Varying Degrees

April 28, 2017

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Image result for photo punishment in hell

Luke 12:47, 48; I Corinthians 3:13-15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Having done four blogs on the theme of Resurrection, I figured I was done.  But it occurred to me that one more related theme was the Varying Degrees of reward in heaven and punishment in hell after the related resurrections!  Let’s look at the two. First…

•      The Varying Degrees of rewards in heaven!  I Corinthians chapter 3 deals with what is called the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Bema Seat Judgment.  Our Scripture is I Corinthians 3:13-15.

      …each one’s work shall become manifest, for the Day will declare it, be-
      cause it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of
      what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will
      receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but
      he himself will be saved; yet so as through fire.

That these verses relate only to Christians is evident from I Corinthians 3:10 and 11.  Paul writes to these Corinthian believers, “I have laid the foundation [in your lives]….For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  They had already accepted Christ as their Savior!  But how they then lived out their Christian lives determined their Varying Degrees of reward in heaven!  And their lives will be reviewed by the fiery gaze of the all-knowing Judge! (See John 5:22; Revelation 1:14).  According to I Corinthians 3:12 there are two types ofbuilding materials’ that believers can construct on that solid foundation:

      ✞     …gold, silver, precious stones….”  These materials are resistant to fire, corrosion, time, etc.  I have been a treasure hunter (using a metal detector) for almost 40 years.  I have dug many items out of the ground, including gold, silver, and precious stones.  While precious stones don’t give a signal that a metal detector will pick up, I have found a few mounted on rings and other metal jewelry.  While silver can show some corrosion from acidic soil, most of the time this precious metal will come out of the ground pretty much the way it went in, even if it was lost a hundred years or more ago!  Gold and precious stones are basically untouched by their time in ‘hiding’.

What Paul is saying is that these things represent the ‘building materials’ Christians use to construct something on the foundation of the Lord’s salvation laid down in their lives.  And these resistant materials will pass through Christ’s judgment unscathed!  What are the ‘building materials’ they represent?  Gold, silver, and precious stones represent what we do in our lives – how we live our lives for the glory of God!

      ✞     …wood, hay, straw….”  Obviously, these ‘building materials’ will not stand the test of elements, time, or fire.  They represent our Christian lives lived for our own pleasure, pursuits, and agenda!  They will not add to the glory of God, and they will not survive the fiery inspection at the Judgment Seat of Christ!

It stands to reason that those who live for the Lord will enjoy more rewards in heaven than those worldly Christians who live for themselves!  The Parable of the Long Journey in Luke 19:12 through 27 gives the same idea.  In verse 13 a nobleman gave ten of his servants a mina apiece (about 1.25 pounds.  If the mina was silver it would be worth almost $350 today. If gold – $24,276 spot price today.)  The nobleman then went on a long journey.  When he returned, he took inventory of what his servants had done with, or how they had invested his money while he was gone.

                    Luke 19:16 and 17:  “Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  And he said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant….have authority over ten cities.’

                    Luke 19:18 and 19:  “And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’  Likewise the said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’

                    The nobleman is Jesus!  The long journey is the time between His first and second advents!  The minas represent what we have done with the gifts the Lord has entrusted to us!  The cities are the rewards we receive in heaven!

•      The Varying Degrees of punishments in hell!  For this we will examine Luke 12:47 and 48:

      And that servant, who knew his master’s will, and did not prepared him-
      self or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he
      who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten
      with few.

This Scripture comes from the Parable of the Testing of Servants! (Luke 12:42 through 48).  Again, the master in this parable went away for an extended time.  The servants did not know when he would return.  Some were faithful to their master and his instructions, and some were not.  Some (apparently, from our Scripture above) did not have specific instructions of what to do or not do.

      ✞     …that servant, who knew his master’s will, and did not prepared himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”  He knew, but ignored the instructions.  He represents a non-believer who has heard about heaven, hell, and Christ’s salvation, but did not act upon this knowledge!

      ✞     …he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few.”  This one never really heard the specifics of the gospel (see the blog from October 18, 2013Jesus Christ Revealed – II).  But this one still will be held accountable – just not as much as the one who knew his master’s will and didn’t do it!

It stands to reason that among the unsaved, Osama Bin Laden will experience more suffering in hell than a good and moral person by society’s standards.

So, the Bible teaches that there are Varying Degrees of both rewards in heaven, and punishment in hell!  Be on the rewards side!

The Resurrection Of The Damned

April 26, 2017

Image result for photo judgment of the damnedRevelation 20:11-15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

It is not always easy to quote an extended portion of Scripture.  Sometimes I will delete or rearrange the words a bit to save space in a blog.  But I am always very careful to keep the meaning!  I point this out because I am well aware of what is written in Revelation 22:18 and 19:

      If anyone adds to…the words of the prophecy of this book…God will add
      to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away
      from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part
      from the Book of Life….

So I encourage you to read the whole featured Scripture from your Bible.  That being said, here is our today’s choice from Revelation 20:15 through 19:

      And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books
      were opened.  And…the Book of life…was opened….The sea…and Death
      and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were
      judged each one according to their works…by the things which were
      written in the books….Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of
      fire.  This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the
      Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

This describes The Resurrection Of The Damned and their judgment!  According to Revelation 20:5, “…the rest of the dead [the unsaved or the damned] did not live again until the thousand years [of the Millenium] were finished.”  Our Scripture not only describes this resurrection, but also the Great White Throne Judgment which follows.

What are the books that are part of this judgment?

•      The Book of Life is God’s listing of the names of those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ – either in His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross for our sins, and His rising from death again; or the prophecies of the Messiah’s coming before the incarnation.  You might say that the Book of Life is the final proof – if your name is there, you’re in God’s family!  If it isn’t, you are headed for hell!

•      The books of works are the record of all the works, words, and thoughts of those unredeemed who are standing before God’s throne for judgment!  Why words and thoughts?  It only mentions works in Revelation 20:12 and 13.

      ✞      Works – Obviously, these are what lost people have openly done in their lives.

      ✞      Words – Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:27, “…by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

      ✞      Thoughts – The Lord warns us in Matthew 5:28 to be careful what we think:  “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

              ▸      According to I John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer….

              ▸      According to Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet….”  Why?  Because coveting is so desiring what someone else has, it is stealing in your heart!  And, by the way, coveting is also putting something in first place in your life, where God ought to be! (See Luke 10:27).  So Paul tells us, “…covetousness…is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5).

We could go on to say that every outward sin starts in the heart – the thoughts – of man!  No wonder Proverbs 4:23 warns us:  “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  And Jesus says in Matthew 15:19 and 20, “…out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man….

Now, why are the damned resurrected?  Because God created all of us to be eternal!  That did not change when mankind fell into sin.  What changed was our relationship to God!  Before sin entered in, we were dynamically connected to God!  After sin…… well, Isaiah 59:2 puts it this way:  “…your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”  If that sinful separation is not rectified in this life, we will enter eternity and be separated from the Lord forever in hell!

But, thanks be to God, He took care of the problem of sin!  Jesus took all our sins upon His perfect self – becoming sin and sinner before the Father!  And the Father poured out His wrath upon His own Son instead of on us!  Since the debt of sin has been paid, we can now be reconciled to God when we receive Jesus as our Savior, trusting that what He did on the cross was for us!  “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

And those who don’t?  They shall stand before the Judge (see John 5:22) and hear Him say,Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels….” (Matthew 25:41).

This is why there is The Resurrection Of The Damned!  If there was not, God would not be fair!  For He has made the only way (see John 14:6), and unrepentant sinners have rejected it!

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior today! (See II Corinthians 6:2).

Two More Righteous Resurrections – II

April 24, 2017

Image result for photo general resurrectionMatthew 27:50-53; Isaiah 65:20

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Now, to fully understand this blog concerning Two More Righteous Resurrections – II, you should also read Friday’s blog, Two More Righteous Resurrections – I.  This is a continuation of a speculative subject!  We began to investigate…

•      Matthew 27:50-53 – “Jesus, when he had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

…and we started to deal with the questions, Was this a ‘mortal’ resurrection – where these ones raised would die again in the future?  Or was this a resurrection unto glorified bodies – like Jesus’ glorified body, designed to live forever?  We also looked at Ephesians 4:8 through 10 where Paul reflects on the three days between Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection.  He quotes David’s Psalm 68, where he states in verse 8, “When He [Jesus] ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.

Captivity captive – the best explanation of the meaning of this phrase is that those who were held captive by the enemy are now released because the enemy has been defeated!  And the Victor, Jesus – having ‘captured’ them, leads the captive out of captivity!

To further understand all this, we have to look at Luke 16:22 through 24:

      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.”

Hades is the waiting place of the dead – both unrighteous and righteous!  But according to Luke 16:26, Abraham told the rich man, …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.”  So there was a righteous Hades, and an unrighteous Hades!  And they were separated by an impassable great gulf !

But we learn in II Corinthians 5:6 and 8:  “…we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord…[and] to be absent from the body…[is] to be present with the Lord.”  Considering the idea of where Hades is in Luke 16 compared to where the righteous go immediately upon death according to II Corinthians 5 – we have to assume that the part of Hades that is sometimes called “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise, has been transferred from being across the great gulf from unrighteous Hades to the current location of being in the presence of Jesus Christ!  And He is at the Father’s right hand! (See Colossians 3:1).

Putting this all together:

      ✞      If those referred to in Matthew 27:50 through 53 were raised immortal from the dead at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, they probably went into the holy city and appeared to many for only the three days that Jesus was in the grave!

      ✞      I f they were raised as mortals, they could have lived out the remainder of their mortal lives on earth until they died.

      ✞      Or, if mortal, they could have been a preview of the Rapture (see I Corinthians 15:47-54; I Thessalonians 4:13-17), having been transformed to physical immortality, and taken to heaven when Jesus went there!

When did Jesus go to heaven?  The first time He went after His resurrection was not at His ascension from Bethany (see Luke 24:50) 40 days after resurrection (see Acts 1:3).  The Lord told Mary Magdalene in John 20:17:

      Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to
      My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to My Father and your
      Father, and to My God and your God.”

It is thought by many theologians that at that time Jesus took the blood of His sacrifice to present before the Father as full payment for sin! (Study Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28; 10:19-22).  Then He returned to earth for His forty-day resurrection ministry.

If those who were raised from death and went into the holy city and appeared to many were resurrected either in mortal or immortal bodies, it could be at this time they were taken to heaven!

•      The other Righteous Resurrection may be hinted at in Isaiah 65:20:

      No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man
      who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years
      old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.

Very briefly, Isaiah here is describing the Millennial reign of Christ!  The implication of “…the child shall die one hundred years old…” points to the fact that there will be death (as well as birth) during the Millenium!  If someone righteous dies during the Millenium, then that one would have to be raised from death to spend eternity with Jesus in the New Jerusalem! (See Revelation 21:1-3).

Hence (possibly) Two More Righteous Resurrections!

Two More Righteous Resurrections – I

April 21, 2017

Image result for photo open graveMatthew 27:50-53; Isaiah 65:20

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In our last blog we looked at The Resurrection Of The Righteousthe first resurrection in three installments:

•      The resurrection of Jesus after He died on the cross.

•      The resurrection of believers at the end of the Church Age and the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation.

•      The resurrection of those who accepted Jesus as Savior during the Tribulation.  This will happen at the end of the last seven-year span of time, and just before the Millennium.

But there is at least one more Righteous Resurrection, and possibly two either mentioned or hinted at in the Bible.  We will look at the one with the most definite reference first…

•      Matthew 27:50-53 – “Jesus, when he had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This has always been a hard Scripture for me to understand, and I haven’t found any good explanations for it.  Two main questions come to mind:

      ✞      Was this a ‘mortal’ resurrection – like when Jesus raised Lazarus, the twelve-year-old girl, or the widow of Nain’s son?  Those so resurrected would experience physical death in the future.  What purpose would such a resurrection then have?  Perhaps to show that Jesus’ death was a very special event!

If these resurrected ones where still mortal, how long did they appear…to many before they died again?  I would think their appearance would have caused quite a stir in and around Jerusalem, even if it was just for three days until Jesus was resurrected.

      ✞      Or was this a resurrection unto glorified bodies, where those resurrected would never die again?  If that was the case, why did they not go directly to heaven, but go into the holy city and appear…to many?  Was it because, as it says in John 7:39, “…that Jesus was not yet glorified…”?  He was not glorified until He came out of tomb three days later in His glorified body!  And this incident under examination happened at the time of His death, not after His resurrection.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:8 through 10:

      Therefore he [David in Psalm 68:18] says, “When He [Jesus] ascended
      on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.  (Now this, “He
      ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the
      lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended
      far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)

Captivity captive means that those who were being held captive are now taken captive in the care of Jesus Christ!  I did research on this phrase, and I think it is best explained in common language by John Hoole in Captive.htm.  And he relates it to the use of the phrase captivity captive in Judges 5:12 (King James Version):  “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song:  arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.”  Barak and Deborah were commissioned by the LORD to fight and defeat Sisera, the general of the army of Jaban, king of Canaan (Judges 4:2).

      Many of the people of Israel were being held captive by their enemy.  The
      enemy at this time was Jabin, king of Canaan.  And God, using the judges,
      Deborah and Barak, were to lead those captives out.  This is a phrase that
      means to set free those who have been captive.  We know that God is not
      telling Deborah and Barak to take their enemies into captivity.  We know
      that because we are told no enemy captives were taken.  This phrase means
      the release of captured friends….Now, back to what Christ did between his
      death and resurrection.  When the apostle Paul mentions that Christ “led
      captivity captive,” the very next verse (in Ephesians 4:9) says he does so in
      conjunction with his “descending into the lower part of the earth.”  Many
      take this as another statement of Christ going into Hades.  And Christ, then
      takes the believers in paradise and releases them from that prison.  They
      have been there waiting for the final and complete payment for sin they
      looked forward to.  These righteous souls could not be released into heaven
      until the penalty for sin had actually been paid.  God accepted them as right-
      eous because they had faith in a sacrifice that had not yet taken place.  They
      were looking forward to the promised sacrifice.  However, until that sacrifice
      had actually been offered – that is the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, they
      could not be released.  After Jesus had sacrificed Himself, He went down into
      Hades and in some way took the righteous from Hades with Him into heaven. 
      He took captivity captive and they became the captives of Jesus and of right-

There is more to this Resurrection Of The Righteous, so there will be more in the next blog.

The Resurrection Of The Righteous

April 19, 2017

Image result for photo resurrection of believersRevelation 20:6

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Jesus, being resurrected, was the first installment of The Resurrection Of The Righteous!  What do I mean?  We, of the pre-Tribulation Rapture eschatological (meaning end times) theological position, believe The Resurrection Of The Righteous occurs at the time of the Rapture, just before the start of the seven-year final Tribulation period.  It is referred to in Revelation 20:6:

      Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such
      the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of
      Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

But there are three installments to The Resurrection Of The Righteous!  Here they are in some detail:

•      The first is described in I Corinthians 15:20 through 22:

      But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of
      those who have fallen asleep [died].  For as in Adam all die, even so in
      Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order:  Christ
      the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

Firstfruits refers to the offering described in Leviticus 23:10 through 21.  The Israelites were to present the first of their produce, flock, and bread to the LORD – in anticipation of a great harvest to follow!  So Jesus is the firstfruits of The Resurrection Of The Righteous!  And there will be a great resurrection harvest of people made righteous by His sacrifice on the cross!  But just as the main harvest of the Israelites was after the firstfruits offering, so the main part of The Resurrection Of The Righteous follows the Lord’s resurrection!  And it really doesn’t matter if the time between the first two parts of the resurrection is two thousand years or more, for it tells us in II Peter 3:8, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

•      The second part of The Resurrection Of The Righteous Paul writes about in I Corinthians 15:51 through 54:

      …we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
      the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised
      incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on
      incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So then, when
      this [happens]…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written;
      “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

This refers to the Rapture! (See I Thessalonians 4:13-17).  And this is the second part – the main part – of The Resurrection Of The Righteous!  It is when all those who have died truly believing in Jesus shall be resurrected!  This event signifies the end of the Church age (which started at Pentecost – see Acts 2:1-4), and is the final happening before the seven-year Tribulation starts.

•      The third installment of The Resurrection Of The Righteous is found in Revelation 20:4 and 5:

      And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to
      them [those who are with Jesus when He returns from heaven – see Rev-
      elation 19:14].  And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded
      for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not
      worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on
      their foreheads, or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with
      Christ for a thousand years….This is the first resurrection.

This part of The Resurrection Of The Righteous is clearly at the time of Jesus’ second coming!  It is the resurrection of the Tribulation saints – those who have been martyred during the time of the antichrist because they remained faithful to the Lord.  And this occurs seven years after the Rapture!  Yet in verse 5 it is still called the first resurrection!

There is some disagreement as to whether the Old Testament saints are resurrected at the Rapture, or if it will happen at the end of the Tribulation.  You see, the last seven year period, called the Tribulation, is the seventieth period of seven years prophesied in Daniel 9:24 through 27.  According to verse 24, all seventy have to do with the Jews – a Jewish time!  For it says, “Seventy weeks [of years] are determined for your people and for your holy city….”  Gabriel is speaking to Daniel, who is Jewish!  And the angel emphasizes your people and your holy city!  So the last seven years is just as much a Jewish time as are the first sixty-nine – most of which is in the Old Testament!  Daniel 9:25 sets the parameters of the first sixty nine sevens of years:  “…from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem [see Nehemiah 2:4-8] until Messiah the Prince [see Matthew 21:1-10]….”  As we saw in the third installment, it is at the end of the Tribulation that the Tribulation saints are raised!  If the seventieth-week saints are raised then, it may be the first sixty nine-week saints are raised at the same time!

So the first resurrection – The Resurrection Of The Righteous – is in three parts.  There is a second resurrection, and it is described in Revelation 20:5:  “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”  These dead are resurrected only to face the great white throne judgment – then to be cast into eternal hell! (See Revelation 20:11-15).

No wonder it says in Revelation 20:6:  “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death [hell] has no power….”  Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you will be part of The Resurrection Of The Righteous!

The Women’s Easter Faith

April 17, 2017 12:3-7

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I have always been impressed with The Women’s Easter Faith in the Bible!  Today, as Christians, we are regularly taught that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive today!  This foundational fact of our faith has been preached for almost two thousand years!  But back at the time of Jesus – although He had raised three people from the dead (see Luke 7:14, 15; 8:51-55; John 11:43, 44); and there were three resurrections in the Old Testament (see I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:18-37; 13:20, 21) – the idea of idea of someone who had died coming back to life was pretty far-fetched!  It is with this background that we see The Women’s Easter Faith!

•      The first example of such Easter Faith is found in John 12:3-7:

      Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet
      of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with
      the fragrance of the oil.  Then…Judas Iscariot…said, “Why was this fra-
      grant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  This
      he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had
      the money box, and used to take what was put in it.  Then Jesus said, “Let
      her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.”

Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister, according to Luke 10:39, was the one “…who…sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”  It does not say what He taught as Mary listened, but it certainly could have been what He was teaching His disciples in Matthew 17:22 and 23:  “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.”  But most of Jesus’ followers would not accept this!  Peter even rebuke Him:  “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! ” (Matthew 17:22).  Also, the very next thing the disciples did, after being told again that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead is recorded in Mark 9:34:  “…they…disputed among themselves who would be the greatest… in the coming kingdom!  They could only focus on the glory – their glory in the immediately coming kingdom – and not the suffering of the Messiah!

But Mary had faith to prepare her Lord’s body for burial, knowing He would rise again!  Now it does not say that she understood that Jesus would be resurrected, but in just the chapter before, John 11, she had witnessed Him raising her brother Lazarus from the grave by the power of God!  I believe Mary was acting on Easter Faith!

•      The second example of The Women’s Easter Faith is in Mark 16:1-3:

      Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother
      of James, and Salome brought spices, that they might come and anoint
      [the body of Jesus]….Very early in the morning, on the first day of the
      week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.  And they said
      among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the
      tomb for us?”

Four tombs around Jerusalem have been found with the rolling stone intact.  Such stones weigh between two and four thousand pounds!  The following information is from theosophical.

      Generally speaking, the rolling stone was set inside a groove in front of the
      entrance, and secured from falling over by a stone wall that stood in front
      of [the] tomb opening (the rolling stone was sandwiched between the tomb
      entrance and stone wall…).  Often, the groove was not level, but slightly
      sloped.  To close the tomb, the stone would be rolled down the groove at a
      decline and come to rest in front of the entrance.  To open the tomb, the
      stone would have to be rolled up the groove at an incline.

To move the stone to gain entrance to Jesus’ tomb would have been impossible for these three women!  Yet they came…!  We know according to Matthew 28:2 that “…an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door….”  But they did not know who would roll away the stone!  They were just coming by faith to anoint the Lord’s body!  These three women were manifesting Easter Faith!

•      The third example of the Women’s Easter Faith is found in John 20:14 and 15:

      [Mary Magdalene]…turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and
      did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you
      weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  She, supposing Him to be the gar-
      dener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where
      You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

We don’t know just how physically big of a man Jesus was.  He certainly was big enough, muscular enough, and powerful enough to drive the traders from the temple! (See Matthew 21:12).  And we don’t know how physically big and strong Mary Magdalene was, but she probably was not anAmazon!  So how could she possibly have hauled the dead-weight body of Jesus away?  She spoke by faith!  She did not know how she was going to accomplish this task, and probably she could not have done it.  But, in her thinking – and because of her devotion to her Lord – she would have done it!  We know her faith and devotion was rewarded, because the One she thought at first was the gardener was the resurrected Jesus!  This is Easter Faith in action!

Faith is not always logical!  Often it is illogical!  But The Women had Easter Faith, and they acted on it!  May we also have such Easter Faith!

Why Is Good Friday Good?

April 14, 2017

Image result for photo crucifixionI Peter 1:18-21

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Why Is Good Friday Good?  It was on this Friday almost two thousand years ago that wicked people illegally and immorally put to death the most righteous Person who ever lived!  And the manner of death to which He was condemned – crucifixion – is the most horrible, painful, and humiliating way ever conceived by man for someone to die!  So why do we call Good Friday Good?

By the way, some scholars think that Jesus was crucified on either Thursday or Wednesday because of what He foretold in Matthew 12:40:  “…as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  From Friday evening to Sunday morning is only 36 hours, not 72!   But this is for another discussion.  I throw this out that perhaps you might want to delve into the issue.

I was thinking about which representative Scripture to feature for this blog.  I was considering some part of the description of the crucifixion in the Gospels.  But the Lord laid on my mind the following from I Peter 1:19 through 21:

      …knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver
      or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
      but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and
      without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the
      world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him be-
      lieve in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that
      your faith and hope are in God.

This Scripture has all the features in it to show forth the goodness of Good Friday!

•      I Peter 1:18 – “…you were not redeemed with…silver and gold, from your aimless conduct….”  The psalmist put it this way in Psalm 49:8 (Jubilee Bible):  “…the redemption of their soul is of great price, and they shall never pay it….”  And Paul wrote in Titus 3:5 that redemption is…not by works of righteousness which we have done….”  So no matter how much we might offer to redeem our soul, no matter how many good works we might do to try to gain such favor from God – we can’t do it!  Such conduct is indeed aimless!

•      I Peter 1:18, 19 – “…you were…redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  For centuries the Jews sacrificed lambs (and other animals) as spotless as possible, to cover their sins, especially on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), described in Leviticus 16.  But, as it says in Hebrews 10:4, “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  Only the precious blood of Christ can do that!  He is the only One (person or animal) who is absolutely perfect!  Peter tells us in I Peter 2:22 (International Standard Version – quoting Isaiah 53:9):  “He never sinned, and He never told a lie.”  Since God created man and woman perfect, it took a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins that had so fatally infected mankind! (See Romans 5:12; 6:23).

•      I Peter 1:20 – All mankind has a belief in God – an emptiness within that has been described as ‘a God-shaped hole’.  But such general belief is not enough!  For it tells us in James 2:19 (Good News Bible):  “Do you believe that there is only one God?  Good!  The demons also believe — and tremble with fear.”  Saving faith must be through Jesus Christ!  OnlyHe…was foreordained before the foundation of the world…to die for the sins of mankind! (See Revelation 13:8).  OnlyHe…was manifest in these last times…to fulfill that foreordination! (See Romans 3:21-26; I John 4:9).

•      I Peter 1:21 – Peter mentions not only that Jesus died, paying for our sins, but that “…God…raised Him from the dead….”  Why is the resurrection of Jesus important?  Paul lays out what is needful for salvation in Romans 10:9:  “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  The importance of belief in the resurrection is emphasized in I Corinthians 15:12-19 (Modern King James Version):

      …if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised.  And if
      Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is worthless, and your faith
      is also worthless.  And we are also found to be false witnesses of God, because
      we testified of God that He raised Christ; whom He did not raise if the dead
      are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised.  And if
      Christ is not raised, your faith is foolish; you are yet in your sins.  Then also
      those that fell asleep in Christ were lost.  If in this life only we have hope in
      Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

•      I Peter 1:21 – “…God…gave Him glory….  Is Jesus’ glory important?  He is in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father! (See Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2).  Since we are in Him (see I John 2:5; 5:20), it says in Ephesians 2:4 through 6, “…God…when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together, and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus….”  We are already exalted in Christ!

What is Christ doing in His exalted position in heaven right now?  According to Hebrews 7:25, “…He ever lives to make intercession for [us]….”  He is interceding before the Father for you and me right now!

•      I Peter 1:21 – “…so that your faith and hope are in God.”  Oh, what faith and hope we have as Christians!

All this iswonderful goodnews (as the Amish might say!)  And this is Why Good Friday is Good!

Gospel Light!

April 12, 2017

Image result for light beer photos

Romans 1:16, 17

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The gospel is likened to “…a light that shines in a dark place…” in II Peter 1:19 (see also Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 5:14-16; II Timothy 1:10).  And Paul uses this theme in II Corinthians 4:3, 4, and 6 concerning the work of Satan verses the work of God:

      …if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds
      the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gos-
      pel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them….
      For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone
      in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
      face of Jesus Christ.

After all, Jesus Himself said in John 8:12 and 9:5, “…I am the light of the world.” (See also John 1:4, 5; I Peter 2:9; I John 1:5-7).  So light goes with the gospel, and the gospel is thegood newsabout Jesus Christ – Gospel Light!

But let’s take a sharp left turn here!  There are a lot of commercials these days (and for the past 40 years) praising the benefits of light beer!

•      Miller Light – “Everything you always wanted in a beer. And less….Tastes great, less filling.

•      Coors Light – “The Coldest Tasting Beer In The World….It won’t slow you down.

•      Bud Light – “Fresh.  Smooth.  Real.  It’s all here.

•      Amstel Light – “The beer drinker’s light beer.

You get the idea.  But let’s take this theme of ‘light’ as it is linked to beer and apply it to the good news of Jesus Christ – Gospel Light!  We will start with the ‘heavy’ brand of the gospel, the kind that Paul lifts up in Romans 1:16 and 17:

      …I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God
      to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the
      Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
      as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The apostle further defines what he means by the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1 through 4 (with Romans 10:9):

      …I declare to you the gospel…by which…you are saved…Christ died for
      our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that
      He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures….if you confess
      with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God
      raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

He does not water it down, nor does he revise the ingredients to make it more palatable to the populace!  Some preachers do.  I won’t focus on personalities, but I will show how the gospel is often turned into Gospel Light!

•      Some say, “The gospel is just too bloody, too gory!”  So Jesus is presented without an emphasis on His suffering and death!  But what does the Bible say?

      ✞      Hebrews 9:22 – “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission [of sin].

      ✞      I Peter 1:18, 19 (God’s Word to the Nations) – “Realize that you weren’t set free from the worthless life handed down to you from your ancestors by a payment of silver or gold which can be destroyed.  Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb with no defects or imperfections.

      ✞      I John 1:7 – “…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sin.

      ✞      Revelation 1:5 (Contemporary English Version) – “Christ loves us, and by His blood He set us free from our sins.

                                   Don’t leave out the blood!

•      One complaint about Christianity is this:  “It is way too restrictive to insist that there is only one way to God and heaven.  All you have to do is sincerely follow your religion.

      ✞      John 14:6 – “Jesus said…‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.

      ✞      Acts 4:12 – “Nor is there salvation in any other [than Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

      ✞      I Timothy 2:5 – “…there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus….

                                    Emphasize theOne and Only Wayof Christianity!

•      Many will say, “But I am a good person!  Humanity has its ills, but basically mankind isn’t so bad!

     ✞      Proverbs 20:9 – “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?

      ✞     Ecclesiastes 7:20 (International Standard Version) – “…there is not a single righteous man on earth who practices good and does not sin.

      ✞      Isaiah 64:6 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “We are all dirty with sin.  Even our good works are not pure.  They are like bloodstained rags.  We are all like dead leaves.  Our sins have carried us away like wind.

      ✞      Romans 3:10 through 12 (quoting Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3) – “As it is written:  ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’

                                    People can be saved from sin only when they
                                    realize they are sinners!

I think you can see that the traditional old gospel is different than Gospel Light!  Jesus told His followers in John 12:32, “…if I am lifted up from the earth…I…will draw all people to Myself.”  He was lifted up on the cross to die for our sins!  All need Him,…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23).  He lives again to receive all who come to Him believing it was for them – for me!  But we must give people the full gospel – not Gospel Light!  As Paul said in our featured Scripture: …for it [the gospel in its fulness] is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).  Don’t try to change the recipe to make Gospel Light!

Lessons From TP!

April 10, 2017

Image result for photo toilet paper

Romans 11:33-36

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Now this will be a strange Bible study – Lessons From TP!  And just what is TP?  Toilet Paper!  Last week at our home Bible study, my friend Chuck told about the most memorable sermon his pastor preached at his church in a long time.  It involved what we can learn about God from Toilet Paper!  And I thought it was a neat idea!  So here goes…!

The Scripture I have chosen is Paul’s exclamation of praise from Romans 11:33 through 36 – after he has spent three chapters of heartfelt teaching concerning Israel, his own nation, and their unbelief.  In essence, the apostle tells us that Israel has been blinded by their unbelief in the Messiah, and (except for a remnant like himself who believe in Jesus Christ) that unbelief will continue…until the fulness of the Gentiles [non-Jews] has come in.” (Romans 11:25).  Here is our featured Scripture:

      Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
      How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 
      “For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His
      counselor?  Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to
      him?”  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to
      whom be glory forever.  Amen.

How can this be related to Toilet Paper?!!!

•      For the job at hand, God provides what we need!  It says so in Philippians 4:19:  “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  In his sermon, Chuck’s pastor told of an uncle who was thrifty to a fault.  When his nephews and nieces came to his house, he allowed only two squares of toilet paper per bathroom visit!  Everyone knows that two squares is hardly enough in most cases!

God knows our needs – even the very personal needs we have! (See II Kings 19:27; Psalm 139:1-6; Matthew 6:31, 32; John 2:24, 25).  And, as stated above in Philippians 4:19, He will provide what is needed! (See also Psalm 23:1; II Corinthians 9:8).

•      The Lord freely gives us what we need!  And our chief need is to be reconciled to Him! (See II Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:21).  It certainly wasn’t free for Him.  It cost Him the life of His own dear Son! (See John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I John 3:16; 4:9).  After meeting our chief need – the cost of which is the greatest that God could ever pay – His giving what it takes to meet all our other needs is a lesser cost than what He has already provided!  So Paul says in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ” (See also Romans 5:8-10).

God’s free gift is that of Jesus Christ!  But toilet paper isn’t free!  Well, no, it isn’t.  But since you can buy a roll of a thousand sheets for 99 cents (or sometimes less), each square only costs just under 1/10 of one cent!  The point is, while not free, how many squares of toilet paper we need to accomplish our mission is really extremely affordable!

By the way, back in 1996 my wife and I traveled to Cairo, Egypt on a tour.  Just inside the entrance to the women’s restroom, an Egyptian lady was selling toilet paper squares – each one for 25 cents!  We are blessed in America to have the necessary commodities available at such affordable prices!  Think of that, and thank God the next time you use the facilities!

•      By necessity, toilet paper must be made available to us as sterile as possible!  Otherwise infections could occur.

The purity of Jesus is beyond question and reproach!  In I Peter 2:22 (International Standard Version) we are told:  “He never sinned, and he never told a lie.”  He was pure and perfect! (See Hebrews 5:9 – KJV).  And He had to be perfect to be the sacrifice to pay for our sins!  He is called in I Peter 1:19 (New American Standard Bible, 1977), “…a lamb unblemished and spotless….

•      I know this can be controversial to a minority of folks, but the proper way to install a roll of toilet paper is so that it unwinds over the top!  Okay, I concede that with small children around who just love to spin the roll to see it unwind, it is practical to reverse the installation so the toilet paper unrolls from the back and bottom.  But for our purpose, the correct way is over the top!

God – in His love, blessing, provision, protection, etc. – is ‘over the top’!  It says so in Ephesians 3:20:  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us….”  What power is that?  It is the Holy Spirit ministering to us, in us, and through us, the unlimited power of God!

There is probably more we could learn from toilet paper, but this is enough!  So the next time you occupy the ‘necessary room’, consider the Lessons From TP!  Perhaps you will then even exclaim as Paul did in our featured Scripture of Romans 11:33 through 36:

      Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
      How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
      “For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His
      counselor?  Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to
      him?”  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to
      whom be glory forever.  Amen.

Or maybe you will just shorten it to the II Corinthians 9:15 version:  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Why All The Shouting? – II

April 7, 2017

Image result for photo Palm SundayZechariah 9:9, 10

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We saw in the last blog that Why All The Shouting on the first Palm Sunday was because of Zechariah 9:9 and 10:

      Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! 
      Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation,
      lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will cut off
      the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow
      shall be cut off.  He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall
      be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The Jews had long waited for a Deliverer to defeat their Gentile overlords, and to restore the kingdom dominance they one had a thousand years before under the reigns of David and Solomon!  In many prophecies, the Scriptures promised such a Deliverer, the Messiah (see, for example, Psalm 2:1-12; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14).  And since even the common Jew was quite familiar with these promises, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, the people were excitedly expecting verse 10 to immediately come to pass also! (Read the last blog that explains the three major promises of Zechariah 9:10).

The problem was that they did not understand the meaning of the three major parts of Zechariah 9:9:

•      “Behold, your King is coming to you….”  Yes, Jesus was offering Himself to the Jewish nation as King!  In Daniel 9:25 He is called, “…Messiah the Prince…” because Jesus was not yet coronated as their King.  Actually, He was rejected (see Luke 23:18; John 18:40; 19:15) because He was not their conception of what the coming King would be!

      ✡      They wanted a successful military leader, but Jesus desires to rule the heart!  Once a human being is ruled from within, then peace will be manifested without (see Proverbs 16:7; Isaiah 11:9; Ezekiel 36:26; James 4:1, 2).

      ✡      Sin is the problem! (See Isaiah 59:2; Galatians 5:15, 19-21; Ephesians 2;12-17).  It was sin that ruined the kingdom of the Israelites! (See II Kings 17:7-20).  And, according to the prophesy of the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12, Jesus…

              …was wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities;
              the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes
              we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned,
              every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the in-
              iquity of us all….He bore the sins of many, and made intercession
              for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:5, 6, 12).

The Messiah had to prepare subjects for the kingdom – from the inside out – before He would establish the kingdom!  Otherwise, the subjects of the kingdom would just ruin it again.

      ✡      The people’s concept of a king was someone who would freely give them the physical necessities of life (see John 6:15, 26, 27).  They were not concerned with the spirituality of the kingdom!

•      “He is just and having salvation….

      ✡      The Jews concept of justice was not God’s – nor was God’s view of justice theirs! (See Isaiah 1:11-18; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; Amos 5:21-24)

      ✡      As mentioned above, God’s salvation was not a military defeat of the oppressors, and a restoration of Jewish sovereignty!  Salvation constituted forgiveness of sin and reconciliation back to God.

•      “He is…lowly….

      ✡      The Jews wanted a bold and decisive leader!  At His first appearing, Jesus was “…gentle and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29).

      ✡      They desired to crush the Roman oppressors!  But Jesus taught, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).

When Jesus did not live up to their Messianic expectations, five days after the crowd hailed Him with palm branches, cloaks, and praises, saying,Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!  Hosanna in the highest!” – they were screaming,Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (John 19:6).

So, let us learn this lesson:  Do not receive Jesus Christ on your terms!  Come humbly to receive Him on God’s terms!  Then, Why All The Shouting will be praises to Him because He is your Savior, and your Lord!