He Only Thought He Was Saved. . .

He Only Thought He Was Saved. . .
Vol: 158 Issue: 29 Saturday, November 29, 2014

I was talking with a friend when the topic turned to a mutual acquaintance who got saved but about six months later, he was right back where he had been before meeting Christ.

My friend, who shares my faith in the doctrine of eternal security remarked, “I guess he only THOUGHT he was saved.”

I suppose my friend made that assumption because of his bedrock faith that salvation is a one-time event that cannot be repeated.  In that regard, he has Scripture firmly on his side.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

This is an interesting passage in that I’ve heard it used as a “proof text” against the doctrine of eternal security.  In point of fact, it teaches the opposite.  The Scripture says it is impossible for a saved person that falls away to be renewed unto repentance because it would require crucifying the Lord again.

It baffles me how that verse can be construed to mean that one can lose one’s salvation because it so clearly says that is impossible.  When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He prayed:

“those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

My friend said that Judas was the example of a guy that thought he was saved but he really wasn’t.  I can’t get there from here, since before Pentecost, NONE of the Apostles had any assurance of salvation.  Salvation requires the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Without His Presence, the things of the Spirit are foolishness.

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

“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.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The Holy Spirit did not indwell the Apostles until Pentecost.  Prior to the infilling of the Spirit, they were afraid, cowering in hiding, until the Holy Spirit came upon them.  With the infilling of the Spirit comes the assurance of salvation, after which they became bold as lions.

They didn’t become perfect.  Sometime in the winter of AD 51 the Apostle Peter made a visit to Antioch.  At first, he made a great effort to live like the Jewish converts of the church at Antioch.  From there, he preached to the Gentiles, and even sat with them to eat.

Then messengers arrived from the Lord’s half-brother, James in Jerusalem.  James wanted to strengthen the Jewish identity of converts from Judaism.

This was James’ justification for interfering in Antioch.  He felt that he had the right to demand a much higher standard of Jewish observance from the Jewish converts there.  Above all they were not to trust pagans and, in consequence, could no longer eat with them.

Only in isolation could Jews preserve their traditional values.  They began to teach that in order to be saved, one had to obey Jewish law.  Peter and Barnabas were swept into this movement.  When the Apostle Paul arrived in Antioch, he went ballistic.

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. . . Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:11,16)

Either Peter and James were teaching falsely, or the Apostle Paul was, since they were teaching conflicting doctrines. 

Wait!  Are you saying that Peter and James were false teachers?  Well, if they weren’t then Paul was because things, (including doctrines) that are different are not the same.  And the doctrine that Peter and James were teaching was salvation by works.

Did that mean they only thought they were saved?

On the other hand, Paul was teaching salvation by grace through faith and not of works.  Did Peter stand up to Paul and defend his doctrine?  Or did Peter accept the rebuke and correct his doctrine?

In 2 Peter 3:16 Peter refers to Paul’s letters as “scripture” indicating Peter’s respect for Paul’s authority.  But nowhere does the Bible suggest Peter needed to get saved again after teaching false doctrine.

Neither is there any suggestion he had only thought he was saved until he received Paul’s rebuke and correction.  Yet Peter and James and Barnabas had all been saved out of Judaism and there they were, trying to Judaize converts to Christianity.

They were just like the guy that got saved and six months later, he was right back where he started.

Assessment:

Do you recall the day you were saved?  Do you recall the moment when you knew that you were washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb?  Do you recall that moment of sinlessness when you prayed through the tears for Jesus to save you?

The Bible teaches that at that moment, your eternity was as certain as if you were already in heaven.

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:5-6)

At that moment when you were saved, the Bible says you were transformed from what you had been, either a Jew or a Gentile, into a new creature.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)

“Creature” is an unfortunate rendering of the original ktisis which means, “creation.”  Let’s substitute creation and see how it reads then.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation : old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)

It’s not that complicated, really.  WHO is the Creator?  Are YOU the creator?  No?  Then if YOU aren’t the Creator, then Who created the new creature?  Was it YOU by your action of calling on Jesus?  Or was it the Creator in response to your action?

So, at the moment when you were saved, God stepped into action, transforming you into a new creature that had not existed prior to that moment.  That’s what the Bible says, (unless you intend to claim the title of Creator.)

Now to summarize.  At that moment when you were saved, you were transformed into a new spiritual creation of God.  Unless you have God-like power, you cannot transform yourself into a new creature.  Can you?

But if you sin enough, you can transform yourself back?

What if you think you are saved but you are not?  Frankly, I do not see how that can be possible.  If a person wants to be saved, the Bible explains how.  In all of Scripture, there is no other place where the question is asked and answered more clearly than the jailer in Acts.

“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:30-31)

Is it possible to sincerely think you believe when you really don’t?  It is possible to believe and then doubt, or to believe and then be proved wrong, but I do not see how it is possible to sincerely think one is a believer at the moment one first believes.

Everybody wants to believe it is possible to reach some kind of spiritual state of nirvana where they don’t sin, even if they’ve never experienced it themselves.  It is discouraging when they can’t.  And they can’t because it is not true.

Sinning is what human beings do.  Guilt is the most important tool in the enemy’s arsenal of weapons against us.  We find it hard to forgive ourselves.  But the Lord God knows what we do not, and He forgives us when we ask Him.

Every time we ask Him.  And His forgiveness is perfect.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12)

“For I will be merciful in their unrighteousness, and their sins and transgressions will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 8:1)

It is the nature of man to sin.  It is the nature of God to forgive.  All we need do is ask.

Friends of God

Friends of God
Vol: 158 Issue: 28 Friday, November 28, 2014

All human beings, according to Scripture, are born with an eternal destiny. In the grand scheme of things, the main purpose of our earthly lives is to choose what that eternal destiny will be.

The Apostle James asks and answers the question;

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

We can get some sense of perspective from our own human experience. We are created by God at conception, but spend nine months being prepared for life outside the womb.

We leave the comfort of the womb in terror; our first experience involves being grabbed by the head with a pair of salad spoons and yanked from our 98.6 degree environment into a sterile 68 degree delivery room, where we are promptly assaulted.

Shortly thereafter, silver nitrate is dropped into our eyes, we get poked, prodded, stuck with needles and get dropped into a basket where we find ourselves alone for the very first time in our brief existence.

(And you don’t even want to think about what is coming in a few days if you are a boy.)

But, given all of that, who would want to trade this life for a life spent floating in darkness inside the womb?

The baby on the way out doesn’t know what wonders await him on the other side, (but the doctor wielding the salad spoons does.) Still, the doctor only introduces the potential — what the baby does with that potential occupies his next seventy or eighty years.

Then the process starts all over again. Out come the Divine Salad Spoons, and we are dragged, kicking and screaming into the third and final phase of our existence — eternity.

Assessment:

The Bible is the God’s Owner’s Manual for human beings. It contains all the information necessary regarding humanity’s origins, care and feeding, rules for safe operation and guidelines for proper maintenance. It also explains our ultimate purpose — to be friends of God.

“Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:14-15)

Note that being a friend of God is conditional; whereas salvation is unconditional. Of friendship, Jesus said, “Ye are My friends, IF ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Regarding salvation, Jesus said,

“I am the door: by Me if ANY man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

But of His friends, Jesus said,

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.” (John 15:16)

Jesus is not extending His Hand of friendship to farmers. The command to ‘bear fruit’ that ‘should remain’ is a reminder that this life is, as James said, ‘even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, then vanisheth away.’

Each of us has an eternal destiny and each of us has the opportunity to choose where and how we will spend it.

We will either spend it in joy unspeakable in the Presence of God, or we will spend it in darkness, alone, separated from God for eternity, with only our memories, in the place Jesus described three times as being;

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44,46,48)

My eternal destiny was sealed when I accepted the gift of Pardon Jesus offers and trusted Him for my salvation.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

But what of my ‘fruit’ that is to ‘remain’, should I hope to be God’s ‘friend’ instead of just another servant. Note also that ‘grace’ is the extension of an unmerited gift, mercy and salvation are the gifts being extended.

But ‘friendship’ is something different. It is often observed that “we are stuck with family, but we choose our friends.”

Each of us, to be saved, chooses Christ. We become part of God’s ‘forever family’ as Hal likes to put it.

But Jesus says of His friends, ‘I have chosen you’. Not only that, but ORDAINED them to ‘bear fruit’ that ‘should remain’ after their own ‘vapour’ has dissipated from this earth.

Among His servants, Jesus has chosen and ordained certain of them to bear fruit, saying that those who accept His calling will be numbered among His friends.

There can be no question but that we are in the final countdown to the end of this present Age. The final war between the Lamb and the Dragon is poised to spill out into this reality during the Tribulation.

There is little time remaining for those of us who have accepted the call to take up our positions on the line. Not everybody is called to take positions in the front ranks, however.

Any army has many layers; warriors, support troops, cooks, supply clerks, ‘office pinkies’ etc.

In the Marines, I was a supply clerk, then later changed Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) to become an ‘office pinkie’ working in a data processing unit. But, like all Marines, I was, first and foremost, a combat rifleman.

Each of us may find ourselves in combat from time to time, if we are faithful, but that doesn’t make all of us frontline warriors. Some of us are more valuable in a supporting role.

An army’s effectiveness depends as much on its lines of supply as it does the fierceness of its warriors. (A Marine with an empty rifle would be a fierce warrior armed with an expensive, poorly designed club)

There are many ways the friends of God can lend support to those on the front lines of battle. Pray for us at the Omega Letter.

Seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. The time has come for those who would be friends of God to stand.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)

Featured Commentary: Standing for the Gospel ~ Alf Cengia

The Thanksgiving Whale

The Thanksgiving Whale
Vol: 158 Issue: 27 Thursday, November 27, 2014

The first official Thanksgiving Day proclamation on the US continent was issued on June 20, 1676 by the governing council of the Charlestown settlement in present-day Massachusetts.

The occasion was the continuing existence of the Charlestown settlement, which had the previous winter been very much in doubt.

The first American Thanksgiving proclamation was issued by George Washington.  Issued October 3, 1789, it proposed Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.”

Over the course of the next seventy-four years, Thanksgiving was observed by different states at different times according to region.  There was no unifying, national day of Thanksgiving until Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving.

Lincoln’s proclamation, issued October 3, 1863 was issued during the darkest days of the American Civil War, only weeks after the carnage of Gettysburg and Union losses at Chancellorsville and Chickamauga.

“Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Lincoln’s proclamation set aside the last Thursday of November as the day that Americans, both at home and abroad, to give thanks to Almighty God for His Mercy and to beg for His aid in preserving the Union.

Lincoln’s proclamation, issued one hundred and forty-seven years ago, was both a proclamation and a prayer.  The prayer was for the Union’s preservation.  The proclamation was one of thanksgiving for answered prayer, expressing Lincoln’s confidence that God is a prayer-answering God.

The continued preservation of the Union, through the Civil War, two World Wars, the Cold War and two Depressions, stand as living testimony that our God remains a prayer answering God as long as we remain a thanks-giving people.

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I also believe that, for America, Thanksgiving Day is the most important holiday of the year.  

It all has to do with the Thanksgiving Whale.

Assessment:

Jonah was instructed by God to travel to Nineveh to proclaim judgment against the great city.  But Jonah refuses and boards a ship headed the other way for Tarshish. 

This is the part when the sea erupts and Jonah finally tells the crew to cast him into the sea before they are all drowned.

Jonah is then miraculously preserved in the belly of a great sea creature (Jonah calls it a fish, but Jesus identifies it as a whale) for three days and three nights.

From inside the whale’s belly, Jonah was (quite understandably) thankful when he realized he wasn’t being digested. That must have been quite a moment.

In his gratitude, he repents and promises to obey God . . . and the sea creature then coughs him up on the shore of Nineveh. That’s the part of the Jonah story that gets all the attention.

And there’s a boatload of symbolism and messianic references and irony and other stuff that gets endlessly debated by scholars.   (Not to mention the whale.)

But this is a column about Thanksgiving, not whether or not Jonah was in a fish’s belly or a whale’s belly. 

So let’s pick up with Jonah on the beach. . . no doubt doubly thankful for dry land.

“And the Word of the Lord came until Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”

And so Jonah, still faintly smelling like fish, headed off for Nineveh without argument. 

When he got there, he preached the message that Nineveh had forty days to live.  Forty days. Period. God said so.  That was it.  No conditional promises were made. 

“And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

Unexpectedly (for Jonah, who really despised the Ninevites) the people of Nineveh, the Scripture specifically notes, “believed God” and proclaimed a fast.  

“For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

“But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:5-9)

The Bible recounts that God did, of course, turn from His anger and spared Nineveh, which is the part of the story that brings us back to the importance of Thanksgiving to America.

God has already spared America – He did so when the nation was in peril of its survival unlike any time before or since. Think about it.

Had the Union been pulled asunder and the Confederacy established, the America of today would likely be a small, unimportant republic dominated by British Canada and the Dominion of the Southern Confederacy; surrounded by other small, relatively unimportant republics like Texas and California.

And so every year, on the last Thursday in November, we give thanks, by national proclamation, “to Almighty God for His aid in preserving the Union.” 

Because every year that we have, He did. And I am thankful for that. 

Every Thanksgiving, I realize that have more to be thankful for than I had the year before.

I am thankful beyond measure for each of you, my brothers and sisters of our Omega Letter Fellowship.  You are my treasured friends and my most powerful supporters.  Your prayers can move mountains — and they have. 

Our forums are filled with testimonials to the power of our prayers, one for another.  Your prayers for me are like an umbrella under which I regularly retreat for comfort and safety. 

I am grateful beyond measure for those prayers, the power of which have been demonstrated to me so often and so dramatically that I would be terrified to contemplate a day without them.   Thank you all for that.

Thank you for sharing your love and your friendship with me and with each other in our forums. It sustains me in ways I could never express.  

Thank you for the support and the challenges and the comments you take the time to share in the daily Omega Letter forums.   Thank you all for the undeserved respect you afford me there.  It is a wonderful place of refreshing that I could not bear to be without.

Thank You, Father, for Your Son.  Thank You for our victory in Jesus.  Thank You for our country and what remains of our freedom. Thank You for the hope for America that each Thanksgiving Day represents.  

Thank You for answered Prayer. 

Happy Thanksgiving Day, my beloved friends and family.   Enjoy your families and your friends and your freedoms.  Enjoy what God has given you.

God bless us every one.  And may God continue to bless America.

Featured Commentary: Thanksgiving and What It Means to Me ~ J.L. Robb

And All the Fishes in the Sea

And All the Fishes in the Sea
Vol: 158 Issue: 26 Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The world is divided between the oceans and the land masses; and five-sixths of the world’s surface area is ocean. Just one-sixth of the earth’s surface is dry land, and a good portion of that, mountains, deserts, the polar regions, etc., are barely inhabited.

It is widely assumed that the earth is suffering from overpopulation. As America’s population passed the three hundred million mark, modern-day Cassandras kicked off new speculation about how America might soon suffer the effects of overpopulation.

I don’t know. I’ve crossed this country many times, and marveled at the vast expanses that are virtually uninhabited.

For almost a thousand miles, from Palm Desert, California to Fort Stockton, Texas, one passes through just a handful of large cities; Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and only a few dozen little towns and settlements. In between are miles and miles of nothing but uninhabited desert.

Even heavily populated states like California, New York and Pennsylvania still have vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness.

The State of Texas is 262,017 square miles, or about 167,690,880 acres. That single state is large enough to give every man, woman and child in the entire United States a half-acre of land, leaving the other forty-nine states completely uninhabited. Overpopulated?

As noted, the other five-sixths of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans that are miles deep in some places. The average depth of the Pacific is almost 2 1/2 miles and the Marianas Trench is more than six miles deep, for example. If Mount Everest were placed inside of this trench, it would disappear.

Assessment:

According to a 2003 report in the journal, “Nature” the inhabitants of one-sixth of the earth’s surface has all but destroyed the inhabitants of the other five-sixths.

Only 10 percent of all large fish—both open ocean species including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder—are left in the sea.

“From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left,” said lead author Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada.

“Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10 percent—not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles.”

The conclusion reached by the researchers is that the world’s oceans will be completely fished out by 2048.

“At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed – that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating,” Worm said. “If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime – by 2048.”

Several things in this report immediately jumped out at me. The first is that fish is the major dietary staple of some of the world’s poorest countries. For more than a billion people worldwide, fish is their main source of protein.

The Book of the Revelation tells of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Of the third Horseman, Scripture says;

“. . . And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. (Revelation 6:5-6)

A ‘measure of wheat’ and ‘three measures of barley’ represent a day’s food for one person. A ‘penny’ in Scripture represents a day’s wages. For the poor, the Scriptures project a time when people will work a full day to earn a day’s food.

The ‘oil and the wine’ are representative of great wealth. While the poor will face starvation, the rich will not. Globally speaking, we are almost to that point now. The gap between rich nations and poor nations has never been more pronounced.

There are places in the world today where the average annual income wouldn’t buy dinner for two in a California restaurant. Some 2.4 billion people in the world today exist on less than $875.00 US per YEAR!

The second is the fact that, in one generation, we’ve depleted 90% of the ocean’s fish stocks. In ONE generation. One generation from now, say scientists, there won’t be any left.

The Book of the Revelation’s Second Trumpet Judgment and the Second Vial Judgment both involve the death of all the fishes of the sea;

“And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:8-9)

“And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. (Revelation 16:3)

What an interesting ‘coincidence!’ The Bible and secular science are predicting essentially the same eventual result, differing only over the precise cause.

Secular science says the depletion of fish stocks began about 1950.

The Bible says the events that would lead to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy would coincide with the restoration of Israel (1948) and that all Bible prophecy would be fulfilled within that generation’s lifetime.

The only real area of disagreement is the cause of the global fish-kill — both project the identical ultimate effect. And both see it coming to fruition at just about the same point in history.

Mankind has relied on fish for sustenance since Adam left the Garden. Fish is synonymous with food in the Bible, and ranks up there with bread as a dietary staple.

The Bible projects two events to befall the last generation; global famine and the death of all the fishes in the sea. Secular science projects two events to befall this generation; global famine and the death of all fishes in the sea.

In 1950, the idea of running out of fish was as absurd as the idea that the Bible’s prophecies for the last days were beginning to unfold.

One generation later, both are part of the daily news cycle. What does it all mean?

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. . . So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:25-26, 31,32)

Judging the Time

Judging the Time
Vol: 158 Issue: 25 Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:27-28)

The Sanhedrin was the Jewish ‘Supreme Court’ — traditionally consisting of seventy-one of Israel’s most revered Torah sages. Cases that were the most difficult or the most critical for the Jewish People were decided by the Sanhedrin. A majority had to be at least two votes.

On the floor of the Sanhedrin were debated the fundamental principles of the Torah, and the result was established by majority vote. After the Temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin moved from place to place in Israel.

It finally was dissolved when, in the absence of the greatest Sages of Israel, the Institution of Semichah could no longer be applied.

The Sanhedrin originally convened in the Temple area, in the Chamber of Cut Stones (Lishkat HaGazit). This was a chamber built into the north wall of the Temple, half inside the sanctuary and half outside, with doors providing access both to the Temple and to the outside.

Every member of the Sanhedrin must be ordained, following a tradition from Moses. Ordination must be conferred by a court of three, containing at least one ordained member.

It can be done either in person, or by messenger or letter. A single court can ordain many individuals at once. Ordination can only be conferred in the Land of Israel. To qualify for ordination, one must be expert in all areas of Torah law.

The traditional ordination was abolished in the year 358 AD during the Jewish persecutions under Constantine. The Sanhedrin and other duly constituted courts cannot be established until this ordination is reinstituted.

Jewish tradition holds that it will be in Tiberias that the Sanhedrin will be restored, since it was Tiberias that hosted the last meeting of the Sanhedrin, 1600 years ago.

Religious Jews believe that the restoration of the Sanhedrin will precede the coming of the Jewish Messiah. (Isaiah 1:27-28)

The Messiah, the Jewish sages say, will be the King of Israel, and as such, can only be recognized by a duly ordained Sanhedrin court.

Jewish tradition says the Sanhedrin will be restored after a partial ingathering of the Jewish exile, before Jerusalem is rebuilt and restored.

There is also a tradition that Elijah will present himself before a duly- ordained Sanhedrin when he announces the coming of the Messiah.

Like all events in the Messianic outline, the restoration of the Sanhedrin can only occur at the time decreed by God.

Assessment:

In October, 2004, seventy-one Jewish sages were ordained to the restored Jewish Sanhedrin in Tiberias.

“There is a special mitzvah [commandment], not connected to time, but tied to our presence in Israel, to establish a Sanhedrin,” Rabbi Meir HaLevi, one of the 71 members of the new Sanhedrin, told Israel National Radio’s Weekend Edition.

Those behind the revival of the Sanhedrin stress that the revival of the legal body is not optional, but mandated by the Torah.

“We don’t have a choice,” says Rabbi Chaim Richman, head of the Temple Mount Institute and also a member of the new Sanhedrin. “It is a religious mandate for us to establish a Sanhedrin.”

I met Rabbi Richman in Jerusalem in 1992 and was given a special tour of the Temple Mount Institute. The TMI exists for the express purpose of restoring the Jewish Temple to the Temple Mount and reinstituting Temple Mount worship.

To that end, the TMI has recreated all the implements of worship required, from ceremonial lavers to special tools for sacrifice, including, at that time, a perfect ‘red heifer’ to be sacrificed so its ashes can be used to purify the Temple Mount.

Nine red heifers were born during the entire time of the Tabernacle and two Temples. The tenth, according to this tradition, will be born in the end-times for the Third Temple. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, no red heifers have been born — until this generation.

Jewish law requires that a red heifer must be raised in a very special way like a holy thing which is completely dedicated to God.

It must be raised in a very special, clean stall and fed special food. She cannot be raised with other calves, especially males. It is forbidden to use her for any work or any other needs of the rancher.

In the late 1990’s, two thousand years after the last perfect red heifer that met the stringent requirements set forth in Numbers 19:2-10, two perfect red heifers were born in Israel and a third born on a ranch in Texas. And a ranch in Mississippi has begun BREEDING perfect red heifers for use by Temple priests.

The two red heifers born in Israel have already been dedicated by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement.

Members of the Temple Mount Institute and the Temple Mount Faithful Movement are convinced that the Messiah will appear in Israel in this generation.

Rabbi Chaim Richman and TMF founder, Gershon Salomon, have dedicated their lives to the restoration of the Jewish Temple and reinstituting Jewish worship in a restored Temple located on Temple Mount.

I’ve spoken at length with both men, especially Gershon Salomon, (who once graciously invited me to a Sabbath dinner at his home in Jerusalem), and they are utterly convinced the Jewish Messiah will be ordained as King in Jerusalem in their lifetimes.

Every year during the Jewish feast day of Tisha B’av (commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temples), Gershon’s group attempts to lay a new cornerstone for a Third Temple on Temple Mount.

Each time, they’ve been blocked by nervous Israeli politicians from doing so, but every year, they make a new attempt.

The reestablishment of the Sanhedrin took 1600 years to accomplish, but, in this generation, for the first time in 1600 years, it is a reality in Israel.

Every obstacle to the restoration of Temple worship has now been overcome — excepting, of course, the pesky problem of the al Aqsa Mosque that now sits over the Jewish Holy of Holies.

According to the New Testament, the messiah that Israel will crown king isn’t Jesus, but rather, according to the Apostle Paul, that ‘Wicked’ one who is introduced in 2nd Thessalonians;

“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:4)

Israel awaits her messiah, not knowing that He was the One Who prophesied 2000 years ago, “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (John 5:43)

The messiah figure for whom all these preparations are being made in Israel is not the Messiah Jesus, but, in terms of Bible prophecy, that is not as relevant as the fact the preparations are already being made.

Although the first messiah-figure that comes is not the Messiah-King, his arrival comes only seven years before the real Messiah returns at the conclusion of the Tribulation Period.

What it all means is this. Israel is looking for a Messiah in earnest — so much so, that the Sanhedrin has been restored after 1600 years of waiting — for the express purpose of crowning the Messiah king when he does come.

The Bible says that when Israel does accept the false messiah, it signals the final seven year ‘Time of Jacob’s Trouble’ — which culminates in Israel’s national redemption at the 2nd Coming.

How close is the Rapture? Watch Israel.

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

Featured Commentary: The Virgin and Her Son ~ Wendy Wippel

The Ultimate Trip

The Ultimate Trip
Vol: 158 Issue: 24 Monday, November 24, 2014

What is ‘death’? What happens to us when we draw our last breath and leave this earth? Is it the end? The beginning? Do we immediately go from this life to the next?

Do we ‘sleep’ until the Rapture or the Great White Throne Judgment? Or is it all a comforting myth?

The Old Testament prophets shared a belief in a final resurrection and judgment. But that is about as much as God gave them to understand:

“If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine Hands.” (Job 14:14-15)

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)

But does that mean that our consciousness ceases at physical death until the resurrection? There are some Christians who argue that to be the case, drawing on the New Testament for Scriptural support.

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven…” (John 3:12-13)

“…for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)

“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” (Acts 2:29)

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

Taking those verses, particularly when taking them out of the full context of Scripture, it would seem to suggest that when we die, we go into some kind of ‘soul sleep’ until the Resurrection. But is that true?

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, physical death, particularly as it applies to the saints, is characterized as ‘sleep’.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” (Psalms 13:3)

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:” (Acts 13:36)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (1st Thessalonians 4:13)

So, it would seem, at least by a cursory examination of the Scriptures, that when we die, we stay dead until the resurrection.

But that is not entirely accurate.

Assessment:

The Bible is a series of progressive revelations. That is to say, eternal truths were revealed, slowly, over time, according to God’s plan.

As Paul explained, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12)

As early as Job’s time, God had revealed the existence of the Redeemer Christ, and the PHYSICAL resurrection of the dead. Job not only expected to see Christ with his PHYSICAL eyes, (Job 19:25-27) but he expected his physical body to be changed.

“. . . all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. . . ” Job awaited the call of the trumpet at the Rapture, thousands of years before it was generally known as doctrine. “Thou shalt call . . .” (Job 14:14-15)

But in all these Scriptures, the reference is to the PHYSICAL body which is ‘asleep’ — and NOT the spirit.

Solomon addressed the eventual end of both body AND spirit. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

Physical death is NOT the end of consciousness. The Apostle Paul spoke of physical death as the time when the spirit is “absent from the body” but “present with the Lord.”

Jesus Himself explained what happens to us spiritually when we experience physical death.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. . .” (Luke 16:22)

Lazarus the beggar died PHYSICALLY, but his spirit was carried by the angels into Paradise. The rich man died PHYSICALLY and was buried, but his spirit was very much conscious in hell.

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (16:23)

Note the following facts from this passage of Scripture. Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man were all there, and they were all conscious of their surroundings.

“And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (16:24)

The rich man was conscious of his torment, was capable of addressing Abraham, and was aware of Lazarus.

Abraham was equally conscious of HIS surroundings, as well as those of the rich man, and was capable of giving reply.

“But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (16:25-26)

Not only that, the rich man, (who was NOT in the Lake of Fire, but hell, which establishes this story as being in real-time and before Christ’s resurrection — and not some point after the Great White Throne Judgment), was not only conscious and aware of his surroundings, but his earthly memories remained intact:

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (16:27-28)

The rich man remembered (and still cared for) his father and his five brothers as living individuals that he knew from his earthly life.

His PHYSICAL body was dead (or ‘asleep’) but his soul was very much ‘alive’ in the sense of his consciousness.

So, what happens when we die? We become absent from the body, but there is no cessation of consciousness until the resurrection.

When John writes: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection,” (Revelation 20:5) he is addressing the PHYSICAL resurrection of the dead whose consciousness remains awake in hell with the rich man until final judgment.

Once the resurrected body and spirit are reunited at the Great White Throne, they are cast, both body and soul, into the lake of fire. John says, “this is the second death,” since it refers to both the physical and spiritual separation from God for eternity.

As to the ‘dead in Christ’ — they are also conscious, but in Heaven in the presence of the Lord from the moment of physical death until the Rapture.

Furthering Job’s theme of ‘the change’ Paul writes, “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)

At the Rapture, some believers will not yet have experienced death. They shall be instantly changed into their incorruptible bodies. Those who have experienced physical death will be reunited with their bodies, which will be raised and changed.

But their spirits and consciousness are already awake and alive and in the presence of the Lord.

Those who are ‘asleep’ in Christ are those who have experienced PHYSICAL, but not conscious death.

At the Rapture, 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 (physically incorruptible) first: Then we which are (physically) alive and remain (in our natural bodies) shall be caught up together with them (changed and incorruptible) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Our loved ones who have gone home to the Lord are ALREADY in His Presence, enjoying Heaven and its unimaginable joy and riches. They are NOT mouldering the grave, unconsciously awaiting the call of the Trumpet.

They are alive and aware and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to meet with us in the air and embrace us once more.

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

Featured Commentary: Dust in the Wind ~ Pete Garcia

Discerning the Times

Discerning the Times
Vol: 158 Issue: 22 Saturday, November 22, 2014

We live in an age of miracles unlike any the world has ever known. In this generation, man has unlocked the secret of the genome, can ‘create’ life in a test tube, can duplicate that which is already created [cloning], develop medicines and compounds that can prolong life, and it seems as if there is almost nothing that we cannot do.

Science expects to one day be able to control the elements, bring rain where drought is, anticipate natural disasters like earthquakes, and perhaps, even prevent them.

We can travel outside our atmosphere, and one day expect to reach distant stars. In the natural, it would seem that there is nothing we will not eventually be able to do.

Science has pretty much been able to naturalize, internalize and explain away what were, in previous generations, miracles, reducing them to probabilities, equations, charts and graphs.

With one exception. We can do everything except tell the future. The future contains too many variables to accurately predict. Take the restoration of Israel, for example. Israel was destroyed in 702 BC by the Assyrian king, Sargon II, who conquered the kingdom of Israel.

It was common practice for a conqueror to uproot and displace the conquered people to another part of the empire, repopulating that place with a conquered people from somewhere else.

The reason for that was to separate a people from their land, which effectively prevented uprisings. The northern Kingdom of Israel was scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire, and was effectively lost to history, leaving only the tiny southern kingdom of Judah.

A century later, the Kingdom of Judah was similarly conquered by the Kingdom of Babylon, who also displaced its population, deporting them into captivity in Babylon.

To a Jew living in Babylon during the Captivity, it seemed certain that Judah would go the way of Israel and would similarly be lost to history.

Yet the prophets of the Captivity, like Daniel and Ezekiel, wrote confidently that in the last days, there would again be a nation called ‘Israel’ and that its citizens would once again inhabit the same piece of real estate from which they had been displaced, seemingly forever.

Yet Ezekiel wrote,

“And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.” (Ezekiel 34:13)

The Jews would be gathered from the countries, and brought into THEIR OWN LAND, upon the mountains of ISRAEL, and not some other place.

Writing of the Gog Magog invasion, God inspired Ezekiel to prophesy;

“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” (Ezekiel 38:8)

In this passage, we find the time frame in which Ezekiel’s prophecy would come to pass — ‘after many days, in the latter years’. And again, we find that it is not Judah, but ISRAEL, of whom the prophet prophesied. That they would be ‘brought forth from the nations’ to a land that had ‘always been waste’ — until they returned.

For more than 2,500 years, this prophecy remained dormant, until, on May 14, 1948, the survivors of the Holocaust were ‘brought forth’ under the banner of ‘never again’ to the ‘mountains of Israel’ — which ‘had always been waste’ as the nation of ‘Israel’.

In his book, ‘Personal Witness’ Abba Eban, one of the founders of Israel, noted that when David Ben-Gurion cabled President Truman to ask the United States to recognize the Jewish state, the Jews still hadn’t decided what to call it.

Eban noted, ‘Some wanted to call it Zion, others Judah . . .what about ‘Israel’?’ The name was chosen only hours before the state came into existence.

In 1897, the 1st Zionist Congress petitioned the government of Great Britain for a Jewish state in what is today the African country of Uganda. The British told the Jews to petition the Ottoman Empire, who at that time controlled Palestine.

The Jews would have settled for Uganda as a Jewish homeland, but the prophets said that the Jewish homeland of the last days would be ‘on the mountains of Israel’. And that is exactly what happened.

The prophet Daniel, also writing from captivity in Babylon, penned the future history of Israel, [a nation that had not existed for a century] dividing its future into 70 weeks of years. During the 70th and final week, Daniel prophesied the revival of an empire [Rome] that, in Daniel’s day, would not see its FIRST incarnation for another 500 years.

Today, the nation of Israel exists, composed of a people ‘brought forth from the nations’ while, for the first time in 2000 years, a European superstate made up of what had once been the territory of the Roman Empire, seeks involvement in a peace process that Daniel said would be confirmed by a leader of a revived Rome.

Israel was reborn in 1948, as the embryonic European Community of nations was being born out of the 1948 Benelux Treaty.

According to Jesus, the generation that would see His return would be one in which there would be;

“signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

It would be a period of ‘wars and rumors of wars,’ when,

“nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matthew 24:6-7)

Jesus noted that;

“All these are the beginning of sorrows” (v.8)

Bible prophecy was given the Church so that,

“ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it [His return] is nigh, even at the doors.” (Mark 13:29)

We are indeed living in the ‘age of miracles’ but they are miracles of God, against which the miracles of science cannot possibly compete.

We in this generation have been given the unspeakable gift of certainty that the Lord is about to return, a warning that time is running out, and a renewed commission to go out into all the earth and make disciples of all nations, before time has run out.

No man can know the future, but the God of Creation foretold it –in detail — so that there could be no misunderstanding. The Lord is about to return.

“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)

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

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