will you accept Him?  He’s only waiting on you.  He has all that He needs to begin; He just needs you to open the doorway of your heart.

 

Return to the Top

The Mark of the Beast, Deception & Five American Values

The Bible warns us against the coming Anti-Christ and the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18).  According to Scripture, those who receive this mark, either in the right hand or the forehead, are forever damned to the Lake of Fire and Brimstone.  There is no possible forgiveness left from God once the mark has been accepted by the individual.  It is tragic that I’ve heard a “free grace pastor” teach his congregation that even if they took the mark, God could still forgive them, even though this is in direct contradiction to the Bible (Revelation 14:9-11).

DECEPTIONS WITHIN THE CHURCH

We are living in a time of DECEPTION, and therefore, the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit must become our only standard of truth.  The Holy Spirit will NEVER violate any part of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, but will remind us of what we have already studied and learned, as well as illuminate and explain connections within the Scriptures.

And as prophesied about the last days,  we are now in that time of strong delusion and deception, even within the Christian faith, as the pastor above illustrates.  Nor is he an isolated case, there are many pastors, ministers, Bible teachers, and TV evangelists who are teaching half-truths, deceptions, and errors from the pulpits in America today.  For example, I was listening to a well-known TV pastor or evangelist, who said in his sermon:

The life and teachings of Jesus were part of the Old Testament, and since we, as Christians, are not under the Old Testament, then we are not under the teachings of Jesus either. All that’s relevant for us, as Christians, today is from the cross on, and that’s all.

And he is not the only one teaching this either.  This is why we need to read and study the Bible for ourselves, so we can see if what we are being taught lines up with the revelation of the WHOLE BIBLE, not just parts here and there.

DECEPTIONS WITHIN SOCIETY

But not only do we need to be wary of what is being taught within the church today, but we also need to be wary of what our society and culture is teaching us today as well.  We’re being taught to see all religions as being equally valid,  that there’s more than just two genders, male and female, that there’s nothing wrong with pre-marital sex, that adultery, homosexuality, incest, and even beastiality can be practiced and one can still be “a Christian.”  I’ve seen people online claiming to be “Christian Witches,” “Christian Wiccans,” and even “Christian Prostitutes,” not to mention that there are gay priests and pastors, and even now a LGBTQ baptismal.  These are all things that God rejects in His Word, the Bible.  Rather than telling these people that they need to repent and turn away from their lives of sin, they’re being embraced into the various ministries and leadership positions of the church.

FIVE ANTI-BIBLICAL AMERICAN VALUES

But not only do we find deceptions being accepted within our churches and society, but there are also anti-biblical attitudes which are also clearly evident within the American society as well.  And these attitudes are held by both those outside and inside of the church.  And the one consistency we see in all of the following five attitudes and beliefs is that they exclude God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And it is these attitudes and beliefs which will make the accepting of “the Mark of the Beast” something that people will freely accept; many of them will not have to be forced to accept it at all.

1.  Self-Determination: “This is my life; I’ll live it my way

This belief asserts that the individual is master over his or her own life, and is, therefore, free to choose how to live that life: what to believe, say, eat, what career to choose, who to sleep with, marry, etc.  This attitude and belief is seen reflected in songs like “I Did It My Way,” or even in TV commercials that encourage people to “Have It Your Way.”  When I was teaching college English, I read many essays, written by students, men and women, who made assertions like this concerning their lives, including students who said they were Christians, but argued, for example, that abortion was a woman’s right because “It’s her body, she can decide what she wants to do with it, and no one else should be able to tell her to do otherwise.”

There are several problems with this position.  First of all, it doesn’t recognize that the “right” that the woman had was having sex with a man.  The pregnancy was the result of that choice.  Consequently,  the option to terminate a pregnancy teaches men and women, that they don’t have to take any responsibility for the choices that they make.

Secondly, the pro-abortion argument is based on the exceptions and rare instances, not the rule.  According to statistics, only 5% of pregnancies are the result of rape, incest, and may endanger the mother’s life.  5%.  So even if we agree that not all women report a rape and we triple the statistic, that would still only be 15%, a far cry from the majority of the cases.  That means that AT LEAST 85% OF ABORTIONS ARE USED FOR BIRTH CONTROL.  At least 85% of abortions could be prevented if the man, woman or both would simply plan ahead and use contraceptions.

A final problem with this attitude and belief is that it is in direct opposition to what is taught by the early Christians and the Scriptures.  For example, one of the earliest Christian writings outside of the New Testament is called the DIDACHE (pron. “Did-ah-kay“), or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” and its dated between 75 – 150 C.E.  There were Church Fathers who argued that it should be included in the New Testament, since it was written during the same time period as much of the New Testament, or at the latest, fifty years afterwards, but they did not win out.  In Didache 2:1-2, it says,

The second commandment of the teaching is: “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery”; you shall not corrupt boys; you shall not be sexually promiscuous; “you shall not steal;” you shall not practice magic; you shall not engage in sorcery; YOU SHALL NOT ABORT A CHILD OR COMMIT INFANTICIDE.  “You shall not covet your neighbor”s possession.”

The “corruption of boys” being done by many Catholic priests is a clear violation with this teaching as well, as all as we can see, and men and women being “sexually promiscuous,” and abortion and infanticide.  These are NOT new beliefs of the Christian faith, but they date all the way back to the time period of the Apostles themselves.

Also, the Bible teaches us that we no longer own our bodies, because God “purchased” us by Jesus’ death.  The Bible teaches that when we give our lives to God and make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we are making Him our “Master” or “Owner.”  This is what the word “Lord” means, “Master, Owner.”  The word “redeemed” means to be “bought” or “purchased,” and Jesus redeemed us with His own blood, which He shed for us on the cross.  So how can we say, “It’s my body; I’ll do what I want”?  If that’s the case, then did you take your life back from Christ?

Biblically, if you are a Christian, then you may be the steward or manager of your life and body, but you are NOT the owner, Christ is.  So biblically speaking, what right do you have to end a life in a body that doesn’t even belong to you, since you are no longer the owner of that body?  This is why Paul writes in Galatians 2:20,

I AM CRUCIFIED with Christ; nevertheless, I live, yet NOT I, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME, and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me and gave His life for me.

Notice that we are “crucified with Christ,” and that it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us now.  Our bodies are the Temple of God.  It belongs to Him, not to us, so what right do we have to tell God what we are going to do with what belongs to Him?  On the other hand, if you’ve taken your life back from Him, then yes, you have the right to do with it as you will.  But if you have ownership, just understand, that means that God doesn’t.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?  FOR YOU HAVE BEEN BOUGHT WITH A PRICE; therefore glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20; emphasis mine)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, EVEN DENYING THE MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. (2 Peter 2:1-2; emphasis mine)

Worthy are You [Jesus/Yeshua] to take the book, and to break its seals; for You were slain, and DID PURCHASE FOR GOD WITH YOUR BLOOD Men [and women] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9; emphasis mine)

We can see this same attitude over and over again throughout Scripture.   For example, we see this attitude in the young Jewish virgin girl, name Mary (Heb. Mir’yam), Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) mother, when visited by the angel Gabriel.  After receiving the news that she was going to conceive and give birth to a son, and she was to name Him “Jesus” (Heb. Yeshua) and further prophecies regarding His coming rule and reign upon the earth, she responded by saying,

Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

The term “bondslave” here in the New American Standard Bible is translated in the King James Version as “handmaiden,” but the Greek word here, doulos, means “slave.”  In John MacArthur’s book Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ, he notes the following:

Whenever it [the Greek word doulos] is used, both in the New Testament and in secular Greek literature, it always and only means slave. (16)

Interestingly, he also notes that the word “slave” (Gk. doulos) “appears 124 times in the original [Greek] text” (15).  But “in almost every English version – going back to both the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it,” the word “slave” has been translated as “servant” due to “the stigmas attached to slavery in Western society” (17).  So in Mary’s response, she is acknowledging God as her “Master,” and she is agreeing to do what He has said.

Slavery in ancient Israel and in the first century, C.E., though, was not like it was in America.  In fact, if the Colonists had actually followed the Bible, there never would have been slavery in the United States.  Biblical slavery was designed so people could pay off their debts.  They didn’t have welfare or food stamps back then.  So, for example,  Jacob wanted Rachel to be his wife, but he did not have the money to pay for the dowry, so he indentured himself (or became Laban’s slave) for a period of 7 years, so that he could work to pay off the price of the dowry.   This is how it worked in the ancient world.  Both sides agreed to the terms, and once the debt (or amount) had been paid and the terms satisfied, then the individual was allowed to go free.  America, though, violated this model over and over again.

On the other hand, there were slaves who were treated and cared for better being someone’s slave than they would be as a “free man.”  So in response, the person would choose to be that person’s slave for life.  This is what was known as a “bondslave.”  How one became a “bondslave” is described in Exodus 21:5-6,

And if the servant [slave] shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.  Then his master shall bring him unto the judges, he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

So in the ancient world, the wearing of an ear-ring identified one as a “bondslave.” Even the word “Lord,” I discovered has “slave connotations.”  Like most people today, I have used the word “Lord” in reference to Messiah [Christ] the majority of my life, but I used it just thinking that it meant “God.”  I used it that way because I heard other people use it and how they used it.  But as I said, the word “Lord” actually means “Master” or “Owner.”

God is called “Lord,” because He created all things; therefore, He owns everything that He created.  Just like any artist today, if they create something, they own what they created.   But man and woman sinned, and by so doing, they rejected Him and His claim of ownership.  And when they did this, they did not gain the freedom that they believed they would, but they were enslaved instead to sin and to the kingdom of darkness.

This is why Messiah (Christ) came to die for us, so He could free us from sin, and bring us back into fellowship with God and to be a part of His kingdom.  By His suffering and death on the cross,  Messiah (Christ) redeemed or “purchased us” for Himself.  So when we acknowledge what Messiah has done and we give our lives to Him, and we accept Him as our “Lord” and “Savior,” we are giving Him the “ownership rights” to our lives; and therefore,  we do not belong to ourselves.  We now belong to God.  He now becomes the rightful Owner and Master of our lives, not us.  Consequently, to say “This is My life, and I will do what I want with it” is a clear denial and recognition of God’s right of ownership.  It is a belief or attitude that’s clearly represented by the Mark of the Beast.

2.  Self-Sufficiency & Independence: The belief that I am to be self-sufficient and take care of myself.

This is also a belief that runs contrary to Scripture, because it excludes God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).  It is the belief that “I don’t need anyone else to help me, I can do it myself.” In America, this belief is looked upon as an ideal, something to strive for.  We in America have been taught by our society and culture that this is what it means to be an adult.  However, when we look to Messiah (Christ) as our model, we find a very different ideal. Jesus (Yeshua) never went about doing His own will, but the will of His Father (God):

I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  (John 5:30)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).

For example, Jesus (Yeshua) sought only to do the Father’s will, not His own, in regard to what He said and taught, His doctrine, which was given to Him by the Father:

My doctrine is not Mine, but His [God’s] that sent Me.  (John 7:16)

For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.  (John 12:49-50)

If a man love Me [Jesus], he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings [or teachings]: and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.  (John 14:23-24)

So over and over again, we see in the Gospels that Jesus (Yeshua) lived a life that was completely dependent upon God in every way: what He said and what He did.  And sometimes this was a struggle for Him.  This is most clearly evident in His prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Father, if You be willing, remove this cup [His upcoming passion] from Me; nevertheless NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.   And there appeared an angel to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  (Luke 22:42-44; Emphasis Mine)

Even though Jesus (Yeshua) suffered great agony here in the Garden, He still submitted Himself to the will of the Father.  Paul highlights this in his epistle to the church at Philippi:

HE [Jesus/Yeshua] HUMBLED HIMSELF, and BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH,  EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.  Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus [Yeshua] every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:8-11; Emphasis Mine)

Jesus (Yeshua) lived His life totally dependent and obedient to God in all things, and as a result, God rewarded Him by elevating Him to the second highest position of authority in all of creation.  Although as God, Jesus already had this position, but as a human being, He did not.  It had to be given to Him.  Only God the Father is higher in authority than He is now.  Consequently, Jesus (Yeshua) is our role model on how we are to live our lives.  We must ask ourselves each day: Are we seeking to be dependent upon God?  Are we obeying God in all things?  Do we seek His will in all that He taught from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21?  Or are we seeking to do our will instead?  Who do we see on the throne of our lives whenever we need to make a decision?

3.  Self-Dependence: The belief that we can fix whatever problems arise ourselves.

Again, when we seek to fix our own problems, instead of looking to God and the leading of His Spirit, we are leaving Him out of our lives, and by so doing, we are embracing the attitudes and beliefs of the Beast.  Am I saying that it is wrong to fix problems that arise?  No, I am saying that it is wrong when we try to do it on our own and leave God and Jesus (Yeshua) out of it.  We must learn to work WITH the Lord to get things done, not APART from Him.  You may think your way will work best, but He may have a much better way, if we would only listen to Him.

4.  Compassionate Diplomacy: The belief that through diplomacy and compassion we can solve any conflict peacefully, whether at the local, national, and international levels.

Again, am I saying that diplomacy is wrong?  No, but even in diplomacy, we should seek the mind and will of God in the matter.  God has insights into situations that we just do not have.  He does not just look on the surface of the situation like we do; instead, He can see into the very hearts and thoughts of all those involved.  He can also see the past, the present, and the future all at the same time, we cannot.   Therefore, it is to our benefit to seek His wisdom and counsel in any matter.

5.  Trust in Human Potential: The belief that with the right time and technology, we can make this into a better world.

This is a belief held by many, and although science has discovered and invented many wonderful things, God is the one who gave us the capability to make such discoveries and inventions.  But He also gave us a free will, so we may choose what to do with that capability, either to use it to do good or to do evil.  Science has been used to do good, such as to create medicines to heal, but it has also been used to do evil, such as create weapons of mass destruction, like chemical weapons or the atomic bomb.

Why are these the attitudes that make one susceptible to receiving the “Mark of the Beast”?  Because God and Jesus (Yeshua) are not a part of any of them; it is the attitude that people can face issues, problems, and fix their own lives without God and His Son, and this is evident in the number 666.  Because man was created on the 6th day, the number 6 represents man.  Notice here we have the first 6 (man) being brought together with the last 6 (man) through the efforts of the middle 6 (man): man being reconciled with man through man.  There’s no God, no Jesus, no Gospel, no new birth.  Everything is done by human effort and human effort alone.

Therefore, in contrast to the various Christian movies that deal with the end days, such as the Thief in the Night series and Left Behind series, I do not believe that people will be forced to receive the Mark of the Beast; instead, I can see many people receiving it because it will already fit into their own American beliefs and values.  For many people today, God is an aspect of their life, something they do on Sundays, but He is not the center of their life.  And there are many people today who believe that Jesus is “a way” to God, but He’s not the only way.  Therefore, opening the door to the receiving of the Mark.

Therefore, only those who have Jesus and the Bible as the center of their lives will not be deceived, but will see through the deception and will not take the Mark.  It is my prayer that your eyes will likewise be open, and that you will also see the dangerous position we are in as a nation, as we continue to go step-by-step towards the embracing of the kingdom of the Anti-Christ.

 

Return to the top

Has the New Testament Replaced the Old? A New Look at 2 Corinthians 3

If a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, what about when the Bible is being divided against itself?  Will it stand?  There’s more and more ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists who are teaching that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament.  But does the Bible really present two separate revelations, or is it that Christians don’t understand how the New Testament is really still part of the Old Testament?

THE BIBLE – ONE OR TWO REVELATIONS?

The argument that the Bible contains two separate revelations from God has been a part of Christianity almost since its very beginning.  The seed for the Two-Revelation argument was planted when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 70 C.E. The Christians (Gentile or non-Jewish branch of the early church) interpreted this as God turning His back on Israel and the Jewish people, including the Jewish disciples of Jesus, who were called “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), or who identified themselves as “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14).

As time went on, more and more Christians began to identify themselves as “the New Israel,” “the New People of God,” and to reinforce this idea, they also taught that “the New Testament” (representing the church) had replaced “the Old Testament” (representing Israel). This belief system became known as “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology.”  This doctrine of “Supersessionism” still continues in some branches and expressions of Christianity; however, there are many Protestant denominations who have rejected the idea that the Church has replaced Israel, but most of them still retain the idea that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament.

OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT – NOT THE BIBLICAL BOOKS?

There’s a wide misconception within the church about what constitutes the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”  This misconception is the result, I believe, in the same two names being given by men to the two main portions of the Bible.  God never gave these two titles to the books within His Scriptures.  For example, neither God nor any biblical writer ever uses the term “Old Testament” to refer to the first thirty-nine books of the Bible, nor do they ever use the term “New Testament” to refer to the last twenty-seven books of the Bible.  But in the church today, it’s important that we understand this, because there are ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists who are using this misunderstanding to exclude more and more of our Bible from us.

For instance, less than ten years ago, I was listening to a well-known TV pastor and evangelist, and I just could not believe what he told his congregation and TV audience in his sermon:

The life and teachings of Jesus were part of the Old Testament, and since we, as Christians, are not under the Old Testament, then we are not under the teachings of Jesus either. All that’s relevant for us, as Christians, today is from the cross on, and that’s all.

The scary thing to me is that he is not the only one teaching this.  I have found this same idea being taught by more and more ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists.  But can you imagine the audacity of any minister saying that the Lord’s life and teachings were not for Christians?  This means “the Beatitudes,” “the Lord’s Prayer,” the parables of “the Good Samaritan,” “the Prodigal Son,” as well as His standards for discipleship, among all His other teachings are not for Christians today.

And not only is he teaching that we are not under Jesus’ life and ministry, but he doesn’t even realize that the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” do not refer to the books within our Bibles.  How can he accurately teach his congregation the Bible when he apparently doesn’t even understand something as basic as this?

And what’s even more frightening is that I’ve heard ministers and Bible teachers claiming that the book of Acts is “a transitional book,” meaning that God’s focus and teachings, they say, transition away from the people of Israel (first part of the book) to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world (second part of the book).   And when you compare this teaching to the previous one, then it seems logical to conclude that they are both attempting to justify the elimination of even more Scripture from us as Christians: first, the Old Testament; then, the life and teachings of Jesus, and more recently, the first part of the book of Acts.   As a result, my question is, “What other portions of the New Testament will they eliminate next?”

WHAT IS THE “OLD TESTAMENT”?

So let’s unravel this theological mess.  But before we can correctly understand what the Bible means by the “New Testament,” we must first accurately understand the “Old Testament.”  This phrase, “Old Testament” [Gk. palais diatheke] is only found in one verse in the whole Bible: 2 Corinthians 3:14.  It’s not found anywhere else.

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT; which veil is done away in Christ.

If we place this verse back into context of the chapter, then what we see Paul contrasting are the writing of God’s law “on the tables of stone” and His law “written in our hearts.”  In all the Bible, there’s only one law that’s been written on “tables of stone”: the Ten Commandments.

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

But if the ministration of death, WRITTEN AND ENGRAVEN IN STONES, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?  (2 Corinthians 3:7-8; Emphasis Mine)

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished; but their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT; which veil is done away in Christ.  But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. (2 Corinthians 3:13-15; Emphasis Mine)

Clearly, then, the phrase “OLD TESTAMENT” refers to the TEN COMMANDMENTS, and not to anything else in the “Old Testament” Scriptures.   And when we look at the five books of Moses, there are narratives, genealogies, and also commandments, statutes, testimonies, and judgments.  But the Ten Commandments are what is referred to as “the words of the covenant”:

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.  And he wrote upon the tables THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT, the TEN COMMANDMENTS. (Exodus 34:28; Emphasis Mine)

And He declared unto you His COVENANT, which He commanded you to perform, even TEN COMMANDMENTS; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. (Deuteronomy 4:13; Emphasis Mine)

And the LORD delivered to me TWO TABLES OF STONE written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spoke with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.  And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the TWO TABLES OF STONE, even the TABLES OF THE COVENANT. (Deuteronomy 9:10-11; Emphasis Mine)

So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the TWO TABLES OF THE COVENANT were in my two hands. (Deuteronomy 9:15; Emphasis Mine)

Consider these unique features of the TEN COMMANDMENTS:

  • They were the only commandments spoken audibly by God to the nation of Israel as a whole;
  • After God audibly gives the Ten Commandments to His people, Moses goes up the Mt. Sinai, where God adds to the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:22-23:33, where Moses then writes everything down, Exodus 20:1 – 23:33 down in a book.  He then reads the book to the nation of Israel, and Moses calls it “the book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:7);
  • The children of Israel offer burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen.  Moses takes half the blood and puts in on the altar, and then the other half, he places it in basins, and Moses takes the blood and he sprinkles it on the people, saying, “Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you” (Exodus 24:8);
  • Afterwards, Moses, Aaron, Nadag, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel had a covenant meal with God, in which all of them saw God (Exodus 24:9-11); and
  • They were the only commandments that were written by the finger of God on two tablets of stone.

This only happened once in all of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings.  It did not happen with any of the other instructions, commandments and laws that God gave to Moses, making this portion of Scripture in all of the Bible unique since God has never again spoken His Word audibly for an entire nation of people to hear at once.

And that the “OLD TESTAMENT” [GK.  palais diatheke] is the TEN COMMANDMENTS is reinforced even more when we go back and look at the event in Exodus 34 that Paul is alluding to in 2 Corinthians 3:

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not the skin on his face shone while he talked with Him.  And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.  And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation return to him: and Moses talked with them.  And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.  But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out.  And he came out, and spoke unto the children of Israel that which He commanded.  And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.  (Exodus 34:29-35)

What does Paul mean when he writes, “for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT [the TEN COMMANDMENTS]; which veil is done away in Christ.  But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:14-15)?  What is “the veil”?  The veil was worn because the people were afraid of the Presence of God on Moses’ face, which came from his times of interactions with God.

So when he says that this “same veil remains untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament” is he saying that they are still afraid of the Presence of God?  Is he saying that his people, the Jews, are still using Moses as a mediator between them and God?  He then says that this “veil is done away in Christ”?  Is this because when they accept Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) as Lord and Savior, the Presence of God comes to live within them?  Is this what he is saying?  But then he concludes by saying that “even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart”?  Is this in reference to all of the five books of Moses, or is this still in reference to only the Ten Commandments?

As you can see, when we start comparing Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3, there are many questions that we can ask and wonder about.  I really don’t think that the point that Paul is making with the veil is as clear as it could’ve been.  It still leaves a lot of questions.

Also, in this chapter,  Paul sees the “Ten Commandments” as “the ministration of death,” because when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets, the people were worshiping the golden calf, and as a result, three thousand people were killed (Exodus 32:26-28).

SO WHAT IS THE “NEW TESTAMENT”?

So if the “OLD TESTAMENT” is the “TEN COMMANDMENTS” written on “TABLES OF STONE,” then what is the “NEW TESTAMENT“?  If we look at 2 Corinthians 3 again, the “NEW TESTAMENT” is the same “TEN COMMANDMENTS” written on the tables of our hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

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

But in Paul’s epistle, the “NEW TESTAMENT” – the writing of the TEN COMMANDMENTS upon our hearts by the Spirit is what gives us life.

…but our sufficiency is of God; who also has made us able ministers of the NEW TESTAMENT; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills (3,000 died at the base of Mt. Sinai), but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

On the day of Pentecost, the same feast in which the Ten Commandments were originally given, Jesus’ disciples were in the Upper Room, all in one accord, when the Holy Spirit fell on them as “tongues of fire,” and they began to speak in tongues as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  And at the end of Peter’s Sermon that followed, 3,000 people were saved or “made alive.”  Therefore, as Paul says, the Spirit gives life.

Therefore, the “OLD COVENANT,” the Ten Commandments written in tables of stone brought death; whereas the “NEW COVENANT,” the Ten Commandments written upon the heart by the Spirit of God brought life.

In the OLD COVENANT, the Ten Commandments written on tables of stone were an external motivator and, therefore, a “HAVE TO,” but the NEW COVENANT, the Ten Commandments written on the heart becomes an inner motivator and, therefore, a “WANT TO.”

And it is this system of using the Ten Commandments as an external motivator, a “Have To,” that has been done away with in Messiah, because once the Holy Spirit writes the Ten Commandments upon our hearts, then it becomes an inner motivator, a “Want To.”  The old system has been done away, and this new system of having the covenant, “the Ten Commandments,” written on our hearts has come.

So did the “New Testament” replace the “Old Testament”?  Yes, but not in the sense that most Christians believe that it has.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES?

The five scrolls of Moses, as well as the rest of the scrolls that made up the Hebrew Scriptures,  were learned the same way they are today: by us reading and studying them.  These scrolls were never written on tablets of stone, so therefore, they are not written upon our heart when we get saved.  Instead, we have to read and study God’s word, and as we “meditate” upon it, rehearse it over and over again within our minds, then its written on our hearts and minds, and we experience the transforming power of God’s word:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And BE NOT CONFORMED to this world; but BE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1-2; Emphasis Mine)

 

Return to the Top     

“HAS PAUL REPLACED JESUS AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH?”

IS PAUL NOW THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH?  According to a growing number of Christians, pastors, ministers, and Bible teachers, this is the case. Not only do these “Christians” believe that they are to follow the leadership of Paul, instead of Jesus, but they also believe that Paul’s gospel is the one that saves, and not the gospel proclaimed and taught by Jesus Himself!  But how could people so distort and pervert the Bible that they’ve ended up excommunicated Jesus and His gospel from His own church?

This deception and error is predicated on three basic building blocks: (1) the cross is the dividing line between the Old and New Testament; (2) Christians are not under the Old Testament; and since (3) Jesus’ life and ministry is under the Old Testament, Christians are not under Jesus’ life and teachings.  As I am going to show, each of these three building blocks is a direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible.

THE CROSS – THE GREAT DIVIDING LINE?

First of all, it is commonly being taught that the cross is the great dividing line between the Old and New Testament; however, this is NOT true.  Jesus clearly taught that the end of the Old Testament was JOHN THE BAPTIST, NOT THE CROSS:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.  For ALL THE PROPHETS AND THE LAW PROPHESIED UNTIL JOHN.  (Matthew 11:12-13; Emphasis Mine)

THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE UNTIL JOHN: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.   (Luke 16:16; Emphasis Mine)

In both of these passages, Jesus makes it clear that the PROPHETIC ASPECT of the Old Testament ended with John the Baptist, he being THE LAST OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET, but the Old Testament itself has NOT ended!  It did NOT end with the cross! What many Christians don’t understand is that the word “New” in “New Testament” or “New Covenant” means “to renew” – NOT “to replace.”  And if you actually go back and read the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, what God changes is NOT the covenant, but the LOCATION of the covenant, and by doing so, He changes us!  Since the problem was not with the covenant – but with us!

The Old Testament could NOT have ended at the cross, because not everything in the Old Testament has been fulfilled.  There’s a great many prophecies that still await fulfillment, including the final restoration of Israel and the rule and reign of Messiah on the Davidic throne.  In fact, there are 800 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, and Jesus fulfilled 300 of those in His first coming; therefore, there are still 500 Messianic prophecies left to be fulfilled when He returns.  So if there are that many Messianic prophecies left to be fulfilled, how could the Old Testament have ended at the cross?

In fact, there are more prophecies and information given in the Old Testament regarding the last days, including those ahead for us than there are in the New Testament.  Also, there’s still yet to come another covenant, according to the prophets, called “the Covenant of Peace” (Ezekiel 34:23-31; Ezekiel 37:15-28), which does not deal with changing people’s hearts, moving the location of the covenant, or the forgiveness of sins as is in the New Covenant/Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-34); instead, it deals with the final restoration of Israel, physical peace, safety and security, and God’s blessings, not at all the same issues.  The “Covenant of Peace” is a perfect covenant for the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Messiah!  All of which is still future, so again, how could the Old Testament have ended at the cross?

Their assumption that it did is based on two erroneous interpretations:

  1.  JESUS SAID, “IT IS FINISHED!” Many Christians think that this statement and the one made in the Sermon on the Mount, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED” (Matthew 5:17; Emphasis Mine] are connected.  Many conclude that since Jesus said the Law and the Prophets would continue until “ALL BE FULFILLED,” and on the cross, He said, “IT IS FINISHED!” Then the Law and the Prophets are now over.  However, this is NOT the case.   These are two different statements made in two different contexts and are NOT interlinked.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that not one single jot or tittle will pass from the Law or the prophets UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY.  Why?  Because the HEAVEN AND EARTH are the two witnesses that God called to witness the covenant that He made with Israel at Mt. Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:26-31; 30:19).  So as long as the two witnesses exist, God cannot delete anything from His Word, because the moment He does, then HEAVEN AND EARTH, the two witnesses will bear witness against God Himself!   Therefore, when HEAVEN AND EARTH pass away (Revelation 21), as Jesus says, THEN God will be able to delete material from His covenants, but NOT until then!

2.  THE TEARING OF THE TEMPLE VEIL.  Because the Temple veil is torn after Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” Christians have been taught to believe that His death brought an end to the Law and the Old Testament; however, this belief is based on a logical fallacy, called “Post Hoc Ergo Proctor Hoc” (Latin, “After this, therefore because of this”).   This fallacy happens when people believe that just because two events happen together in time that the one event caused the other.  This is, in fact, where many of our superstitions came from, e.g., a mirror breaks and then someone has a bad day; therefore, they conclude that breaking a mirror will bring bad luck.  It’s the same type of logical conclusion.  But as I have previously proven in another article that throughout the Scriptures, the tearing of cloth is an act of mourning.  God had just witnessed the torture and death of His own beloved Son, and in response, God did what any normal loving Jewish father would’ve done in that situation, He took the cloth over His heart – the Temple veil – and He tore it from top to bottom to mourn the death of His Son, and by doing so, He also identified Jesus as His Son (see article: “Why did God Tear the Temple Veil in Half?  Not for the Reason You Think“).

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT?

Christians are just a “New Testament” name for Gentile (or non-Jewish) believers in God and in His chosen Anointed One (or Messiah).  Because Christians don’t take the time to study the Old Testament, what they don’t realize is that everything in the New Testament ties in to God’s promise of Israel’s Restoration.  In fact, in the book of Isaiah, God gives Jesus, the Messiah, His “mission statement”:

It is a light thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation unto the end of the earth.  (Isaiah 49:6)

Did you notice that there are three parts to this:

  • To raise up the tribes of Jacob;
  • To restore the preserved of Israel; and
  • To be a light to the Gentiles.

Why?  So that He, the Messiah, “may be My salvation unto the end of the earth.”  This would include finding and restoring the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; restoring those from the southern Kingdom of Judah (the “Jews”); and also being the light of salvation to us who are Gentiles (non-Jews).  We see this also in Isaiah 42:6-7,

I the LORD have called You in righteousness,  and will hold your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

This is what the new covenant is really all about.

ABOUT THE EKKLESIA – ISRAEL?

Did you know that throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Israel is referred to as the Ekklesia, or what is translated in the New Testament as “church.”  That’s right, the Ekklesia did not begin in the upper room in Acts 2, but in Exodus 12, with the first Passover.  And where do we see Jesus first use the word Ekklesia or “church”?  Yes, in Philippi, Caesara, right before Jesus and His disciples were going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.   In fact, in the King James Version, we read as part of Stephen’s defense the following:

This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the LORD God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me [Moses]: Him shall you hear. [Deuteronomy 18:3-4]  This is he, that was in THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us. (Acts 7:37-38)

If the Church was not born until Acts 2, then how was Moses in “the Church” in the wilderness?  The church, like grace, was not a New Testament revelation, but Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom, to bring Israel back to Kingdom and away from religion, to initiate the new covenant and the process of Israel’s restoration, to deal with the sin issue by His death and resurrection, and to keep His promise to Abraham by dying on Passover.  This is why Jesus came, not to begin a “new entity” called “the church.”

Consequently, what Christians have called “the church age” is really God reaching into the nations and working to restore back to Himself three groups of people: (1) those from the Northern Kingdom; (2) those from the Southern Kingdom (Jews); and those of us from the nations, or Gentiles (non-Jews).  The alleged “church age” is really been about Jesus fulfilling His mission statement given in Isaiah 49:6.

THE NEW COVENANT – ISRAEL’S RESTORATION

Throughout the Old Testament, we find almost as many Gentile (or non-Jewish) believers in it as we do in the New Testament.  In fact, all of God’s covenants were open to Jew and non-Jew, but all of them were specifically given to Israel, including the New Testament:

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

Where in those words do you see that the LORD would “make a new covenant with the world”?  I don’t see those words anywhere here at all.  And who are “THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL” and “THE HOUSE OF JUDAH“?  The “House of Israel” is the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the “House of Judah” is the southern Kingdom of Judah.  After Solomon died, during his son’s Rehoboam’s reign, the Kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.

But in the writings of the prophets, God promised one day that He would restore these two kingdoms together again into one Kingdom under one King, Messiah.  For example:

Thus says the LORD God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, wherever they’ve gone, and I will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:  And I will make them ONE NATION in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and ONE KING shall be king to them all; and they shall be NO MORE TWO NATIONS, neither shall they be divided into TWO KINGDOMS any more at all:…but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God.  And David my servant [an image of Messiah] shall be king over them; and they all shall have ONE SHEPHERD; and they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them.  (Ezekiel 37:21-22, 23b, 24; Emphasis Mine)

I believe that this lies at the heart of the “gospel of the Kingdom” preached by John the Baptist, Jesus and His 82 disciples (the 12 plus the 70, see Luke 10:1, 17) preached in Israel for 3 1/2 years.  The new covenant was what God said He would use to bring His people back to Him and to bring about this re-unification of the two kingdoms.  This re-unification would not happen all at once, but over a long period of time.  Also notice, God says that when the two kingdoms are brought back under ONE KING, ONE SHEPHERD, that they would “walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them.”  Therefore, how does the new covenant replace God’s law, when it’s supposed to change our hearts so that we will keep God’s laws?

Jesus died to deal with our sin issue, to pay the penalty for our sins, to free us from the law of sin and death, but also, His death would provide the means for this re-unification of these two kingdoms to happen.  His death is, indeed, part of enacting the new covenant; and thereby, begin the process of Israel’s restoration.  This whole division between the Old and the New, and seeing it as a whole new and different program from the Old Testament, are all man-made creations.  They are not based on a whole Bible approach, but in separating the New Testament away from the rest of the Bible.

ALL COVENANTS ARE GIVEN TO ISRAEL

Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:3-5)

Paul clearly says here, “the covenants” were given to the Israelites; this includes “the law,” “the service of God,” “the promises,” and ultimately “Christ” as well.  So where do we get the unbiblical idea that “the Old Testament was for the Jews, but the New Testament is for everyone”?  It’s just another man-made myth.

From Adam and Eve, up through to Abram and Sarah, there were no other people but Gentiles [non-Jews], but it is in the life of Abram, where we begin to see this change.  And it is not until God renames and re-creates Jacob into Israel, that Israel comes into existence, and from that moment, Jacob’s descendants became known as “Israelites,” or “the children of Israel.”  And it’s not until the Babylonian Exile, that those taken captive from the Southern Kingdom of Judah are first called “Jews.”

But throughout this history, Gentiles (or non-Jews) were able to also participate in the covenants with Abraham, with Moses and the children of Israel.  In fact, we find Gentiles (non-Jews) in and through the Old Testament, like Rahab, Ruth, Doeg, and many others, and just like the Old Testament, Gentiles (non-Jews) are allowed to participate with Israel in the new covenant as well.  Therefore, this is why I hold to the firm belief that the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is for all people for all time.

WE ARE ALL STILL PART OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Since the Old Testament did not end at the cross and is still continuing until the time period of the New Heavens and the New Earth, then obviously, we are still in the time frame of the Old Testament.  Part of our problem is that instead of seeing the Bible as one continuous revelation, we’ve been taught to split it into two parts, which we have entitled “Old Testament” and “New Testament.”  But in truth, if we study the Scriptures, the point of the new covenant is to change the heart of people so that they will walk in obedience to the commandments God gave to Moses.  For example,

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live…And you shall return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command you this day.  (Deuteronomy 30:6, 8)

After those days, says the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The point of the new covenant was NEVER to do away with God’s law or the Old Testament as a whole.  Instead, God is saying with the new covenant that He was going to do something to “renew” and/or “refresh” our experience with it.  This would be accomplished by God giving us “a new heart,” “a new spirit,” and Him putting His own Spirit in us,” transforming our lives, and empowering us “to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.”

In fact, we could compare the Old Testament to an original computer program, and the New Testament to its most recent update.  If you operate without the update, you miss out on the new features for the program, but if you try to operate only the update, the program will either not run or not run properly.  To have the program run the way the manufacturer desires, you need to run both the original program and the update together: the Old and New Testament as ONE REVELATION, not two.

Obviously, then, as I’ve shown, all three of the building blocks that have led people to believe that the Old Testament has ended, that Christians are not under the Old Testament, and that Jesus’s life and ministry is under the Old Testament, so therefore, Christians are not under the life and teachings of Jesus are all man-made myths based on misinterpretations and misunderstandings, due to people basing things on only what they see in the New Testament, instead of the whole Bible.

THE PROMISE OF A NEW DAY

What we need to look forward to is the return of Jesus and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  There is, indeed, a new Kingdom and a new day coming!  In Isaiah 60, God gives the city of Jerusalem, Israel, this promise about its coming glory:

Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen on you.  For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen on you.  And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising….

And the sons of strangers [non-Jews] shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister unto you: for in My wrath I smote you, but in My favor have I had mercy on you.  Therefore your gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto you the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.  For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; yes, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but the LORD shall be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.  The sun shall no more go down; neither shall the moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.  (Isaiah 60:1-3, 10-12, 18-20)

What a wondrous day that will be!  Amen.

 

Return to the Top

 

The whole Bible for the whole person for all time.