Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Loving Your Neighbor

I am a renter which means I live in close quarters with incomplete strangers. We live in a courtyard complex so there is really no privacy. You can’t get the mail, take out the trash, or go for a walk without everyone knowing. Privacy is very important to me, but the rent is low and it’s a great location … so I stay.

The complex is non-smoking. Tenants are advised that no smoking is allowed inside the units. So why is it that I am bedeviled by smokers?

Here’s the catch. The smoking ban is not written in the lease agreement. It is only expressed orally … AND … people will agree to anything for a low rent apartment. Though verbally agreed to, smoking indoors is cause for immediate eviction.

No problem for the smokers who simply step out into the open air courtyard to light up. No problem, that is, unless you are a neighbor who is allergic to cigarette smoke.

That would be … ME!

Tobacco is my number one allergy. It can trigger severe respiratory distress. It makes me sick. Now, I have graciously complained to the manager, and my neighbors — but to no avail.

Th kicker is that the manager — who lives off site — is a smoker as is his mother who works about a block away. She conveniently takes her breaks in our courtyard and lights up with the other nicotine addicts; and all of their smoke wafts into my apartment.

Loving your neighbor?

One of the tenants bought a portable fire pit. Guess where the smoke goes when she has friends over to roast weenies and marshmallows?

My whole apartment — curtains, walls, closets — smell like smoke … for days! I literally am choking and gagging in my own home. I’ve told her that the smoke makes me sick, but it hasn’t stopped her parties.

Loving your neighbor?

According to the lease agreement there can be no courtyard activity after 10 pm. We’re talking about young people. Their night doesn’t begin until 10 pm. When the bars close they stagger home for some courtyard conversation, and a few more cigarettes.

Drunk people don’t realize how loud and boorish they sound at 2 am.

Loving your neighbor?

One more example before I close this short rant. There are 8 apartments, but only one hot water heater. Why do people stay in the shower until the hot water is all gone? The guy next door, for example, will take a 3-minute shower if the water is lukewarm. Generally, his showers can last up to 20 minutes, or whenever the hot water runs cold.

I imagine he stands under the shower head in a hypnotic trance, and doesn’t really wake up until cold water touches his skin. That’s probably true for most people though the previous tenant used to take 1-minute showers … and she didn’t smoke. Gosh, I miss her.

Loving your neighbor?

I mean, I live with people who are just plain selfish. They are fine examples of our narcissistic culture. It is a quality of life issue for me. Smoke inhalation … sleep deprivation … not to mention the inconvenience of having to boil water for sanitation and cleaning. Simply because my neighbors don’t care about conservation, or consideration.

What does loving your neighbor look like? Well, it starts at home .. and it is the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).

Notes:

It’s interesting that Jesus condensed the Ten Commandments into two. The first four deal with our relationship to God while the remaining six deal with our relationship to people. Now we are to love the LORD with all our strength, and love our neighbor as our self.

My neighbors could step out onto the city sidewalk to smoke, and there would be no transgression. Or, they could have simply been honest when told this was a non-smoking complex, and rented elsewhere.

The nature of man is not so cleverly disguised.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Resurrection

There is a secluded cemetery in Los Angeles tucked away in an area known as Westwood Village. The neighborhood is home to UCLA and Holmbly Hills. Tens of thousands of people drive by on their way to Beverly Hills, or Bel-Air completely unaware of the hidden memorial park. Popular restaurants and classic movie houses (along the iconic Sunset Blvd.) attract thousands of visitors just yards away from the historic spot.

Quite a number of celebrities and movie stars are buried in Southern California due to the fact that they lived and died in Los Angeles. Tourists come to L.A. just to see the grave site of their favorite actor/actress — many of whom are interred at Forest Lawn.

There is only one entrance to Westwood Village Memorial Park, and you could drive by and not even know it was there. But if you’re looking for the crypt of Marilyn Monroe you won’t find it at Forest Lawn. That’s right … Monroe was buried at Westwood Village.

Strolling through the park you’ll discover the final resting place for a number of Hollywood notables:

Truman Capote, Donna Reed, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Mel Torme, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Carroll O’Conner, Jack Lemmon, Bob Crane and George C. Scott.

It’s an odd feeling to be standing at the graveside of people who were once bigger than life — and now they lay as dust under the soles of your feet. I am haunted by memories of the uncounted hours spent watching my favorite movies over and over again.

There was a caretaker polishing the marker at Marilyn Monroe’s crypt. The marble had been discolored by thousands of palm prints and kisses. (Or think of the millions of fans who visit Graceland to worship Elvis Presley.) We idolized these people.

I heard a pastor this week speak of the idolatry of entertainment. Said the pastor, “Entertainment is idolatry. It is a diversion — an escape from reality.”

Your television can be an idol. How much time do we spend in front of the TV? At the movies? On the computer? Whatever diverts our attention from God can be an idol. It could be music, sports or social media. Honestly, do we give as much time to the Lord?

I love movies. I could watch TCM all day. That’s why I don’t have cable TV. The world does not want you to spend quality time with God. It’s so much easier to turn on the television than open the Bible. If only we had spent all that time learning about Jesus …

Will Marilyn Monroe be in heaven? That is a judgment for God to make. There is one who overcame death — one who escaped the tomb. You won’t find his remains on earth nor did he undergo decay (Psalm 16:10). He sits at the right hand of the Father with outstretched arms if only you will receive him.

The grave is an ignoble end for a man, or woman. But we know that physical death is only a release of the soul and, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

First century Christians (Jews) celebrated Christ’s resurrection every day. Of course, they weren’t distracted by 24-hour movie channels. How refined we have become to observe the victory of life one day a year (Easter). Even then we are distracted by colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.

With regards to those buried at Westwood I can only offer this — there will be no classic films in heaven. All the works of the flesh shall be burned up at the coming of the Lord. If we can’t spend 5 minutes a day with God then how do we expect to spend an eternity with Him?

All else is vanity — all else is idolatry. (See Ecclesiastes 2.)

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Judge Ye Not

judge1

Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).

One of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the Bible is where Jesus commands us to not judge.

It is a convenient response to Christian expression that is otherwise deemed unfavorable by the one leveling the charge. To say that one is being judgmental is, in fact, casting judgment.

If I don’t like what someone says I am making a judgment on their expression. Now, their expression may be sound, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not even an expression, but a behavior. Let’s say my neighbor gets drunk every night, and I tell him he should stop drinking. I’m passing judgment on my neighbor, and that would be a sin according to those who say we should not judge. It would be a sin if I staggered over with a bottle of whiskey in hand, and told my neighbor to put down his can of beer. That’s the context in which Jesus is speaking. Reading further down in the passage Jesus says to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). In other words, sober up, put down that bottle of whiskey, then go to your neighbor and discuss his drinking problem.

judge2

To so cavalierly accuse Christians of being judgmental is really wearing thin. We live in a world where Christian expression is muzzled. We are not allowed to take a moral stand, have an opinion or quote the Bible without fear of being charged with hate speech. It’s preposterous, but if you level the charge often enough it becomes the truth; and Christians find themselves marginalized in a society that is predominantly anti-Christian. The lie becomes the truth — we are judgmental bigots.

Let’s examine more closely the Matthean passage. In the very next verse (Matthew 7:6) Jesus says:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Is Jesus telling us to judge? Clearly, there are unbelievers — characterized as dogs and swine — that we are to avoid. Dust off your feet, save your breath, exercise discernment (judgment) and do not share the Good News with such people.

Jesus said that? Seems kind of harsh in light of His earlier commandment to not judge. It’s only a problem if we don’t compare scripture with scripture, and in context. Obviously, we are to judge with righteous judgment which John Gill described as a sense and judgment of things, according to the truth and evidence of them. [1]

Paul, a chosen instrument of Christ, wrote:

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:15).

What is Paul saying? That the Christian man or woman who is endowed with the Holy Spirit shall judge (or discern) all things, but shall be judged by no one who judges by feelings like one who is blind.

The assembly at Corinth was a complete mess. Paul wrote three, maybe four letters of correction to the disordered church. The congregation was rife with shameful behavior — idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, thievery, drunkenness and all manner of defilement including the man who was caught sleeping with his father’s wife. Not even the pagans, wrote Paul, tolerated such behavior.

How did the church descend into such chaos? No one wanted to judge another’s behavior. They subscribed to a live-and-let-live attitude. It was a truly bacchanal society. Do your own thing — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Paul laid down the law (1 Corinthians 6:2-3):

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Pastor John MacArthur:

It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity.

If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false: righteousness — in short, between God’s way and all other ways. [2]

Judgment can be defined as condemnation, or discernment. No one has the right to condemn. That is the Divine prerogative of Almighty God. But to say that Christians don’t have the right, or responsibility to exercise discernment is to strip us of our Divine calling to be light and salt. Light exposes, salt burns; And this is the judgment, saith our Lord, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19).

Judgmental? Tell it to the Lord, but as for me I will continue to expose the darkness.

Notes:

1. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

2. John MacArthur, Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote, April 19, 2016.

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Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

The Most Difficult Verse in the Bible

Double fulfillment of prophecy makes no sense to a Jew. I am confounded by Dispensationalists, in particular, who explain away difficult Bible verses to the second and third degree.

Some would have Jesus return once to resurrect the saints, and again to judge the world; but this disagrees with the word of our Lord (John 5:28-29).

Jews believe that the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet was fulfilled at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Jesus, however, said that it was yet to be fulfilled — as interpreted by this author in 70 AD ( Matthew 24:15).

Some evangelicals see a more complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy when the Antichrist desecrates the Third Temple — a temple which does not even stand.

We might as well throw hermeneutics out the window, and discard all rules of proper exegesis. Absent sound principles we can make the Bible say anything.

Theodore of Mopsuesti (350-428 AD) wrote that it was unwise to apply scripture both historically and allegorically.

Milton S. Terry wrote that scripture must have one sense, or no sense at all:

… the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation.

With that brief introduction let us now examine what I believe to be the most difficult verse in the Bible — Isaiah 7:14.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Matthew 1:22-23 declares that the prophecy was fulfilled at the birth of Jesus:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”).

Here’s the context. When Ahaz was king of Judah, Israel (the ten northern tribes) and Damascus forged an alliance to conquer Judah (the southern kingdom). Ahaz sought an alliance with Assyria to resist the threat, but the LORD (speaking through the prophet) comforted the people with the assurance of Divine protection on the condition that they believe the word of the LORD.

The LORD instructed the prophet to assure the king that his enemies would be laid waste within 65 years.

Ahaz was prompted to ask of the LORD a sign, but the king answered, “I will not test the LORD”. This angered YHWH who, ignoring Ahaz, then gave a sign to the house of David that a virgin would give birth to a son.

The Rabbis do not believe that this is speaking of the Messiah — that the missionaries (Christians) have corrupted the meaning of the text.

‛Almâh (עלמה) is derived from the Hebrew word ‛âlam (עלם) which means to hide, or conceal; and though it may be interpreted as maiden the context dictates that it be understood as virgin for in ancient days unmarried girls of marriageable age were hidden from the general population.

That Christians corrupted the true meaning is an invalid charge. New Testament writers referenced the Septuagint which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. In Alexandria (Egypt), 270 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, 72 Jewish scholars (six from each of the twelve tribes) translated the Hebrew Bible into Koine Greek. It was an accepted translation for 300 years — that is, until the crucifixion of our Lord.

Rabbis believed that the birth of Mashiac would be a supernatural event. The “72” translated ‛almâh as virgin (parthenos) in the Greek translation — for a common, ordinary birth would be less than a miraculous sign.

Additionally, the original Hebrew includes the definite article so that the passage should read, the virgin shall conceive

This is seen also in the story of Rebekah drawing water from the well — when the virgin (hā·‘al·māh) cometh forth to draw water

When the evangelist Mattityahu (Matthew) interpreted the prophet Ysha’yah (Isaiah) he referenced the Septuagint and saw the fulfillment of the prophecy in the virgin birth of Christ.

Ellicott wrote:

It is not so easy for us, as it seemed to St. Matthew, to trace in Isaiah’s words the meaning which he assigns to them.

Jesus would not be born for 700 years. How would His birth be a sign to Judah and King Ahaz in the imminent threat posed by their northern neighbors, Israel and Syria? Not to mention that before the child came of age — that is, was able to know right from wrong — the enemies of the southern kingdom would be laid waste.

When we turn to chapter 8 of Isaiah we read that the prophet has conjugal relations with his wife (the prophetess) who conceives and bears a son.

And the LORD speaks to the prophet that before the son is old enough to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother’ Damascus would be taken away by Assyria.

To summarize, YHWH assured Judah that Israel and Damascus would be laid waste within 65 years. When Ahaz refused a sign from the LORD, Jehovah gave a sign to the house of David — that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son. Before he came of age the enemies of Judah would become a wasteland.

Isaiah’s wife then conceives, and gives birth to a son who — before he can speak — will be a sign of the Assyrian conquest of Judah’s enemies.

Assyria, with whom Judah was allied, conquered Syria (Damascus), and carried Israel into captivity.

Dilemma?

Calvin believed as some Rabbis that the birth of Isaiah’s son in chapter 8 was a fulfillment of the birth prophesied in chapter 7, but not in the sense of a double fulfillment. The prophetess was neither a virgin nor a maiden. It is Jewish tradition that Isaiah’s wife was the mother of his first-born son, Shear-jashub (whose mane means remnant returns). Thus, there would be nothing supernatural about the birth of a second son.

When the prophets received a vision or word from the LORD they understood it provincially. Some expositors believe that Isaiah received the prophecy of the virgin birth in a vision not understanding what he was seeing. Moreover, the sign was not to King Ahaz — for he angered the LORD — but to the house of David to which the LORD had an everlasting covenant.

Be mindful that the LORD had promised Judah deliverance from their enemies if only they would believe:

… If you will not believe, you surely shall not last (Isaiah 7:9).

We know further that the birth of Isaiah’s son was not a sign of salvation as the remainder of chapter 8 reveals the LORD’s displeasure with Judah, and it’s eventual fall to Assyria with whom Ahaz had allied in disobedience to the providence of the LORD.

So, then, what remains?

The answer to this difficult problem is found in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the prophet recalls the promised son whose birth is yet fulfilled:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this …

The LORD’s (יהוה של) promise to the house of David (דָּוִד), thus fulfilled at the birth of Christ (ישו) — and nowhere else in the Holy Bible — confirmed by Mattityahu (מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎) that Yeshua (ישוע), born of the virgin Miryam (מִרְיָם), and by His own testimony is the spiritual and literal fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.

Just as He told His disciples:

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).

One sense … one fulfillment … one Messiah.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

End Times Theology

The beloved radio pastor teaches that the wrath to come is a reference to the future Great Tribulation. In this premillennial scenario, the church is raptured then God unleashes His wrath and judgment upon the unbelievers who are left behind. This precedes the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ (with the resurrected saints of God). Our study verses are found in Paul’s letters to the assembly at Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:1

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him …

I was doing a Bible study with an online group who are premillennial (PM). They also associated the wrath to come with the (great) tribulation. So, this is their theology: There is coming a 7-year period of tribulation, and the church will escape this wrath when Christ returns to rapture the elect; but this is not the Second Coming according to the PM doctrine. The wrath to come and the tribulation, by this interpretation, are the same event, but not the second Advent of Christ.

To support this argument they said that the coming of our Lord and being gathered to Him are two separate events. In other words, the Second Coming is disassociated from the rapture of the church.

Folks, the Second Coming is not a two-stage process. Some even teach a three-stage event. Christ returns to rapture His church … He comes again to establish His millennial reign … and yet a third time (at the end of the age) in judgment.

This is all too confusing and at odds with Scripture. Following is the comment I left at the online study:

This argument is very forced and unconvincing; and hinges on inserted suppositions to support a PM bias. (It’s a good example of eisegesis — making the Bible say what we think is true.)

The coming of Christ … and our gathering to Him … are not two separate events. They are one event. At the Second Coming, Christ will call out His church (rapture), execute judgment upon the earth (as described in 2 Peter 3:10), and establish the New Heavens and earth where the resurrected saints will dwell.

In this way the church will escape the wrath to come — not the tribulation, but the judgment of the last day. God’s final judgment upon the earth is the wrath to come spoken of by Paul. Believers will not suffer this judgment.

Jesus tells us several times in John 6 that He will come on the last day to raise up believers unto eternal life; and in John 5:28-29 our Lord said that the hour is coming when all will be resurrected either to life or judgment.

Finally, the 6th Seal in Revelation 6 says absolutely nothing about the rapture. It does speak of the Lamb’s wrath (judgment) upon the world; and I would agree that the church will have already been removed.

So, while the Second Coming and rapture are one event — wrath and tribulation are not. In this world, said Jesus, we will have tribulation (John 16:33); but only by the grace of God shall we escape His judgment … on the last day at the coming of our Lord and Savior.

In summary, there is only one Second Coming at which time the church will be raptured, judgment executed, and the heavens and earth restored. This is the last day, or day of the Lord, spoken of by Messiah.

In Judaism, wrath is understood as God’s judgment in the context of destruction over salvation. Look again at what Paul said:

For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wrath, or salvation is the destiny of all people. You and I are appointed, or predestined, to either destruction or redemption. Wait just a moment. I’m not saying that you were fated at birth to be destroyed or saved in the Calvinist sense of predestination. The Jewish sense of this appointment is that God determined in the beginning that man’s end would either be judgment or salvation. Rest assured that God does not draw straws to determine your fate. John Calvin perverted this ancient Judaic teaching.

May I divert on that point for just a moment? If you take the false teachings of the Catholic Church and stack them up against the heresies of the Protestant Church which stack would be higher?

Jesus, then, is quite clear that the resurrection/rapture will occur at the Second Coming — on the last day. With regards to the other assertion, how do we know that wrath refers to judgment, and not tribulation?

Context.

Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians was in regards to the day of the Lord (or last day). Again, in Judaism this term refers to the day of God’s judgment. The Thessalonians were suffering tribulation, and they thought the Lord had already come — that they were left behind to suffer God’s wrath. This would, indeed, fit the PM scenario.

They were also concerned that the dead would miss the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

The assembly was suffering the trials and sorrows that befall the church in every generation. Paul disassociated their tribulation from the day of the Lord which would come like a thief in the night bringing sudden destruction upon those who are in darkness. But what of the children of God?

As sons of light, Paul wrote, they need not worry about the day of judgment for they are not called to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who will raise the dead and living at His glorious Second Coming.

In the left behind interpretation there will be hellish chaos. Christian pilots will be raptured from commercial airliners, and Christian doctors will be raptured in the middle of an operation — not a problem if the passengers and patients are believers as well. This is fanciful exegesis that serves only to sell books and tickle ears. It is false teaching.

What did Paul say? Like a thief in the night there will be sudden destruction; and Peter concurs as we noted earlier:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

So, wrath and tribulation are not the same thing. One speaks of judgment while the other of trials and sorrows.

Charles Ellicott

The “wrath” is that which is to come upon the “children of wrath” at the Second Advent. [1]

Matthew Poole

Having spoken of two sorts of persons, the children of the day, and children of the night, and the sudden destruction of the one and salvation of the other at the coming of Christ, he here ascends to the first original of both, which is God’s appointment, which is an act of God’s sovereign will, determining men’s final estates. [2]

John Gill

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, to destruction and ruin, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ … The doctrine of predestination does not lead to despair, but encourages the hope of salvation. [3]

The PM contention that wrath refers to the tribulation (from which Christians will be spared), that the day of the Lord and rapture are separate events, that Jesus will remove His church from some future time of trouble, that a thousand years will pass before the actual Second Coming — well, it is all a faulty interpretation of Scripture.

Still, my beloved brothers in Christ, our salvation is not dependent on having a clear understanding of the End Times. We are not saved by our church affiliation or whether we read only the King James Bible.

Ultimately, we are not saved by knowledge (which puffs up), but by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

What is overlooked in these specious interpretations is this: How does it change the way I should live my life today as a child of the Most High God? For 2000 years the church has believed in the imminent return of Christ. If you see an article that reads Ten Things that Must Happen Before the Rapture, you would be better served to put down the article and open your Bible to the parable of the faithful steward (Luke 12:35–48).

Jesus could come tonight. Think about that. Let it sink in. Jesus Christ could return before you finish reading this article. When our Lord returns what will He find you doing? Think about your secret sins. Maybe it’s sexual immorality, pornography, alcohol, drugs … whatever. The servant in the parable was found in gluttony and drunkenness. In what manner will Christ find you?

If you’re waiting for the revelation of the Antichrist, and planes falling out of the sky, then just go on with your life as in the days of Noah; but be forewarned by the words of Messiah:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:36–39).

Notice that He said the wicked would be taken away. The PM doctrine cites this passage to defend their interpretation of the rapture. Sorry, no. Jesus is not speaking of the rapture, but of those taken away in judgment.

To Messiah I give the last word.

Notes:

1. Charles Ellicott, A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.

2. Matthew Poole, English Annotations on the Holy Bible, by Matthew Barker, 1700.

3. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 3 vols., 1746-8.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

For Leaven’s Sake!

Parables

Hermeneutics. The first time I heard that word I thought, “Herman knew … what?” The word is commonly interchanged with exegesis which simply refers to the method of interpreting written text. In this case our written text is the Holy Bible. (When we make the Bible say what we want it to say that is called eisegesis.)

As of this writing the beloved radio pastor (my regular readers know to whom I’m referring) is going through the Gospel of Matthew. I would like to focus our attention on one of the parables of Jesus. There are two common interpretations of Matthew 13:33:

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.

The pastor teaches that leaven is the subject of this parable. The three measures of flour represents the Gospel, and the woman is the principle of evil who kneads false teaching into the Word.

Until it is all leavened? What the pastor is saying is that the kingdom of heaven will become universally corrupt.

It is true that in ancient Rabbinic writings leaven is represented as evil. As the pastor notes it is similarly depicted 98 times in the Bible. In his interpretation, then, we see the word leaven and presume that this is a story about evil for as such it is always depicted.

1 Corinthians 5:6–8

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump

Matthew 16:6

beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Mark 8:15

beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.

Exodus 12:15

if anyone eats what is leavened shall be cut off

If we begin with this association between leaven and evil it then colors our interpretation of the parable. Recall that I said leaven is always symbolic of evil. Is this true?

Let’s examine one of the Holy Feasts of Israel — Shavuot. Called Pentecost (by Hellenistic Jews) it fell on the 50th day after Passover, and was also known as the Feast of Latter Fruits. (We should note that the Feast of First Fruits was celebrated in the week of Passover. Messiah was resurrected on First Fruits, and so shall His church be the Latter Fruits.)

Leviticus 23:16–17

You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as first fruits to the Lord.

As followers of Messiah we commonly think of first fruits as symbolic of resurrection. How, then, do we understand leavened bread as a type of first fruits? This makes no sense to our literal understanding of leaven being representative of evil.

Without going into every jot and tittle of the Law the wave offering was to be food for the priests and, as such, was not to be offered upon the altar. [See Leviticus 2:11]

The Shavuot bread offering is the key to our proper understanding of this parable of Jesus. We, as a body of believers, are the leavened bread offered as a type of first fruits. The old leaven — that is our old nature — is gone. We are a new lump of dough leavened by the Word of God.

Look again at the parable. What is the subject of this story — leaven? Read carefully.

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven. In what way? It shares the properties of leaven. The Word, as a peck, is hidden in a person’s heart, and acts as an agent of change.

The kingdom of heaven is the subject. It dwells in our hearts and transforms us in the renewing of our minds. Just as the yeast changes the lump of dough so, also, we are changed — inwardly, to be sure, but also in our outward behavior, and manifestation of one who walks upright in the Lord.

The leavening process has caused us to become a new creation in Christ; and so much more dramatic than a lump of flour becoming a loaf of bread.

Some will interpret the three measures of flour as the world, the church or individual believers. In any case, those who incline towards the pastor’s interpretation will say, “No, things are getting worse. Where is the evidence that the world is being changed?”

Well, the kingdom of heaven began with eleven men who were told to go and make disciples. As of 2010, there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world.

The kingdom of heaven is advancing in people’s hearts, within the church and around the globe.

Habakkuk 2:14

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

John Gill (an English Baptist pastor) wrote that an ingenious interpretation of this parable had been introduced (after the Reformation) suggesting that the woman kneading the dough was the apocalyptic harlot of Revelation. While Gill thought that to be interesting it suggests that the fermentation of evil would leaven the whole world (and every creature) until the Lord was, at last, compelled to intervene.

Does the Bible teach this? That the whole world must first be consumed with evil?

Jesus said that the tares and wheat would grow together until His angels are sent to collect the harvest. I believe that things will go along as they have been for 2000 years. Some dough will rise, and some not. Some seed will fall in good soil, and some not. Good and evil co-existing until the end. Which means I don’t agree with post-millennials who see an ultimate triumph of the Gospel before the Second Coming.

What I presented was the historic view of the church as summarized by Henry Alford (ca. 1810-1871):

Difficulties have been raised as to the interpretation of this parable which do not seem to belong to it. It has been questioned whether ζύμη (leaven) must not be taken in the sense in which it so often occurs in Scripture, as symbolic of pollution and corruption.

And some few have taken it thus, and explained the parable of the progress of corruption and deterioration in the outward visible Church. But then, how is it said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this leaven?

If the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven be towards corruption, till the whole is corrupted, surely there is an end of all the blessings and healing influence of the Gospel on the world. It will be seen that such an interpretation cannot for a moment stand, on its own ground; but much less with the parable preceding (of the mustard seed, as the Kingdom of Heaven, which grows into a great tree that offers comfort and protection). [1]

John Gill (ca. 1697-1771), a century before Alford, was an historicist though he concluded that the reader may choose which interpretation he likes best. [2]

As the beloved radio pastor often said, If you wanna be right you’ll agree with me.

Notes:

1. Alford’s Greek Testament and Exegetical and Critical Commentary (Volumes 1-4), Henry Alford, (1841-1861).

2. John Gill’s Exposition of the New Testament, (3 vols., 1746-8).

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Pride or Love?

equal love

The LGBT Pride festival is being held this week in my community. The media are blowing their trumpets in celebration. There was a sign apologizing for the hateful, judgmental, bigoted attitude of the church in its resistance to such things as marriage equality.

People of faith respond in one of two ways — silence or concession. Christians are people, too, and it is difficult to hear over again that you are intolerant and homophobic. The relentless assault on Christian values is disconcerting.

I have heard so many testimonies from the LGBT camp about pride. There is a haughty arrogance in their forceful demand that they be recognized by society, and Christians in particular. That a baker, photographer and florist can be compelled by the state to violate their faith and conscience does violence to the bedrock foundation of our protected freedoms.

The left has targeted both the Constitution and the Bible in their attempt to legitimize what historically has been condemned by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Let me be clear. God hates sexual immorality whether it be fornication, adultery or homosexuality. In other words, if you are single and having sex — that is sin. If you are married and having sex outside of marriage — that is sin. If you are having same-sex — that is sin.

The Bible is unmistakably clear in six definite passages regarding the sin of homosexuality: Genesis 19:4-7; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:9–10.

Practicing homosexuals within the Christian community will argue that these passages condemn inhospitality, or the unnatural behavior of heterosexual men. Friends, that is simply living in denial. We all want our religion to conform to our peculiar indiscretions … don’t we?

Then there are the activists and atheists who don’t care what the Bible says. For example, the late Christopher Hitchens:

What do I care what some Bronze Age text says about homosexuality? 

Rather than debate these finer points of Scripture, let me introduce you to the director of Out of Egypt Ministries, Patti Height.

Patti grew up in the 60’s, adopted a homosexual lifestyle in the 70’s and lived as a lesbian for thirty years before surrendering her life to Jesus Christ in 2003. Since then she has traveled around the country speaking to numerous churches about her life and ministry. Patti recently spoke at the local Calvary Chapel, and I wanted to share with you her compelling testimony.

There were six other kids in the neighborhood where she grew up. They were all boys so Patti essentially became one of the boys. She acted like the boys, dressed like the boys, talked like the boys — in fact, her mother took her to the doctor and said, My daughter thinks she’s a boy.

[A transgender said, I grew up in a macho-Italian neighborhood. How does a child relate to that? I didn’t know how to be a little boy.

Boys and girls need proper role models. Growing up is a learning experience. They need to be taught how to be young men and women. I’ve pretty much reached the conclusion that a lot of our problems are the result of bad parenting.]

Patti said that neither her mother nor her father affirmed that she was a little girl. She wanted to play house and such, but her parents — except for the abuse — pretty much neglected her. The mother was abused by the father, and in the midst of all the pain and suffering Patti became more confused and isolated. Her only solace was in being one of the boys.

As she reached puberty her emotional and psychological mindset was that of a boy. She still wanted to play house, but in the role of the father. Eventually, she began a long-term relationship with a backslidden, Catholic girlfriend.

The death of her brother in 2002 touched her deeply. The grief was overwhelming. Her friends could not comfort her. She thought, How can you be comforted without Jesus? Her brother had received the Lord in his final days, and though his body was dying, Patti noticed that his spirit was so very much alive. She didn’t understand it, but she wanted that same peace and joy. One night, in bed, she restlessly turned towards her girlfriend and asked, Are we doing the right thing? Her girlfriend responded, Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe you asked that. I was thinking the same thing.

Patti asked, What should we do? So they went to the attic and found an old Bible. Now, they had always seen at the Pride parade a sign that read Lv 18:22, but didn’t understand the meaning. As they opened the Bible it turned to the Book of Leviticus, chapter 18. They glanced at the page and saw verse 22.

This was the defining moment of their lives when Patti realized that God had spoken to them. They ended their relationship, and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The girlfriend’s identity is kept secret because she is actively involved in a very dangerous ministry — smuggling Bibles into countries where it is a capital offense to be a Christian. Formerly gay, and now risking her life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ — that simply amazes me. This sister in Christ has sacrificed everything — her very life if she is caught — in order to serve God. May the Lord protect and keep her.

Patti said that the LGBT movement, despite its marketing, is not about love but narcissism:

It is self-loving at its core. Gay men, or women want from their partner what they couldn’t get from their mother or father. The child who was abused and neglected seeks affirmation from a same-sex partner. 

So a man seeks from another man the love he was denied by his father. Likewise a woman. But it’s not love. It’s a draining, self-taking relationship that sucks the emotional energy out of the other person. I don’t believe people are born gay. In my experience and research I have found that (the majority of homosexuals) are gay due to emotional or psychological trauma, or sexual abuse.

Up until 1960 homosexuality was treated as such. That is, until the activists successfully lobbied the medical profession to delist it as a mental illness. Patti self-medicated herself with alcohol and drugs until, she said, her brain became fried. She freely indulged in sexual immorality because, she thought, that’s why girls were made.

The solace that she was seeking could not be found in the homosexual lifestyle, but in Jesus Christ only. To follow Patti’s journey out of Egypt (sin) please watch the following 50 minute video testimony. 

Finally, I am struggling with how to present this final point, and not have stones hurled at me. (This is my experience so hear me out.) In my secular career I worked with a number of LGBT people. The female co-workers adored the gay men. The common thought was, It’s like having a male girlfriend. 

I saw an article — or was it a book?– titled, How Satan Deceives Women to Destabilize the Church. The brief synopsis — Satan has been deceiving women ever since Eve for the purpose of executing his war against God. Women, more so than men, cast a sympathetic eye towards homosexuals; and Satan uses that compassion to alter perceptions, and gain acceptance, within the body of Christ — even to the point of sanctifying homosexuality in the sacred rite of marriage which, lest we forget, Jesus said was between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4–5).

Love is not born of pride. It sacrifices, but does not take. It gives, and still more. It is offered to you freely by the One who gave everything — even His own life upon the Cross. Nothing equals that kind of love. Nothing. 

Greater love hath no man … (John 15:13).

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