Legends, Lore and Logic

Legends, Lore and Logic
Vol: 163 Issue: 30 Thursday, April 30, 2015

I received an email from a reader asking for some information about the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible’s account of Noah’s Ark.

“I have some co workers that argue that the Epic Of Gilgamesh shows evidence that the Genesis account of the Flood of Noah was taken from this document. I need some “ammunition” to refute this,” he wrote.

First, a little historical background. Gilgamesh was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in modern Iraq.

Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down on clay tablets that still survive. The oldest existing fragments date to about 2000 BC — roughly the time of Abraham.

The most complete surviving version of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates from the middle of the 6th century BC and was found in the ruins of the library of Ashram, king of Assyria at Nineveh.

The Gilgamesh Epic itself dates to about 2700 BC, say the experts, relying on the text of the surviving fragments.

In it, Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim was granted immortality by the gods after he and his wife became the only human survivors of a world-wide flood, and Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the story.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is widely considered to be the oldest human composition ever found. By comparison, the first five Books of the Bible were penned by Moses around the 13th century BC, at least seven hundred years after the Epic of Gilgamesh had been in circulation.

Because the Gilgamesh story is older, the automatic assumption is that it was the inspiration for the Hebrew account of Noah’s Ark.

It sounds convincing, but only if one approaches it with a built-in bias. If one is looking for an alternative explanation for the Bible’s account, then Gilgamesh fits the bill.

On the other hand, if one is looking for the most logical explanation, then the entire argument collapses under its own weight.

There is a principle of logic attributed to the medieval philosopher William of Occam, commonly referred to as ‘Occam’s Razor’, also known as the ‘principle of parsimony’. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building.

Occam’s Razor is a method by which to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest explanation. In any given model, Occam’s razor helps us to “shave off” those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon.

By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies. In its shortest form, Occam’s Razor states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed.

To beat a dead horse to death, let me simplify it even more: the simplest explanation is logically the most likely to be correct.

Assessment:

This isn’t an effort to ‘prove’ the Genesis account is true. I believe that it is true because it is the only logical explanation that fits the known facts.

The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the following story: In the time before the Flood, there was a city, Shuruppak, on the banks of the Euphrates. There, the counsel of the gods held a secret meeting; they all resolved to destroy the world in a great flood.

Gilgamesh may, however, be the explanation for the saying, the ‘walls have ears’.

All the gods were under oath not to reveal this secret to any living thing, but Ea (one of the gods that created humanity) came to Utnapishtim’s house and told the secret to the walls of Utnapishtim’s house, thus not technically violating his oath to the rest of the gods.

He advised the walls of Utnapishtim’s house to build a great boat, its length as great as its breadth, to cover the boat, and to bring all living things into the boat.

Utnapishtim, eavesdropping on the conversation, gets straight to work and finishes the great boat by the new year. Utnapishtim then loads the boat with gold, silver, and all the living things of the earth, and launches the boat.

Ea orders him into the boat and commands him to close the door behind him. The black clouds arrive, with the thunder god Adad rumbling within them; the earth splits like an earthenware pot, and all the light turns to darkness.

The Flood lasts for seven days and seven nights, and finally light returns to the earth. Utnapishtim’s boat comes to rest on the top of Mount Nimush.

The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Genesis account converge on several points, but one thing immediately leaps out. Gilgamesh’ account is a logical description from the perspective of man. It is an effort to put an ancient memory into an understandable historical context.

The Genesis account is a logical description of the same event from the perspective of God. The Genesis account fills in details missing from Gilgamesh that could be known only to God.

The Gilgamesh account is an effort to make sense of a global catastrophe — the Genesis account puts it into logical context, connecting the dots from Adam to the Rapture.

The Flood is a necessary part of the Bible’s outline of human history — remove it and the Scriptures lose all context. God’s promise to Noah is fulfilled at the Cross. The power of sin is destroyed, rather than the destruction of sinners.

Jesus refers to the ‘days of Noah’ to describe the last days, Peter uses the salvation of Noah as an example of the Rapture (2nd Peter 3:3-7)

The Genesis account provides answers. The Gilgamesh account only poses new questions.

Legends of a world-wide flood can be found in the folklore of such diverse places as the Middle East, India, China, Australia, southern Asia, the islands of the Pacific, Europe, and the Americas.

Was the Chinese legend of a global flood inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh? Did the Australian aborigines and the Native Americans read the Epic of Gilgamesh? The Pacific Islanders?

If the Flood is a myth, why does every civilization or culture share the same common, distant memory of a global catastrophe that NEVER happened? There must be a logical explanation. A Sumerian cuneform tablet unknown until relatively recently doesn’t make the cut.

Occam’s Razor says that the only logical conclusion is that there must really have been a world-wide flood that a handful of survivors escaped by boarding a giant ark filled with animals that came to rest on a mountain top after the waters receded. No other explanation fits the facts.

There are many differing accounts, but all are rooted in the same historical occurrence. If there were no Biblical account, it is likely that the Flood would be an accepted part of the human historical record, like dinosaurs or cavemen.

It is precisely BECAUSE the Bible says the Flood was a Divine judgment against sin that the Genesis account is so vigorously opposed by its critics.

Remove the references to an all powerful God demanding personal accountability from His creation and a global flood is no more fantastic than concluding a giant asteroid hit the earth 85 million years ago and killed all the dinosaurs.

‘Stuff happens’ is a more comfortable conclusion to live with than personal accountability to an all-knowing and Perfect God. That is also perfectly logical, as Paul notes in Romans 1:28:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind . . .”

The Genesis story fits a logical timeline, has a logical place in history and answers the questions Gilgamesh does not, (like, who told the Australian aborigines there was a world-wide flood if it is really a myth?)

Occam’s Razor says the simplest explanation is also the most logical.

“. . . for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Originally Published: December 19, 2005 

Featured Commentary: Did God make Mistakes? ~ J.L. Robb

The Gospel According to King David

The Gospel According to King David
Vol: 163 Issue: 29 Wednesday, April 29, 2015

During my visit with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship in San Antonio, one of the issues we discussed was the fact the most Jews resist Christianity based on the concept that Jesus is a false god invented by the Christians.

Following this line of thinking, to accept Jesus as Lord is to abandon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To an observant Jew, this is nothing short of blasphemy.

Most Christians don’t really understand how powerful an obstacle this represents when presenting the Gospel to the Jewish people. They should, and that is the purpose of today’s Omega Letter.

Unlike the Koran, for example, Christianity is a uniquely Jewish Gospel, not changed by the New Testament, but rather, explained in greater detail.

Jesus Christ is a Jew — and the Trinity is a uniquely Jewish concept.

“Let US make man in OUR image and in OUR likeness” (Genesis 1:26)

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil”; (Genesis 3:22)

“Go to, let US go down, and there confound their language. . . ” (Genesis 11:7)

The Hebrew word ‘Elohim” is used in the plural is translated “gods” (referring to idols) 235 times in the Old Testament.

It is exactly the same word that is translated “God,” referring to the Almighty God of Israel.

The Old Testament denies the Koran’s contention that God has no Begotten Son:

“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee.” (Psalms 2:7)

“Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled.” (Psalms 2:12)

“Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son’s name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)

“I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

The prophet Isaiah testifies to the triune nature of God, identifying the Father, the Son AND the Holy Spirit:

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)

“Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16)

Not only does the Old Testament teach a Triune God, and the Redeemer-Son, no less a Jewish personage than King David gives the Gospel of Jesus Christ a thousand years before the First Advent.

Assessment:

David was chosen to be King of Israel, according to the prophet Samuel, because he was a man after “God’s own Heart.” “. . the LORD hath sought him a man after His own Heart. . .” (1st Samuel 13:14)

But we also know from Scripture that David was both an adulterer and a murderer. The Bible says that David lusted after Bathsheeba after seeing her bathing herself on a rooftop.

Upon learning Bathsheeba was married, he sent her husband, Uriah, into battle carrying sealed orders to the general commanding David’s battlefield army.

Those sealed orders instructed the commander to put Uriah into the the front lines of battle where he was certain to be killed, so David could take Uriah’s widow.

When confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin, David demonstrated WHY he was a man after God’s own heart.

Convicted to his heart, David cried out to God, (as recorded in Psalm 51):

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.”

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ unto salvation. An admission of sin, a cry for mercy and an acknowledgment of God’s grace in extending forgiveness for that sin.

David then acknowledges the fact that he is a sinner by nature.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.”

David recognizes what Paul later described this way:

“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:23)

Note carefully what David says next:

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

He asks GOD to purge him, cleanse him and wash him. David doesn’t do it on his own, he asks God to do it for him, then acknowledges it as an ACCOMPLISHED fact.

Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

What has David actually done to make atonement for his sins, to this point? So far, David has made it all God’s responsibility.

“Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the JOY of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”

It is God Who continues to do the work. David doesn’t ask to have his SALVATION restored; he asks God to restore the JOY that comes of it, and asks God to uphold him by grace through God’s freely given Spirit.

So, once David has confessed his sin, asked God to forgive his sin, put it on God to clean up his heart and renew a right spirit within him, expressed the JOY that comes with restoration, David says;

“THEN will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.”

What does God demand of David in return for forgiveness, salvation, joy, restoration, cleansing and renewal?

“For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, given by the King of Israel, a thousand years before the “Son of David” walked this earth.

First, acknowledgment of his sin. Secondly, that his sin was against God. God is therefore the One with the authority to extend forgiveness.

Third, David acknowledges that sin is what men do, but forgiveness and cleansing come from God.

David’s joy is born out of understanding his eternal security in God and is manifested by his dependence on God to keep him and renew him for the work God has place before him.

And, armed with that understanding, David says, “THEN will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.”

Do you see it? Too often, we present becoming a Christian as a miserably bland and colorless existence of sacrifice and self-deprivation, rather than one of joyful liberty.

It isn’t sacrifice that God demands of us. It isn’t burnt offerings. The sacrifice of Christ is all-sufficient.

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right Hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12)

Armed with this understanding, we can then confidently fulfill the Great Commission given us.

Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah as well as the Savior of all mankind. Jew or Gentile, we need only seek His Face for salvation, for renewal and for strength.

“For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

He does all the rest. Not because we are worthy in and of ourselves. But because He MADE us worthy.

Knowing this, we can then go out and introduce Him — and the JOY of His salvation — to the lost and hopeless.

Because you ARE worthy to carry the Message. That’s why He sent you.

Maranatha!

Originally Published: June 14, 2007

Featured Commentary: Atonement ~ Lea Sylvester

”Take Heed That No Man Deceive You”

”Take Heed That No Man Deceive You”
Vol: 163 Issue: 28 Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When He was asked, ‘what will be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ (Matt 24:3) one of the first things Jesus said was: “take heed that no man deceive you,” but He warns us not to follow them.

He also warned the Church that in ‘the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

That is not to say that the Church plays a role in the time generally referred to as the Tribulation Period. There’s plenty of tribulation in the world for the Christian right now already, but Jesus is letting us know its all according to Plan, so don’t worry.

I believe the Bible makes it clear that the Tribulation Period is the Seventieth Week of Daniel, the time of ‘Jacob’s Trouble’.

It is for this reason that I believe the pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine to be correct according to the Scripture.

To follow the flow of Bible prophecy during the final hours of the Church Age, there must first be an understanding that there IS a ‘Church Age’.

There are few Christians who deny the existence of a ‘Church Age’ — the Bible is divided into Old Testament and New, after all — most churches acknowledge the Birth of the Church at Pentecost, and so on.

But when it comes to the Tribulation, understanding Bible prophecy and the signs of the times, conflicting doctrines are often preached within the same messages by the well-meaning who solemnly pronounce the conflicts as ‘mysteries of faith’ — or they ignore Bible prophecy altogether.

If there IS a Church Age, then there was something before — and something that comes after. That is the basic premise of Dispensationalism. Dispensational theologians divide human history according to the way God interacted with man at that time, into seven ‘dispensations’ of God’s grace.

The time before the Fall was the Age of Innocence, after the Fall, but before the Flood the Age of Conscience, and so on.

Of interest to us at this juncture are the Ages of the Law and the Age of Grace (Church Age).

Don’t get pulled down a rabbit trail, stay with me here. Forget all the clever but somewhat cloudy arguments from those who’ve ‘dug deeper into God’s truth’ and just follow the simple map for now.

You can always go back later if you get lost. I’m not trying to deceive anyone.

Either there was an age under the Law of Moses that ended with the introduction of the Age of Grace at Pentecost, or there was not. If your Sunday School doesn’t teach that, better take another look at your Bible.

The Bible teaches there is a purpose FOR the Church Age. The Jews first, then also the Gentiles.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,” Paul writes in Romans 11:25.

The blindness of Israel to the coming of the Messiah Jesus is ‘in part’ and conditional — ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in’ to the Church.

I needn’t go into exhaustive exegesis — it is either clearly what God intended to be understood as written, or it is not. Truth needs no propping up — it can stand by itself nicely, thank you.

Paul pictures the three kinds of spiritual human beings — Jews, Gentiles, and the Christian redeemed out of each group. There is no fourth option in Scripture. Every human falls into one of these three categories, according to the Scriptures.

What happens when ‘the fulness of the Gentiles be come in’ then?

According to Daniel, the Dispensation of the Age of the Law was limited to seventy ‘weeks’ (of years) totaling 490 altogether, starting from the command to rebuild the temple given Ezra by Artexerxes.

Daniel said the time would run concurrently until the Messiah is ‘cut off’ after 69 weeks (483 years). The seventieth week resumes sometime in the future with the introduction of antichrist.

(See Daniel’s 70th Week for more information).

The ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ is the conclusion of the Church Age. It is hard to see that any other way.

Misunderstanding the Dispensations allows one to end the Church age in the middle of the tribulation with the Rapture. But then there is no sense to Daniel’s 70th Week, since it is now just three and a half years.

Set aside all the deep thinking and careful, painstaking calculations and tortured interpretations for now and just look at the obvious, clear and logical flow.

If there IS a point when the ‘fullness of the Gentiles is come in’ AND there is a point in which the 70th Week of Daniel resumes, then there is a point BEFORE and a POINT after. Just like beginning of the Church Age. There was a point BEFORE Pentecost, and a point AFTER.

Since the Church Age is for the gathering of the saints, and Daniel’s 70th Week is set aside for the national redemption of Israel (the purpose specifically given by Daniel FOR the 70th Week) and for the judgment of God against a Christ-rejecting world (the purpose from the perspective of John) why, logically, would the Church Age end with any less definition than it began?

Why would the Age of the Law resume while the Church is still here? What then, is the ‘fullness’ of the Gentiles? Logically, I mean, following the simple path, not the contorted one that creates so much friction and division.

Ignoring the clear pattern of dispensational truth in the Scripture in favor of something more complicated and therefore, somehow, deeper, appeals to the human propensity for pride. (“I know something you’re too stupid to figure out”)

But does it make clear sense? Where does it lead?

Christians are exhorted to walk ‘by faith and not by sight’ but I’ve heard pre-tribulationalism decried as ‘the Great Escape’ and its preachers called false teachers who were not preparing the Church for the coming tribulation.

From this perspective, if I don’t teach that we are going to go through the Tribulation, you won’t be prepared to stand. So you need survival gear, a year’s supply of dessicated food, some gold (money won’t be any good) and maybe a nice underground shelter.

THEN, you will be ‘prepared’ for the coming troubles, during which time you’ll walk by faith and not by sight when the antichrist is about to kill your children in front of you unless you take the Mark. Uh-huh.

My favorite argument is that Dispensational pretribulationism is a new doctrine first introduced by Margaret MacDonald in 1820. So how come I’m quoting the Bible instead of her?

Regardless of when you think the Rapture happens personally, did you ever notice how MAD people get if you don’t agree with THEM?

There is no profit in preaching a pretribulation Rapture and eternal security. I can’t sell you dessicated food, gold for the coming catastrophe or even a book on what to do if you get left behind, because if you are saved, you won’t need it and you won’t get left behind. No money in that.

And if you believe me — then neither can anybody else. (Maybe that’s why they get so mad, who knows?)

We are living in the last days. The signs of the times are all around us. The Lord is coming soon, and when He comes, the Bible says that the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4)

When Jesus ascended into heaven, an angel appeared to the Apostles, (not to the Gentiles) “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. ” (Acts 1:
11
)

To the Gentile world at the Second Coming; “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” (Revelation 1:7)

Unless you have different definitions for the words “every” and “all” then what would Christians be ‘wailing about’ at the Lord’s 2nd Coming? It’s what we’ve been waiting for since His Ascension.

A pre-Trib Rapture leaves nothing to sell to see you through the Tribulation. No motive to deceive. Like the Gospel, it’s simple and direct.

First, the ‘fullness of the Gentiles be come in’ and the Rapture, then the pouring out of God’s Wrath on those who make war against the Jews, then the national redemption of Israel at the Second Coming, and finally, the destruction of antichrist and introduction of the Millennial Kingdom.

Simple. In harmony with Scripture.

The only incentive for preaching it is to tell people they need to get saved — NOW, not later when the antichrist hands them his calling card.

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:3-4)

Originally Published: January 15, 2003

Featured Commentary: This Means War ~ Wendy Wippel

The Covenants

The Covenants
Vol: 163 Issue: 27 Monday, April 27, 2015

I received the following email from a fellow who signed his name “Pastor” Steve. I am always a bit wary of those who sign off a personal email with their title and their first name.  It seems like a contrived formality.

“Pastor” is the honorific bestowed upon the leader of a local church. It identifies a person as the shepherd over a particular flock.  I’m not sure how it is relevant outside the local church.    

In any case, Pastor Steve was writing to address a column he read recently and he didn’t mince any words in the process.

“You misrepresent Calvinism to try and prove “dispensationalism” which is a man made theory that distorts the truth that people have always been saved by grace through faith. You are a false teacher who are [sic] not even honest enough to share the truth about Calvinism, but distort it to prove your point. You will have to answer to God for your twisted views of Scripture. Pastor Steve”

(I’m surprised he didn’t sign it “in Christian love”.) 

Since Pastor Steve didn’t identify which column he was taking umbrage with or specify the untruths about Calvinism that I had distorted, or how my views of Scripture were twisted,  I don’t know exactly what his point is, other than he apparently rejects dispensationalism, since he offset it with quotes.

In the mid 1600s a theologian named Johannes Cocceius introduced the one-covenant-of-grace idea, giving rise to the belief that God has but one objective insofar as His interaction with human beings is concerned. 

But it does not necessarily follow that because there is only one righteous ground upon which God can deal graciously with sinners, that there must be but one covenant relationship between God and man.

God has earthly, as well as heavenly purposes, transforming blessings adapted to each group and the sphere to which they belong.  God has made various covenants with Israel. Some are conditional and some are unconditional.

Conditional covenants are those that require human faithfulness; unconditional covenants are those in which God simply declares what He will do, completely apart from the question of either human worthiness or faithfulness.

The Scriptures identify nine separate covenants entered into between God and man on this earth.  It is via these nine covenants that all Scripture binds together.  

The Edenic Covenant: This covenant conditioned unfallen man’s life at Eden and is in seven parts.  In essence, it placed humanity at the center as the focal point of God’s creation.   It was an unconditional covenant on God’s part.   On Adam’s part, remaining in fellowship with God demanded obedience.

The Adamic Covenant:  This was God’s covenant with Adam after the Fall – it is also in seven parts. Adam’s unbelief and disobedience resulted in the failure of the Edenic covenant, which resulted in “death being passed upon all men” and the need for a Redeemer to come.

The Noahic Covenant:  This was God’s seven-part covenant with Noah for governing live after the flood. The Noahic covenant otherwise known as the covenant of preservation, was “a renewal of the provisions of creation, and even reflected closely the language of the original covenant.” (Genesis 9:9-11)

The Abrahamic Covenant:  This is the first formal covenant between God and a people, rather than with persons, as before.  It is a covenant between God and Abraham’s seed. 

God not only made this covenant with Abraham but also with Isaac and Jacob, which not only included the promises of the previous covenants (Edenic, Adamic and Noahic) but expanded upon them.

God assured Abraham of his covenant by his instructions to present certain animals in a particular form to God (Gen. 15:7-9). These instructions were exactly in the form of a covenant that might take place between two men.

Abraham halved the animals placing the halves opposite each other, except the bird which he killed but did not divide (Gen. 15:10-11).

As Abraham slept, the Lord came as a “blazing torch” (Gen. 15:17), passed in between the animals, and established a covenant that could never be annulled (Gal 3:15-17).

This act symbolized  the participants pledged to the other total commitment, and that if that was to be broken “they were asking that their own bodies be torn in pieces just as the animals had been divided ceremonially.” 

In other words, if the covenant was broken, somebody had to die. Since God pass through the aisles alone, only God was judicially capable of redeeming the covenant.  2000 years later, God stepped out of eternity and into time and space in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ kept the terms of the covenant, and was therefore guiltless of violating it. That made Him the only One qualified to pay the debt incurred, since He had no debt obligation of His own to satisfy.  

When He paid the penalty for Abraham and his seed, He also opened up a way for Gentiles to enter into  their own covenant relationship with Him.  But it was all set in motion by God’s covenant with Abraham, without which, it could not have been.

The Abrahamic covenant is an unconditional, seven part covenant. 

  1. “I will make of thee a great nation”
  2. “And I will bless thee.”
  3. “And make thy name great”
  4. “And thou shalt be a blessing”
  5. “And I will bless them that bless thee”
  6. “And curse him that curse thee”
  7. “And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

The Mosaic Covenant: The Mosaic Covenant is made between God and Israel alone.  But the Law was given Israel, not as a means of redemption or to atain a covenant relationship with God, but rather because Israel is already in a right relationship with God as a redeemed nation — under God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham.    

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. “(Romans 11:26)

Replacement theology claims the blessings of the Old Covenant relationship with God, often including the Ten Commandments.   

It is obvious that the Commandments were never intended to address Christians but for some reason there are those within the Church that cannot understand that the saints of God in the age of Grace cannot be under the Law.  

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

The covenant of the Law was not made with the Church.  It was not made with the Gentiles.  It is a covenant agreement entered into by God and the Israelites fleeing Egypt.  There are two sides to a covenant agreement, even an unconditional covenant agreement.    

The Church cannot be under a Covenant agreement made between God and Israel.  That’s why the Reformers spiritualized Israel into meaning “the Church.”   

It seemed to make sense – when there was no Israel.  Which brings us to the sixth covenant.

The Palestinian Covenant: The sixth covenant, also expressed in seven parts, set out the conditions of Israel’s relationship to the Promised Land.   The Land will be for them an everlasting possession and to it they were prophesied to return.  

The Palestinian Covenant is unconditional – it cannot be broken, transferred or otherwise abrogated. (Not even by order of the Vatican’s Middle East Synod.)

The Davidic Covenant:  The seventh covenant is with David and it is set forth in but five parts.

  1. David’s posterity will fail not – there will always be a member of the line of David.
  2. David’s throne is established forever;  Israel will never have a King from any other lineage.
  3. David’s kingdom or sphere of rule, will also last forever.
  4. The line of David will never lack a son
  5. The Messiah will be a direct descendant of King David.

The Kingdom Covenant:  This is the eighth covenant – also established with Israel.  It conditions their life in the Kingdom during the Millennial Reign.  God tells Jeremiah that this is a “New Covenant” – one that both replaces and yet includes parts of the Mosaic Covenant.

Assessment:

Are you starting to see where this leads?  God has entered into nine different covenant agreements with mankind.   Each covenant contract was presented by God to mankind, who was then free to accept or reject God’s covenant promise.    

Once entered into, however, a covenant agreement is forever.

Every covenant that God made with His people demonstrated his grace and mercy, each one being unique and all being interrelated, progressively revealing and pointing toward the new covenant which fulfilled all of the earlier covenants and itself — equating to the great everlasting covenant.

I said there are nine covenants between God and mankind.   Note that each one formed a progressive revelation from God. God revealed more of Himself and His plan to mankind with each successive covenant agreement. 

The first three were between God and named individuals; Adam and Eve, Adam and later, Noah.  The next five were between God and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph.  

Jesus Christ fulfilled the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant at the Cross, introducing the ninth covenant, the New Covenant, and not with the Jews only, but with all mankind.  

The Abrahamic Covenant was not abrogated – it was fulfilled – but it is still in force.  The seed of Abraham continue to bless the nations of the world.   It was through the Abrahamic Covenant that the Lord introduced the New Covenant blessing of salvation by grace through faith.

The New Covenant, established in His Blood, is irrevocable but not unconditional.  To enter into the New Covenant, one must personally receive the gift of salvation obtained for them at the Cross.  Every person is free to reject the offer and stand before the Lord clothed in his own righteousness.

Ok, so what are the take-away facts here? 

First, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.  God cannot take back His covenant relationship with Israel and God cannot transfer it to the Church.   To do either would make God a liar.

Secondarily, transferring Israel’s blessings to the Church is redundant.  The Church has its own Covenant relationship and combining it with Israel’s makes salvation by grace through faith impossible.   

Israel’s new covenant rests on the sovereign “I will” of God.  The new covenant for the Church is written in Christ’s Blood.  

Put another way, everything that the Abrahamic Covenant promises to Israel in the future, the Church already possesses, and infinitely more.

Looking at the Nine Covenants of God one sees that God was, is and always will be a promise-keeping God.  God always keeps His promises—irrespective of persons – and the gifts and calling of God is without repentance – God didn’t change His mind about the national redemption of Israel.

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:27-30)

Replacement theology seems simple enough, on the surface.  If one doesn’t know what the Bible teaches about covenant relationships, it is easy to believe that God got so mad at the Jews over Jesus that He washed His Hands of them and passed their covenant blessings along to the Church.

It’s a little harder to buy into that nonsense when you read what the Bible says about it.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)

“Lest we be wise in our own conceits”  — that sums it up nicely.

Originally Published: October 26, 2010

Featured Commentary: It’s the End of the World, Now What? ~ Pete Garcia

The Hope That is in You

The Hope That is in You
Vol: 163 Issue: 25 Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Bible divides the world into four regional power blocs in the last days. The western alliance [the Revived Roman empire of antichrist – Dan 9:26], the ‘kings of the south’ [Africa and Islamic North Africa – Dan 11:40] the ‘kings of the east [China and Southeast Asia -Rev 16:12] the Gog-Magog alliance [Russian-Arab-Islamic alliance – Ezekiel 38-39].

The Bible also outlines a specific scenario for the last days, giving detailed descriptions of these four global spheres of influence.

Currently, there are five. Four of them are in a state of flux, realigning themselves, almost against reason in some cases, to conform to the scenario outlined by Scripture.

The fifth, the United States, grows increasingly isolated. Washington is so lonely it has gone into denial, sometimes even pretending it has real friends.

Prime examples of America’s ‘pretend’ friends include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and the core group of Western European nations led by France and Germany. They are our ‘friends’ in the sense they are not currently enemies.

America has only one unquestioning and unequivocal ally within the sea of nations. That ally, the land of Israel, is the central character around which the entire end-time drama is played out.

Assessment:

In this generation, the world has divided itself into four spheres of influence, as measured from Jerusalem; Russia to the north, China to the east, the Islamic Middle East and Africa to the south, and Europe to the west.

America is a sphere of influence unto itself, not part of any, but engaged in — and resented by — all four.

This is the precise lineup of nations predicted by Scripture for a horrible end-times war that will engulf the whole earth.

The Scripture assigns a role to each of these four; Gog-Magog, the Kings of the East, the Kings of the South and the revived Roman Empire of antichrist.

There is no mention of the fifth existing global sphere of influence currently led by America. On the fate of the United States, Scripture is silent.

There are a number of possible reasons. The most obvious one is an expansion of the current world war — one so devastating to America that it has no role left to play in the last days.

Another, more hopeful scenario would be the Rapture of the Church. The sudden disappearance of millions of Americans would also account for America’s absence during the Tribulation Period.

Which scenario is correct remains to be seen. But what is of importance to Christians who are anticipating the return of Christ is the fact it is all taking shape now.

Christianity has no nationality. Jesus said we are in the world, but not of it. Christianity is, at its roots, not American. If Christianity were to have a national identity, it would be Jewish.

This is not a time for fear, but a time for prayer and for redoubling our efforts to inform the world of what is taking place. The Lord is preparing for His return. The signs of the times are all around us. There is no time to waste in pointless debate over signs, and seasons and times.

We of the Church have “a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)

We already know what is to come to pass, and what the signs of the times will be. There is no debate.

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

It’s true, my brothers and sisters! Jesus IS coming. The KING is coming! In the words of the old hymn, ‘it may be morning, may be noon, may be evening and maybe SOON’ — but He IS coming.

The fields are white with the harvest, but the laborers be few. Don’t be afraid of what is to come. Everybody you meet will be afraid.

We must be prepared and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”(1 Peter 3:15) “. . .for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:12)

That is the purpose of your Omega Letter. To journal the events that lead to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in this generation, both as a warning and as a cause for hope.

What appears to be chaos is really evidence of a Divine Order. The events that are conspiring together to bring the world to the brink of annihilation are not taking place at random, but as part of a pre-ordained plan of God.

For those of us who trust God instead of our own understanding, it means that everything will turn out ok in the end, no matter how terrifying things look at the moment.

We don’t know how, we don’t know when, but we don’t really NEED to know. We only need to know that He does. Bible prophecy confirms that everything is going according to plan.

Because we “KNOW that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Even chaos.

Originally Published: November 6, 2006

For A Bowl of Pottage

For A Bowl of Pottage
Vol: 163 Issue: 24 Friday, April 24, 2015

“Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:34)

Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first and therefore, as the eldest son, heir to his father’s holdings as a right of his birth.  Esau was a ‘cunning hunter’ the Scriptures say, while Jacob was a “plain man, dwelling in tents”. (25:27)

Esau, exhausted after a day of hunting, agreed to trade his birthright inheritance to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of red stew.

In my mind’s eye, I always pictured Esau as a kind of Harrison Ford character playing off Jacob’s Gene Wilder.

“And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”

His inheritance was yet future.  Esau lived in the now.  He was hungry now.  Jacob had something tangible that would address his immediate needs.  The future was only a promise.  You can’t eat a promise.

Four thousand years later, the descendants of Esau are still seething over it.  They blame Jacob for being tricky.  I don’t blame them.  The alternative explanation is that Esau was self-centered, greedy, and more than just a little bit stupid.

Nonetheless, God honors stupid.

“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (1st Corinthians 14:38)

When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, then Jacob’s it was.  The God of Israel is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not Abraham, Isaac and Esau.

For almost two years, Barack Hussein Obama has criss-crossed the nation, telling the voters precisely what an Obama administration would offer them.  Higher taxes.  More government regulation.  Surrender in the face of the enemy in Iraq.

Obama dared the mainstream to investigate his relationships with the Black Liberation Movement, the rabidly racist and anti-American Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the unrepentant founder of the terrorist Weather Underground, Syrian-born swindler Tony Rezko, his shady deals and shadier association.

The few that took up the challenge were unprepared to answer the charges of racism and found it much simpler to look the other way than find themselves victims of “do-you-still-beat-your-wife?” inquisitions.

That the media was complicit in keeping Obama’s secrets while raking through McCain-Palin’s trash is not even an open secret.  It is a celebrated reality.  (Chris Matthew’s leg must be enduring a thrill a minute right now.)

At one precinct in Ohio, two Black Panthers, one wielding a nightstick, ensured that voters knew who the right vote would be for.  Voter registration fraud, voter fraud, voter intimidation, broken promises and outright lies were irrelevant in the end.

In the end, the election was decided by college kids, first time voters and of course, Mickey Mouse.

This morning, Barack Husseiin Obama, an hitherto-unknown politician of questionable background that emerged from the old-style Chicago Democratic political machine twenty-one months ago is President-elect Barack Hussein Obama.

What God honors in men, He honors in nations.  And God honors stupid.

Assessment:

There is a famous bit of footage shot in early 1940 in Paris of its citizens lining the streets to watch the German troops parade through the Arch de Triumph.

As the camera pans the crowd, it lingers on the face of a middle-aged Parisian, tears streaming down in his cheeks, his face contorted in grief at the catastrophe that had befallen his nation.

The image of this grieving Parisian is brief; his is but one face among many lining the street that day, but his grief was so palpable and profound that it burns into the memory of the viewer.

As Barack Obama gave his victory speech to the country, I felt a lot like that Parisian of long-ago.

Let’s face it.  President-elect Barack Hussein Obama was not elected based on his legislative record.  Nobody knows what it is, even now.

He was not elected based on his exemplary personal history.  What we know of it is pretty bad stuff.

He wasn’t elected based on the depth of his experience or foreign policy acumen.  He doesn’t have any.

America just honored the legacy of Martin Luther King by coming full circle.  America just elected a candidate, not on the content of his character, but by the color of his skin.

Barack Hussein Obama was elected so that Americans could say the color barrier has been smashed.  Ok.  It’s smashed.  Now what?

Duh.  Nobody seems to have thought very far past “now what?”  Now that we’ve made history, what are we gonna do tomorrow? (Tomorrow??)

We just elected a far left lifelong Marxist/socialist president of the United States and handed complete control of the Congress to the Far Left Marxist Democrats.

To ‘fix’ an economy that they broke in order to get elected.

America has sold its position as a center-right nation for a bowl of pottage.  (Jacob was perhaps tricky, but Esau was just plain stupid.)

America has handed over control of the Supreme Court to the most liberal president in American history at a time when America faces the greatest threat to its continued existence since the American Revolution.

Hal and I were talking a couple of weeks ago when it occurred to us that what Hal has been preaching for fifty years and I for thirty is upon us.  Indeed, while we were looking the other way, it has overtaken us.  This is what we were warning of.

But it arrived so surreptitiously we didn’t see it until it was here.

It’s going to take some time to analyze the full implications of the catastrophe that has befallen America.  I don’t want to sound like the Democrats who all promised to move to Canada if Bush won in 2000 and 2004.  (He did, they didn’t)

Barack Hussein Obama is the President-elect of the United States because God wanted Barack Hussein Obama — and no one else — to be president for the next four years. (eight years, sigh)

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”

Whatever God has planned for the next four years (eight years, sigh), He needs a mysterious, charismatic but inexperienced socialist dreamer with a Muslim education and spiritual ties to the god of this world to facilitate those ends.

Nobody else would do.

Originally Published: November 5, 2008 

Featured Commentary: On Killing Christians ~ Alf Cengia

Towards a More ‘Perfect’ Union. . .

Towards a More ‘Perfect’ Union. . .
Vol: 163 Issue: 23 Thursday, April 23, 2015

The concept of a ‘global’ government is not new — except, perhaps, in the sense of it being ‘global’.  Until relatively recently, ‘global’ government meant a pan-European government, since Europe constituted the ”known” world.

But the perceived ‘need’ for some form of global, supra-national authority goes all the way back to the plains of Shinar in the land of the Chaldeans.

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4)

The Bible not only tells us that Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah was the first to come up with the concept of a universal government, but it also tells us why.  The ‘whys’ behind the concept of global government are as old as the idea; “lest be be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

Genesis says that Nimrod “began to be a mighty one in the earth” as Noah’s descendants began to repopulate, build cities and settled down in what is modern day Iraq.

“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah . . .” (Genesis 10:10)

The remains of “Babel” are still visible today outside the city of Babylon, which is located about 40 miles from Baghdad.  Asshur’s Nineveh is today located in northern Iraq just outside Mosul.

But it is the ‘why’ that I find interesting — ‘lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’

The English word ‘scattered’ is translated from the root word “puwts” which literally means, “to dash in pieces” — so it would be equally accurate to render it, “lest we be dashed to pieces upon the face of the earth.”

That was the argument in favor of global government four thousand years ago.  It is the same argument being advanced today.

Moving along through Genesis, the narrative tells us that the Lord then ‘confounded’ their language, preventing them from forming a universal government, saying;

“Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6)

Assessment:

So, why would the Lord oppose the idea of a global government from its inception?  (Especially when the ‘globe’ in question was no larger than Iraq?)  And why has virtually every effort to reinstate the plan collapsed under the weight of its own ambition?

“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (1st John 2:18)

Ever since the days of Nimrod, mankind has sought to recreate Babel for precisely the same reasons articulated in Genesis 11 — collective security — “lest we be dashed upon the face of the earth”.

The problem with global government, then as now, is that when there is only one authority, then “nothing is restrained.”  As the Babylonian Empire reached its zenith, Nebuchadnezzar declared himself a god and demanded worship.

The succeeding Medo-Perisan Empire reached its height under King Xerxes, who also declared himself to be a god and demanded worship.

Alexander the Great believed himself to be the son of Zeus, chief among the Greek pantheon of gods, and a direct descendent of the god Achilles (on his mother’s side.)

The Roman Emperors believed themselves to be gods, with the Emperor Domitian claiming for himself the blasphemous title; “The Lord God.

The Roman Empire eventually collapsed as a physical empire, going ‘underground’ so to speak, and re-emerging as a spiritual kingdom, with the papacy replacing Caesar as “Pontifus Maximus”.

It wasn’t long before the Pope claimed the authority of Jesus Christ, including many of the Divine attributes, such as infallibility.

In the 8th century, King Charles the Great of France, (known to history as ‘Charlemagne’) attempted to reunite the old Roman Empire politically under the papacy.

In 799, Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III “Imperator Romanorum” (“Emperor of the Romans”) and the head of the “Holy Roman Empire.”

The closest thing history actually had to a truly ‘global’ government, however, was the British Empire.  At its peak, the British Empire encompassed a quarter of the world’s landmass and ruled a third of the world’s population.

Henry the VIII claimed the titles; King of England, Lord of Ireland, and claimed the title of King of France. In 1534, Henry VIII declared himself the head of the Church of England, replacing the Pope as ‘Christ’s visible representative on earth.’

Napoleon attempted to revive the Roman Empire under his leadership, and in 1804, was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at Notre Dame by Pope Pius VII, comparing himself at various times to Jesus Christ.

Adolf Hitler’s 1000 Year Reich was modeled after the Roman Empire and he was worshipped by the Nazis as a god.

On 16 March 1934, German schoolchildren wrote out the following dictation approved by Hitler’s Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda:

“Jesus and Hitler. As Jesus freed men from sin and Hell, so Hitler freed the German people from destruction. Jesus and Hitler were persecuted, but while Jesus was crucified Hitler was raised to the Chancellorship … Jesus strove for Heaven, Hitler for the German earth.”

It should be obvious by now that there is an historical pattern that remained unchanged since the days of Nimrod.  In the secular sense, it could be expressed as “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

According to the Bible, there will be one more pretender to the throne.

He comes to power by acclamation; John pictures him as a rider carrying a bow, but no arrows, indicating a peaceful conquest.  Daniel says of him, “by peace he shall destroy many.”

John says the seat of his power will be in Rome, but the scope of his power is both universal and centralized.

It is so centralized, in fact, that he will be able to restrict the ability to buy or sell on an individual basis, depending on the single condition that his followers worship him as a god.

But until this generation, that was impossible.  Now that we are here, it is inevitable.  The only thing restraining him now is the same Force that restrained the previous pretenders.

Never in the history of mankind has the perceived need for a global government been stronger or the reasons more compelling than exist at this particular moment in history.

But notice what happened back in 1990 when then-President George Bush uttered his famous “Thousand Points of Light” speech in which he uttered the phrase, “New World Order.”

The UN was delighted.  The Europeans, then in the final throes of unification, welcomed the speech as an endorsement of their unification efforts.  Even the Russians were enthralled.

Christians immediately connected the “New World Order” with the one world government of antichrist and George Bush was the last US president to ever utter the phrase in public.

As long as the Church remains on the earth, the antichrist cannot make his appearance.  The Restrainer indwells us, and through us, restrains his power to deceive.

Paul says that He will continue restrain until He is taken out of the way . . And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8)

But, at some point, before the antichrist makes his appearance, an event that will undoubtedly throw the whole world into a state of panic, (possibly handing him his ‘strong delusion’ on a silver platter, so to speak) will take the Restrainer’s restraining influence ‘out of the way.’

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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 4:15-18)

Originally Published: April 24, 2008

Featured Commentary: The Wailing Wall ~ J.L. Robb