Leading Captivity Captive

Leading Captivity Captive
Vol: 18 Issue: 30 Saturday, January 30, 2016

”And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

The Apostle’s Creed was first written by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, sometime towards the end of the 4th century.

Ambrose (“Aurelius Ambrosius” in Latin) was born into a Roman Christian family between about 337 and 340.  Ambrose was a strong opponent of Arius the Heretic who taught against the Trinity and argued that Jesus was a created being.

Ambrose’s “Apostles Creed” was published as a rebuttal of Arian theology. 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. 

He descended into hell, and on the third day He arose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven were He sits at the right Hand of the Father, from where He will judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen

First off, let me make a couple of points.  The ‘holy, catholic church’ of the Apostle’s Creed is not the Vatican — it isn’t even Catholic denomination — in fact, ‘catholic’ means the exact opposite of denominationalism.

It means ‘universal’ — in the sense of invisible Body of Christ consisting of all believers.  It was later appropriated as the name of one denomination, but in so doing, the Vatican reversed its original meaning.

In the original sense of the word, we are ALL catholic by virtue of being Christians.  In the Vatican sense of the word, one is a Christian by virtue of being a Catholic.

There is a huge difference between the two, which is why one can be a Catholic but not a Christian, or a Christian but not a Catholic. 

(Hitler was a Catholic.  So was Mussolini.  It didn’t make them Christians.)

The second point I want to clear up is the real meaning of the ‘communion of saints’ — which has NOTHING to do with either the Catholic sacrament of communion or of ‘saints’ in the sense of those beatified by the Vatican.

The communion of saints originally meant the ‘coming together of believers’ as in Hebrews 10:25:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The Apostle’s Creed is not the doctrinal statement of the Roman Catholic Church — it is the doctrinal statement of the universal Body of Christ, later appropriated and rebranded by the Vatican.

Applying the original intent and meaning of ‘catholic’ and ‘communion of saints’ the Apostle’s Creed is a universal statement of Christian faith. 

But there is this one confusing part where “He descended into hell.”

The Hebrew word for hell is ‘sheol’, meaning the ‘place of the dead’ — but it is distinct and different from the Lake of Fire.  The Lake of Fire is the SECOND death, according to the Book of Revelation. 

Hippolytus of Rome (died 235) pictured the “lake of unquenchable fire” as the eternal destiny of the unrighteous, who, while awaiting execution of the judgement upon them, are tortured in the abode of the dead (Hades) by the vision of their doom.”

Jesus Christ told the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Of extreme significance is the way He began the story.  He didn’t say, “learn the parable of the rich man” but instead opens with the definitive statement,

“There WAS a certain rich man. . . ” (Luke 16:19)

There was also a certain beggar named Lazarus, Jesus said.  The two both died, but Jesus said that Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s Boson, but of the rich man simply that he “also died, and was buried.”

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

The rich man complains of the torturous flame and burning thirst.  Abraham explains:

“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.” (Luke 16:25)

Assessment:

When Jesus was on the Cross, He said to the repentant thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” 

But the Apostle’s Creed says, “He descended into hell and on the third day, He arose”.  That day, according to the Apostle’s Creed, He descended into hell.  The “third day” is not “today” as Jesus promised the thief.  

Is this a conflict with Scripture?

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

(Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)”  (Ephesians 4:7-10)

What does “He led captivity captive” mean? 

In Paul’s world, when Rome conquered some new territory, the conqueror would be placed in an elevated chariot and given a parade upon his return to Rome.

The conquered kings and generals were bound behind the conqueror’s chariot and led through the streets, demonstrating to the rebellious that those who fought against him now submit to him.

Jesus descended into hell where He demonstrated His complete victory over the devil in a triumphant parade throughout Paradise and before all those rebels that will one day bow their knee and confess Jesus is Lord. 

Having held His victory parade before both the liberated and the conquered, on the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and was seen by Mary outside the Tomb.

“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”

Mary recognized Him and rushed to embrace Him. 

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” (John 20:16-17)

Jesus had been resurrected, but had not yet stood before the Father to present full payment for the sins of mankind, including those of the righteous dead in Paradise.  

In essence, Jesus stopped by to pick up His Resurrection body before He ascended into Heaven to present Himself before the Father to complete His redemptive mission. 

Mary could not defile Him by touching Him until after His mission was completed, which is why He sent the message that He did to His Apostles.  (“I”ll be along shortly, but I still have something to finish up.”)

Jesus DID descend into hell where He spent three days.  (That must have been quite a party.  No wonder the enemy is so furious.)  

When Jesus led captivity captive and bound behind His chariot, the enemy knew that Jesus wasn’t just cleaning out one side of hell to make room. 

He knew it meant that he had lost and that one day he will be cast into the lake of fire, no longer anymore important to the grand scheme of things than the rich man was when he first arrived.

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.  They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:15-18)

Jesus didn’t simply defeat the enemy — He made a fool of him first.

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

Like I said, it must have been quite a party.

Originally Published: February 11, 2010

‘Strange’ Doesn’t Quite Cover It

‘Strange’ Doesn’t Quite Cover It
Vol: 18 Issue: 29 Friday, January 29, 2016

The Bible’s outline for the last days has always been considered a little strange to scholars.  The Books of Daniel and the Revelation were so strange that great expositors like Calvin and Luther omitted them from their Bible commentaries.

The strangeness of the heads, horns and beasts, etc., convinced previous generations that the books were largely symbolic, and to be understood in the context of history, rather than future prophecy. 

Everything about the outline of the last days is noteworthy for its strangeness; strange signs in the heavens, strange social attitudes, strange politics, strange climate changes, strange wars . . . 

It was too strange for previous generations to picture.  That is one reason that the traditional view of Bible prophecy was that the events depicted in Daniel and Revelation were all fulfilled in AD 70 with the Destruction of the Temple. 

This is called the ‘preterist’ view, whereas viewing Revelation and Daniel as Bible prophecy for the last days is called the ‘futurist’ view.  Preterism was the dominant view of the historical Catholic Church, and was among the doctrines retained by mainstream Protestantism following the Reformation. 

Indeed, that is the first charge leveled against futurism — it is a ‘new’ doctrine unknown to the Reformers.  And it made sense enough, especially in a world in which the latest technological breakthrough was the printing press.

As literal, future events, especially as depicted by Revelation and Daniel, they were just too strange.  Large portions of Ezekiel were also viewed as either allegorical or historical. 

For almost the entire life of the Church, the concept of Israel being restored to her ancestral land was too strange to contemplate.  The Catholic Church taught replacement theology — that God’s covenant with the Jews was transferred to the Church when the Jews rejected Jesus.  It was retained by the Reformers as part of mainstream Protestant theology. 

It is replacement theology that gives the imprimatur to Christian anti-Semitism. 

It was difficult for previous generations to grasp some of the events outlined by the Lord as well; signs in the sun, moon and stars, mass communications, the whole concept of globalism, sudden, simultaneous increases in global earthquake activity, famines, floods, pestilences, rumors of wars; this stuff was too strange.

Especially given the time frame specified — a single generation.  There is a reason for that.  

In previous generations, change came slowly — my great-grandfather’s world had not changed significantly in 300 years. (My grandfather, on the other hand, was in his teens when the Wright brothers flew the first airplane. He lived to see Neal Armstrong walk on the moon.) 

So, to previous generations, it was too strange to be future, so it must have been referring to past events. 

Assessment:

To this generation, ‘strange’ is the new normal.  The Bible outlines a series of strange wars that, viewed from the perspective of history, make no sense at all. 

The Gog-Magog War has no logical objective in the historical sense.  Israel is plundered by a vast Arab alliance, led by Russia and Iran — ostensibly for her wealth.  But it is the Arabs that have all the wealth.  And Israel is 0.6% of the Arab world.  Why risk global war?  Too strange.

But Israel is at this moment facing the prospect of exactly that kind of war, against exactly that alliance.

Even the ostensible reason is strange.  Iran — awash in oil — argues it needs nuclear power to supply its energy needs. 

While denying it wants nuclear weapons, it argues Israel’s wealth of nuclear weapons justifies Iran developing an arsenal of its own.  And if denied permission to build nuclear weapons it denies wanting, it has threatened to use those nuclear weapons it denies wanting against Israel. Too strange. 

But Iran has enough support for its position from Russia and the Islamic world to prevent the UN from taking any meaningful action against Iran.  Instead, the UN is proposing disarming ISRAEL and putting Tehran on the honor system.  How strange is that? 

While all that is going on, the West is engaged in what is euphemistically called a ‘war on terror’.  It is the strangest war in history.  On one side is the entire non-Islamic world.  On the other side are significant minorities of the entire Islamic world. 

The rest of the non-Islamic world is rumored to be ‘moderate’ — except that they share the identical ideology with the terrorists.  And all the polls show the majority of the ‘moderate’ Islamic world is in sympathy with their aims, objecting only to their methods. (And not very loudly) 

The heavily Islamist United Arab Emirates was one of only two nations on earth to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government.  (The other is our other ally, Pakistan) Money from the UAE funds and supports terrorist operations.  Many terrorists were given safe haven in the UAE. 

But the United States, the principle target of the Islamic jihad, is fighting tooth and nail to hand US port security to the UAE, claiming there is nothing to worry about.  How strange is that? 

It was this kind of other-worldly, inexplicable ‘strangeness’ that made end-times prophecy such a mystery to previous generations.  Things taking place on a global basis that don’t make any sense in the natural. 

It is as if history itself is being dragged, kicking and screaming, toward an appointed destiny, almost, (as Ezekiel put it), as if it had a hook in its jaw. 

Nobody is quite sure why Israel is to blame for all the world’s ills, but that is the way the Bible outlined it, and that is the way things are.  Logic needn’t apply. 

Why, oh why, would the United States put its security in Islamic hands, even as the reality of a global clash of civilizations looms large on the horizon?  The Bible makes no mention of America as part of the overall last days’ scenario. 

Originally Published: February 23, 2006

Featured Commentary: Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God ~ Alf Cengia

Wisdom of the Ancients

Wisdom of the Ancients
Vol: 18 Issue: 28 Thursday, January 28, 2016

According to our calendar, this is the year two thousand and fourteen as measured from the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in Bethlehem.

The calendar that we use is the standard calendar in use world-wide for all official business.

Hindu countries, Muslim countries, officially atheist countries and religiously confused countries all date modern events based on the life of a Jewish laborer executed as a criminal by the Roman Empire roughly 1978 years ago.  

They may not believe in Jesus of Nazareth, but He affects their lives daily, nonetheless.   

In Buddhist Sri Lanka, this is the year 2545. In Hindu India, it is the year 1922.  Muslims reckon this year as the year 1421.

The starting point for the Buddhist calendar is the year 544 BC — the date of the Buddha’s death. The Muslim calendar dates from the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. 

The Chinese lay claim to being the world’s oldest civilization. Whether or not that is true, according to the Chinese calendar, which is the oldest calendar in continuous use since inception, this is the year 4704, dating from around the time of Noah and the Flood. 

The oldest calendar in use in terms of length is the Byzantine calendar, which uses the Julian date for its calculations, beginning with Day One, AM (Anno Mundi) on September 1, 5509.  

But the Byzantine calendar is based on the Julian calendar created by astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria 45 years before Christ.  It isn’t based on human history, but rather by assuming an arbitrary date for creation based on the position of the stars, and then working forward.

What is fascinating about all of these calendars is that none of them (except the Byzantine) reach further back than about six thousand years. 

We have fossils that science claims are older than six thousand years.  We have dug up settlements and evidences of civilization that science says dates back further than six thousand years. 

But the human historical record comes to an abrupt re-boot at about the same place where the Chinese calendar begins. 

The Chinese record starts at just about the same time when Noah and his family left the Ark and began to rebuild human civilization.  And it is the oldest.

Everything before that is mythologized.  

Assessment:

The ancient Sumerians who were the first to develop a written language dated the lifespan of their early rulers into the thousands of years.  The ancient Egyptians claimed that their earliest rulers were giants who stood twice the size of ordinary men.

The ancient Greek and Roman mythologies included strange, demonic, half-human, half-animalcreatures like centaurs, minotaurs, demi-gods, and so on.

Joshua makes reference to the gods “which your fathers served on the other side of the Flood” four times; (Joshua 24:2-3,14-15)

Every ancient civilization makes reference to an ancient, cataclysmic flood that was sent as a form of judgment by the gods, a god, or God. 

And in all the world, there is no record of human civilization that predates the record set forth in the Bible.  The Sumerians have written records predating Moses, (who wrote Genesis) but there is no coherent written account of human civilization that predates the Flood. 

The Book of Genesis explains the origins of human legends, like long-lived Sumerian rulers of pre-history. Genesis explains that until the Flood, human lifespans were measured in centuries — Methuselah lived for some 969 years.

Genesis 6:4 explains the Egyptian giants of prehistory.  It also provides a credible explanation for the origins of Greco-Roman mythology.  The gods, demigods, centaurs and so forthworshipped by the Romans and Greeks are entirely consistent with the unholy offspring of Genesis 6:4.

The gods of Mount Olympus and demigods like Hercules, Mercury, Perseus and Achilles and Joshua’s “gods on the other side of the Flood” are a far better historical fit than an explanation that they were simply invented out of nothing somewhere in the distant, unknowable past.

Were it not for the Bible’s insistence on the universal worship of the Creator as a condition of salvation and its insulting representation of all mankind as unregenerate sinners in need of His mercy, the Bible would undoubtedly be hailed as an unassailably accurate historical record. 

No matter how desperately science tries to discredit the Bible, it keeps coming back to the Cradle of Civilization for answers to questions relating to the origin of human language, human culture, human racial differences and human DNA.  

Linguists say all human language evolved from a single ‘proto-language’ that existed at about the same time and place that the Bible puts the story of the Tower of Babel, at the same time dismissing any connection between the Bible story and their findings as ‘coincidence.’ 

Note that the primary effort isn’t to prove the Genesis account true.  The primary effort is todisprove it in the face emerging evidence that tends to support Babel as a real event.  The same is true of DNA research that also tends to support, rather than refute, Babel as the source of differing racial characteristics.

One of the first rules of legitimate scientific investigation is that one approaches an issue with an open mind, rather than beginning with a conclusion and then working backward to find evidence to support it. 

But when it comes to the Bible, that is the first rule to be broken.  Openly. Scientists and historians that even consider the Bible are immediately and permanently derided as ‘religiously biased’ despite mounting evidence that all human history began exactly where the Bible says that it did.

No fact of history (or medicine, astronomy, geology, physics or science) contained in the Bible has ever been conclusively disproved.  None.  At best, there are things in the Bible for which there is no proof either way, like Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, or Jonah and the whale.

But whenever some piece of evidence does come to light, such as the 1993 discovery of the Tomb of Caiaphus, that piece of evidence always confirms the Bible’s account. 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

How is this relevant?  What we call Bible prophecy is really a record of Bible history that hasn’t yet happened.  It is history in advance, as seen from God’s perspective outside of space and time.  It is as accurate as if it was yesterday’s news.

It is only from our perspective that it is really tomorrow’s. 

Originally Published: January 22, 2011

Featured Commentary: Great Balls of Fire ~ J.L. Robb

Oh Yeah? Well What About THIS?

Oh Yeah? Well What About THIS?
Vol: 18 Issue: 27 Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Somebody sent me a list of Bible ‘difficulties’ packaged together with the usual sneering challenge and daring me to confront their evidence that the Bible is filled with contradictions.  It isn’t unusual — I get challenges like this all the time, and you probably do, too.

One thing most of the challenges have in common is that most of the so-called “contradictions” are only contradictions to unbelievers.

For example, the Bible says there is only one God, then God refers to Himself as “us” and then it refers to other gods, like Molech (Leviticus 18:21),  Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2) and Baal (Judges 3:7).  

To an unbeliever, it is an obvious contradiction demanding an explanation whereas to a believer, the contradiction does not exist.  God is one God, (Deuteronomy 6:4) in Three Persons,  (1 John 5:7) and the other “gods” mentioned are probably fallen angels or simply imaginary. 

Even the reason why an unbeliever finds a glaring contradiction where no actual contradiction exists is explained by Scripture. 

“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)

“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 Corinthiahs 1:18)

“But ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 John 2:20)

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28)

My correspondent feigned offense at the claim that all men are sinners, claiming that the Bible says that Job was not a sinner (Job 1:1)  that Noah and his family were not sinners (Genesis 7:1) and that John the Baptist’s parents, Zacharaias and Elizabeth were sinless.

This is another example of contradiction that only exists in the absence of the Holy Spirit’s “unction” or anointing.  Of course all men have a sin debt, including those who walk righteousbefore the Lord.  There is a difference between righteousness and perfect righteousness, something every believer knows in his own spirit.

Does God tempt people?  Genesis 22:1 says that He does:

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

But James 1:13 says that God never, ever tempts anyone.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”

The solution here is ridiculously simple.  First, James links temptation with evil.  Secondarily the word translated into English as ‘tempted’ is nacha, which means, “to test” and was translated as “tempt” in 1611.  Putting Abraham through a test is not the same thing as tempting Abraham to do evil.

“The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Matthew 13:32)

“AHA! The mustard seed ISN’T the smallest seed and it DOESN’T grow to be the largest among herbivorous plants.  If Jesus was God, then He should have known that.”

There are a number of different kinds of mustard trees indigenous to Israel, and the mustard seed was the smallest seed known and used by the people to whom He was offering the illustration. 

Jesus would have known that it wasn’t the largest of all herbivorous plants by simple observation, even if He wasn’t God.  But the mustard plant dominated the typical herb garden, so the illustration was easily understood by the hearers.  

Jesus also used the mustard seed as an illustration of how faith as small as a mustard seed could accomplish great things.  One has to stretch pretty far to conclude Jesus was making a statement of science instead of using it to illustrate a point.

Assessment:

There were a lot more so-called “contradictions” but my correspondent’s real objection was to God Himself.  If God loves all people, then how does one explain a loving God inflicting such suffering on the children He claims to love so much?

My correspondent has made it clear that he doesn’t believe that God exists, and so his question isn’t so much an attempt to understand as it is intended to cause me to question my own faith.  

The unbeliever instinctively knows that there is a God, despite his best efforts to convince himself otherwise.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20)

I’ve heard it described as a “God-shaped hole in the soul” that nothing else quite fills except God.  He wants to be comfortable in his unbelief and if he can’t, then he’ll seek comfort in trying to shatter yours.

On the other hand, if God DOES exist, what is the answer?  The Bible is filled with examples of the just suffering while the unjust seemingly get all the breaks.

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” (Psalms 73:17)

The fact is, that we are made in God’s image.  The unbeliever wants to recast Him in ours — which is where the problem lies.  God created us in His image because we are eternal, even as He is eternal.

We were created for eternal life — or for eternal death; but in any case, the key word here is ‘eternal’.

The answer to the question is that God is God, whether one believes in Him or not.  For example, someone may not believe that I exist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t.

Or they may conclude, from my writing, that I think a certain way, even when I don’t.  Their belief or unbelief has no bearing on what I think or how I express myself.   I am who I am, no matter what people think I am.

And God is Who He is.

God is our Judge, we are not His.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The Lord doesn’t work in ‘mysterious’ ways; He works according to His will.  He has a purpose for everything that He does.  Whether we understand that purpose is irrelevant — it is enough to know that HE does.

“So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My Mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

To the unbeliever, this life is all there is — so when God takes it, it seems exceedingly cruel. But this is no more ‘all there is’ than the blackness of the womb is to the unborn child. The blackness of the womb is simply all it knows until it is born.

Oftentimes, a similar question pops up to the effect that ‘a loving God would never condemn people to hell’.

God sent His own Son to die on the Cross for our sins so that we wouldn’t end up in hell. If we choose to reject Him, it isn’t God that is making that choice.  It is the individual that chooses — it is God that made the choice possible.

Death isn’t the end, it is the beginning.  It is either the beginning of something unspeakably wonderful, or it is the beginning of an eternal horror beyond our ability to contemplate, but it is, nonetheless, the beginning of eternity for each of us.

God put each of us here for two reasons.  The first is so that we can choose to one day enjoy fellowship with Him in eternity.  The second is to spread the Good News to the lost in the time we have remaining.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Maranatha!

Originally Published: September 25, 2012

Caterpillars Can’t Fly

Caterpillars Can’t Fly
Vol: 18 Issue: 26 Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Bible identifies four intelligent, sentient (self-aware) spiritual creations of God.  The first of the created beings are the angels.

“Praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts. . . Let them praise the name of the LORD: for He commanded, and they were created.” (Psalms 148:2,5)

The Bible further teaches that their home is in heaven (Matthew 24:36), their activity is both on earth and in heaven (Psalms 103:20Luke 15:10Hebrews 1:14) and their destiny is the Eternal City of Revelation 21:12.

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. . .” (Hebrews 12:22)

Angels are unique creations of God, not to be confused with any other of God’s created beings.  Even though some fall, as was the case with Satan, the fallen angels remain angels throughout their existence.  Their numbers are constant; they neither propagate nor die.

The second sentient creation of God was man.  Man was created in perfection in both body and spirit and remained in fellowship with God until the Fall.  

Adam’s physical descendents were known as Gentiles, from the Hebrew word “gowy” a word which means figuratively, “a troop of animals.”  

Gentiles are born with both a living spirit and a sin nature.  As soon as the sin nature comes to the forefront with the first deliberate sin, the spirit dies and must be reborn, or ‘born again.’

“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9)

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7)

The spirit of a newly-born baby cannot knowingly sin, but it is “born of the flesh” – with a sin nature.  When he is old enough and mature to understand sin and knowingly sins anyway, his spirit dies and must be “born again.”

Every person from Adam to Abraham was born a Gentile, albeit sinless, yet estranged from God at birth, at first too young to have fellowship, and then too sinful – alive in the flesh only, like a gowy, an animal.

As to their estate, from Adam until Christ, the Gentiles were:

“without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12).

God created, through Abraham’s grandson Jacob, a new class of spiritual being out of the existing spiritually-dead Gentile (animals of flesh) stock that we know now as the Jew.  

For 1500 years, they were known as the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) or ‘Israelites” until the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, leaving only the descendants of Judah and Benjamin in Judea. 

Judea’s inhabitants were captured by Nebuchadnezzar and were known henceforth as ‘the Jews.’ 

They are the Children of the Promise – that ‘Promise’ being that God would take them out of the world of the Gentiles and make them a great nation, separated unto Himself that He would personally redeem in the last days.

A Jew is not born a Gentile – he is born a Jew.  A Jew cannot become a Gentile, even if he changes his religion or abandons it altogether.   Not only will God not allow it, neither will the Gentiles

A Jew is always hyphenated, even in Israel.  An Israeli-Jew is different than an Israeli-Arab or other Gentile.

There are German-Jews, Irish-Jews, English-Jews, Russian-Jews; about the only nationality that doesn’t automatically hyphenate Jews are Americans (who hyphenate everything else; African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Japanese-Americans, etc.)

A Jew can even become a Christian – but he is still hyphenated; as a Christian in the Church Age, he becomes a Messianic-Jew.

So different is this race of spiritual beings that some five-sixths of Scripture bears directly or indirectly on the Jews.  The destiny of the Jews is traceable through the Millennial Kingdom and into the new heaven and earth which follows.

In this present Church Age, all Divine progress in the national and earthly program for Israel is on hold; individual Jews have the same opportunity as do individual Gentiles for salvation by personal faith in Christ as Savior.

But Scripture is clear that, when the present age concludes, God will again turn His full attention to the national, rather than personal, redemption of Israel.

Note that each of these spiritual entities is a direct creation of God.  Adam and Eve were not created as spiritually dead human animals (Gentiles) – they were created spiritually alive.

The Gentile race was created by God as a result of spiritual death and the curse(s) imposed thereby; sin, work, sweat, childbirth, illness and death.  

“And He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far. . . (Isaiah 5:26)

The Jews were created by God to serve as His ensign, or His symbol, like the flag on a ship.  When a ship is flagged with a national ensign, it is deemed to belong to that nation.  The ensign of the Jews God Himself – they are a unique spiritual creation of God, created neither as angels nor Gentiles. 

Finally, the Scriptures reveal a new spiritual creation of God, neither Jew nor Gentile, but reborn out of both.  That new creature is a Christian.   

When one becomes a Christian, the Bible says;

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [Gentiles – ed]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.” (Romans 10:12)

A Christian is a NEW creature that is reborn out of the old man, either Jew or Gentile, in much the same way a butterfly is ‘reborn’ out of a caterpillar.   Caterpillars can’t fly, but butterflies can. 

A caterpillar has to endure a kind of ‘death’ in the cocoon before being transformed, and the transformation is not merely beautiful, it is permanent.  A caterpillar, once reborn as a butterfly, cannot by an act of his own will, turn himself back into a caterpillar.

A Christian is a Gentile or a Jew who dies to himself and is reborn in Christ.

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

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

The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), having been raised WITH Christ (Colossians 3:1-3) and are so different than any other created rational being that Jesus says of the Christian;

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 15:19,17:14,16)

The Scriptures which direct a Christian in his walk with the Lord are adapted to the fact that the Christian is no longer striving to secure a standing before God, but is already ‘accepted in the beloved’.

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Christians, by their existence, have already attained every spiritual blessing;

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . .” (Ephesians 1:3)

Obviously, no human effort can bring a person to fulfill God’s standard of sinless perfection. God, anticipating the believer’s inability to walk worthy of his high calling, freely bestows His empowering Spirit to indwell each believer.

Scripture also promises that when their elect number is complete, as unique citizens of heaven, they will be removed from the earth at the Rapture.

The bodies of believers who have died will be raised and living saints will be translated. (1st Corinthians 15:20-571st Thessalonians 4:13-18)

At the Bema Seat in glory, believers will be judged as to their rewards for service. (1st Corinthians 3:9-159:18-272nd Corinthians 5:10,11), the Body of Christ will be wed to the Bridegroom, (Revelation 19:7-9) and return WITH Him to share as His consort during the Millennial Reign.

This new creation, like angels, Gentiles and Jews, can be traced into eternity future, but they are unique from the rest. They are promised no land, no house, no earthly capital or city, no earthly kingdom and no earthly king.

Scripture promises that the Jews will inherit the earth.  The Gentiles will inhabit it with them as a subordinate people.  But the Church does not share in that inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)

The Church inherits what Jesus inherits and the Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture. The Body of Christ – the Church – is complete. 

The Tribulation Period is the final seven years of the Age of Law, under which God will judge a Christ-rejecting world.  During this period, some Gentiles will become believers, but, unlike during this present age, they are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Whose earthly ministry alsoconcludes at the Rapture.

During the Church Age, believers are promised to ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you,’ because ‘greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. (James 4:71st John 4:4)

During the Tribulation, without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to resist the devil, with the promise that ‘he will flee from you’ – the Bible says that is no longer true.

How else could they be ‘overcome’ by him as Revelation 13:7 says the Tribulation saints will be?

It is not POSSIBLE for Church Age believers to play a role in the Tribulation, other than as recipients of God’s justice for sin, although believers, by definition, have already been judged and found righteous at the Cross.

Consider the Promises of Jesus, given the Church, in the context of the horrors of the Tribulation Period sent to ‘try them which dwell upon the earth.’

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)

If the destiny of the Church is to partake in God’s judgment against the world, then my heart should be troubled indeed.  And I should be very, very afraid. But I’m not afraid. 

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

When the bottom falls out, caterpillars can’t fly.  Butterflies can.

Originally Published: May 6, 2010

Featured Commentary: Fatal Attraction ~ Wendy Wippel

Some Debates Aren’t Worth Winning

Some Debates Aren’t Worth Winning
Vol: 18 Issue: 25 Monday, January 25, 2016

The Old Testament was written almost entirely in classical Hebrew in the dialect scholars believed flourished around the 6th century BC during the Babylonian Exile.  Almost entirely.

By the time the Babylonian Captivity had ended seventy years later, the first language of most of the Babylonian captives and their descendants had become the language of their captors, Aramaic.  

The Books of Daniel and Ezra were originally inspired and composed in Aramaic.

Alexander the Great outlawed the languages of the peoples he conquered and compelled them to learn and use Greek in all their dealings. But by then, Hebrew was largely extinct as spoken language, replaced by Aramaic and later by Greek. 

The New Testament was inspired and composed in both Aramaic and Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek.   His words were translated from Aramaic into Greek, with certain Aramaic words being specifically identified as translations.

Interestingly, those parts of the Old Testament not inspired and composed in Hebrew were inspired and composed in Greek. 

And the Septuagint is the Hebrew Old Testament as translated by the rabbis into Koine Greek in the 3rd century BC.   So by the time the Apostles were writing the New Testament Epistles, much the Old Testament was already a translation of a translation. 

By the middle of the second century, the major writings of the canon of Scripture were accepted by almost all Christian authorities. St Jerome translated them all into Latin in the 3rd century.  

So by the fourth century, the Old Testament was a translation of a translation of a translation and the New Testament was merely a translation of a translation. 

Twelve hundred years later, Wycliffe, Hus, Linacre, Colet and Erasmus were all busily engaged in translating the various translations of translations into their own translations of English. 

One hundred years after John Hus was burned at the stake kindled with pages from Wycliffe’s Bible translation, King James of England ordered his translators to come up with a new English translation using the existing Greek and Hebrew translations, themselves recopied translations of Aramaic and Latin and classical Hebrew.

The oldest existing Textus Receptus manuscript used by the translators of the King James 1611 Bible dated to the 12th century.  In the book of Revelation, a missing page had to be translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek so it could be translated back into English.

Finally, I have a photocopy of an original 1611 Bible and a page taken from an original 1611 Bible. Both are in English, but I can barely read it.   

I say all this knowing that I am going to get hammered by the King James-onlyists, which is ironic, really.  I personally am a King James-only guy, in the sense that I prefer it above all other translations and is the only one I trust as the final authority on matters of doctrine.

But it is a matter of preference. 

Nobody is saved according to which version of the Bible they study from.  Nobody is saved by a Bible.  They are saved by the Gospel message, a message so simple it can be conveyed without a Bible being present.

A child can lead another child to Christ on a playground. A drunk can lead another drunk to Christ on a barstool.  

I’ve seen both happen. 

Assessment:

I’ve heard all of the King James-only arguments, and have made many of them myself.  I am aware of the flaws in the other translations, (particularly the NIV) and I have on more than one occasion, taken great satisfaction in systematically destroying the NIV as a perversion of the Bible.

But there are just as many flaws and doctrinal errors in the NASB, AV, ASV, etc., etc.  Or so I am told. I confess that I have not personally ferreted out the flaws in the various translations.  I admit that I am simply using somebody else’s list. 

While I am at it, I also confess that I do not know much about the actual translators of the KJV. Or much about the translation process.  I probably know more than the average guy, but that isn’t saying much. 

I’ve said it previously, but it bears repeating here.  I can’t read the original languages. And if I could, I don’t have the original manuscripts used by the translators.  

And if I did, I wouldn’t know if they were 1st century Greek or if they were later Greek translations of the Latin translations of the Greek translations of the original Aramaic. 

Would you?

The quickest way I can think of to shake somebody’s confidence in their salvation is to attack their preferred Bible version.  The Bible that leads you to Christ takes on a very special, personal meaning.  If you came to Christ via the NIV, then the NIV is the Word of God whereby you were saved.

The same applies to all the other versions, including the KJV, which is the version whereby I came to know Christ.

Ever wonder why there are so many Christians that don’t go to church?  It is because there are two kinds of Christianity in this world.  There is the theoretical kind and there is the living kind. 

In the theoretical kind, everybody is the same at church as they are at home when nobody is looking.  

Saved people always act saved and always looked saved.  Saved people never have doubts – that would be faithlessness.  And when somebody falls, it is because they probably were never really saved in the first place.

In the living kind, people are different at church than they are at home when nobody is looking.   Saved people don’t always act like it.  Some don’t ever go to church.  Everybody has doubts. 

And it is only when others fall that we question if they were really saved. 

When a person is young in the Lord, he is somewhere between the theoretical and reality – all he has is his Bible.  And along comes some grizzled old veteran Christian who, preaching theoretical Christianity convinces the new Christian that he can’t trust his Bible.

No matter which position you take on the Bible translations issue, what happens if you prevail in the debate? Assuming your opponent is already saved, he can’t get more saved by agreeing with you.

If you have won the debate, then he has lost. Now let’s return to the topic under discussion.  “Can you trust your Bible?”  And his answer is “no.”

Some debates aren’t worth winning.

Do we have the Word of God?  Of course we do.  What about when there are conflicts between versions? God only wrote ONE Bible – but He didn’t write it in English.

He wrote it in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  

So how do you know that the version that you use, whether KJV, NIV, NASB, etc, is really the Word of God?  Did you get saved from it?  Is that an enemy action?  

How do you know that is the one God wants you to use?  I don’t know.   But you do. It is because that is the version God speaks to you from.

Or you would be looking for the version that does.

Originally Published: December 11, 2010

Featured Commentary: The Last Generation ~ Pete Garcia

Many Shall Come In My Name

Many Shall Come In My Name
Vol: 18 Issue: 23 Saturday, January 23, 2016

”And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11)

This verse serves as the introduction to the false religion that will sweep the world under antichrist during the tribulation.  Note than John describes the False Prophet has having two horns like a lamb, but that he ‘spake as a dragon’. 

The symbolism here is sublimely obvious.  This is, after all, the Bible.  We are introduced to the ‘dragon’ during the Tribulation in Revelation 12:3, where;

“There appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

The dragon is clearly identified in Revelation 12:9:

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

So, the dragon is Satan and it is his doctrine that will form the foundation of the religion of antichrist. However, it will appear to be a form of Christianity, symbolized by ‘the lamb’. 

The identity of the Lamb within the context of the Book of the Revelation is equally unquestionable:

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

It is tempting to insert Islam as the false religion of the last days that will sweep the world during the Tribulation Period.  Islam already claims a third of the world’s population, practices forced conversions, routinely uses beheading as a form of execution, and pretty much fits the character of the theocracy in John’s description. 

But it is an impossible stretch to envision Islam in the context of a counterfeit Christianity.  Islam’s hatred of Christianity stretches back to the time of the Crusaders, and its hatred of Israel traces back to the sons of Abraham.  No Islamic would identify themselves religiously with either Christianity or Judaism. 

But the antichrist is accepted, at least for a time, as Israel’s messiah. (2nd Thessalonians 2:4,John 5:43Matthew 24:15) That completely disqualifies Islam from either direction. 

And John is too definite about his depiction of a form of Christianity without Christ for us to wish away as inconvenient to a theory. 

Assessment:

When asked of the signs of His impending return by His disciples, the very first sign Jesus cited was that of religious deception.

“For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5)

“And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” (Luke 21:8)

In the last century, there has been an explosion of religious cults that claim to be Christian, while simultaneously denying Christ. 

Most call themselves ‘Christians’ use the Bible as their Sacred Scripture, and may even have the name of Christ in the title of their church… but they say that “Jesus is not God”, or that Jesus Christ is god as much as you and I are god, like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

A research paper entitled, ‘Churches and Church Membership in the United States, 1990’ ranked the Jehovah’s Witnesses 9th among the top 10 religious bodies with the most churches in the US. 

The Mormons ranked 8 among the top ten, whereas the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Church of England, ranks 10th. 

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the official name for the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ was founded by Charles Taze Russell in 1852, with the first formal organization being founded in Pittsburgh in 1872.  They now number three million worldwide and growing, based on the following doctrine: 

Jehovah’s Witnesses see the doctrine of the Trinity as a demonic doctrine.  Their theology strips Jesus of His Deity, claiming He is not God, but ‘a god’ a created being on a par with Lucifer.  They deny the physical resurrection of Christ, and deny the doctrine of an eternal hell. 

In the past, they have officially announced the date of the Second Coming of Christ and Armageddon on six different occasions: 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, and 1975.  Yet their membership is among the most active, and their ranks continue to swell. 

The Mormons are officially called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”.  Numbering over ten million, they are one of the fastest growing religious cults in the world.  Among their doctrinal teachings is that God was once a man who became God. 

The Mormon god has a physical body, as does his wife, the heavenly mother.  Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods. 

Worthy men may one day become gods themselves.  Jesus was married and had children with the two sisters of Lazarus, Maria and Martha… and Jesus became God.  And so can a Mormon. 

“As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man can become”, is one of the most famous aphorisms of the Mormons.  This elevation to godhood is only open to faithful male Mormons, but this concept of “every man is god”, has been taken up by the New Age Movement, (but using different methods to become god). 

Man as god is also the central tenet of secular humanism, another ‘religious’ cult that has taken root and thrived in the very heart of our global institutions, as well as most national governments.

Then there are the others; Christian Science Church, founded in 1875 by Mary Baker Eddy.  The cult is neither Christian, scientific, nor a church, but wields huge influence through its prestigious daily newspaper, “The Christian Science Monitor.” 

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.  It’sdoctrine is utterly bizarre; Mankind is descended from a race of interplanetary omnipotent gods called “thetans”. 

Gradually they evolved by reincarnation to become humans who could not remember their deified state, but every human is a god!  The problem is the “engrams”, the traumatic experiences in past lives, which impede spiritual progress, and they are the reason of all diseases. 

The only remedy is ‘auditing’ which is very expensive.  Auditing runs about $300 per hour, and courses, high level courses, of up to $10,000 or $50,000.

In Scientology, Jesus is not the creator.  He was in control of supernatural powers, “cleared” from mental defects, but he was not an “operating thetan”.  Initially, Hubbard taught that Jesus did not exist.  When Hubbard later acknowledged his existence, he claimed Jesus was gay.  The Holy Spirit is not mentioned. Salvation comes after many “auditings”. 

The Worldwide Church of God was founded in 1934 by Herbert W Armstrong.  At his death, his son, Garner Ted Armstrong took over the leadership of the Church.  It teaches that the 10 lost tribes of Israel are the British and that the American descendants of the British are the “Chosen People of God”.  England is “Ephraim”, and the USA is “Manasseh.”

The WWCG teaches that all other churches teach in error.  They deny the existence of theTrinity, and include keeping the Jewish feasts, the Sabbath, and keeping kosher.  Armstrong once taught that Queen Elizabeth now sits on the Throne to which Christ will lay claim at His return. 

Each of these former cults are now part of mainstream American Christianity, with huge influence that is translating into rapid growth. 

Scientology’s apologists include people like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Isaac Hayes, Patrick Swayze and even Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. 

Christian Science has the ‘Monitor’; the Jehovah’s Witnesses sell 100,000 tracts every day door to door; and the Mormons have their own state, Utah, complete with senators and congressmen.

Armstrongism has its “Plain Truth” Magazine, “The World Tomorrow” television program and Garner Ted Armstrong’s “Philadelphia Trumpet” and “Key of David” television program. 

Then there are the ‘Moonies’, founded in 1954 by Sun Yung Moon.  The ‘Moonies’ are nothing short of nuts.  They deny Christ’s Deity, claiming Jesus was the illegitimate offspring of Zechariah and Mary. 

Moon claimed (who died in 2012)  to be the third Adam, the second Christ, and God himself incarnated.  AND . . . Moon owned both “The Washington Times” and “Newsworld Magazine.” 

The point is this.  Each of these cults, claims to be Christian, while simultaneously denying His Deity.  Each is in a position of tremendous influence. 

While some of the media organs are currently benign, it wouldn’t take much for them to be retooled as propaganda tools to advance the concept of Christians Without Christ as a workable religious system.

The proof is in the preponderance of them that exist already.

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. . . And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1st John 2:224:3)

Originally Published: January 5, 2013