LET US GO TO THE LORD IN PRAYER

Father, I come before you in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Lord, you know all things. They are all before you like an open book. Who can hide their heart from your presence and your eye? The deeds of the most clever men are exposed before you. Your omniscience knows know bounds - and if it were not for grace, I would be of all men most terrified. But there is grace, abounding and glorious, poured out upon the weakest of men, and abounding to your glory.
Father, I praise you and I worship you; I thank you for all that you are and all that have done. There is no one like you in Heavens and on the Earth or under the earth. You are the King and there is no other. You are Savior and you share your glory with no one. Father, this day you know me and my great need of grace. Why am I here except that you called the weakest among men, the most ignoble among brothers, and that by your grace, often times, the lesser teaches the greater? That is always my case and I praise you. I worship you. Father, help us today, to the wind with eloquence, to hell with brilliant intellect, Father. Let the truth go forward. Let me be changed that the state of your church be more glorious. I pray for grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy for myself and for those who read my blog. Help us, Oh God, and we will be helped; and we will boast in that help in Jesus' Name. AMEN!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Living In The Kingdom Of God Requires Living By Kingdom Economics

Deuteronomy 11:10-15   For the land into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of Heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year. It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied…. 
These powerful verses describe the beginnings of an entirely new culture for God’s people. They were finally going to the land that was promised after 400 years of bondage in Egypt. They were being led by the manifest presence of God (the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire), to a land He had reserved for His people. In fact, a heathen people were already tilling their land, building their cities, and cultivating their vineyards. No start-up capital was necessary for their small businesses in this new land. Their agricultural businesses were waiting for them.  What is unique about this moment in history is that the Lord was also promising His people an unprecedented level of involvement in the economics of this nation. These verses represent the beginning of a second economic system. Before this moment, God’s economic blessing was given to individuals. Now, for the first time, we see God’s economic system being established on a national scale. We are living in the days when God is restoring His system of economics to the marketplace in every nation on earth. It is a system that will enable families, businesses, governments and nations to flourish because of God’s unprecedented involvement in all aspects of culture.  
Attention to Details
In the preceding verses in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses said the Lord was sending them to …a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year. In this new land, God would personally attend to one of the most important elements of agriculture, watering the crops. He was not going to give indiscriminate rainfall, but targeted, carefully timed rainfall: the former rain, which gives the germination stage of agriculture the necessary boost, and the latter rain, which is necessary for the crops to reach full potential. He said He would even give grass for the cattle to eat. How could it be that the Lord actually watched over these fields, herds, and vineyards? Why would He attend to every detail necessary for economic success of an entire nation of people? Why would God care whether these businesses succeeded? This must have been an inconceivable paradigm shift to a people who for almost 400 years had been the primary labor force for one of the most powerful nations on earth. God was establishing a new economic system called the Kingdom Economy.
Restoration of the Partnership
Today, there is a growing awareness among marketplace people around the world of this same economic system — the Kingdom Economy. Living productively in this new economic system required a change of thinking for the people of Israel in the days of the Exodus. It was God’s engagement in their economy that shaped their success, not just their human effort and ingenuity. They were required to till and cultivate the ground, plant and harvest the crops, but their labor was in partnership with God. To live productively in this Kingdom Economy today requires a change of thinking on our part, as well.  In our day, we are seeing a restoration of these principles taking place. The principles of God’s economic system have always been there. However, because we now live in the Kingdom age, these principles are being restored. It is important to understand that the message of the Kingdom Economy is not a new teaching that is sweeping the earth; it is not a new way of conducting business; it is not a matter of sanitizing what exists; this is a restoration of the principles of God’s Kingdom Economy to the marketplace.
Two Kingdoms 
Jesus went about preaching the gospel of the Kingdom everywhere He went. There are over one hundred and fifty references Jesus made to the “Kingdom” in the New Testament. When He taught us how to pray, He included the phrase “…Thy Kingdom come.” He went about preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. In Matthew 6, He told us to seek the Kingdom first. The topic of “The Kingdom” was throughout His parables. Yet it is also clear that Jesus recognized another kingdom, and that these two kingdoms are in conflict with one another.  Jesus successfully endured temptation from the devil in Matthew 4:8-9: Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
Is Satan able to give these kingdoms of the world to Jesus? In John 12:32, Jesus referred to Satan as …the ruler of this world. In II Corinthians 4:4, the apostle Paul refers to him as …the  god of this world.  The Greek for world is kosmou derived from the word kosmos which means “order, arrangement, ornament, adornment.” 1  There is a system or an order to the things of this world. What are these two opposing “kingdoms,” and what does all this have to do with economics?
Two World Views in Conflict
First, it is important to realize that these two “kingdoms,” the Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about, and the kingdom of this world, are essentially two completely different realities.  Each reality is expressed in our lives by our world view.  Our world view determines our behavior, not only in the marketplace, but in our approach to life itself. Just as these kingdoms are in conflict with one another,  so these world views are also in conflict.   For example, one world view may be represented in business as a drive for success at any cost, corruption, manipulation of clients, greed, selfish ambitions, self promotion, and self-interest as the top priority in dealings with others. We may experience the world view of the Kingdom through integrity in business dealings, generosity, loyalty and faithfulness, honoring our commitments even when it costs us, and loving and blessing those who use us and seek to destroy us. Our behavior always exposes the world view of our kingdom. These kingdoms are direct opposites in their very nature.
Goals and Objectives
These world views are completely different because their goals and objectives are different. One world view is godless and will place man and his achievements at the center of worship (though it will never be defined as worship). The other is a theocracy with God as the sovereign ruler. One is the system of the world and the other is the Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about. According to the Book of Revelation, one system will eventually lead to the coming of the Antichrist. The second will lead us to the coming of the Messiah. Both world views are realities. Both operate simultaneously in the world. It is up to us to choose which reality we will live in. If we live in the Kingdom of God, then we must come under His Lordship and operate by His principles as they are laid out for us in Scripture.
What does all this have to do with economics? It is impossible to be a participant in either of these kingdoms, with their respective world views, without living by the system of economics required by those kingdoms. Just as the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world are polar opposites, so these economic systems are also polar opposites in their objectives, methods of operation, and impact on the lives of individual participants. Each economic system produces fruit in our lives that reflects the nature of the author of the system.
Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer in his book A Christian Manifesto says it this way: “These two world views stand as totals in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results — including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law.”
What was taking place in Deuteronomy 11:10-15 with the people of Israel was a precursor to what is taking place in our world today. We are living in a time when the principles of the Kingdom are being established. God wants His people to be distinguished today by their integrity, humility, and power. There is no question that His people, whether in Africa, South America, the Far East, or Europe, can operate by the same standards of the Kingdom Economy and they will produce consistent results.  He causes us to prosper, not for our sake, but for the sake of His Kingdom. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, But you shall remember the LORD your God for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Again, Francis Schaeffer says, “It is not that these two world views are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce totally different results. The operative word here is inevitably. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth different results.”
These two systems differ from one another in practical, tangible ways. When we understand how they differ, we will be better able to live in the Economy of the Kingdom.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Kingdom Belongs To Such As These

      “But Jesus said, Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt.19:14).
      With these words, Jesus was declaring that the children were saved. Well, if God the Father doesn’t count the trespasses of all the world, this means that  thieves, harlots and murderers are included. “…God was in Christ reconciling the word to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor.5:19). If the Father doesn’t count the sins of the grown ups against them, much less will He count the sins of the children against them, who are not accountable.
      “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim.2:3,4). Well, if God wants sinful men to be saved, then innocent children are certainly saved. And if Jesus did not come into  the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him (John 3:17), it is obvious that children were already  saved, for Christ died for them and claims them to Himself, saying:  “…do not hinder them from coming to Me” (Matt.19:14).
      To Jesus,  causing children to stumble was a mortal sin. “…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt.:18:6). The reason Jesus loves children so much is because the Father loves them also. The Father is love, and He cannot but to love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for GOD IS LOVE” (1 John 4:7-8).
   It looks as if Jehovah, in the Old Testament,  didn’t love children as Jesus and the Father did.
1.      Children of eight days of life who had not been circumcised were put to death, by Jehova’s command. The child’s life was worth less than the rite of circumcision (Gen. 17:12-14). And the apostle Paul states that there’s no virtue in circumcision (Gal. 6:15). May a worthless thing have more value, then, to Jehovah, than a person’s life?
2.      Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses, and by the command of Jehovah were swallowed up alive with their women, their children, and their little ones (Num. 16:1-2, 27-33). Did Jehovah condemn those to whom belongs the kingdom of God, that is, the children? Jehovah was ambarrassing those children from entering the kingdom of God. This is going too far! These children were all Israelites, chosen people and heirs of God.
3.      The proof that Jeovah didn’t love the children is in that he ordered his people to completely destroy them during the conquest of Canaan. By the command of Jehovah, the children of the Amorites were slaughtered (Deut. 2:24-34). The Amorites had been Abraham’s allies 400 years before (Gen .14:13-24).Soon after that, they overtook the king of Bashan and killed all the children together with the adults (Deut. 3:1-6).
4.      When Joshua besieged Jerico and destroyed it, Jehovah gave him two orders: all the gold and silver would be taken to the treasury of Jehovah, but the children should be all killed. To Jehovah, life doesn’t have any value, on the contrary, gold and silver have great value. This is absurd! Jesus told people to disentangle themselves from the gold and silver and to keep the children from harm (Josh. 6:18-21, Matt .6:1-20 and Matt. 19:14). To affirm that Jehovah is Jesus is to give occasion for the scoffers to refute the Bible and demoralize the Gospel.  Jehovah could, least of all, be the Father of Jesus.
5.      The order to kill the chilren was always issued by Jehovah. King Saul received order to kill. The text shows it: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant’ ” (1 Sam. 15:2,3). Why did Jehovah ordered that they be killed? By vengeance and by hatred, nothing more. Amalek and his people fought against Israel, which was caming up from Egypt, and Jehovah swore vengeance forever.  “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war againt Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16). After 450 years he tells Saul to destroy the little children. What has the 6th or 7th generation to do with the sins of their ancestors? Jehovah holds an eternal grudge with these innocents.
6.      The children of Babylon were the target of Jehovah because of the sins of their fathers. “Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter because of the iniquity of their fathers” (Is. 14:21). “Their little ones will also be dashed to pieces before their eyes” (Is. 13:16). Jehovah was thirsty for the blood of little children, while, to Jesus, the kingdom of God belonged to them..
7.      Jehovah killed and destroyed the descendents and the children of Jeroboham, king of Israel (1 Kings 14:10-12). Jehovah destroyed and killed the children and the descendants of king Baasha (1 Kings 16:3-4).Jehovah furiously destroyed the descendants of king Ahab (1Kings 21:21-24). Jehovah used to kill the newborn of his closest servants, as was the case with David, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.The victim was an innocent child (2 Sam. 12:15).

 Lying is what exposes to suspicion the God Jehovah the most, for it is written in the law that THE PARENTS WILL NOT DIE IN THE PLACE OF THEIR CHILDREN, NEITHER WILL THE CHILDREN DIE IN THE PLACE OF THEIR PARENTS, BUT EACH WILL DIE FOR THEIR OWN SINS.
   The apostle John said: “If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (2 John 10,11). Whoever bows in worship before Jehovah will also be guilty of the blood of billions of little children, which was shed by the will of Jehovah, the God of the dead.
It is high time that Christians brake away from the darkness of hatred, and come close to the light of love and therefore meet the Father; for knowing the Father is possible only to the ones who leave Jehovah.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Kingdom Of God

       Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world: “Jesus answered: ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm’” (John 18:36).

       According to the words of Jesus, God’s kingdom will only be established after the final Judgment. “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then, the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matt. 25:31-34).

The kingdom of God will not mingle with the kingdoms of this world, for this world is in total darkness and is also under another government, which is an evil government. Therefore, those that Jesus bought from this world are transferred to another place: “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and TRANSFERRED US TO THE KINGDOM OF HIS BELOVED SON” (Col. 1:12-13).

Up to the final judgment, the devil declares himself to Jesus as the lord and king of this world: “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours. And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:5-8).

Another occasion, Jesus declared that the devil has his kingdom filled with demons, in this dark world. “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?” (Matt. 12:25-26).

Jesus reveals in the Gospels that this world is a pit full of wicked demons; and that He Himself came to teach that there is a kingdom of light, which is not here on earth. “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:12-13).

Paul makes it very clear that this world is Satan’s domain of death: “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil: and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).

Jesus in his sinless death on the cross, destroyed the power of death by His resurrection, and now has the keys of hell to set free the ones that are captive to death. “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades”  (Rev. 1:18).  TILL CHRIST’S CROSS, THIS WORLD WAS SATAN’S DOMAIN OF DEATH. “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

The Old Testament, then, was buried deep in Satan’s domain of death. The covenant of the Law, given at Sinai, could only be a covenant of death, for death reigned. Let us hear the apostle saying: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; FOR THE LETTER KILLS, BUT THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE. But the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, etc” (2 Cor. 3:5-7). We may ask: If the Old Testament was given while death reigned, and if the tablets of the testimony, given by Jehovah at mount Sinai, are the ministry of death, Jehovah worked for the devil; or did the devil work for Jehovah?

If the devil pronounces himself king of this world, how could Jehovah also call himself king of this same world, while death still reigned? “For the Jehovah Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). “For Jehovah is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. Jehovah reigns over the nations” (Ps. 47:7-8). “Jehovah reigns, let the peoples tremble” (Ps. 99:1). “Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations?” (Jer. 10:7)

In order to be known as the king of this world, Jehovah founded a kingdom… of the dead: “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). Are there two thrones in this world? Are there two kings in the abyss? Has God descended from His glory to reign in this dark kingdom together with the devil? To complicate this kingdom of the dead of Jehovah even further, Jesus says: “And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man” (John 3:13). If Jesus was the only one to come down and also to go up to heaven, where has Jehovah come from? Jehovah affirmed that he had come down, and would kill everybody in order to increase the domain of the devil.

In Heb. 2:14-15 we find that the domain of death is of Satan; and if Jehovah kills, he, then, feeds into this domain. Jesus came down to snatch men from death and from the evil one.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

The Father has never descended from heaven, but He has sent His Son.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Moses And Elias In The Lord's Transfiguration

          One other record that is sometimes a source of confusion on the topic of whether the dead are actually living today or not is the record of the Lord’s transfiguration. In this record we have Moses and Elias appearing together with the Lord and from this sometimes people conclude that these prophets must have been alive in order to appear in the scene of the transfiguration. As we will see from a careful examination of the text this needs not to be the case. The record of transfiguration is given in the gospel of Matthew from verses 1 to 9 (we can also find it in the gospels of Mark and Luke). There we read:

Matthew 17:1-9

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the VISION to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

        In this passage it appears that Moses and Elijah had a conversation with Jesus and the question is: does this mean that these two prophets were alive, though at least for Moses we read explicitly in Deuteronomy 34:5-6 

Deuteronomy 34:5-6 

 “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Bethpeor”

 And in Joshua 1:2 God said: 

 “Moses my servant is dead”

          According to what we have seen in the main article the dead are NOT alive now. They are all sleeping waiting for the resurrection. The only one that was dead and is alive now is the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead. Therefore Moses could not be alive and physically speak with Jesus on the day of transfiguration. The resurrections had not happened and thus Moses was not alive on that day. What then happened in the transfiguration? The key word to understand this is the word “vision” in Matthew 17:9, where Jesus told the disciples to “tell the vision to no man”. When Moses and Elias spoke to Jesus this was a supernatural vision and therefore didn’t require nor it meant that these two prophets were alive at that time. We can understand this even better by looking at the New Testament occurrences of the Greek word that is translated as vision here. This Greek word is the word “όραμα” (horama).

Occurrences of the word “horama” - vision in the New Testament  

The case of the Paul and Ananias

In Acts 9:10-12 we read: 

“Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. "And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”

           Paul had seen Ananias in a vision, without Ananias even knowing it! The Lord told this to Ananias afterwards. In other words the fact that a person appears in a vision does not mean that this person is there physically. God can use his image to communicate a message to somebody. But this does not mean that this person is there at the time of the vision. In turn, the fact that Moses and Elias appeared in the transfiguration vision does not mean that they were there physically nor it means that they were alive at the time of the vision.

The case of Peter and the sheet with the various animals

Acts 11:5-10 (see also Acts 10:17 and Acts 10:19)
 
“I [Peter] was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. “When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four–footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. "And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ "But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ "But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ "Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

           The great sheet, led down from heaven and its content was shown to Peter in a VISION. We all understand reading this passage that God didn’t have to physically get all these animals, put them in a table and present them to Peter. We understand reading the word “vision” that what Peter saw was something that God showed to him and didn’t require the physical presence of these animals. The conclusion is the same as previously with Ananias: the fact that something or somebody is shown in a vision does not require its physical presence in the vision. It is a picture that God gives to communicate a message to the one to whom He shows the vision.

       In the same way we need to understand that the fact that Moses and Elias appeared in the transfiguration vision, does not mean that these two prophets were alive or physically present in the vision.

The case of Peter and his deliverance from the prison

Acts 12:6-10 

“And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals"; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me." And he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.”

         Now this is NOT a vision. An angel came and literally woke up Peter and delivered him from the prison. This did require physical presence of the angel and it was a physical presence. Look now what Peter thought initially:

         “And he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.”

         Peter thought initially that what was happening was NOT TRUE BUT IT WAS A VISION. This makes a contrast between a vision and reality: Had this incidence been a vision it would not be physically real. If it was physically real then it wouldn’t be a vision. When Paul saw Ananias healing him in a vision, it was not physically real i.e. Ananias was not there nor he actually healed Paul at the time of the vision. When however Ananias went, knocked Paul’s door, put his hands on Paul’s eyes and healed him it was no longer a vision but it was physically real.

        Applying this to what happened in the Lord’s transfiguration we are told that this was a vision i.e. it was something that God showed, a message that God wanted to convey, and it was important for this message to have Elias and Moses appearing there. But God didn’t have to make these prophets physically alive in order to have them in the vision. Their appearance in this vision didn’t require their physical presence there.

The case of Paul and the man of Macedonia

Acts 16:9-10

  “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

         Now did this man of Macedonia come all the way from Macedonia and stood there literally? Nobody of us thinks so. Right? We all understand that since the text says that he appeared in a vision it was not there literally, physically. In the same way, and though we may be repetitive, it is again obvious that Elias and Moses didn’t have to be physically there to be shown in the vision of the transfiguration. God can present whatever and whoever He desires in a vision in order to convey His message. What is presented in a vision does not have in any way to be physically there.

The case of the Lord speaking to Paul

Acts 18:9-11

“Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”  

        Now the person speaking here is very important, because it is the Lord Jesus Christ. This person IS ALIVE for God raised Him from the dead. He is the only dead that is alive now and he appeared to Paul in a vision telling him to continue preaching the gospel in Corinth. I have no reason whatsoever to argue whether Jesus was physically there or not, for Jesus is ALIVE and has a spiritual body with supernatural abilities. This is a case much different than any other one.

The case of Moses and the burning bush

Acts 7:31 

“When Moses saw it [the burning bush], he wondered at the sight [Greek: horama]: and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him,”

         This is the only case where the word “horama” is translated “sight” and not “vision”. Reading the detailed record of this incident in Exodus we see that “God called unto him [Moses] out of the midst of the bush” (Exodus 3:4) and a whole conversation took place between God and Moses there (see Exodus chapters 3 and 4). Some visions are shown in the night, may be in the sleep, as in the case of the Lord speaking to Paul to continue his preaching in Corinth and in the case of the Macedonian through whom the Lord told Paul to go and preach the gospel there. Others again happen with the eyes wide open, as in the case of Peter and the sheet with the various animals. What is important to understand is that a vision is a supernatural way which God can choose to communicate a message to His people. The fact that something appears in a vision does not mean that it is physically there. What appears in a vision is important in relationship to the message that God wants to convey. It is part of this message. Visions can also be shown to me and you. As it says in Acts 2:17:

Acts 2:17

  “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions[Greek: horaseis, from the same root as horama] and your old men shall dream dreams: ”

      We understand that these visions, are supernatural messages that God can show to us and whatever is involved there does not have to be physically there not to physically exist at all for us to see it.

         We could go on and examine the usage of the word vision in the Old Testament but I think we have exhausted the subject. We know from the Scripture that Moses and Elias appeared in the transfiguration in what was a vision. From what we have seen, it is I believe obvious that the fact that they appeared in this vision does not mean require nor it means that they were alive during the time of the vision.  

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lazarus And The Rich Man

             We have seen up to now that the Bible clearly teaches that the dead are dead, i.e. they are without consciousness, waiting for the resurrection. This we recognise is against the traditional view that believes that though somebody dies “his soul continues living”. We have however seen, from a multitude of Scriptures, that this traditional view cannot be correct, as it contradicts Scripture. There are though a few passages of the Bible that being misunderstood are used by tradition to support its doctrine of a supposed life immediately after death. One such passage is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, given in Luke 16:19-31. There we read:

Luke 16:19-31

"There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’"

             Now before we say anything about a passage, especially one that seems to contradict many other passages, we need to study its context. To whom did Jesus say this story ? This we can easily find by looking at the verses that precede the above passage. Starting from Luke 16:1 we can see that the Lord spoke to His disciples and gave them a teaching that ended with the following conclusion: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. ” (Luke 16:13) Now to this the Pharisees that were around responded as follows: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Luke 16:14). Then Jesus moved on and replied to them:

Luke 16:15-19

  “And He said to THEM [the Pharisees], You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”

              I have intentionally included verse 19 in the above. Because this is part of the same talk that started in verse 15 and was addressed to “them”, them being the Pharisees. It was to them that Jesus tell the story of Lazarus and the rich man. He was not giving there a sermon to the people or a teaching to his disciples (though they were present). In contrast His eyes were looking at the Pharisees and His words were addressed to them. It was only after He completed this story that He turned again to the disciples, for we are reading in Luke 17:1 “then He said to the disciples….”. In other words, looking in chapter 16 as a whole we can see that what the Lord said in that chapter was addressed to two different groups of people: what he said from Luke 16:1 to 13 was addressed to the disciples with the Pharisees hearing. To this the Pharisees reacted deriding him. Then from verses 15-31 (which also includes the story we are looking at) He turned to the Pharisees and addressed them. When He was done with them, He turned again to the disciples (Luke 17:1).

            It was therefore to the Pharisees that the Lord addressed the Lazarus and the rich man story. Now looking at this story we may feel very perplexed as there are elements in this that are not seen elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s see some of them:

         i) The rich man died and went to Hades, where he was apparently tormented. As it appears from the passage he was still conscious as he could see, feel and speak. Moreover he had still sympathy and concern for his brothers and he wanted to warn them. This description of Hades and the state of the dead is in obvious contradiction with many Scriptures, some of which we give below:

Ecclesiastes 9:4-6, 10 

"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living KNOW that they will die; BUT THE DEAD KNOW NOTHING, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; NEVERMORE WILL THEY HAVE A SHARE IN ANYTHING DONE UNDER THE SUN. ....... Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might FOR THERE IS NO WORK OR DEVICE OR KNOWLEDGE OR WISDOM IN THE GRAVE (Sheol) WHERE YOU ARE GOING."

Psalms 6:5 

“For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave (Hebrew: Sheol, Hades in Septuagint) who will give you thanks?”

Psalms 31:17

  “let them be silent in the grave (Hebrew: Sheol, Hades in Septuagint)”.

Psalms 115:17 

“The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. [Septuagint: go down into Hades i.e. Hades = silence]”

Psalms 30:9

  “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it declare your truth? ”

Isaiah 38:18-19

  “For the grave [Sheol] cannot praise you, death can not celebrate you: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for your truth. The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day: the father shall make known your truth to the children. ” (NKJV-KJV)

          As it is obvious from the above, Sheol (in Hebrew) or Hades (in Greek) is a place of silence and non-consciousness. There is no tormenting or refreshing there. There are no feelings of sympathy and there is no knowledge there. There are really more than 70 occurrences of the words Sheol and Hades in the Bible and nowhere do we see in them the characteristics we see in the above story. Really in our story we see the rich man in Hades, speaking, feeling, having sympathy and being tormented. Why is that? Before we see the why, let’s also see some other points of this story. Let’s focus on the poor Lazarus.

                ii) So for poor Lazarus we read:

Luke 16:22 

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom”

           Once again this sentence contains strange references, unprecedented in the Bible. Indeed, there is no other Biblical reference to “Abraham’s bosom” and to angels bringing people there. There are as we said more than 70 occurrences of the words Sheol and Hades in the Bible that define Hades, literally the grave, as the place that all dead – without distinction – go. But we never read of an “Abraham’s bosom” there, nor do we read that the poor or the just go to a different place than the rich or the unjust. Why is Jesus making such references that have no parallel in the Scripture and in fact contradict it in many points?

          The answer can be found by going back to the context: to whom was Jesus addressing this story? As we saw this was not intended to be a general teaching on the dead but it was addressed specifically to the Pharisees that scorned him because he was teaching that there is no way to work both God and money. This audience we read were “lovers of money”, “covetous” and they “were justifying themselves among men”. The Pharisees had, as we can read in other places in the Scripture, traditions that didn’t have anything to do with the Word of God. They believed things that were foreign to Scripture and made the Word of God of no effect. Mark 7:1-13 give us some insight on how far from the Bible this sect was:

Mark 7:1-13

  “Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash theirhands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honours Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men––the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. "For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ "But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban" ––’(that is, a gift to God), "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

              The last phrase “and many such things you do” shows that the above were not the only instances where the Pharisees were clearly deviating from Scripture. In fact, as it happens many times today, they had replaced the Word of God with their traditions. In fact, as it happens many times today, they had replaced the Word of God with their traditions. Their teaching were not teachings coming from the Scripture but traditions with no base on the Bible and in fact traditions that were blatantly contradicting the Bible. Now why do I say all these things about the Pharisees? The reason is simple: because though the “bosom of Abraham” and the other strange things that appear in the rich man and Lazarus story do not appear anywhere else in the Bible, and in fact contradict other references in the Bible, they do appear in the traditions the Pharisees believed. Here is what the Catholic encyclopedia tells us about the beliefs of the Jews of the 1st century (ephasis added): “In the Holy Bible, the expression "the Bosom of Abraham" is found only in two verses of St. Luke's Gospel (16:22-23). It occurs in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus the imagery of which is plainly drawn from the popular representations of the unseen world of the dead which were current in Our Lord's time. According to the Jewish conceptions of that day, the souls of the dead were gathered into a general tarrying-place the Sheol of the Old Testament literature, and the Hades of the New Testament writings (cf. Luke 16:22; in the Greek 16:23). A local discrimination, however, existed among them, according to their deeds during their mortal life. In the unseen world of the dead the souls of the righteous occupied an abode or compartment of their own which was distinctly separated by a wall or a chasm from the abode or compartment to which the souls of the wicked were consigned. The latter was a place of torments … -- the other, a place of bliss and security known under the names of "Paradise" and "the Bosom of Abraham"

          See in the above the emphasis to the “Jewish conceptions of that day”. We are not speaking here about Scripture based traditions that originate from God but “traditions of that day”, “popular representations of the unseen world”. The Bosom of Abraham, the just being in it, the angels bringing them there, the punishment of the unjust, the chaos between these two places and the other points we read above as the view of the Pharisees, have no parallel in any other part of the Scripture except the story of the rich man and the Lazarus. In other words: WHAT THE LORD USED IN THIS STORY, SPEAKING TO THE PHARISEES, WAS WHAT THE PHARISSES THEMSELVES BELIEVED TO BE HAPPENING AFTER DEATH. He used their own story to pass his own message. We can understand the Lord’s point in the conclusion given in the last sentence of the above story:

Luke 16:31

“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

            Obviously the rich man hadn’t heard, which is to say hadn’t followed, the Moses and the prophets, the Word of God, and ended up tormented. He was an unjust rich and his richness didn’t help him to avoid getting the tormenting share. On the other hand the poor man, though he was poor he was a man that followed the Word of God, the Moses and the prophets, and because of this ended up in Abraham’s bosom. And this is exactly what the Lord wanted to tell to these Pharisees. In Luke 16:13 he told the disciples “you cannot serve God and mammon”. Then Luke 16:14 tells us: “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him”. These people were lovers of money and they were not keeping the Word of God, the Moses and the prophets. In fact as we read elsewhere they were making the Word of God of no effect. Yet, they thought that somehow they would be saved – which according to their (false) traditions meant that after death they would go to the “Bosom of Abraham”. Then the Lord, using their own weapons, their very own traditions, turns to them and gives them a story where the poor ended up in the Bosom of Abraham because he kept the Word of God but the rich and unjust – like they were – ended up in torment. The riches were not sufficient to save him from this. Only keeping the Word of God could do this. It is a teaching to covetous Pharisees that in short tells them: “don’t think that riches will save you. What will save you is to follow the Word of God (the Moses and the prophets)”. To tell them this, the Lord used one of the most effective ways: their own language i.e. the language of their traditions about salvation and condemnation.

          To conclude, the Lord didn’t intend with this story to give a sermon on what happens in the afterlife, as many have taken His words to mean, ignoring the context and the Pharisees beliefs that elsewhere the Lord judged severely saying that they bring the Word of God to no effect. What the Lord did, was addressing the Pharisees, using their very own beliefs about the afterlife to tell them that what matters is not riches but keeping the Word of God. He used their own framework, their own beliefs about afterlife, to add his own conclusion. He could choose another framework to say the same thing. But few will doubt that the most effective way to speak to somebody is using a language that is familiar to him. And this is what the Lord did: he spoke to them using their picture of the afterlife as a framework, adding to it the message He wanted. It is very sad that many have taken this framework, these wrong Pharisaic beliefs, and turn them into a doctrine about the dead. This is indeed a doctrine but a Pharisaic one. We hope that this article will help the reader to draw his own conclusions.  

Monday, March 5, 2018

Decision Making And Its Effects: An Example From Paul's Trip To Rome

           I would like in this article to go together with you to Acts 27. There we find Paul and some disciples that accompanied him, being en route to Rome. Paul was going there as a prisoner to appear before the Caesar. Starting from verse 7, we read:

Acts 27:7-10

“When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives."

          It was a difficult trip. Finally they arrived into the port of Fair Havens. Winder was approaching. The phrase “sailing was now dangerous, because the Fast was already over” probably places the events around October, the month of the fast of the Atonement. As the Scripture says, Paul advised them that to carry on the trip was going to be dangerous. As he said it would be dangerous not only for the cargo and the ship but also for the lives of those in the ship. Then the verse that follows tells us:

Acts 27:11

“Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.”

           Though Paul had a true perception of the seriousness of the situation and what was going to happen, he was not the boss of this ship! The boss was the centurion, a Roman, most probably heathen. He was commanding the ship in which there was an able number of believers. Has it ever happened to you that you are in a “ship” with others, believers and/or unbelievers, where the one that commands the “ship”, the one that makes a particular important decision is not you? You may know the outcome but the only thing that you can do is to advise. You can say “I believe we must not sail. I see that we are going to have major problems”. But sometimes there are competing voices too and the one that is making the decision instead of heeding to the right voice, he does what the opposite voice says. What do you do then? Do you jump out of the ship? Sometimes you may be able to do this and it may even be the right thing to do. But this does not happen always and there are cases where this simply cannot happen. You cannot jump out of your family for example because a member made a not wise decision with his life. You can advise, you can say this is going to be dangerous and not wise. But, after an age, you cannot take the steering wheel of their life and make them do what you want them to do. On the other hand everybody in the family (to use this good example) must understand that though “it is their life”, they are not ships sailing alone. Both they and the other members of the family are all in one ship. And if a member of the family decides to unwisely sail this is going to affect everybody in the family, for everybody is in the same ship! I’m not sure whether you understand what I’m saying. Those who have kids or have grown to a good functioning family I think they understand what I’m speaking about. God does the same for us too. He gives us advices, He tells us where to sail and where not to sail, but if we don’t want to heed to Him but heed the opposing voices then guess what: we are going to have trouble. In this case, God is not indifferent because after all it is “our lives”. In contrast, He is sorry about it because after all He is in the same ship with us. Returning to Acts, what we have here is a slightly different case in that the believers, that know what is the wise thing to do, are subject to somebody else to a Roman centurion who heeds not to their voice of wisdom but to the voice of the owner of the ship. Let’s read further to see what happened:

Acts 27:12-14

“And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there. When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.”

“The majority advised that they carry on!” Is it the majority that we heed or what God says? It all may seem well and rosy, it may be that we have a south wind blowing softly and we may suppose that we have obtain our desire but sooner or later things may change. In fact, sooner or later things WILL definitely change, if God has said so! As it happened here: not long after, a very strong wind started blowing and trouble had just started:

Acts 27:15-26

“So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest–tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. "And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. "For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, "saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ "Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. "However, we must run aground on a certain island."

               Finally the things turned out as Paul had told them before they left the port of Fair Havens. Trouble started a little after they started sailing again and it didn’t seem to get any better. Rather it got worse and worse. Where were the believers at that time? There, in the ship. Was it their fault that the ship had sailed? No. Paul had told them no to do so. However this didn’t exclude them from the suffering. They were in the same ship as those who made the decision. There are ships that we sail together with others. In some of them we are the “governors”. In other ships others are the governors. When unwise decisions are made then everybody that is in the ship is going to be affected, even if he knows that this was an unwise decision. Therefore if it happens to have the steering wheel of that ship for a specific decision heed well to the instructions and make sure the ones that you follow come from the Lord. Because otherwise, trouble will not only be your portion but also the portion of the other ones that are together with you in the ship. To give you a practical example think again about your family. You may be a young man or woman contemplating marriage with the so and so person, because “you are so much in love with him or her!” Everything seems so rosy! But young man, I’m speaking to you heart to heart: marriage life is much much more than just “being in love”. Being in love is good but will not take you that far. What will take you far, what will make your marriage to blossom, is character. Your character and the character of the other. Is the other a Christian that honestly loves God? Is he/she a person with values and principles? What are his values concerning work and family for example? Is he a person that takes his responsibilities or he is hiding from them behind others? These are the things that you will live with and if something of them is not there then the “being in love” state will end within weeks and the problems will start. Problems that will be like huge waves and you will be like a small ship in front of them. But this small ship will have inside not only you but also all those who really love you. Thus you have to hear them and in fact you have to ask their advice. For this is not a trip that you are doing alone. It may be that some from your family have seen something that they don’t like. They tell you not to sail. I don’t know whether they are right or not. But you have to very seriously take them into account. You may think: “this is my life. I’m going to do what I want to do.” This is false. It is your life but you are in a family. You are in a ship with others and your decision will affect them. If you are not sure therefore stay in the port and do not leave it till you become sure that this is the right thing to do and you also see the others to be positive about it.

            Back to Paul, somebody could ask: why the Lord allowed all this trouble to happen? Couldn’t He that stopped the winds in the sea of the Galilee also stop the Euroklidon ? After all it was His own people who were in danger there - together with others. As we see the Lord didn’t do this. What He did was to give advice before sailing started. Once it started then it happened what He said it would happen: trouble. Sometimes some people start sailing, thinking “if it does not work then the Lord will save me”. And well, yes this may happen and it happened here too: the Lord saved them. He saved EVERYBODY in the ship. BUT He didn’t save them from the trouble. They hadn’t eaten for days, they were sailing in high seas, the ship was finally destroyed. This was not the will of God! It was not His will to go through such trouble! That’s why He told them from the beginning not to leave the port. Yes it may be that the Lord will save you but if you sail without heeding to His advice be sure: you are heading for much trouble. You may save your life but the consequences of the trip will be there. Pay attention therefore to the following: before you decide to leave the Fair Havens make sure you heed to what is the advice of the Lord. He wants ONLY THE BEST for you and though He may save you from the high seas that unwise decisions may bring and you will take a lesson out of them and they will finally work for good, it is not I believe in His will to go through them in the first place.  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

He Became To Us

           A simple look to the thoughts and ideas of many Christians suggests that the idea of righteousness by works, i.e. self-righteousness, is very well rooted in many Christian minds. However, the Scripture does not support this idea. Indeed, what the Scripture points out is not our ability to achieve a right standing before God but the sacrifice of Christ who achieved this right standing for us. I Corinthians 1:30 tells us about Christ's accomplishments on our behalf:

1 Corinthians 1:30

  "It is because of him [meaning God] that you are in Christ Jesus....."

As we see, it is BECAUSE OF HIM, meaning God, that we are now in Christ Jesus. It is not because of our worth or our abilities but because of the grace, love and goodness of God that we are in Christ Jesus. In the preceding verse (verse 29) Paul says "so that no-one may boast before him [meaning God]” and then it continues:

1 Corinthians 1:30

  "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore as it is written "let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

            Jesus Christ became to us all these things. He became (past tense). It does not say that WE became to him. Instead HE became to us. He became wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Do you know why we are righteous, redeemed and holy before God? Because Jesus Christ became to us all these things. When did He become ? When you believed. When you believed with your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confessed Him as Lord (Romans 10:9), you were declared righteous, you were saved, you were sanctified. I know, it would have been very logical if God had told us:

           "Look, you will do this and that work and then you will be saved, become righteous etc." Although there are many that teach exactly that, the Bible does not teaches it. What the Bible tells us is that to become righteous and saved you need to believe with your heart i.e. to truly believe, in the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection and stay in the faith. We are saved by faith through grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

              In whom shall we boast therefore? Not in our works and achievements but in the Lord who “who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30)  

Amazing Grace

            The good news contained in the part of the Word of God addressed to the believers after the day of Pentecost is that Jesus Christ met all the required conditions so that by confessing Him as Lord and by believing that God has raised Him from the dead you are righteous and saved. This is really good news, is not it? Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 2:8

  "For BY GRACE you are saved through faith: and this not from yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not by works, so that no-one can boast"

Also Romans 10:9-10 

“That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

And Acts 16:30-31 

“Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Also: Romans 3:20-24, 28

  "Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by the works of the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin. But now the righteousness of God, apart from the law has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ......Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law"

         The above passages state that our salvation and our right standing before God, i.e. our righteousness, are not based on how many good works we did, do or will do but on the grace of God. According to the above passages, even if you kept all the law you could not be righteous before God; for as we read: no-one can be righteous before God by the works of the law. And it also says that "all have sinned". Even if you had never sinned in your life (which I’m sure it is not true) there is still Adam's sin which passes down from generation to generation. But praise God, another way has been provided by which we can be righteous before Him. This way is called grace. Yes, someone had to work for all these gifts to be made freely available to us. However, this was neither you nor I but the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 3 tells us about the accomplishments of Jesus Christ:

Romans 3:23-26 

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

         The redemption is IN CHRIST JESUS, not in what you and I achieved. This is very important if we want to understand the relationship we have with God. Our relationship is based upon the grace of God and the accomplishments of Jesus Christ, NOT upon our worth, works or achievements. We are righteous before God twenty four hours a day. The reason is that this right standing was given to us by grace. It was given to us as a result of the unmerited favor and love that God has for us. It is "righteousness of God", NOT righteousness from ourselves i.e. self righteousness. This "of" denotes the source of this righteousness. This source is neither you nor I but God. Galatians 2:16 also tells us:

      "know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law no-one will be justified."

         Once more we see that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ! If it was by works, I could say: "Look I did more than you. I deserve it more than you." No-one deserved something from God. It was God who, motivated by His love for us, sacrificed His Son so that by believing in Him we can be righteous and saved. That's really grace! Amazing grace!  

God Loves Us

         Does God love me and how? This is a question that has been asked by countless people, countless times. The answer the Bible gives to this question is that God not just loves us but He loves us more than anybody else could ever love us. Let’s see this from the Word of God.

1. God loves us - He gave His Son for us.

           To see God’s love for us, let’s start from 1 John 4:9. There we read:

"This is how God showed his love among us..."

           Love, when it is honest, is always manifested in actions. Here the Word of God tells us that indeed God loves us and that His love was shown, was manifested. How? The answer is in the remaining of the verse:

1 John 4:9 

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

           God showed His love to us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world that we might live through him. Along the same lines, John 3:16 tells us:

"For God so loved the world that he gave........"

          As we said above love always takes actions, giving, and God, because He loved us, He gave! What did He give? Let’s carry on reading:

John 3:16-17 

           "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but the world through him might be saved."

         God, for no other reason than love for us, He went so far as to give His Son to die for us, so that by believing in Him to have eternal life. Romans 5:6-10 demonstrate this point even more clearer:

Romans 5:6-10 

          "For, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having being reconciled, shall we be saved through his life."

            See the phrase “God demonstrates His own love for us”. How does God demonstrate His love for us? He not only gave His Son for us, but He gave Him when we were still sinners, ungodly, completely unworthy of any such sacrifice! The same we also see in Ephesians 2:

Ephesians 2:1-3 

         "As for you, you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you used to walk when you followed the ways of this world, and of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient; among whom all of us also lived at one time, in the cravings of our flesh, following the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."

             I have marked in the above passage several words that are in past tense to give emphasis to the fact that for the man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection the state described above is PAST. We were dead in trespasses and sins and objects of wrath. But we are no longer any of these! The state described in these verses is for us history, not reality! It is a state out of which we were delivered! But how were we delivered, by whom and why? Ephesians 2:4-9 give us the answer:

Ephesians 2:4-9 

"BUT because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - by grace you are saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us up with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast."

            The word “BUT” that opens this passage makes a contrast between what precedes it (verses 1-3) and what follows it (verses 4-9). Verses 1-3 gave us the pitiful state in which we were before we believed. As we read there, we were “dead in trespasses and sins” and “objects of wrath”. But God, “because of His great love for us”, changed all these: now instead of “dead in trespasses and sins” we are “alive with Christ” and instead of objects of wrath we are seated together with Christ in the heavenly places! From God’s perspective, it is already done! And why did God do this? "BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US......EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN TRANSGRESSIONS"!

2. God loves us - He made us His children.

         Another passage that demonstrates how much God loves us is given in I John 3:1-2:

"How great is the love the Father has given to us that we should be called the children of God and that is what we are. The reason that the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved now we are the children of God..."

             That we are children of God is also what Galatians 3:26 tells us: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”! And as the above passage makes it clear, this is a proof of how much God loves us. Really “how great is the love the Father has given to us”.

3. God loves us - He trains us.

             We saw above that God, because of how much He loves us, He made us His children. And as a loving father trains and disciplines his children, so also and much better does God. As Hebrews 12:6 tells us:

Hebrews 12:6 

"the Lord disciplines those He loves..."

              Discipline may not be what we like but it is what we need! That’s why only those who really love us care enough to discipline us. And that’s why God disciplines us too: because He loves us and cares for us.

4. God loves us - Nothing can separate us from His love

       Next and last stop in this short journey in God’s love is Romans 8:38-39:

Romans 8:38 – 39 

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels [what kind of angels? fallen angels, angels of Satan], nor principalities, nor powers, nor present things, nor future things, nor height, not depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

          God loves us and there is absolutely nothing, no power, no principality, nothing present or future that could separate us from His love. He loves us and He will never stop loving us. This is the truth of God’s Word.

5. God’s loves us – conclusion.

             To conclude this article: we saw from the Word of God that God loves us and this is proved by the fact that He gave His Son for us, doing this even when we were sinners and ungodly! It would be a huge sacrifice to do this for people who were righteous and good. But we were not any such people. We were sinners, ungodly, dead in trespasses and sins. Nevertheless this did not stop God: He loved us and because of His love for us , He gave His Son for us while we were still sinners, so that by believing in Him can become alive in Christ and seated up with Him in the heavenly places.

             Furthermore we saw that because God loves us, He made us His children. And as a caring Father disciplines his children who loves so also and much better does God.

             Finally we also saw that God’s love for us is so GREAT and there is nothing that could separate us from it. To say it differently: there is nothing that could ever make God to stop loving us!  

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Breastplate Of Righteousness

Further understanding of the role of righteousness is given in Ephesians 6. There it speaks about the armor of God that was given to us to fight the spiritual war:

Ephesians 6:13

  "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to withstand, and having done all to stand."

        I would like to point out two things in this verse. First, the armor is of GOD. It is NOT an armor that you constructed. Rather, it is an armor that has been constructed by GOD. Second, it is YOU that put on that armor. God will not put it on for you. God made it available. Now you have to put it on. These two things are important for correct understanding of the next verse. There it states:

Ephesians 6:14 

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."

           It is this second piece of the armor, the breastplate of righteousness, on which we will concentrate our attention here. The various parts of the armor, as they are described in verses 14-17, have not been given a name by chance. God has a reason for everything He says. So, we must ask ourselves what is the job that a breastplate is designed to do? I believe that most of us know the answer: in an armor the breastplate protects the breast. As you know, the heart, a vital instrument for our lives, is located in the left side of the breast. Therefore, one of the most important jobs of the breastplate is to protect the heart. Biblically, the word heart means the inner part of the mind; the inner being of a man. What is in our heart determines what we are. As Proverbs 4:23 tells us:

"Above all else guard your heart; for out of it are the issues of life"

           The Word of God calls us to guard our hearts more than anything else and when it says heart the actual reference is to the inner part of our minds. Indeed, what is in the inner part of our minds, what is in our heart, determines "the issues of life". No wonder therefore, that it is exactly this part at which Satan aims his darts. If his darts manage to pierce the heart i.e. the inner part of our being, then this is exactly what he wants. One of the weapons that Satan frequently uses to fire his darts into the heart of sincere and devoted Christians is none other than condemnation. Condemnation is one of his best weapons since it makes the heart, the inner part of our beings, ill. It is a powerful weapon of Satan to corrupt our fellowship with God. I John describes the effects of this disease which affects many Christians.

1 John 3:21 

"Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God."

         Pay careful attention to that "if". Note also that the reference is to the heart. Condemnation is a serious disease that affects the heart, the inner being of a man. When there is condemnation in our hearts then there is no confidence before God and if there is no confidence before God, then I really question of the fellowship that we are able to have with God. The will of God is to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). It is however impossible to rejoice in Him when you do not have confidence before Him. Nevertheless, Satan will not manage to bring condemnation into our lives IF (and only if) we use the armor of God for our defense. So the question is what is the piece of the armor of God that protects the heart? Ephesians 6:14 tells us:

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."

            This piece is the "breastplate of righteousness". But which righteousness is this? You see, we are accustomed to reading this verse using a preconceived idea of righteousness by works. Thus, we think that the righteousness referred to in that verse is our self-righteousness. We say "if I am good enough and do good works then I'll be righteous". However, we forget that the Bible says "therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20). The righteousness here is not our self-righteousness but the righteousness of God. The full armor has been made ready for us by God. It is the "armor of God". It is not an armor that we constructed. The Word does not say "Make up the armor". It says "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11). If the armor is of God, whose then is the breastplate of that armor? It is God's. Whose therefore is the righteousness that is the breastplate? Is it your self-righteousness gained through your good works? No! It is the righteousness of God, as indeed the whole armor is of God, and so therefore is each separate piece. You did not make up the armor. You just put it on. In the case of righteousness this means that you place deep in your mind, in your heart, that you are righteous before God BY GRACE ("righteousness of God") and thus you do not try to achieve a self-righteousness standing before Him. It means that you understand that before Him "no-one will be justified by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20) and that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:23-24). You must accept that grace is grace and works are works. You must understand that when the Bible says grace does not mean grace with some works. As the Scripture says: "And if by grace it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). Then, you will have "the breastplate of righteousness in place" (Ephesians 6:14). Otherwise, you will leave your heart unprotected and be vulnerable to the disease of condemnation. Satan will trap you through his cunningness because you are not wearing the full armor of God but something that you yourself made up. You are wearing the breastplate of self-righteousness instead of the breastplate of righteousness of God. However, the breastplate of self-righteousness has been declared faulty by the Word of God. No wonder therefore that if you put on that “breastplate” you will be vulnerable to the Satan-caused disease of self condemnation. On the other hand, when we protect our hearts with the true breastplate of the righteousness of God then that which the Scripture says in Romans 8:1 will be fulfilled in our lives:

Romans 8:1 

"THEREFORE THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS"