What’s So Good About ”Good Friday”?

What’s So Good About ”Good Friday”?
Vol: 151 Issue: 18 Friday, April 18, 2014

According to Christian tradition, the Friday before Easter is called ”Good Friday” because it is the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. GOOD Friday?

The Crucifixion most probably did not actually take place on a Friday, anyway. The Scriptures make reference only to the ‘Sabbath’ and there were two Sabbath days during that particular Passover week.

But it is on Friday that the world remembers, whether it wants to or not, that a Man was crucified on a hill called Golgotha outside the walls of Jerusalem for the sins of mankind.

If the world wants to remember it as a Friday, at least it is taking note of the event. Arguing about whether or not it actually took place on Wednesday or Thursday seems irrelevant to the central point.

Particularly in light of the way it remembers that day, as “Good” Friday. But what is so good about it?

I can recall as a kid growing up in a Catholic school thinking it more than a little strange that all those nuns said they loved Jesus, but celebrated the day of His execution as a “Good” day.

Indeed, as a kid, I thought the designation “Good Friday” was evidence that they really didn’t LIKE Him very much, despite their protestations of love. My mother had passed away when I was only ten. I didn’t think that the day that she died was a ‘good’ day for me.

There are lots of possible reasons why the day of Jesus’ Crucifixion is designated “Good” in English. One is that the word ‘good’ was derived from the word “God”.

Our word ‘goodbye’ came from the phrase “God be with you,” so, according to that line of thinking, “Good Friday” would have originated from the phrase “God’s Friday.”

But I think it is less a case of the metamorphosis of language than it is an apt description of the Event that took place on that day just before the Passover two thousand years ago.

The execution of Jesus Christ was an event of incredible evil. He was guilty of no infraction, violated no laws, either Mosaic or Roman civil, and His betrayal was orchestrated, the Bible says, by Satan himself.

“And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)

But while the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was an act of unspeakable evil, it was a necessary part of God’s Plan for the redemption of our sin debt.

And the manner in which He accomplished was a demonstration of His Power over good and evil, using pure evil to bring about pure good.

“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1st Corinthians 2:8)

But why was Good Friday necessary? We’ve gone over this before, but not in several years. Good Friday is the perfect day to revisit the topic. Why did Jesus have to die?

The Scripture says God’s Justice demands a sacrifice, but for most Christians contending with the skeptic, that answer is unsatisfactory.

The explanation that only a sinless man was qualified to take on the sins of the world makes sense, but it doesn’t answer the nuts-and-bolts question of why He had to die. Not fully.

The answer to the nuts-and-bolts legalities is found, not in the New Testament, but rather in the Old.

In Genesis Chapter 15, we find Abram questioning God’s promise that his seed will be numbered as the stars of heaven and that they would inherit the land to which God had led him.

Genesis 15:6 says,

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

But Abram wanted a guarantee, nonetheless.

“And he [Abram] said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (15:8)

It was then that God proposed a blood covenant after the manner of the Chaldeans.

“And he [God] said unto him, [Abram] Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

Abram knew what to do next. A Chaldean himself, this was something he was familiar with.

“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”

The blood covenant worked this way. The animals were slaughtered and cut up. The pieces were intermingled and then carefully arranged to form a kind of aisle through which the two parties to the covenant would walk together, hands joined.

The principle of a blood covenant, and the symbolism of the rended animal parts was clearly understood to Abram. Whoever broke the covenant would end up like those piles of animals.

A blood covenant was, by common custom, a joining of 2 or more persons, families, clans, tribes, or nations, where the participants agree to do or refrain from doing certain acts. More specifically, God had proposed a patriarchal covenant.

The patriarchal form of covenant is a self-imposed obligation of a superior party, to the benefit of an inferior party. In this form, the terms the parties use to refer to each other are: father and son.

God’s proposal included not only Abram, but extended to Abram’s seed forever.

(Galatians 3:29 makes plain that Christians are also “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”)

To summarize, Abram has just prepared a blood covenant between himself and God in which his seed would forever be bound to God as heirs. To be an heir, under the implied terms of the covenant, also required being faithful to the Father. Abram understood those terms and waited for God to appear.

Consider the picture. Abram waited, driving away the carrion eaters from his grisly creation, waiting for God Himself to come down, join hands with Abram and together, they would swear a blood oath. God would be the Father of Abram and his descendents, who would then be required behave as sons to keep that covenant.

Genesis 15:12 records that, as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him. During that deep sleep;

“it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:17-18)

And there’s the key! While the covenant was between Abram and God, by passing through the aisle alone, God signed the contract — alone — for both sides, binding Himself to keeping both parts.

We know that Abram’s seed did NOT remain faithful to the covenant. And violating the blood covenant demanded that somebody had to die. That was what justice required.

The Apostle Paul was, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, a Pharisee, or a religous lawyer, one well qualified to explain the law of covenant oaths.

As Paul explains,

“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)

Further, that,

“they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (3:9)

And also,

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (3:11)

Of the covenant that God signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul explains;

“Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” (3:15)

The covenant could only be confirmed when the price demanded for its violation was paid in full.

When the Law was given to Moses four centuries later, it was assumed by the Jews that to break it was to break the Abrahamic Covenant, for which the penalty was death. Remember, somebody had to die.

But since it was God Who signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul pointed out the blood penalty required of the covenant was paid in full on Good Friday.

“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” (Galatians 3:17)

Why did Jesus have to die? Because the covenant demanded satisfactory payment for its violation, and no one who had broken that covenant was qualified to stand in payment except those who signed it. Abram was long dead. And, in any case, it was God Who signed on behalf of Abram (and his seed).

It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ. To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son of Abraham, as it demanded.

Once having kept its terms on behalf of sinful humanity, it was incumbent upon Him to make payment, as justice demanded, for its violation by those on whose behalf the covenant was signed.

To be torn and rended like the animals that formed the corridor through which God alone passed.

To make restitution on behalf of the seed of Abraham. You. Me. And everyone who ever broke its provision of faithfulness. All of us.

Jesus made that payment on our behalf. On the Cross, as He gave up the ghost, Jesus cried with a loud voice ‘it is finished’ (Tetelestai!) meaning, “paid in full.”

The terms of the violated Covenant were met, its price was paid by its Signer. God’s justice was fulfilled. That is why Jesus took on a human form and allowed Himself to be crucified by His own creation. That is the reason the Blood of Christ is so precious. Why nothing less would do.

Because justice demanded it. And because justice was satisfied, a lost sinner need only accept the Pardon obtained at the Cross as full payment for his sins to obtain eternal life. Because of Good Friday,

“Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord SHALL be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Our sin debt was paid in full on Good Friday. The only thing now separating God from man is human pride. Accepting by faith the pardon obtained for us at the Cross is a humbling experience.

We’ve noted in the past that God’s way is not our way, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Indeed, God’s way is usually the exact opposite of human thinking. Christians obtain victory by surrendering. We obtain eternal life through the Death of Christ, but to achieve eternal life one has to first die.

“Good” Friday is the day that commemorates the greatest evil ever perpetrated in the history of mankind. But as it turned out, it was the worst day possible for the forces of evil. It marked the first introduction of pure good to this old world since the Fall of Man.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes WE are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Happy Easter season!

Note: Today’s Letter explains the history behind Good Friday.  Alf Cengia’s column, “On Peace Talks & Bullies” shares a practical, personal story and how it relates to Israel’s plight.

The Logic of the Cross

The Logic of the Cross
Vol: 151 Issue: 17 Thursday, April 17, 2014

Roughly one thousand, nine hundred and eighty years ago, a Jewish itinerant preacher was tried, convicted and executed by Roman decree, on charges of sedition against the state.

When He was arrested by the Roman authorities, His friends, fearing arrest themselves, left Him to face the music alone.  One of His closest and most loyal friends denied knowing Him on three separate occasions.  Once followed by thronging crowds, only His mother and a couple of friends stood by Him to the end.

And thus ends the story of Jesus of Nazareth, just another victim of Roman ‘justice’ like the thousands of other unnamed and forgotten Jewish rebels that shared a similar fate.

Or, at least, that is where is SHOULD have ended.

Historically speaking, at the time of His Death, Jesus Christ was just another rebel in a land teeming with rebels.  When He preached of the Kingdom of Heaven, his followers didn’t understand the term the way that we do.

The sages understood the time of the Judges, when Israel was ruled by Heaven through God’s appointed judges, as the Kingdom of Heaven He promised to restore.

Even His disciples didn’t understand what He was talking about until after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

They, like the rest, expected an earthly Jewish kingdom ruled by Jews, restored to the glory it had at its peak under King David.

When their dreams of a restored Kingdom of Israel died on a Roman cross, the event was too insignificant to merit the attention of the historians of the time.  Only a few, like Tertius or Flavius Josephus mention it, and then, only in passing.

Crucifixion was common enough, but it was a grisly business, difficult to discuss without repulsing the reader.  Although Imperial Rome imposed it on hundreds of thousands during its reign, historians recorded few details of the process itself.

By either chance or design, death by crucifixion served to erase the condemned from memory.  It wasn’t talked about, so neither were its victims.

On Good Friday, 1980 years ago, it looked like Jesus Christ was on the fast track to historical irrelevance, just another voice of one crying out from the wilderness.

A voice seemingly silenced forever — by a death too gruesome to discuss in polite company.

Assessment:

Now, imagine you are one of His chosen disciples.  You have just seen all your hopes and dreams shattered by the Roman executioners.  Not only that, but you aren’t that proud of yourself, either.

For three years, you followed the Master.  You personally witnessed His miracles, from walking on water to feeding multiplied thousands with a young boy’s lunch to healing the sick and raising the dead.

You heard His wisdom; you felt His Power, witnessed His Transfiguration . . . and when the chips were down and it was time to take a stand, you folded up like a Wal Mart lawn chair.

You ran and hid like a coward, not daring to show your face for fear you’d share His fate.

(And you once had the nerve to ask Him if you could sit at His right Hand!)

He faced His enemies alone, without a friend to speak up for Him — including you, who promised NEVER to forsake Him.

On Good Friday, 1980 years ago, the last thing on any of their minds was writing a detailed record of their own failures.  They just wanted to put the entire sordid experience behind them and move on.

He had forsaken everything to teach and prepare them, and when the time came, they not only betrayed Him by deserting Him, they never had a chance to beg His forgiveness afterwards.

To those who loved Him best, Good Friday, 1980 years ago, was anything BUT ‘good’.

And it was the LAST story in the world they wanted to spread throughout the land.

“He made big promises, we made big promises, then He died and we all ran away and hid.”

If you were hiding somewhere in Jerusalem on Good Friday, 1980 years ago, that was your story.  Not a very inspiring story, if that was where it ended.

Every Easter, we are bombarded by secular apologists telling us that is where the story really DID end.

Jesus was dead; His followers were all in hiding, but while they were in hiding for their lives (and after seeing what happened to Jesus,) instead of fading quietly into the countryside, they entered into a conspiracy to perpetuate the same ‘myth’ that put Jesus on the Cross in the first place.

They made up the whole Resurrection story to keep the movement alive, and then legend took over, the argument goes.

If the story really DID end at Golgotha, would YOU want to face the same risk that you had just abandoned your best Friend to His Death in order to avoid?  Well, would you?

Would anybody?

IF it ended at Golgotha, then what changed every single one of the cowards who fled Jesus on that day to later face death unflinchingly rather than deny Him a second time?

Moreover, what made these guys, who were so self-centered they used to argue over who would sit at His right Hand in some misty, undefined future kingdom, choose to disclose the details of their greatest moment of personal failure, weaving those unflattering self-revelatory details into the fabric of what they already KNEW a monstrous lie?

Since most of it was a lie anyway, why be so brutally hard on themselves?

The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record as doubting the Resurrection as an actual historical event.  This defies logic.  If the Resurrection wasn’t an historical event, then it ended at Golgotha — and the Apostles knew it.

Every single event from the Cross forward was a lie, and the New Testament record of their zeal to propagate that lie is equally unreliable.  THIS is the argument put forth every Easter by the secularists as the epitome of ‘rational thought.’

No logical alternative explanation for why the Apostles chose death over denial of what they KNEW, by definition, was a myth.  To plug THAT hole, critics say the story was ‘harmonized’ later as the Bible was being assembled by the Nicean Council.

But nobody ever goes back to Good Friday, 1980 years ago, where they claim it all ended, to explain with any degree of credibility, why it didn’t.  Because if Jesus was not raised on the first day of the week, where He subsequently appeared to more than five hundred witnesses (1st Corinthians 15:6) then it SHOULD have.

Christianity SHOULD have died with Jesus, and on Good Friday 1980 years ago, to all intents and purposes, it did.

And it would have STAYED dead, but Christianity was raised with Jesus Christ on the third day, and today, it is real enough to have the secularists jumping through logical hoops every Easter season trying to prove its all a myth.

For those who demand empirical evidence of the Resurrection, the existence of the question is all the evidence logic demands.

Had it really ended on Good Friday, 1980 years ago at the Cross, nobody would be asking the question in the first place.

When Jesus appeared to John on the Island of Patmos, He identified himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning AND the end.

The logic of Christianity is that it began where it ended — without the Cross, there could be no Resurrection. And without the Resurrection, there is no reason to remember the Cross.

To the secularist, this is an unacceptable conundrum, despite the fact his best alternative explanation leaves him with no reason for Christianity to exist for him to question.

It is a logical circle from which he can’t escape, because he can’t see he’s inside the circle.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

As foolish as his argument is, he can’t see it for the foolishness of his own wisdom.

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1st Corinthians 3:19)

So every year, the annual bombardment of articles questioning the ‘truth’ of the Resurrection continues without their ever seeing the answer is contained inside the very question they are so focused on.

It is as baffling to the natural mind as is the reason we Christians call this upcoming Friday, “Good Friday”.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18)

Note: This Letter serves to show that what man sees as failure, God used for victory to redeem all mankind and we are part of His plan.  J.L. Robb reports on “The Blood Moon Tetrad Prophecy” and asks the question is it real or another false rumor?

Religiously Christian

Religiously Christian
Vol: 151 Issue: 16 Wednesday, April 16, 2014

”Religion” is system of worship whereby man attempts to make himself acceptable to his God.  That is why the word can be universally applied to any system of theology.

Catholicism is a religion.  Hinduism is a religion.  Islam is a religion.  Even secular humanism is a religion, recognized as such by no less a secular authority than the Supreme Court. (Torcaso v Watkins, 1961).  Secular humanism dictates man is his own supreme being, and is the systematic endeavor to reconcile man unto himself.

Of all the world’s great religions, the only one for which the appellation ‘religion’ is wholly inaccurate is that of Christianity.

Religion, with all its rituals, sacrifices and dogma, is man’s way of making himself acceptable to God, while Christianity is a system where God makes man acceptable unto Himself.

That is not a distinction without a difference.  Christianity is the mirror image of ‘religion’ — its core doctrines might even be called ‘anti-religious’.

Religions demand adherence to certain rules and regulations as a condition of salvation.  Those rules are compiled by religious men, set forth as the defining characteristics of that religion, and followed by its religious adherents, if they are to remain in good standing with their religion, and therefore, with God.

Religion, in all its forms, is a series of theological laws that must be kept by its followers in order to make themselves acceptable to whatever their understanding of God might be.  Christianity is accepting God’s definition of Himself.

Jesus Christ was put to death for exposing the hypocrisy of religion. Not just the religious leaders, but religion itself.  When the religious leaders tried to trap Him with the Law, He exposed the hypocrisy of religion for all to see.

“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

Loving God above all things and loving one’s neighbor as oneself is God’s ‘law’.  Religion is a man-made substitute system that offers alternative choices.  Historically, more wars have been fought over religion than any other cause, many in the name of the ‘Christian religion.’

But Bible Christianity teaches that our war is this life is spiritual; “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

That is not to say true Christians are forbidden to go to war, as in the case of the current war on terror.  Christians are not OF this world, but we are IN it.

As secular national citizens, Christians are admonished “to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,” (Titus 3:1) But that is not the same as banding together to conquer for Christ’s glory. That is a religious concept, not a Christian one.

The true source of religion — and its underlying concepts — was revealed in Scripture BEFORE the fall of Adam.

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Let’s break the oldest lie in the Book down into its component elements;

1) “Your eyes shall be opened.”

The serpent begins by hinting that God is deliberately withholding beneficial information from them. The argument that some Scriptures seem to require salvation by faith plus works, while others seem to support eternal security stems from that seminal deception — that God’s Word is ambiguous when examined closely.

2) “Ye shall be as gods.”

It goes against the grain of human pride to believe that the only role we play in our own salvation is to accept a free gift of unearned pardon. Most human religions — including most Christian denominations — insist that mankind play some role in his redemption.

In this view, the sacrifice of the Cross is not enough — it is just a kick-start that gets us going. We must then perform at a certain level or that sacrifice is negated by our own failed efforts.

3) “Knowing good from evil.”

This goes back to the belief that we humans can know WHICH sins are sufficient to disqualify us from heaven and which ones God will let slide because they weren’t as evil — which is the ONLY rationale for rejecting the doctrine of eternal security.

There are seemingly as many religions within Christianity as there are religions outside Christianity.  Religions within Christianity are Christian in the sense that they claim Christ as their Lord, but write their own rules to substitute for His standard of salvation by works.

The Lord’s standard for salvation by works is somewhat harsh:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

So religion attempts to rewrite the rules, claiming unto itself special righteousness and understanding provides it with insights that make it unique in that it ‘seeketh after God’, claiming unprofitable rituals and sacrifices are now profitable, and organizing itself to ‘do good.’

Religious Christianity is a system that substitutes its own, more attainable standards of conduct for God’s standard of perfection, adding temporal punishments and penalties as atonements for the inevitable failure of its adherents.

When discussing the doctrine of eternal security, I note that most argue the phrase, not the doctrine.  The doctrine of eternal security is the essential difference between religion and Bible Christianity.

The terms used to describe salvation scream ‘eternally secure’; “Eternal life” (John 3:16, 1st John 5:11), “full assurance” (Hebrews 6:11, Colossians 2:2), “hope. . . sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19)

Salvation is described in Scripture, not as something yet to come, but present-tense. Each true believer is described as “forgiven” (Romans 4:7, 1st John 2:12), “justified” (Romans 5:1,9, Titus 3:7), “reconciled” (Romans 5:19) “risen with Christ” (Romans 6:3-6, Colossians 3:1-2) a “new creation” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Believers are “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10), already “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20), “sanctified once and for all” (Hebrews 10:10) and “perfected forever.” (Hebrews 10:14)

The Bible says of believers that we ARE: “God’s family” (Galatians 3:26, 1st John 3:2), effectively ALREADY “seated in the heavenlies with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5-6) and “translated into the kingdom of His dear Son” Colossians 1:13)

Salvation cannot be lost unless one discounts the following core doctrines: Salvation is eternal (John 3:16, 36), it is a present possession (Romans 5, 1st Peter 2:24-25) it is imputed, not earned, (2nd Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, Hebrews 9:10, Romans 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9,Titus 3:3-7, Romans 3:19-28, 4:4-5, 11:16)

Eternal security is NOT a license to sin.  It is important to understand that eternal security does not apply to a person who merely professes Christ.  Salvation demands repentance.

Repentance means a change of mind resulting in a change of life.  The person who has never changed his mind about God, sin, Christ, the Bible, etc., has never repented and has never been saved.

Rather than granting license to sin, the Bible teaches that the grace of God actually motivates believers to serve God with a thankful heart. (Romans 2:4, Ephesians 3:14,-19, Titus 2:11-14)

A sinning believer is out of fellowship with the Lord, but the relationship remains the same. He is helped and loved by the Lord Jesus Christ (1st John 2:1-2). He is chastened by the Father (Hebrews 12:5-11) BECAUSE the relationship remains intact.

Although forgiven, a sinning Christian cannot regain lost opportunities or the hurt caused by his sin. And the sinning Christian will suffer loss at the Bema Seat. (1st Corinthians 3:11-15, 2nd Corinthians 5:10, 1st John 2:28)

Logically, to deny the doctrine of eternal security is to embrace religion as an acceptable way to please God.

But God says those who stand before Him trusting in their works will be judged ACCORDING to their works.  Those who stand before Him trusting in the Promise that Christ’s Work at the Cross was all sufficient will be judged according to that standard.

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:15)

Religion doesn’t save us. It can’t keep us. There is only One Who can “keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 1:24)

Trust Him.

Originally published February 6, 2006

Washed In the Blood

Washed In the Blood
Vol: 151 Issue: 15 Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Passover season began yesterday which runs for seven days, ending this year on April 22nd. Technically, Passover actually began Sunday. The Jewish calendar begins at sundown, rather than sunrise, meaning that Monday begins Sunday night. So Passover starts twenty-four times around the world as each time zone views its sunset.

The Passover story is well known to Christians, primarily as a Jewish holiday.  But the Jewish Passover is an integral part of the Christian story.  Without Passover, there could be no salvation for the Gentiles.

At Passover, Jews are asked to see the story as if each of them had been there that night in Egypt.  Traditional foods are prepared in advance according to the Haggadah or story of the Exodus.

With the Haggadah as a guide, Passover has been and is celebrated in pretty much the same manner down through the ages and in every land and every nation.

Seder customs include drinking of four cups of wine, eating matza (unleavened bread) and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate.

The four cups of wine are obligatory; representing four expressions of God’s will: “I will bring out”; “I will deliver”; “I will take”; and, “I will Redeem”.

It is also symbolic of the four world ages: this present world, the Messianic Age, the world at the resurrection, and the world to come. (See 2nd Peter 3:10-12)

The four expressions of God’s will find an equal place within Christianity. “I will bring out” (Romans 8:29) “I will deliver” (Galatians 1:4) “I will take” (Romans 11:27) and, “I will Redeem” (Galatians 3:13)

Christians also know of four ‘worlds’ this one which we are ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the Messianic (Kingdom) Age, the general resurrection of the dead at the Great White Throne and the new heavens and the new earth.

At the Passover Seder, the youngest present asks the question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  This is so important that if no children are present, the responsibility falls to the wife or other participants.  If a man is alone at Seder, he is obligated to ask the question of himself.

The Passover involves the retelling of the ten plagues God sent upon Pharoh, including the last and most terrible, the sending of the Angel of Death.

God told the Jews to smear the blood of a lamb above the doorposts of their homes, which would cause the Angel of Death to ‘pass over’ those homes which were under Divine protection.

For centuries, the Jewish Passover concluded with the words, “Next year, in Jerusalem!” symbolizing the Jewish love for the City of God and their longing for the restoration of Temple sacrifice.

Washed In the Blood of the Lamb?

There is a traditional Christian hymn whose chorus goes like this:

“Are you washed in the blood, / In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? / Are your garments spotless? / Are they white as snow? / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?’

We’ve not discussed what that really means in some time now, and there is no better time to discuss it than at Passover.  Everything about our understanding of our salvation has its roots in the Jewish sacrificial lamb.

During the days of Temple worship, a family would offer a Passover lamb for sacrifice at the Temple as covering for the sins of that family.  That ritual teaches us much about the love of our Heavenly Father and what the sacrifice of the Lamb of God really means.

Some weeks before Passover, the head of the household would cull out the most perfect lamb in his flock.  To be acceptable, the lamb could not be purchased.  It had to be raised by the family.

The lamb would be brought into the household as a pet.  The kids would play with it, wash and groom it, grow attached to it, and even name it, making it a part of the family.  It was a necessary element of the sacrifice that the family had to grow to love that particular lamb.

At the Temple, the head of the household would certify the lamb met all the conditions before accepting it as a sacrifice.  The lamb would have a placard put around its neck identifying the sinner for whom it was about to die.

Here’s where this gets hard.  The head of the household, (to whom the lamb was a beloved pet) didn’t get to just leave the lamb there and go home, like a person dropping off a sick pet at the vets to be euthanized.  (Or even one who comforts the pet while the vet does it.)

It’s YOUR sin.  It’s YOUR sacrifice.  So YOU do it.

The priest would carefully instruct you in the most humane way to conduct the sacrifice, but you had to do it.  You would be taught how to gently squeeze off the lamb’s jugular with thumb and forefinger until the lamb would pass out.

Open your mind!  See this picture!

The lamb falls asleep against the sinner’s breast like the beloved pet that it has become.  Once the lamb was unconscious, the penitent, still holding the lamb’s throat, would be instructed on how to insert the knife, nick the jugular and hold the lamb over the laver to catch its blood for the sacrifice.

As the blood flowed, it would flow OVER the penitent’s hands and arms, staining him with the sacrificial blood.

The lamb’s innocent little heart would continue to pump out the blood, which would continue to stain the head of the household until it had pumped its last and the little lamb was dead.

The priest would hold up the now-dead lamb before the Lord, read the name of the family as it appeared on the placard around its neck, and declare the lamb’s ‘sins’ before the Lord.

“This lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the Kinsella family,” the priest might intone.

The family’s beloved pet lamb was dead, its blood was sprinkled over the mercy seat of the Ark, and the sins of the family were covered for another year.

The lamb bore the placard naming the family of sinners.  The sinners bore the stains of the blood of the lamb.

The Lamb of God

I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20-21)

In Judea in AD 33, Latin was the language of business, as English is today.  But most people grew up speaking Greek, which was the lingua franca, or the common language of the empire, a holdover from the days of Alexander the Great.

The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Torah, was so translated because more Jews spoke Greek than Hebrew.

So there was Latin and Greek, and finally, the language of the Jews at the time, which was Aramaic.

It wasn’t the Jews who drove the nails.  It was the Romans.  While the people cheered in Aramaic and Greek.

All present had to participate.  Had they not, then there could have been no Crucifixion, no Resurrection, no redemption.  It was for the SINS of all mankind — all mankind was represented there.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Assessment:

Above the Cross, Pilate order the following inscription in ALL THREE languages:

“This is Jesus.  King of the Jews.”

Jesus bore the name of the ‘family’ for which His blood was shed — it was the Family of Man.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

God identified His Lamb Whom He loved, and inscribed the sin for which He died, as a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind.

Remember, it couldn’t be just any Lamb, but it had to be God’s Lamb.

“Thou art My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

This was no humane kosher sacrifice, but a bloody, vicious, violent, painful, tortured and shameful execution at the hands of the very family the Lamb loved so deeply and Who asks only our trust in return.

When Caiphas objected, asking the inscription be changed to say, “This is Jesus, who CLAIMED to be King of the Jews,” Pilate rebuffed him, saying, “What I have written, I have written.”

For that was the charge against Him for which He was crucified.  For the sins of the Jews as their King.  For the sins of the Romans as their occupier.  And for the sins of mankind as they stood by as spectators.  And for you.  And for me.

Jesus is their King, and ours.  And God’s Lamb.

Are your garments spotless?  Are they white as snow?

Are YOU washed in the Blood of the Lamb?

Why is this day different than all other days?

Because it is the day that we learn just how much God loves us.  How much He loves YOU.

At the Passover, God set in motion the sequence of events that would culminate twelve centuries later with the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb for all mankind.

And for you.  As if you were the only sinner who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ was sacrificed for YOUR sins.

That is the God Whom we serve.  And that is the weight of our sin before Him.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Amazing love! How can it be? That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

Maranatha!

Note: Today’s Letter explains the meaning of Passover and its significance to salvation.  In OL’s featured commentary “I Beg Your Pardon“, Wendy Wippel shares a personal struggle.

Blood Moon – Another Sure Thing

Blood Moon – Another Sure Thing
Vol: 151 Issue: 14 Monday, April 14, 2014

The ‘Blood Moon’ story has made the rounds in our forums through the years. The premise is irresistible; a series of lunar and solar eclipses will occur during Passover and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles)suggest a date for the Second Coming of Christ.

Mark Blitz, pastor of El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Washington, notes that the only string of four consecutive blood moons that coincide with Passover in the spring and the Feast of Tabernacles will take place between 2014 and 2015 on the standard Gregorian calendar.

It then follows that the Second Coming of Christ will take place at the end of the Feast of Trumpets — at the last trump, as it were. Blitz has put together a very compelling argument:

“The fact that it doesn’t happen again in this century I think is very significant,” Biltz explains. “So then I looked at last century, and, believe it or not, the last time that four blood red moons occurred together was in 1967 and 1968 tied to Jerusalem recaptured by Israel.”

Moreover, according to a WND report, Blitz noted a pattern of blood moon events that took place in 1948, two others in 1949 and 1950 took place on Passover and Succot.

According to Blitz (I haven’t done the research myself) the last time that the astronomical phenomenon known as ‘tetrads’ had taken place prior to 1948 was back in the 14th century, but “none of those fell on Passover or Succot,” he said.

Pastor Blitz’ research makes a compelling case, as I noted earlier:

“You have the religious year beginning with the total solar eclipse, two weeks later a total lunar eclipse on Passover, and then the civil year beginning with the solar eclipse followed two weeks later by another total blood red moon on the Feast of Succoth all in 2015.”

It was so compelling that J.R. Church of ‘Prophecy in the News’ is convinced:

“If you think that this is a coincidence, I want you to know that it’s time! There are no more of these for the rest of the century.”

I’m somewhat less convinced. Call me a hopeful skeptic.

Assessment:

WND interviewed Jim Bramlett, a former VP at CBN and author of a regular email newsletter and Hal Lindsey for the column. Bramlett was very excited about it. After watching a video of Blitz’ interview, Bramlett enthused:

“I have just watched the program two times and do not think I have ever been more encouraged or excited about the soon return of the Lord!”

Hal, not so much. WND quoted Hal’s comments as follows:

“In my 50-something years of studying prophecy, to me the greatest indication of the time of Christ’s return is based around the general things of prophecies coming together in the same time frame . . . I see the whole sweep and panorama spinning together in a precise scenario.”

What Hal is referring to is the Big Picture — the one Bible prophecy actually paints.

I talked with Hal about it the day after he spoke with WND. Hal was blindsided by the interview; unlike Bramlett, he hadn’t heard of Mark Blitz or his research.

But he and I had discussed the whole theory tying the return of Christ to the Feast of Tabernacles many times over the years. On the surface, this does sound a lot like just another ‘sure-thing’ — like Edgar Whisenant’s “88 Reasons Why Christ Must Come in 1988” and Harold Camping’s “1994”.

The Apostle Peter wrote:

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:3-4)

I’ve even had that verse thrown at me in debates with date-setters who knew for sure they’d calculated the date of the Rapture as the last day of this year’s Succot or the start of Yom Kippur.

But disagreeing is not ‘scoffing’ and I admit I disagree entirely on principle — this is one of the most convincing arguments I’ve yet run across — assuming the research is accurate.

If Blitz’ calculations are correct and the 2nd Coming will be during the Blood Moon Succot of 2015, then that would mean a Pre-Trib Rapture would have to occur at least seven years earlier.

Assuming the theory that the Rapture and 2nd Coming are symbolically linked to the Last Trump (Succot) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is correct, the Rapture MUST take place no later than the conclusion of this year’s Feast of Tabernacles.

(The Second Coming of Christ takes place at the conclusion of the Tribulation during a blood moon — “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” [Joel 2:31])

I confess I haven’t much of an argument to rebut it, and frankly, I’m tempted to think that maybe this time, somebody has finally figured it out.

But no matter how hard I try, I cannot make it past the Scripture that says:

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

I’ve tried to parse that verse and find a way to justify some argument that will nullify its meaning. Maybe no man knew then — but what about now? I can’t get there from here.

After all, these aren’t the words of an Apostle under Divine Inspiration concerning the 2nd Coming of the Lord. These are the Words of Jesus Christ concerning His own coming — if He isn’t THE final Authoritative Word on the subject, then there isn’t one.

I admit that I don’t know if Blitz is right. I didn’t know if Whisenant was right until the last trump of 1988, or if Camping was right until the last trump signaled the conclusion of the 1994 Succot celebration.

Every year, somebody sends me their calculations proving that this year’s Succot is The Last Trump and I don’t know if they are right until after it’s sounded and I am still here.

So I don’t know if Blitz is right, but what I DO know keeps me from going off the deep end with them.

I know that when it comes to setting dates, Jesus has been right every time.

Note: Today’s Letter takes a conservative look at today’s sign in the heavens.  Pete Garcia examines several views of who “The Restrainer” is of the Bible.

The Abomination of Desolation

The Abomination of Desolation
Vol: 151 Issue: 12 Saturday, April 12, 2014

”And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” (Daniel 11:31)

Six hundred years after Daniel, Jesus Christ also made reference to both the ‘abomination’ and the Prophet who foretold it.

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” (Matthew 24:15)

There are those who argue that, because of Daniel’s astonishing accuracy in foretelling the rise and fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia and Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire, the Book of Daniel must be a forgery written long after the prophet’s death.

Opines the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

“Because its religious ideas do not belong to the 6th century BC, numerous scholars date Daniel in the first half of the 2nd century BC and relate the visions to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164/163 BC). . . The unknown author may have drawn inspiration from Ugaritic and Phoenician sources that speak of a legendary figure notable for his righteousness and wisdom.”

These ‘scholars’ run into a bit of a problem with their argument, since the Gospels specifically identify Daniel as a prophet.  If Daniel wasn’t a prophet and if he did not pen the book bearing his name, then it follows that Jesus Christ could not be the Son of God.

It is impossible for Jesus to be Whom He claimed to be and not know whether Daniel was a Divinely inspired prophet or whether Daniel was just the name ascribed to a later work of forgery.

If Jesus is the Son of God, then He is also the One Who makes an appearance in Daniel’s narrative.  King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that he be worshipped as a god.  Three Hebrew captives (and companions to Daniel), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused.

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the three men thrown into a furnace to be burned alive. Later, he looked in, and then questioned his counsellors:

“Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.”

But there were four figures visible in the flames, and it was Nebuchadnezzar who identified the mystery figure:

“He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. ” (Daniel 3:24-25)

Jesus identified Daniel as a prophet and quoted from the Book of Daniel in His sermon.  If Daniel is a forgery, then Jesus could not be anything more than a fraud.

If Jesus is a fraud and Daniel is a forgery, then the Bible isn’t worth studying.  If it isn’t worth studying, then what does that make these ‘scholars’? (Hint: see Psalm 53:1)

Jesus trusted Daniel enough to quote him in a sermon.  I trust Jesus for my eternal salvation.  Logically, I can also trust the Book of Daniel as a Divinely inspired work of God.

Now, what is the ‘abomination of desolation’ to which Jesus refers?  There are two answers — one from history and the second from prophecy.  When Alexander the Great’s empire broke up, it resolved into four major kingdoms.

Seleucus was one of Alexander’s generals, and came to control the Syrian portion of the empire.  Syria was one of the two dominant divisions of the empire, and continued through twenty kings.  Antiochus IV was the eighth king of the Selucid Empire.

Antiochus IV had two key passions which are worthy of note, since they bear on the prophecy: He hated the Jews, and he fancied himself a conqueror in the mold of his father, Antiochus III Magnus (“the Great”).

In 167 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes raided the Temple, entered into the Holy of Holies and sacrificed a pig on the altar.  Of singular importance for our understanding of prophecy is that Antiochus did not destroy any part of the temple.

He did build extra structures, including pagan “enhancements” to the altar of sacrifice.  However, none of this can be considered “throw(ing) down” the foundations of the sanctuary.

Jesus referred to the “abomination of desolation” in the context of the signs of His return.

Jesus was not referring to an historical event as the fulfillment of His prophecy, He was providing an example from history of what such an event meant.

The abomination of desolation, therefore, is a future event that involves the desecration of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple.

Jesus is clearly describing events that take place during the Tribulation Period and He is just as clearly addressing the Jews in the last days, and not the Church.  He speaks directly to those Jews who will live in Judea (the West Bank) at that time.

“But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For THEN shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:20-21)

Some argue that Jesus is addressing the signs of His return in the last days to the Church, in an effort to support their argument that the Church will be present during the tribulation.

A Jew is not permitted to undertake a journey exceeding 1000 steps on the Sabbath.  The Church isn’t bound by Sabbath day restrictions.

So why would Jesus warn the Church to ‘pray’ that the time for flight does not occur on the Sabbath?  Applying Jesus’ warning to the Church doesn’t make sense.

But to a religious Jew, it makes perfect sense.

Assessment:

Jesus divides the Tribulation into two parts, splitting it at the point in which the antichrist replicates the abomination committed by Antiochus Epiphanes.

The Apostle Paul reveals that the antichrist will, in the last days,

“AS GOD, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:4)

Paul provides another important clue that is often overlooked or omitted when trying to find the presence of the Church during the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” (Jeremiah 30:7)

Many critics of a pre-Trib Rapture call the Third Temple the “antichrist’s temple.”  Paul describes the Temple in the last days as “the Temple of God”.

The Tribulation is the 70th Week of Daniel.  Jeremiah refers to it as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  Jesus warns of persecution that will come on Sabbath-keeping Jews.

Where is the Church?  What is the role of the Church during the Tribulation?

To answer that question, we need look at the role of the Church in the Church Age.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

But during the Tribulation, the Great Commission is carried out, not by the Church, but by an angel appointed to the task by God.

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to PREACH TO THEM THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. (Revelation 14:6)

If the indwelt Church is present during the Tribulation, why did the Great Commission get passed from the Church to an angel?  Again, what is the Church’s role during the Tribulation?

Those who argue against a pre-Trib Rapture claim the role of the Church in the last days is to be massacred.  To what purpose?  To bring the Church to Christ?  Clearly not, since by definition, the Church is already Christ’s.

Jesus promised the Church in Matthew 16:18 that,

“the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” 

But we then read in Revelation 13:7

“And it was given unto him (the religious beast) to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”

Which is it?  Do we prevail, or does the antichrist?  Apart from Dispensationalism, the two statements contradict.

But if the Church Age is over and the Tribulation period is the time of ‘Jacob’s Trouble’ and judgment against ‘them that dwell upon the earth’ rather than for the Church, then Scriptural harmony is restored.

One can only conclude the Pre-tribulation Rapture scenario is the view that is most harmonious with Scripture, particularly when given the added dimension of actually watching the preparations unfold before our very eyes.

But our faith isn’t in WHEN Christ comes, it is in the fact that Christ IS coming soon.  And the Rapture Debate is one more evidence of that fact.

Notice that the debate isn’t over whether or not the Lord will come in this generation.  For most, that is not even an issue.

A century ago, they were debating over whether He was coming at all.  Today, we’re fighting over His coming within a seven-year time frame.

Regardless of what you believe concerning the timing of the Rapture, the soon coming of the Lord is proved by the fact such a debate exists at all.  And no matter what you believe about the timing of the Rapture, and no matter who turns out to be right in the end, the important thing to remember is WHAT we are debating.

The evidence (and logic) both indicate that we are living in the last generation in history.  It also indicates that there are people reading my words — right now — who will never, ever die in the traditional sense, but will be caught up alive to be with the Lord.

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

If that event is to take place at some point after all the Christians are massacred by the antichrist, then Paul’s next words make very little sense:

“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Originally Published February 6, 2007

Focus on Israel

Focus on Israel
Vol: 151 Issue: 11 Friday, April 11, 2014

Sometimes, it must appear as if the Omega Letter is really the Israeli Letter, given our focus on the Middle East, in particular, Israel.

Such is not our intent.  But Israel is the linchpin in studying Bible prophecy.  Jesus’ description of the signs of His Return [Matt 24:3] are given from the perspective of someone standing on the Mount of Olives.

Without Israel, Bible prophecy doesn’t make sense.

That is one reason that Christians who believe Israel was replaced by the Church have no use for prophecy.  See “What is Preterism“?

Center of Global Attention

In addition, Israel is at the top of the world’s agenda, and the mission of the Omega Letter Digest is to document the world’s slide toward the Tribulation using secular resources to demonstrate the accuracy of Bible prophecy.

Since Bible prophecy for the last days and through the Tribulation is centered around Israel [see Daniel’s 70th Week].  Israel serves as a mile marker.  The closer it appears to come to extinction, the closer the Return of Christ, Who, according to Scripture, prevents that from happening.

The Eternal Generation

In a very real sense, what we are witnessing is not the actual fulfillment of prophecy for the last days.  The next prophetic event to be fulfilled in the Church Age is the Rapture.  Then the events of the Tribulation follow.  Both remain future — near future, we would argue.

So instead, we are eyewitnesses to the staging process.  The Bible says that there are a number of seemingly unrelated events that take place all in a single generation, somewhere in time.

Bible Prophecy Demands A Jewish State

Bible prophecy makes numerous references to the existence of a Jewish state called Israel in the last days [Ezekiel 37].  It also demands that Israel be in disputed possession of the city of Jerusalem [Zechariah 12].

It demands a conflict between Israel and her neighbors [Daniel 9].  The conflict is so intractable it will require supernatural intervention to resolve it [Dan 9:27, Zech 12:2-3].

Israel’s rebirth even took the Jews by surprise.  Abba Eban, one of Israel’s Founding Fathers, wrote in his book, Personal Witness, that on the day David Ben Gurion composed the telegram asking Harry Truman to recognize the Jewish state, it was still unnamed.

The name ‘Israel’ wasn’t selected until the following day.

“Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isaiah 66:8).

Bible Prophecy Demands A Global Government

Throughout history, men have sought to rule the world.  And throughout history, other men have resisted the attempt.  In the last two global wars, the effort began with the conquest of Europe.

Following the last attempt, the Benelux Treaty brought together the first six European states, forming the nucleus of the modern European Union.  Wars couldn’t unite them.  Peace did [Daniel 8:25].

The same global war was responsible for the creation of the United Nations.  The UN created the template for a global government.  But the UN is an organism with 191 heads and no brain.  It doesn’t take a political scientist to see it is a failed experiment.

How Europe will eventually replace the UN is unclear, but it is the most likely candidate — the world would never accept the US or Russia. Europe would be far more acceptable.  The Bible says it will happen [Daniel 9, Rev 13].

Bible Prophecy Demands a Global Economy

The global economy is a reality.  The prophecy of the Mark of the Beast [Rev 13:17] demands a system whereby the buying and selling of individuals will be tracked and monitored.  Those outside the economic system of antichrist will be ‘unable to buy or sell’.

Entry into the system requires some kind of mark of allegiance to the antichrist.  Tracking sales is a reality.  Nobody can function in today’s economy unless they are in the ‘system’.  If you doubt it, get a bank account without a Social Security number or try and buy a new car using cash.

Bible Prophecy Demands a Global Religion

The Mark of the Beast is an economic system, but also a system of worship.  The false prophet [Rev 13:11] has two horns like a lamb [symbolic of Christianity – the Lamb of God] but speaks as a dragon [Satan].  A counterfeit Christianity preaching another Jesus and a different gospel [2 Cor 11:4].  That is already well entrenched in mainstream Christian denominations that teach salvation by works, church membership or ritual.

The war on terror has also created a global suspicion of fundamental anything.

What is a Fundamentalist?

To a Christian, a fundamentalist is one who practices the fundamentals of Christian faith, eschewing traditions of men and preferring the Word of God.

The world has a different perspective.

Fundamentalists, Jewish, Christian, Muslim — they’re all bombers.  Christian fundamentalists blow up abortion clinics, Jewish fundamentalists blow up Arabs and Muslim fundamentalists blow up anybody.  That is the prevailing propaganda, is it not?

It isn’t a stretch to expect that the sudden legitimization of ‘faith’ [whether in Jehovah, Jesus or Allah] will eventually blend together into a kind of global ecumenical belief in one ‘god’ for all.  Those who hold to the ‘old ways’ would be, well, fundamentalists.

We get lots of email asking where we are in Bible prophecy right now.  Israel was reborn in 1948.  The Benelux Treaty was signed in 1948.  The World Council of Churches was created in Amsterdam in 1948.  The transistor — the invention credited as giving birth to the Computer Age [making possible a global economy] was invented in 1948.

The General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trades [forerunner to the World Trade Organization] was signed in 1948.  Where are we in Bible prophecy right now?  Jesus said ‘when these things begin to come to pass, look up’ [Luke 21:28] because ‘this generation shall not pass, til all be fulfilled’ [Matthew 24:34].

Although no man knows the day or hour, [Matt 24:33] ‘when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors’ [Mark 13:29].

Where are we in Bible prophecy right now?

Near.  Even at the doors.

Today’s Letter was originally published April 18, 2002

When There Is No Law

When There Is No Law
Vol: 151 Issue: 10 Thursday, April 10, 2014

Death was not part of God’s original creation.  The introduction of death was made necessary by the fall of man; sin is the ultimate affront to God and death is therefore the ultimate penalty for sin.

Since it is a penalty, such portions of it will be removed and dismissed forever; the eternal part of death, however, is, well, eternal.

There are three aspects to death; the physical, the spiritual, and what the Bible calls “the second”.  There is the death we know; the separation of soul and spirit from the flesh.

There is the spiritual death; the separation of the soul and spirit from God.  That is the condition of each of us through Adam — the ‘original sin’ which results in spiritual still-birth.  If one rejects fellowship with God in the physical life, one therefore remains separated from God in hell after physical death.

And finally, there is the ‘second death’ — the final and permanent form of spiritual death following sentencing at the Great White Throne.

The death we all know — physical death — is described in respect to its cause by the Apostle Paul:

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14)

In this passage we learn several things concerning death.  First, that death is the result of Adam’s sin.  Sin, like death, is passed on to all men from Adam in that we all sin, and we all die.

Note also that “sin is not imputed when there is no law.”  The point Paul is making relates to Adam’s sin being sufficient cause for invoking the death penalty on all men.

Genesis 2:17 reads:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

In the Hebrew, it says, “dying, thou shalt surely die.”

In the day Adam sinned, he began to die physically.  This judgment includes all forms of death, including the second death, which Paul says “reigned from Adam to Moses.”

We also learn that “sin is not imputed when there is no law.”  What does Paul mean here?

Suppose you owned a large piece of property on which there was a stretch of paved road.  How fast can you drive on that road before you break the law?  70mph?  80?  120mph?

Since it is private property, there is no applicable law here.  You can go as fast as you want without breaking any law or incurring any legal penalty.

Sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Assessment:

One of the biggest doctrinal controversies within the modern Church concerns the doctrine of eternal security, or, as its critics term it, “once saved, always saved.” (OSAS)

But the Apostle Paul writes;

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Roman 6:14)

If a saved Christian is not under the law, and sin is not imputed where there is no law, the search for a proof text to the contrary requires way more gymnastics than I am comfortable with.

If God’s intention in inspiring Scripture was to make plain to the simple the plan of salvation, well, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. . . . For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9,13)

I’m an heir to Adam’s sin and an heir to his sin nature.  Sin, like death, was passed on to me and there is nothing I can do that will eliminate either.  But as one washed in the Blood, I am saved by the grace of God from the eternal penalty of my own sin.

I am still under the curse of Adam.  I will still sin.  And will surely die physically.  But the second death has no power over me.  There is no law under which I can be convicted because there is no law to which I am made subject.

I am not under the law, but under grace.  And where there is no law, no sin is imputed.  I cannot sin my way out of Jesus’ Hand because there is no applicable law I can break.

At the Bema Seat where the saved are judged for their crowns, every detail of one’s life will be examined.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Corinthians 3:13)

It is at the Bema Seat that we Christians will give an account of every word spoken, every work committed or omitted, whether bad OR good:

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthian 3:15)

We will be judged according to our works, but we will be sentenced according to the finished Work at the Cross.  At the Bema Seat, we will acknowledge our guilt, will suffer loss for our sins, but will still gain entrance into eternal life.

Revelation 17:8 says;

“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”

Those whose names were “not written into the Book of Life from the foundation of the world” will stand before the Great White Throne.  Those whose names were already there before the world began are those of whom Paul was speaking when he wrote:

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)

From what I can find in Scripture, there is but one charge for which those who stand before the Great White Throne will be sentenced.  The Scriptures say that at the Great White Throne, the Lord will open the “books” and the Book of Life.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12)

The ‘books’ are the record of one’s life, just as at the Bema Seat.  Just as at the Bema Seat, one will give an accounting of every thought, word and deed.  At the Great White Throne, all those who rejected Christ will bow their knee and confess Jesus is Lord.

They will be judged, as were Christians at the Bema Seat, according to their works.  But they will not be sentenced according to their works.

Christians are saved at the Bema Seat because of who they are in Christ, not according to what they did in the body.

At the Great White Throne, the lost will be sentenced, not according to their works, but according to who they are in Christ:

“And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

Note: Today’s Letter explains the three aspects of death.  J.L. Robb informs us of an “Ebola Outbreak” and the potential global threat.

Nothing But The Blood

Nothing But The Blood
Vol: 151 Issue: 9 Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One of the crimes that were ascribed to early Christians was that Christian worship services included the practice of cannibalism.

Christians were reputed to ceremonially repeat the sacrifice of Christ and then eat the body and blood of the victim.

It was all very vague; all the average Roman of that time knew about Christianity was that it placed an inordinate value on blood and sacrifice.  Christianity today is still slammed by its critics as a ‘bloody’ religion, because so much of the Bible seems to obsess about it.

Every major doctrine in the Bible is dependent on the Blood.

“Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission,” (Hebrews 9:22)

Without the Blood Doctrine, there can be no forgiveness, no regeneration, no peace, no joy, no rest, no hope, and no Resurrection.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is pictured as the Lamb of God, and that title is always associated with His atoning work on the Cross, in which He shed His Blood as full payment for our sins.

Remove the Blood Doctrine from Scripture, and the Doctrine of Atonement goes with it.

If one breaks down the word ‘atonement’ into its component parts, the word defines itself according to its original meaning. “At One Ment”.

We were separated from God at the Fall, and we are made one again at the Cross.

Adam and Eve were told that the penalty for breaking God’s command not to violate the Tree of Knowledge was death.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

God made provision for their sin, killing two animals and covering their nakedness with their skins.  That was the first blood shed to cover sin, and God set up a system of sacrifice whereby the blood of bullocks, goats and lambs kept that one Great Object Lesson before the people.

Sin has a blood penalty, and the penalty must be paid.

In Genesis Chapter 15, we find Abram questioning God’s promise that his seed will be numbered as the stars of heaven and that they would inherit the land to which God had led him.

Genesis 15:6 says,

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

But Abram wanted a guarantee, nonetheless.

“And he [Abram] said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (15:8)

It was then that God proposed a blood covenant after the manner of the Chaldeans.

“And he [God] said unto him, [Abram] Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

Abram knew what to do next, since this was something he was familiar with.

“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”

The blood covenant worked this way.  The animals were slaughtered and cut up.  The pieces were intermingled and then carefully arranged to form a kind of aisle through which the two parties to the covenant would walk together, hands joined.

The principle of a blood covenant, and the symbolism of the rended animal parts was clearly understood to Abram.  Whoever broke the covenant would end up like those piles of animals.

A blood covenant was, by common custom, a joining of 2 or more persons, families, clans, tribes, or nations, where the participants agree to do or refrain from doing certain acts.

More specifically, God had proposed a patriarchal covenant.  The patriarchal form of covenant is a self-imposed obligation of a superior party, to the benefit of an inferior party.

In this form, the terms the parties use to refer to each other are: father and son.

God’s proposal included not only Abram, but extended to Abram’s seed forever.

Genesis says that, having prepared the covenant ritual, Abram waited for God to show up so the two of them could walk through the grisly aisle together, sealing its terms.

Instead, Genesis 15:12 records that as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him.  During that deep sleep;

“it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:17-18)

Although the Covenant was between God and Abram (and his seed), God signed on both sides, binding Himself to both parts.  Abram and his seed did not remain faithful, and the penalty for violating a blood covenant was death.

It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time.  To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son, as it demanded.

And having kept its terms on behalf of sinful humanity, it was incumbent upon Him to make payment, as justice demanded, for its violation by those on whose behalf the covenant was signed.

To be torn and rended like the animals that formed the corridor through which God alone passed.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

It may still seem a bit unclear.  How can an innocent person assume the guilt of another and then call it ‘justice?’

When a person becomes a Christian, he becomes a part of the Body of Christ.  He is joined with Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He becomes ‘one with Christ’.

Look at it this way.  Suppose a poor, debt-ridden widow lived next door to a millionaire.  Her debts could not be legally or justly charged to him.  But if he married her, he also legally and justly assumes responsibility for both her assets and her debts.

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law (our first husband) by the body of Christ (that is by Christ’s death); that ye should be married to another, even to Him (Christ) who is raised from the dead.” (Romans 7:4)

Noted Clarence Larkin back in 1911;

As sinners we were under the “curse of the Law,” but as believers– “Christ hath redeemed us from the CURSE of the Law, being made a CURSE for us: for it is written, CURSED IS EVERY ONE THAT HANGETH ON A TREE.” (Galatians 3:13).

The “Tree” that Christ hung on was the CROSS.

We are therefore DEAD to the Law: not physically dead, but JUDICIALLY dead, for the “Penalty” of a law cannot be exacted twice. If Jesus “bare our sins in His own body upon the Tree” (1st Peter 2:24), then they are no longer upon us and we are free from sin. The death of Christ was no mere accident or incident, it was predetermined.

“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold . . . but with the PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” (1st Peter 1:18-20).”

In the words of the old Gospel song,

“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. . . Oh! precious is the flow; That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know . . .

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

This imperative message was orginally published September 5, 2007

That Which Shall Be Hereafter. . .

That Which Shall Be Hereafter. . .
Vol: 151 Issue: 8 Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Book of the Revelation was authored by the Apostle John on the island of Patmos off the coast of Greece sometime around the last decade of the 1st century.

Note that it is NOT the Revelation of John, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John the Apostle.  John makes that clear from the start:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

The revelation was given to Jesus by the Father for the purpose of showing it to His servants, who later came to be called by His Name, “Christians.”  The Apostle John is simply the recording device.

The Revelation is as much the product of the Apostle John as this column is the product of Apple or Microsoft.

I wrote it on my Mac.  You’re probably reading it using software developed by Microsoft, but Apple didn’t produce it and Microsoft is not responsible for its contents.

Microsoft didn’t add to it or remove anything — it simply provided the method by which the information contained herein was made available to you.

John says up front that he didn’t compose it, he is merely relaying the contents.  The Book itself is divided into three parts: John was told to write down “the things which thou has seen” (the vision on Patmos) “the things which are” (the things pertaining to the Seven Churches) and the “things which shall be thereafter.”

What John saw was the Glorified Savior.

“His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength.” (Revelation 1:14-16)

The Prophet Daniel described Him similarly more than six hundred years before;

“and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9)

John was told to write down the “things which are.”  By the end of the 1st century, when John is writing, the Church has spread into Asia Minor, represented by the seven largest churches in the seven largest cities.

Examined in the light of two thousand years of hindsight, one can identify within the defining characteristics of each of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor seven distinct epochs within the Church Age — in chronological order.

The seventh and final church to be addressed by the Lord is the one located in Laodocea.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. ” (Revelation 3:14-15)

I’ve heard a lot of different interpretations of what the Lord meant by the “spue thee out” comment — most often misrepresented when used as a proof text one can lose one’s individual salvation.

The Lord is referring to the Church as a corporate body — the whole Body of Christ makes Him sick — there’s no reference to individual believers here.

If I say a person ‘sickens me’ I’m referring to that person’s defining behavior, not passing judgment on the second finger of his right hand or the condition of his left elbow.

Jesus’ description of the Church of Laodicea is a mirror image of the church of modern times:

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

I could go on, but I think the point is fairly obvious.  The letters to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor make up the second part of the outline of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John.

There is also a sense of urgency found in the letter to the Church at Laodicea missing from the letters to the previous Churches (epochs).

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” The second division of the Revelation of Jesus Christ concludes; “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

The third and final division of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John is, according to Jesus, “the things which shall be thereafter.”  The key, then, to understanding the overall message is the definition of ‘thereafter.’

Thereafter what?

The first two divisions of the Book are self-explanatory; “the things which thou hast seen” — the Ancient of Days, the seven golden lampstands, etc.  The first division ends with an explanation of the vision:

“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)

The second division, addressed to the Seven Churches, ends with an admonition: “He that hath an ear, let him hear. . . ” –watch this — what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

It puts us on notice to zero in our attention on the change about to take place. . . thereafter.

The third division of the Book of Revelation — that which John was told would be ‘thereafter’ begins with a trumpet call, a door opening up into heaven, and the Apostle John being translated from flesh to spirit.

And in case one missed the division Jesus wanted us to catch from Revelation 3:22, the voice of the trumpet explains that this is where we get to the ‘hereafter’ part.

Stay with me.  We have three parts here.  There is the part where Jesus shows Himself to John ”what thou hast seen”.

Having been so identified as the One with the keys to heaven and hell, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, Jesus then composes seven letters to the Seven Churches “which are”.

Then we move to that which “shall be hereafter”:

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)

This is a distinct and different time and a distinct and different place.  The time is ‘hereafter’ and the place is ‘heaven’.

John gets there by the agency of a trumpet call and is translated into the spirit.  Present at the Throne of God are twenty-four “elders” — the twelve Patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles of the Church Age.

Revelation 5:9-10 identifies the Church as being in Heaven:

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”

In Revelation Chapter 7, the 144,000 of the Twelve Tribes of Israel are ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit, which then gives them the power to spread the Gospel and lead people to Christ.

After this, says Revelation 7:9, John sees:

“a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”

Again, notice the chronology.  First, we have the sealing of the 144,000 by the Holy Spirit.  No person can be led to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, because the things of the Spirit are foolishness to the lost.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

So first, the evangelists are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Then — AFTER THAT — the multitudes “which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

While those ‘that dwell upon the earth’ are lashed by a series of twenty-one Divine Judgments:

“a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads. . . And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3)

The Apostle John remains in heaven to this point.  The 144,000 “which were redeemed from the earth” have learned ‘a new song’ that nobody else can learn.  They are not “the Church” — the Church has its own ‘song’.

And in Revelation 14:6, John sees:

“another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”

Why is an angel, rather than the Church which was given the Great Commission, carrying the Gospel?  Because the Church is no longer there.

Let’s follow the chronology.  First, at Pentecost, the Apostles are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  They then are given power to preach the Gospel and to lead men to Christ.

The Church Age is born, and goes through seven identifiable epochs.

Then — hereafter– John hears a trumpet call and is taken into heaven.  His perspective shifts to that of heaven, where he is in the presence of twenty-four elders.

Notice that the twenty-four elders are NOT spirits, but are instead depicted as having bodies.  Spirits aren’t clothed and crowned, and seated.

The Church is not referenced again in Revelation.  Later, it becomes necessary to seal 144,000 Jews with the Holy Spirit, after which John begins to make reference to tribulation ‘saints’.

The everlasting Gospel, which was given to the Church and then charged with preaching it to the lost, is now being preached to every kindred, tongue and nation by an angel!

Why did God find it necessary to seal 12,000 from each of the 12 Tribes to carry the Gospel — before then reassigning the job to an angel?  Where is the Church?  Why isn’t it on the job?

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)

Follow along with me here while we overlay 1st Corinthians 15:51-52 on Revelation 4:1

“Behold, I shew you a mystery.” (Recall the admonition that concluded the message to the Churches — he that hath an ear . . .”)

“We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, (“and a door was opened in heaven”) at the last trump — for the trumpet SHALL sound (“a voice, as it were a trumpet”) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, (“Come up hither”) and we shall be changed. (“and immediately I was in the Spirit”) (1st Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 4:1)

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)

There’s that Voice again, (sounding like a trumpet), followed by an instant translation into heaven.  So, we have three different descriptions of what sound like exactly the same event: an instant translation, accompanied by a trumpet, from the earth to heaven — and without going through the usual procedure of dying first.

When does it happen?  It seems pretty obvious to me from the Scriptures.  First comes the Rapture of the Church.  And then, the Tribulation.

“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

Note: Today’s Letter walks us through the first part of the Book of Revelation to that moment we have all been watching for.  Wendy Wippel’s column “By Any Other Name” provides a look at a little known Jewish tribe.