Category: Character of Christ


Matthew 23:37

Matthew 23:37
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

A Tale Of Two Brides

A Tale Of Two Brides – This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley – www.gracethrufaith.com
 
Whenever I get several questions on the same subject within a few days, I assume someone is trying to give me a topic for the feature article. This is especially true if it’s unrelated to anything I’ve recently written about, as was the case this week.
 
The questions this time concerned a view taught by some that Israel is the bride of God and the Church is the bride of Christ. In the Bible, God often describes our relationship with Him in terms of a marriage. He does this for our edification, to help us understand Him better. For example, when Paul said he wanted to present us to the Lord as a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2), he meant that just as a virgin bride has never been defiled by any sexual relationships before being joined to her husband in marriage, he didn’t want us to be defiled by any false doctrine or idolatry before being presented to the Lord at the rapture.
 
As for Israel, one of the most intimate portrayals of the way God felt toward His people can be found in Ezekiel 16.
 
The Bride Of God
 
‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. (Ezekiel 16:3-5)
 
When God called Abraham, He was creating the Israelites out of the idol worshiping Gentile world. Right from the beginning the world seemed to be at odds with them.
 
” ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.
 
” ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. (Ezekiel 16:6-8)
 
This is reminiscent of the night Ruth came to the threshing floor and asked Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). It’s a sign of promise and protection. You could say this was the point at which Israel became the bride of God.
 
” ‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 16:9-14)
 
God treated Israel like a king treats his queen, lavishing her with blessings the likes of which the world had never seen. But as the rest of the chapter shows, Israel became unfaithful and used these blessings to court the surrounding nations with their pagan gods, showering the gifts God had given her upon them to win their favor. Finally He had enough.
 
” ‘You adulterous wife!” He shouted, “You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.” (Ezekiel 16:32-34)
 
In His anger God gave Israel over to the nations to be stripped and cut to pieces, but promised that after they were done with her, “Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 16:42, 60, 62)
 
And so Israel went from being an innocent bride to becoming an adulterous wife. About 150 years before Ezekiel wrote this, the prophet Hosea had been raised up to act this story out in his own life, a live action parable of God’s relationship with Israel. At God’s direction he married a prostitute, and when she left him and returned to her former profession, Hosea provided her lovers with gifts. When she was no longer desirable and was sent to the slave auction, Hosea bought her back and took her home. It’s the story of Israel’s rebellion and redemption.
 
At the End of the Age, one like Hosea will purchase Israel out of slavery with His own blood, the price of redemption. (Hosea and Yeshua, the Lord’s name in Hebrew, are both derived from yasha, which means to save.) And so, the adulterous wife will yet be reconciled to her husband, and he’ll renew His vows with her. The Old Covenant will be replaced by the Everlasting Covenant (Jer. 31:31-32). Isaiah described it for us.
 
In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:2-6)
 
The word for branch is tsemach, and refers to the Messiah, who made the reconciliation possible. With the curse gone the land will flourish like never before. After the end times judgments that follow the 2nd Coming, only believers will remain on Earth, and everyone left in Jerusalem will be holy. The pillar of cloud by day and fire by night remind us of when the Lord sheltered the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). The Hebrew word for the canopy is chuppah, the wedding canopy, and the one for shelter is sukkah, the booth each Israelite builds on the feast of Tabernacles to commemorate the time the Lord spent with them in the wilderness. The entire creation will rejoice at this long overdue reconciliation.
 
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:1-2) You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.(Isaiah 55:12)
 
The Bride Of Christ
 
During the time of Israel’s rebellion, the Lord turned to the Gentiles once again to take a people from among them for Himself (Acts 15:13) called the Church. He loves the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephes. 5:25-28)
 
Right from the beginning the Lord determined to do everything necessary so that the Church’s exalted position could never be lost. Before the Church was ever born, the Lord compiled a list of every one of our sins and carried it to the cross with Him where He forgave all of them in advance (Colossians 2:13-14). This allowed Him to always look upon us as if we’ve never sinned at all (2 Cor. 5:17), as if we’re just as righteous as He is (2 Cor. 5:21) having been made perfect forever by His once-for-all-time sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14). God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even while we were still dead in our transgressions and has already seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephes. 2:4-6).
 
Having prepared the way, the Lord went to His Father’s house to make a home for us, promising to return and take us there to be where He is (John 14:2-3). On a day no one could have predicted in advance He’ll meet us in the clouds and in a flash we’ll be gone, our old sin infested bodies replaced with new immortal ones, specially designed for eternal life with Him. The place He’s preparing for us will be enormous and made entirely of gold and precious gems, its radiance such that it will light the world (Rev. 21:24). The Kings of the Earth will bring their splendor into it and we will take our place in the Royal household of God, the place He’s seen us in since before the foundations of Earth were laid.
 
What’s It All About?
 
Of course all this marriage terminology is metaphorical. God doesn’t marry humans in the sense that we think of marriage. And how could God marry Israel and Jesus marry the Church when God and Jesus are one and the same? Jesus is what God looks like when he wants to take on a physical appearance. (Hebrews 1:3)
 
I believe the sense in which we’ll be married comes from the closeness we’ll feel, the intimacy that can only by achieved through a long term committed relationship. It’s really how two become one. Our hearts are knit together. In our present fallen state this is difficult to achieve even in marriage. Untold numbers of husbands and wives can speak of the loneliness they feel because instead of growing closer they’ve drifted apart.
 
New believers often experience a closeness with the Lord they’ve never felt with another human, and those who no longer conform to the pattern of this world but allow themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2) can retain much of that closeness. Yet even then we come to understand how our sin nature prevents us from becoming as close to the Lord as we’d like to be.
 
We can only imagine how it will feel when that barrier to intimacy is finally removed. During the entire beating and crucifixion ordeal the only suffering that was too great for the Lord to bear in silence was when He took our sins upon Himself and the Father had to turn away, unable to look upon Him (Habakkuk 1:13). We’ve never had His kind of intimacy with the Father, but He had never been deprived of it and when He was it caused Him more pain than anything else they (we) did to Him. Paul said when the barrier comes down we’ll know as we’re known (1 Cor. 13:12), and John promised that when the Lord appears we’ll be like Him because we’ll see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We’ll finally have the kind of intimacy with Him we’ve always craved.
 
The comparison of the adulterous wife to the virgin bride is meant to symbolize the difference between Law and Grace. The former shows what we can make of our selves, an adulterous wife, and the latter shows what God can make of us, a virgin bride. Speaking of this in Ephesians 5:32 Paul said it’s a profound mystery, and believe me that was not an understatement.
 
The truth is that the Church has been no better behaved than Israel. Before the first Century had ended the Lord was complaining of neglect.
 
“Yet I hold this against you, you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:4-5)
 
And from the 4th Century until the 16th the Church was worse than dead, it was a force for evil in the world. There have been several major revivals since then, yet today only a small percentage of born again believers holds to a Biblical world view. Most cannot be distinguished from the unbelieving world. Even so, because of God’s grace, Jesus continues to see us as His radiant bride, holy and blameless.
 
At the End of the Age the Lord will pour out His Spirit of Grace on the people of Israel like He has on the Church (Zechariah 12:10). As they realize that Jesus also died for their sins, they too will experience the immense benefits of His Grace. The blood guilt they’ve borne since the crucifixion (Matt. 27:25) will be finally pardoned (Joel 3:21) and they’ll truly be one with the Lord.
 
Both Israel and the Church will have amazing, not-to-be-believed relationships with the Lord in the age to come. They will be of a different nature and in a different location, at least for the first 1000 years, but neither group will envy the other. The adulterous wife will be reconciled with her husband, her sins forgiven and forgotten, just like ours. The bride will be among those rejoicing, and they’ll both be looking with heartfelt gratitude to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
 

Joy Unspeakable And Full Of Glory

Joy Unspeakable And Full Of Glory – By Mike Taylor – www.raptureready.com
 
Do you have joy in your life? Do you have a joy unspeakable and full of glory? I look around me and see church members who are depressed about the situation in our world, here at home and abroad. We in the church are concerned about our country and the path that our leaders have taken us and know judgment could be just over the horizon. But I’m reminded of the good Boy Scout and their motto, "be prepared". Natural disaster can result in the near future, either natural or man-made. A good boy scout or more importantly, an awake Christian prepares for the unexpected, the natural disaster, or yes, a terrorist attack. But should we be anxious, looking over our shoulders for the notion of impending disaster, wringing our hands in worrisome fretting over the end of all things? Should we be obsessed with the “end of the world”? I think not.
 
I have held onto the promises of Psalm 91 since I was a boy. Whenever danger was about, I read and claimed the promises in this inspiring passage that King David wrote so long ago. In this passage of Psalms for the protection of Almighty God, there’s a catch per se. You have to stay right up close to be assured of protection in the everyday living obstacles that come our way as Christians. We can’t be haphazardly trying to serve our Lord. If we are diligently serving Him and being ever watchful, then with these kind of promises what have we to fear? Nothing, because our God is in charge and He is watching over each one of us that are diligently trying to serve Him in faith and are watchful of that Blessed Hope of the soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Folks, I get excited about the signs of the times that are all around us as I know being children of the day and not being blinded by being in darkness, that the Rapture could be close, right at the door. So I fear not, and neither should you. We should be longing for the blessed promises that God made for His children. God has made more promises that should make a person shout!
 
I turn to the writings of Paul in Romans. I just love Paul’s words in this passage given by the Holy Spirit. Starting in the 8th chapter, Paul writes:
 
“v16- the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God
 
v17- And if children, then heirs; and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together
 
v:18- For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
 
Yes, we have aches, pains, financial problems, loved ones that die earlier than we expected, and sometimes the cares of this life weigh us down. But we are given a glorious promise as we read on in this passage:
 
v:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.v:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,v:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.v:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.v:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.v:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?v:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
 
Notice how he lays the foundation by turning our attention to our hope. He reminds us that God purposefully made life subject to futility. Futility is a frustrating quality that wears away at one’s confidence. It can produce a sense of hopelessness that leads to us to think that nothing will work out. Sometimes our pilgrimage seems so long and arduous that we take our eyes from our Savior and hopelessness builds. However, Paul reminds us that God does everything in love and wisdom and for our good. He uses this futility we perceive and allows it to point us to him as the source of our strength and build our faith, in spite of the circumstances we face. Reading on:
 
v26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.v27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.v28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.v29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
 
Folks, we have been called, we have been chosen to be conformed to the image of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, through the will of the Father. Again, All things work together for good to them who love God and are called according His purpose…Repeat that when troubles come your way and it will increase your faith.
 
Now let’s contemplate just for a moment the implication of a verse we quoted. “We are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ” in verse 17. WHAT A GLORIOUS PROMISE!! What He is and what is His, will be ours as well. We will be like Him, in Spirit, in relationships to family fortunes, to whatever belongs to the Son, we will be given a portion of that inheritance. That is MIND BOGGLING. To be Kings and priest, to rule portions of this universe or whatever pleases the Father and will have unlimited access to His throne room and audience with our HIM and our Savior Jesus Christ. To be in the same family, adopted sons and daughters of the ruler of the entire universe, To live forever, even as They live. Now that should get anyone excited.
 
To end this chapter, He gives us another promise that cannot be broken:
 
v30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.v:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?v32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?v33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.v34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.v35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?v36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the daylong; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.v37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.v38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,v39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
Nothing can come between us and our eternal home. Nothing in this life. Nothing in this mixed up world that we see self destructing can take away that promise. All He ask for is your love and unwavering faith in Him. Being obedient, diligent to put Him first, ahead of everything else. He gave us a way….the only way.
 
Now let us turn to John the 14th chapter, starting in verse one.
 
v1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.v2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.v3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.v4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.v5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?v6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
 
Even as we speak, Jesus, our savior and soon coming King, is preparing a place for us…where? In His Father’s house. Right now. His Father’s house is somewhere out there. Some call it heaven, but it’s where the Father and Son are right now. What will that mean and how will it be accomplished? I have believed in the Rapture all my life and still do. The timing is what gets people all in an uproar. But from scripture we know that He is close, very close, right at the door. When it comes right down to it, Brethren, it doesn’t matter the timing, even though I believe in a pretrib Rapture, just that we got there. And how did we get there? Jesus gave us the answer in John 6th chapter 28-29: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
 
We get there by believing in faith and following the commands of the One God sent to die for our sins.
 
1st Peter chapter 1:
 
v3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, v4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,v:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.v6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:v7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. v8. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: v9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
 
That is our destiny, that is our goal. That is why we were born. That is why we struggle with daily living and that is why, as Christians, we will win, to the glory of the Father.
 
In these times of uncertainty, we should be in glorious expectation, waiting for the blessed hope, that hope that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Being prepared, good stewards of the talents He has given us, using His Word to reach others, and doing the will of the Father through striving to become the image of His Son. Putting on the whole armor of God as Ephesians 6:13-17 admonishes us to do “6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
 
v14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
 
v:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
 
v:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
 
v:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
 
Question is. Do you know this Jesus? Are you expecting His soon return? Have you made that the most important part of your life? Have you asked Him to come into your heart and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6)..” Do you believe Him? Is the Holy Spirit calling you right now? Pray these simple words with heartfelt conviction. “Lord, I ask you to come into my heart. Cleanse me from my sins. I believe that you lived and died on a cruel cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead on the third day after your were buried and live and sit now at the right hand of God the Father . Soon you will come back and I want to go with you onto glory. In Jesus name, I confess my wish to be saved. Amen.
 
Bless you and God keep you. Remember Paul said in Phillipians 4:13 “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. “ Let us go on with Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
 

Messianic Prophecy In The Old Testament

Messianic Prophecy In The Old Testament – This Week’s feature Article by Jack Kelley – www.gracethrufaith.com
 
In the time after their sin and expulsion from the Garden Adam and Eve must have felt incredible despair. They had experienced life both before and after the curse, the only ones to do so, and had first hand knowledge of the difference. And what a difference it was. Even the part of it we can relate to had to have been devastating.
 
For example suppose that one day you were the resident manager of the world’s richest and most luxurious estate, with all of its comforts and privileges, and the next you were a poor hardscrabble farmer, at the opposite end of the economic and social structure. And that was just the beginning. How about no longer being immortal, no longer one with Him in spirit.
 
The Seed Of The Woman
 
To keep them from becoming exceedingly despondent, God had promised them a redeemer. In Genesis 3:15 we read,
 
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
 
He was speaking to the one indwelling the serpent and in Hebrew the promise contains a biological impossibility. Seed comes from the male. It’s the Bible’s first hint of a virgin birth. An offspring of the woman’s would destroy Satan and reverse the consequences of the act he had manipulated, redeeming mankind from its bondage to sin.
 
Two chapters later in Genesis 5 the Bible gives us another hint of this. The Hebrew root words of the names of the 10 patriarchs listed there form a sentence. In English it reads like this.
 
“Man is appointed mortal sorrow, but the blessed God will come down teaching that His death will bring the despairing rest.” (For detail click here)
 
It’s a prophecy that God Himself would come to Earth as the Seed of the Woman, and man’s redeemer.
 
Centuries later, this was confirmed by the Prophet Isaiah.
 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
 
As New Testament believers we can see that the five names listed here describe all three members of the Trinity. Wonderful is the name by which The Angel of the Lord identified Himself while visiting Samson’s parents. (Judges 13:18) When the phrase “The Angel of the Lord” appears in the Old testament, it’s in conjunction with a pre-incarnate visit by the Lord Jesus. That He’s being referenced here is confirmed by the title, Prince of Peace. Jesus called the Holy spirit the Counselor in John 14:26, and Mighty God and everlasting Father can only refer to God.
 
A Descendant Of Abraham
 
In Genesis 12:1-3 the origin of this redeemer becomes clearer. There God promised Abraham that all the nations of Earth would be blessed through him, and in Genesis 22 had Abraham act this out with the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham’s “only son” on Mt. Moriah. 2000 years later another Father would offer His only Son as a sacrifice for sin in that same place. Abraham knew this and named the place Jehovah Jireh, saying, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Gen. 22:14).
 
The Lion Of Judah
 
Later, as Abraham’s grandson Jacob neared death, he narrowed it down still more by saying that all of Israel’s kings including the ultimate one, “the one to whom it belongs”, would come from among the descendants of one of his sons, Judah, (Gen. 49:10) giving birth to the title “Lion of Judah” as a Messianic reference.
 
The Son Of David
 
In 2 Samuel 7:12-15 we read that David longed to build a Temple for God, but God refused him, saying that it would take a man of peace to build a house for Him. He said that David’s son Solomon would be that man, and during Solomon’s reign Israel experienced peace as never before or since. But to ease David’s disappointment God promised to build him a “house” and the Davidic Dynasty was founded. Hence forth there would always be a direct descendant of David’s on the throne of Israel. It was an everlasting promise made in about 1000 BC, and Solomon would be the first fulfillment. But since neither Solomon nor any other Davidic King was flogged by men for “doing wrong” (2 Sam. 7:14) there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The wording casts shadows of the Messiah.
 
So through God’s progressive revelation we’ve narrowed things down from learning that the redeemer would be a son of Eve’s, which would exclude no one, to the family of Abraham, then Judah, then David. But we’re not finished yet. Over the next 400 years the Davidic Kings went from bad to worse with few exceptions. Finally, in the time of the Prophet Jeremiah God had had enough and pronounced a blood curse on the Davidic line, saying that no son of then King Jehoiachin would ever rule over Israel. (Jere. 22:30) The Davidic line, begun with Solomon, was seemingly ended and God’s promise to David broken.
 
The Branch
 
However, before the nation was taken to Babylon, while a Davidic King still sat on the throne, God had Ezekiel announce that the line was being suspended and wouldn’t be restored until “He comes to whom it rightfully belongs.” (Ezekiel 21:27) recalling Jacob’s prophecy to mind. In 519 BC, after the Jews had returned from the Babylonian captivity, God said that a man He called The Branch would be that one, and that He would hold the priesthood as well, combining the two. (Zechariah 6:12). There are four references to The Branch in the old testament and all point to the Messiah.
 
Born Of a Virgin, Born In Bethlehem
 
But how was God going to get around the blood curse? For the answer to that, we have to back up to about 750 BC. In that time two of the most specific Messianic prophecies ever given narrowed the field down to just one possibility. In Isaiah 7:14 the Lord proclaimed that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, and in Micah 5:2 that he would be born in Bethlehem, the City of David.
 
In order to legally qualify for a seat on David’s throne, the Messiah King would have to be of the house and lineage of David. To be from the house of David means being a biological descendant of David’s. Being of David’s lineage means belonging to the Royal Line. How can this be?
 
When we read the Lord’s genealogies in Matt. 1 and Luke 3, we can see differences beginning at the time of David. Matthew’s genealogy runs through Solomon, the cursed royal line. But Luke’s goes through Solomon’s brother Nathan. Nathan’s line wasn’t cursed, but neither were they kings. Further study reveals that Matthew is actually giving us Joseph’s genealogy while Luke shows us Mary’s. Both were descended from David, and in addition Joseph was one of many who were heir to David’s throne but unable to claim it because of the curse on his line.
 
So through His mother Mary, Jesus was a biological descendant of David’s. When Mary and Joseph became husband and wife, Jesus also became Joseph’s legal son and heir to David’s Throne. But not being biologically related to Joseph, He didn’t have the blood curse. He was of both the house and lineage of David.   To this day He’s the only man born in Israel since 600BC with a legitimate claim to David’s throne. The angel Gabriel confirmed this to Mary when he told her that although a virgin, she would soon give birth to the Son of God, who would occupy it forever. (Luke 1:32-33) Isaiah 9:7 had revealed the same fact centuries earlier. God’s promise to David stands.
 
Daniel And The Magi
 
200 years after Micah identified Bethlehem as the Messiah’s birthplace, The Lord told Daniel the time of His death. It would be 483 years after the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity, but before an enemy army came to destroy it again. (Daniel 9:24-27) This places the Messiah’s death somewhere between 32 and 70 AD according to our reckoning of time.
 
Daniel formed a group of Persian Priests to pass this information down from father to son, and according to tradition set aside the bulk of his personal wealth as a gift for them to present to the Messiah when the time came for His birth. He apparently also gave them a confirming sign to look for from Numbers 24:17, later known as the Star of Bethlehem. By recreating the ancient skies through computer modeling, scientists have recently announced the discovery of this star, actually a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, that next to the moon was the brightest light in the middle eastern sky at the time of the Lord’s birth.
 
The descendants of these priests, now a very influential political force in Parthia (as Persia came to be known), remained true to Daniel’s commission, and upon seeing the star set out for Jerusalem. Arriving there they sought an audience with King Herod, asking for the whereabouts of the one born to be King of Israel. Summoning the chief priests, Herod repeated the question and was referred to Micah 5:2 where Bethlehem is identified. The Parthian priests, or Magi as we call them, went there and found the baby Jesus.
 
The field of candidates for Redeemer of Mankind, the Seed of the Woman, the Descendant of Abraham, the Lion of Judah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel, had been narrowed down to one. His name is Jesus.
 
Faith In Action
 
By faith, with nothing more than Daniel’s word to their ancestors, the Magi mounted up and undertook a dangerous 800 mile trip into enemy territory to meet the Messiah. (The Parthians and Romans were technically at war.) With 4000 years of fulfilled prophetic scripture in their hands, the chief priests, who no longer took it literally, refused to join them for the last 5 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see if God’s Word really was true. In so doing, the leaders of the people He came to save missed out on the central event in human history, consigning themselves to eternal separation from the very God they had been seeking.
 
If history repeats itself like they say it does, then when He comes back many of today’s religious experts, who also don’t take the prophecies literally, will make the same mistake. As you recall the Reason for the Season, take time to thank Him for making you like the Magi instead of like them.
 

Second Chances

Second Chances – Ron Graham – twotug@embarqmail.com
 
“…they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
 
Are there second chances in life? Absolutely. Second chances are available for just about every aspect of life. Our God is a God of second chances, and third and forth and on they go. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. This verse is indeed encouraging, and rightfully so.
 
“Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God.” – Vines Expository Dictionary.
 
That’s our God, longsuffering; even though we at times are quite rebellious He’s loving and patient, full of grace and mercy to us-ward. But the question is, will God be patient forever? Many have heard the Gospel of Christ, and cannot make up their minds whether or not the Christian life is for them. Still others simply rejected it. Either way, knowingly or not, these folks are relying on God’s longsuffering and patience.
 
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that 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:” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. Just so we are all clear on what the Gospel of Christ is, I just played a trick on all those reading this commentary who claim they’ve never received the Gospel. You just did. Now we can move on.
 
Those who hear (or read) the Gospel and yet choose to put off their decision for Christ while they wallow in their desired sin just a tad longer are playing with fire. Those who’ve just outright rejected Jesus Christ haven’t a clue as to what they are playing at. Why? Time is the procrastinators Achilles heel. “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Romans 13:11.
 
You say you want to wait until after the Rapture of the Church, if there is such a thing, to say yes to Jesus Christ? The word of God says not to delay, but when we hear the Gospel message we are to repent of our sins. 
 
With all the signs of the times currently exploding onto the scene, and knowing what the Bible says about the end times believers in Christ know God is on the cusp of ending His self imposed longsuffering. If this is so, what happens to second chances then?
 
We all make mistakes, and oh how great it is when we are given a second chance; a chance to right the wrong we’ve committed. I’m sure everyone reading this commentary has had occasion when they can remember being afforded a second chance, perhaps even more than once. There will come a time though when all God’s second chances will end.
 
The Holy Spirit of God works in mysterious ways, ways we cannot comprehend. He works ever diligently, never tiring, pointing everyone to Jesus Christ. But there comes a time when the continual in His face rejection of the truth moves the Holy Spirit away from that soul. When a person hardens their heart to the extreme against God there’s a point of finality when the Holy Spirit ceases His work. Then those poor misguided souls are left to their own destruction.
 
People, for the most part, don’t understand God and His far reaching love for His creation. Where you and I might have given up on a person, believing them to be a lost cause, God sees far past our perceptions of who’s a lost cause and who’s not. A terrible place for any human to be though is in that place where the Holy Spirit finally decides enough is enough. I’d like to say that this just isn’t the case, but the Bible says differently.
 
“…because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved… That they all might be damned” 2 Thessalonians 2:10b & 12. This means they were offered the truth by the Holy Spirit of God, and that God was patient with them to a point you and I would consider extreme, and yet they continued in their rejection of God’s only begotten Son.
 
The Gospel of Christ has been preached around the world and, for the most part, in every language. So for the majority of earth’s human population the Gospel of Christ is a fairy tale. This rejection God calls blasphemy. These folks fall into a category for which this commentary was written. They are those who’ve rejected the truth of the Gospel, who have rejected the Holy Spirit’s convicting messages. This is essentially calling the Holy Spirit a liar, which is the blasphemy God speaks about and a condition, if not corrected, that will condemn the blasphemer to Hell “…because they receive not the love of the truth…” (v.10).
 
I’ve often been asked if, after the Rapture of Christ’s Church, people continue to be afforded salvation. The answer is yes. The 144,000 Jews for example (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) will be saved and will be witnesses for Christ and spreading His Gospel everywhere during the Great Tribulation. Many more will be saved because of the efforts of these and others. Yet we read, “… for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:” 2 Thessalonians 2:11. What cause? They rejected the love of the truth. Recognizing the truth during the Great Tribulation for those who’ve rejected it for years will be very difficult, if not impossible. And by the way, if you’ve heard the Gospel and are still fence setting that would be the same as rejecting the love of the truth.
 
So what happens to second chances after the Rapture? God tells us that because of the strong delusion He will send them they will believe the lie. Who? Our current world of Christ rejecters. Why? Because they were given chance after chance after chance to believe the truth, yet they rejected God’s truth at every turn. Harsh punishment from a loving God? Not at all. These are the folks who took pleasure in unrighteousness and hardened their hearts against their God.
 
So why believe a lie instead of the truth? What could that strong delusion consist of that would be so appealing? The Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us that it’s a fraud. We all know how frauds operate, always lying, working feverishly at their craft of deception convincing the simple minded that they have the truth. Frauds are appealing, that’s how they deceive. People are easily deceived when they are ignorant of the truth.
 
“Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” 2 Thessalonians 2:9. This strong delusion, this fraud, this anti-Christ, with all his lying signs and wonders will take many gullible people with him to Hell.
 
There will be folks who come to Christ during the Tribulation’s seven year duration, I’m not disputing that fact, but here’s the rub, many more will not be saved, and they will not be saved because of the condition of their hearts now. God’s strong delusion being placed on earth will be the stumbling block that keeps many from salvation.
 
Completely rejecting Christ now, before the Rapture, will lead multitudes to commit a horrible mistake during the tribulation period. God’s not going to make it easy on those who’ve called His Holy Spirit a liar and rejected His only begotten Son. A lifetime of rejecting the truth is a good indication of who will believe the lie.
 
“That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:12. Those who fall for this delusional lie condemn themselves to Hell. Why? Because they took pleasure in unrighteousness instead of rejecting unrighteousness and accepting the truth. That damnation comes as a result of their own foolish choice. Hardening ones heart against God means one accepts the enemy’s lies as truth.
 
Those of you who have been assured that salvation will still be possible during the seven year Tribulation may want to re-evaluate that assurance and your stance on God’s free gift of salvation now, this side of the Rapture. There’s nothing standing in your way of believing the truth while there is still time. God has made His free gift of salvation accessible and easily acceptable, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16:30b-31a. God offers His free gift of salvation universally to all. The truth is, waiting for another day to accept God’s gift of salvation is pushing foolishness to the extreme.      
 
So many people have been lied to for so long about what it means to be born again, that people shy away from asking for forgiveness and repenting of their sins. Many have heard the Gospel and liked what they’ve heard, but they feel it would be impossible to ever stop sinning. So they wait until they, through their own self will, can stop this sinfulness they’re obsessed with. But in all actuality the opposite is true – repent and ask for forgiveness now and the sinning will decrease. People need to be educated in this truth by all who preach and teach God’s word.
 
All believers are sinners and will remain so until death or the Rapture. Even though a person is born again, born from God, they never stop sinning. But they are forgiven and that is the key. Forgiveness only comes through repentance of sins and by believing in Jesus Christ. Waiting to say yes to Christ and His Gospel after being given truth is akin to sitting at a bus station and waiting for a bus you know has already come and gone. Foolishness.
 
Today many pastors and Bible teachers teach that sin is completely abated when we become born again. That is a completely erroneous fabrication and blatant corruption of the truth. The Apostle John addresses that very subject in his first epistle.
 
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10. Here John is speaking to believers. How do I know? Go to the next chapter of First John “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” 1 John 2:1. Here John addresses those he’s writing to as “My little children” He uses this phrase in conjunction with believers and no one else.
 
When we read First John chapter 2 verse 1 it is obvious that he’s telling us to “sin not”. Clearly he wants us to be mindful of our nature to sin and to turn against that nature. Then John states this most telling verse, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (v10). Another way to translate this word “if” from the Greek is “in case”, in case anyone sin. That tells us that Jesus stands with us as our advocate with the Father in case we sin. Clearly the Holy Spirit would not have had John include the above verse in his epistle to the saints if there was no further sinning after conversion.
 
God is a God of second chances; this is what John addresses in this epistle. This is what needs to be taught even to non-believers as we witness to them, even to those who are continually sitting on the fence. They need to know that as a believer in Christ they will occasionally sin while residing on this side of eternity. But their sins will, over time, diminish. As a matter-of-fact they will begin to hate the sin and remorse will ultimately set in each time they sin.
 
All our friends and family members, who fall into this category of fence-sitter or of those who completely reject the truth of the Gospel, need to realize that after the Rapture salvation will be much more difficult to obtain because of the strong delusion God is going to place on all who’ve rejected His Son. It is pure foolishness to put off the decision to become a born again believer in Christ hopping God will give you one last future chance.
 
If you’re still a fence sitter it’s time to take that leap of faith, all second chances are about to reach their finale. Say yes to Jesus Christ, right now, please don’t wait any longer, the end is in sight, Jesus is at the door, planet earth is sitting late in her last hour. There will be no second chances once your residence is Hell, and one way or the other, believer in Christ or Christ rejecter, everyone lives forever, the only question remaining is which eternal destination have you chosen?
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
All scripture is from the KJV
 

The Gog-Magog Battle – Twelve Attributes of God

The Gog-Magog Battle – Twelve Attributes of God – By Nathan Jones – www.lamblion.com
 
We can learn a lot about God through the Gog-Magog story. Listed are twelve attributes of God that my study of Ezekiel 38-39 has yielded.
 
1) God knows what is in the minds of men (Ezek. 38:10).
If you think that you are having private thoughts, you’re not. God knows what you are thinking. He knows what you are planning. He knows who you are looking at. He knows what you are saying under your breath. While God almost sounds like Santa Claus, He is not. He is God and He knows what is going on in your mind.
 
2) God knows ahead of time what will happen (Ezek. 38:11-16,18-23; 39:2-6).
Can you surprise God? In Ezekiel God is laying out this whole battle 2,600 plus years before it is ever going to happen. He knows what is going to happen. He also knows what is going to happen to you tomorrow. When you pray to God, "Oh, God, I have lost my job." Or, "I don’t know where my next meal will come from." Or, "I am having this terrible relationship with this person and it is only going to end in disaster." Well, God knows how every situation you’re in will turn out, so take comfort that He’s in control and will provide what you need.
 
3) God let’s us know before He acts (Ezek. 38:1,17; 39:1).
Isn’t it interesting that God tells us before He does something big? He warns us ahead of time. Nothing just springs up on us when we read the Bible. When we study the Bible, we know what is going to happen next. No surprises!
 
4) God is mad at the nations (Ezek. 38:3-5,18-22; 39:1-6).
Some believe the God of the Old Testament was just an angry, cranky, old person who sat up there in Heaven with His long flowing beard, and that Jesus is the God of the New Testament who comes for hugs and everything is just yippity-do-dah-day. This just isn’t the case — they are the same God! And, He is mad at the nations because they have rebelled against Him. We continue to rebel against Him, and so He is understandably mad about our misbehavior.
 
5) It is God Himself who entices the Gog-Magog coalition to war and their own destruction (Ezek. 38:4,16; 39:2).
Truthfully, doesn’t that sound kind of nuts? All of Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s screaming and yelling about destroying Israel, could it be that God is fueling something in him to act this way so that he can one day be destroyed? The text is crystal clear that God is behind this anti-Semitic rage.
 
This can be a difficult concept, that God can be goading the destruction of the evil and the sin people have who have long turned away from Him in rebellion. Not that God is causing this rage, as it’s certainly satanic in nature, but that God is allowing a superheating of their own twisted desires to the point where they end up bringing judgment upon themselves. God theatrically loves the ironic.
 
6) God can be provoked to acting on His anger (Ezek. 38:18-19; 39:7,23-24).
I’m asked this all the time, "Why isn’t God back yet? Why is He talking so long?" It comes to a point in time where God has like this cup and as He fills it up with His anger it finally reaches the top, and that is when He is ready to tip it over and pour out His wrath. That is the time when His anger will finally be released. God isn’t going to always forgive all the wrongs of this world. At some point He will act.
 
Now, if you’re a believer in Christ and know God’s wrath no longer lies on you (Jn. 3:36), then you are like, "Yes, finally!" But, if not then you are the one who is still subject to His wrath, which is pretty scary. Remember, God will act one day. Are you under His wrath, or under His grace?
 
7) God will reveal His glory in no uncertain terms (Ezek. 38:23; 39:6-7,21-24,27-28).
As believers, when Jesus comes back for us in the Rapture, we will know God’s glory. The world will also know, but unfortunately only because of the judgments He pours out on them during the Tribulation. At the Second Coming, everyone left alive who survived will see Jesus as He truly is. No matter if one is for or against Jesus, they will know of God’s glory and power.
 
8) God will defeat His enemies (Ezek. 39:12-20).
Now, I get e-mails from atheists now and then and one of them was really honest with me when he said that he wanted a third option. He almost pleaded, "I just want to have God leave me alone, don’t judge me, don’t bring me to Heaven, just leave me alone." But, the old adage is true, that if you are not for God you are against Him. And so, God will surely bless his children as well as judge His enemies one day. There is no third alternative.
 
9) God promises to restore Israel to the land and the land from desolation to bounty (Ezek. 36:34-35; 38:8; 39:25-29).
Isn’t this neat? I’ve got to tell you I’ve been to Israel twice now, and I’m a guy who likes flowers. I know, not very manly, but I like gardening. And so, when I drove down those Israeli highways and saw along the embankments solid walls of flowers, well it was absolutely brilliant to behold.
 
Crops of all kinds are everywhere throughout Israel. In March one can already pull fruit from the trees. Food is just all over the place.
 
Who would have imagined that just a century ago Israel’s countryside was a desolate, barren wasteland. Settlers could even count the total number of trees that were there because so few trees were alive. Now there are 7,587,000 Jews back in Israel according to the Central Bureau of Statistics reporting in a Sunday April 18th report. God is fulfilling prophecy this very day, and as we read in Ezekiel, God will continue to bring every one of them back to their promised land.
 
10) God provides for His covenant people (Ezek. 39:9-10,25).
God provides for His covenant people. If God has made you a promise, if He has made an agreement with you, He will keep it absolutely and totally 100% of the time. Guaranteed!
 
11) God will again pour out His Spirit on Israel (Ezek. 39:29).
This characteristic is very important in relation to timing the Gog-Magog Battle. If God’s Holy Spirit is on the Church right now, how can it be on Israel? God has to take the Holy Spirit from the Church to move it to Israel, so that is why the Rapture will happen before the Gog-Magog Battle. The restraining work of the Holy Spirit through the Church will be gone, and the Holy Spirit can then focus on Israel.
 
12) God fulfills His promises (Ezek. 39:8,23-25).
What promises has God made to you? He promised that He loves you and that He will always take care of you (Jn. 10:28-29). He says he will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). He promised if you asked Him to save you from your sins and to be your Savior that He will do just that (Rom. 10:9-10). Have you grabbed hold of these promises?
 
Overcomers
 
How do we overcome then? Who is it that overcomes the world? Only He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 Jn. 5:5). And so, I ask you, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that He has made promises to save you from your sins, to bring you to Heaven, and to save you from all that terribleness that is coming up ahead? Have you accepted that?
 
Now is the time if you haven’t yet accepted. You need to ask Jesus to be your Savior. He loves you. He wants you to ask for the forgiveness of your sins, and to be your Savior. That is all you have to do. It is quite simple. You just have to in your heart change from an attitude of rebellion to an attitude of love. Say, "Dear Jesus, forgive me of my sins, be my Savior." Do that today, because we don’t know exactly when all these world shattering events are going to happen, do we. But, we read about them and know they are going to happen pretty soon, and you don’t want to live in the Tribulation. You don’t want to wait for the proof of the Rapture and so miss it. And, most of all, you don’t want to be against God and have to spend eternity separated from Him in Hell.
 
Today, confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved. Tell someone today, so they know that you have been saved.
 
And, if you are a believer, when Jesus comes back, what is He going to find you doing? How are you spending your time? If you know we only have days, months, weeks — what are you doing with your time? Are you living it holy? Is he going to see you reading or watching something you shouldn’t, or wasting your time. Now is the time to get out there and tell other people about Jesus Christ. Do that today — right now!

The Value of Suffering

The Value of Suffering
T. A. McMahon

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.–1 Peter 4:12-14

The topic of this article is intimidating for me personally. What would I, or, for that matter, nearly anyone else who lives in the U.S., know about suffering and persecution for the name of Christ? Anyone who reads The Voice of the Martyrs magazine knows that we experience nothing comparable to the persecuted saints in other places.

Of course, that’s not the only kind of suffering the Scriptures address. There is suffering due to physical afflictions, infirmities, suffering in doing good, suffering as a consequence of one’s own sin, suffering according to the will of God, sufferings of trials, satanic afflictions, collective suffering in fellowship with other believers, etc.

I had a bout with a physical affliction not too long ago, yet I wouldn’t compare my suffering to what many I know are going through nor to the suffering of those who write to TBC for prayer concerning their own physical ailments. The reason I believe the Lord put it on my heart to write this article has little to do with my own situation or anyone else’s. I’m concerned about the prevailing attitude in American Christendom germane to suffering, which is, "Avoid it at all costs!"

Although part of me wants to add an "amen" to such thinking, I know that it doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches. In fact, such erroneous thinking will have disastrous effects. It is an insidious leaven that will distort one’s relationship with the Lord and will ultimately affect one’s walk. Moreover, a wrong view of suffering will greatly hinder a believer’s true understanding of God and the truth of His Word.

Suffering is a consequence of sin. It did not exist before sin entered the heart of mankind. Genesis chapter 1 indicates that God’s creation prior to the disobedience of Adam and Eve was "very good," that is, perfect in every way. Sin changed all of that for all creation. Suffering followed the inescapable and deadly virus of sin. Even so, God, in His foreknowledge of what man would do and what the consequences would be, provided the solution for the sins of mankind through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Divine justice was perfectly satisfied through our Savior’s full payment for our sins. Nevertheless, temporal suffering remains. Why?

The redemption provided by Jesus Christ, although complete, is still a choice for sinners to reject or to receive by faith. Christ’s gift of salvation will be available for humanity until the last willing soul repents and believes. Until then, the choice to sin and its consequence of suffering will remain a temporal fact of life.

Although the world can point to some successes in minimizing suffering, its most noble and far-reaching attempts do little to either confine the amount or to cover the extent of it. The all-pervasive pseudoscience of psychotherapy, for example, is a multi-billion-dollar industry tilting at the windmill of alleviating mental suffering. To end all suffering is clearly beyond the capacity of humanity, yet the presumptuous efforts continue.

That’s the secular world’s attitude, but what about the thinking among the religious? Buddhists believe that desire is the cause of all suffering and therefore teaches that ceasing to desire solves the problem. Hindus hope for the elimination of suffering through a process of reincarnations. They believe that each improved go-round will supposedly lessen and eventually end all suffering. That’s what yoga is all about.

What is the view among Christians? Most reflect the world’s thinking and actions, to some degree, rather than what the Bible teaches. This has led to serious doctrinal errors among many who claim to be biblical Christians. Perhaps the most widespread promotion of this is in the "healing and prosperity" movement that commands a large part of so-called Christian television (see The Seduction of Christianity, resource pages). Followers of this movement promote the false idea that suffering was done away with at the Cross. Therefore, this teaching claims, issues that produce suffering are caused by a lack of faith on the part of the sufferer. As error begets error, the proponents of "healing and prosperity" distort biblical faith into a method that can be used to ward off illness and bring about riches.

The whole process works its way into a form of religious and mind science, thereby turning God into an entity or force that works through spiritual laws, especially by faith, which Christians and even pagans can apply. This has led to the doctrine that one’s belief is the determiner of one’s condition: thinking that you have an illness is "negative" thinking, which causes the illness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, brings about good health and prosperity. Mankind, in this system, becomes the arbiter of his condition by his thoughts (see The Secret Seduction, resource pages). We’re told that this is the way God works and that we, too, can do the same as "gods under God." In addition to being completely blasphemous and a deadly form of occultism that deters people from seeking medical help, the healing and prosperity movement spawns ultimate rebellion in the name of God.

Suffering is a condition of life to which we are all subjected. How we understand it is crucial to how we deal with it. In suffering, and in much else included in the Word of God, we need to look to the Lord for understanding: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7). Let’s begin our "getting" with what is obvious in Scripture.

God hasn’t completely eliminated suffering from anyone’s life. Jesus, who is both God and the perfect, sinless Man, nevertheless suffered as a man on this earth. All the patriarchs suffered; Job suffered; all the apostles suffered; Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, suffered; the disciples suffered, and Paul gives us some fear-provoking details of what he himself suffered. We understand the origin of suffering and the fact of suffering–but why would God allow it in the lives of those who love Him? Knowing what the Scriptures teach about the character of God, we can conclude that if there were no value in allowing humanity (and especially those who love Him) to suffer, God would not allow it.

Scripture, however, sets the conditions and the time frame. Suffering is temporal for all and eternal for some. For believers, it will cease at eternity’s door (Revelation 21:4); for those who reject God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, suffering will be everlasting (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). What then of the suffering today of both the lost and those who love the Lord?

For those who have not yet turned to the Lord for His salvation, their condition of suffering often creates compelling opportunities for them to cry out to God for His help. To those who do so in truth, He shows His mercy for their temporal plight and provides grace for their new life in Christ and their eternal destiny (Acts 2:21). But what of the temporal suffering of those who have been born of the Spirit and have received the gift of eternal life? What possible value could there be in their suffering? To borrow part of a verse from the Apostle Paul, "Much in every way!" The problem is, however, that other than in general, the details of God’s specific purposes for the suffering of a believer, with few exceptions, are beyond our ability to discern. The general purposes, however, abound throughout the pages of Scripture.

God’s purpose for allowing suffering in Job’s life is made clear to us and to him. A closer relationship with the Lord is the outcome: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). He discovered during his affliction–during his intense preoccupation with himself–that his personal knowledge of God was greatly constricted by his self-life. Although God restored to Job far more than Satan destroyed in his life, Job’s material gain could not be compared to the temporal and eternal gain and value of his more intimate relationship with the Lord. Job’s suffering experience speaks to us about our own God-restricting preoccupation with self.

The epistle to the Hebrews was written primarily to Jewish Christians who were being persecuted by their legalistic kinsmen, and many were consequently pressured into slipping away from living out what they had been taught in the faith (Hebrews 2:1). Yet those sufferers were exhorted to steadfastness by the example of earlier saints who suffered even more: "Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings…bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned…sawn asunder…tempted…slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins…destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts…in mountains…in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise" (Hebrews 11:35-39).

What value can we find in what these saints who are included in the "Hall of Faith" suffered? On a personal basis, we can only guess, although it’s a given that the Holy Spirit used their testimony to greatly encourage the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, and to us as well.

Just so there is no confusion, a couple of qualifications are necessary here. The saints referred to in Hebrews are simply those true believers of old, just as everyone today who has been saved by faith alone in the finished work of Christ our Savior is a saint. That’s a biblical saint. In my youth as a Roman Catholic, I collected devotional cards of canonized "saints." It was commonly taught that those "saints" who suffered the most were the most saintly. Many of them contributed to their own suffering by purposefully inflicting pain on themselves. Why? The Catholic Church teaches that it is through personal suffering, either on earth or in Purgatory (where supposedly sins need to be completely purged before anyone can enter Heaven) that sins are expiated. All of this is a rejection of the gospel and a perversion of biblical suffering.

The Apostle Paul’s incredibly productive and exemplary life features a litany of suffering that has been referred to as the "perils of Paul." Just listing them all would fill up the rest of this article; even so, here are a few examples: Paul was whipped, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, adrift at sea, dangers in journeys, weariness, painfulness, sleeplessness, often in hunger, thirst, in cold and nakedness (2 Corinthians 11:22-27). He went through mental anguish and physical afflictions yet he could declare in absolute truth: "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake" (2 Corinthians 12:10). How could that be? He tells us: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

If Paul’s attitude seems strange or foreign to us, it could be because, although we may know Jesus personally, we don’t know Him well enough to have experienced the depths of His power in our lives. It may also be that we don’t understand how much Paul wanted everything in his (and our!) brief temporal life to contribute to his life in Christ, at present, surely–and for eternity, especially. That rings out in his words: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians 3:10). His heart in this and his eternal perspective are also reflected when he exulted, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). "[W]hether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s" (Romans 14:8). This reveals a profound love for Jesus that is missing in many of our lives. Paul’s great desire was for all believers to follow him in the intimate love and personal identification he had experienced with Jesus. Paul was looking forward to far greater experiences throughout eternity!

When Paul wrote regarding his ministry to the Colossians of his rejoicing "in my sufferings for you" and admonished them to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24), he certainly wasn’t saying (contrary to what I was taught as a Catholic) that Christ’s payment for our sins was insufficient in any way. Nor that he could expiate the sins of the Colossians by suffering for them (another false Catholic teaching). The "afflictions of Christ" remain only in the sense that believers in Him, His body, will experience trials, persecutions, and tribulations (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul, the other apostles, and Christ’s disciples down through history have all "fill[ed] up" sufferings by ministering to one another and as a consequence of their preaching and living out the gospel.

How could Paul "rejoice" in his sufferings for fellow believers? Some of the reasons are found in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. He and they would be ministered to by the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." His comfort from the Lord in his tribulation would enable him to comfort others in their suffering: "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation [i.e., strengthening them through their trials]…or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation" (vv. 5-6).

For the believer in Jesus, every trial of suffering is an opportunity to grow in the faith, to grow in our relationship with the Lord, and to see Him work in our lives in a uniquely personal way that demonstrates His compassion, His comfort, His tender mercies, His loving kindnesses, His grace, and His endless love. Only God knows what each of us needs to experience and learn in order to be "conformed to the image of his Son" (2 Corinthians 1:4-5; Romans 8:29).

Whether we or those the Lord has put on our hearts are suffering, let Paul’s unceasing intercession for the Colossians be our prayer for ourselves and for our loved ones. "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians:1:9-11). Note that it concludes with "longsuffering with joyfulness." No trial of suffering can rob us of our joy in Christ as we are strengthened by Him.

Our Role In These Evil Days

Our Role In These Evil Days – By Bill Keller – www.raptureready.com
 
TWO YEARS AGO God spoke to my heart about what WILL HAPPEN in this nation one day very soon. In light of the messages God has given me to share with you recently, I felt this prophetic word of several years ago needed to be repeated today. My heart has been very heavy as of late, and I spent several hours in prayer last night. Here is what God confirmed in my spirit.
 
In these last days as we watch our nation and world spiral into a spiritual abyss, the only real answer is seeing the lost won to Christ. Sharing our faith is what God has called His children to do. It doesn’t matter who is in office, it doesn’t matter what the church is doing, WE are the ones God has called to impact our nation and world. May we not be discouraged by what is happening in the world today, but be encouraged and faithful in fulfilling God’s calling on our lives. YOU can make a difference!
 
When they padlock the doors of the churches in the United States! Impossible you say? That day is closer than you think my friend. If you would have told someone just 50 years ago that there would no longer be prayer in our schools, they would have called you crazy. If you would have told someone 50 years ago that crosses and manger scenes would be banned from public buildings, they would have called you crazy. If you would have told someone 50 years ago that it would be illegal to display the 10 commandments in a courthouse, they would have called you crazy. If you would have told someone 50 years ago that there would be major efforts to take "under God " out of the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" off of our money, they would have called you crazy. However, 50 years later, these are all a reality!
 
Here is some more reality for you. Things are NOT going to get any better. I am thankful for all of those who love God and work so diligently in the public arena. We MUST continue to fight for the issues that support God’s Word. We must never vacate the political arena, rather support those who are in public office that support the agenda of God. We have to maintain that voice. But here is the problem. Despite the numbers that Barna puts out, this nation is becoming more Godless every single day. It happened in Europe, it happened in Canada, and it is happening right before our very eyes here in the United States. We are fast becoming a Godless society.
 
There is now a large percentage of two full generations in our nation that do not go to church. The generation that is in their 20’s and 30’s has a large percentage that has never been to church. They grew up in homes void of God. They are now having children that are growing up in homes void of God, which means the coming generation will also grow up in homes void of God. On top of that, the vast majority of those in these two generations that DO go to church are NOT in a committed 24/7 relationship with Christ. They range from the Christmas/Easter churchgoers to those who simply put in their "hour" each week. Their day in and day out lives really are no different than those who don’t go to church at all.
 
So what is next for our nation? The false religions will continue to grow. The false religions are based on the writings of men and prey on the fact that people are looking for God, but use man’s sinful condition to lead them into deception. They tell them they can buy their way into Heaven, they will have sex with virgins, they can work to become a god, and numerous other lies. Perverting the things of God that we used to honor will continue to get worse. Marriage has already become little more than a legal date to most people. Sex with people you are not married to, with the same sex, are now the mainstream norm. This will continue to destroy the family and simply create more generations of people totally void of God in their life, meaning the nation will adopt their Godless values and view of life.
 
IF YOU THINK I AM CRAZY, LET ME SUGGEST YOU READ YOUR BIBLE! IF THIS HAPPENED TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THAT WERE BORN OUT OF THE PROMISE OF GOD AND WITNESS TO HIS GREAT MIRACLES, WHY DON’T YOU THINK THIS CAN HAPPEN TO the U.S.?
 
The answer my friend is this. We still enjoy amazing freedoms in this nation to share the Word of God. WE MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! Jesus said that we had to work while it was still light because the night was coming.
 
We have got to stop playing games and get serious, because we have a very real enemy who is deadly serious. Oh how I wish the church was as committed to building the lives of people, to building the Kingdom of God, as it is in building great structures of brick and mortar. It is amazing how a church can find 20 million dollars to build a new building, but not $200 to help pay someone’s rent! It is time for pastors to stop worrying about being politically correct and start being Biblically correct! Churches need to take out the theater seating and make people stand up in the presence of God. God’s church was never supposed to be a place where people are entertained, but a place where they are trained up to do the work of God.
 
This is the third time in the last 30 days that the Holy Spirit has prompted me to give you such a word. I sense in my Spirit a great sense of urgency, that the time is truly very short now. Jesus is coming back at any moment for His church. We are living in a very evil and dark world. This nation has rapidly deteriorated spiritually right before our very eyes over the past 40 years. BUT GOD HAS ALWAYS HAD A PEOPLE! GOD HAS ALWAYS HAD A REMNANT! I pray today that you will be part of that remnant God will use to bring in this last great harvest.
 
Now more than ever, those who refuse to bow their knee to Baal need to stand up and be counted. The Bible proclaims that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. That is because the church is not a building, it is all those people that have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and will follow Him to their death. THAT is the true church, and that is why they can padlock the doors of a building, but they will never stop the work of God! GOD WILL HAVE THE LAST WORD!
 
If I can help you in any way you can contact me through my personal email at:
 

The Ultimate Rags To Riches Story

The Ultimate Rags To Riches Story – This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley – www.gracethrufaith.com
 
We all love this kind of story. And as much as we’re encouraged by the experience of an ordinary person who due to personal drive and perseverance rises from humble beginnings to become a leader of business or industry, we’re especially fond of stories where an absolute nobody is plucked from the faceless crowd and instantly propelled to the pinnacle of success. Great Hollywood stories have been built upon this premise, and they’ve never failed to delight us. But by far the absolute best example of this comes from the Bible and is about you. Our story begins in the Old Testament Book of 1st Samuel with David and Jonathan.
 
And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3-4)
 
The making of covenants was serious business because people’s lives depended them. A covenant was the strongest bond known to men, and had both business and personal applications that extended even to the descendants of the two parties involved. Here’s an example.
 
Some time after David and Jonathan formed their covenant relationship, Jonathan was killed by the Philistines in the Battle of Beth Shan, while David went on to become King of Israel. As I said, covenant agreements extended beyond the grave to the parties’ descendants. One day King David asked his advisors if there was anyone left of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake.
 
They brought in one of Saul’s former servants who told him of a crippled boy named Mephibosheth. He was Jonathan’s son, living in a place called Lo Debar, about as far from Jerusalem as he could get. When David had become King of Israel, all of former King Saul’s family (Jonathan was Saul’s son) had fled for their lives for fear that David would take revenge on them for the way Saul had treated him. In their haste to escape, a nurse had picked up the 5 year old Mephibosheth to carry him, but she tripped and they fell hard on the stone floor, breaking his legs and crippling him for life. (2 Sam. 4:4) As he grew up his family had convinced Mephibosheth that David was responsible for his condition and still wanted to kill him.
 
Upon learning Mephibosheth’s whereabouts, David sent his soldiers to fetch him. When they brought him into the presence of the King, Mephibosheth, fearing for his life, bowed in submission before him. David reassured him and told him of the covenant he had with Jonathan. Then David restored to him all of his grandfather Saul’s property and gave him servants to work the land so his needs would always be met. Finally David asked him to come live in Jerusalem, and eat at the King’s table just like one of the King’s own sons. (2 Sam 9)
 
Talk about rags to riches. It’s a beautiful story of kindness and forgiveness that illustrates the depth of a covenant relationship like no other, and like many Old Testament stories it’s a model of what the Lord had in store for us. Just think of David as God our Father, Jonathan as the Lord Jesus, and Mephibosheth as you and I.
 
The Everlasting Covenant
 
Long before we were born the Father and the Son entered into a covenant on our behalf. In effect, our Father said to Jesus, “Son, if you’ll die for them I’ll forgive them”
 
Jesus replied, “Father, if you’ll forgive them I’ll die for them.” And so the Everlasting Covenant was formed. The Bible says this happened before the foundations of Earth were laid. (1 Peter 1:20)
 
They had made this covenant because God knew that each time He entered into covenant with man, man would prove untrustworthy and soon break it. For example, Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Noah’s descendants refused to scatter and re-settle the Earth, the Israelites broke the commandments, and so on. The salvation of God’s children was so important to Him that no mere man could be trusted to be faithful, so God Himself had to become a man to save mankind. “You are my son,” He told Jesus, “Today I have become your Father.” (Psalm 2:7)
 
In the fullness of time Jesus became a man to save mankind, and stood before our Father as our covenant head.
 
Even though God knew we would ultimately choose Him He pursued us like an ardent lover, and at first many of us ran from Him. We’d heard the stories of His wrath and some of us had even been told that He was responsible for our infirmities and the other bad things that happened to us. They said if He ever got His hands on us He would punish us severely for our sins. Finally one day He caught us and as we trembled at His feet in fear, He reassured us and told us of the covenant He had made with His Son to forgive us. Then He restored the inheritance Satan had stolen from us, invited us to dwell with Him, to eat at the King’s table with His family, and to consider ourselves as His children.
 
The New Testament tells us how He accomplished this. In John 1:12 we’re told that because we believe in Jesus we’ve been given the authority to become children of God. Having been born once in the flesh to our Earthly parents, He gave us the right to be born again in the Spirit so that He could become our Heavenly Father. He did this simply because we chose to believe in His Son. (John 3:16)
 
Then Romans 8:29 says that God knew in advance that we would believe in the Son, so He predestined us to be conformed to His likeness so Jesus could be the first of many brothers in the Royal Family of God. First Jesus was made like us, and soon we’ll be made like Him. (1 John 3:2)
 
In Galatians 4:4-7 we read that since we’ve been legally adopted into God’s family we’re now sons of God. And that means we’re also heirs, joint heirs with Jesus. Romans 8:16-17 confirms this.
 
Hebrews 2 makes the point that Jesus was temporarily made lower than the angels, becoming a man to save mankind, and after that was elevated to His former position and crowned with glory and honor.
 
Paul gave us more detail on this. Ephes 1:20-22 explains that when He was resurrected, Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of majesty far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given, in the present age and the one to come. All things were placed under His feet
 
Astonishingly Ephes 2:6-7 says God raised us up and seated us there too, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. The verbs in this passage are in the past perfect tense, meaning that in God’s view we’re already there.
 
So even though at one time we were dead in our sins, and by nature objects of God’s wrath, hopeless helpless, worthless and useless, He made us alive in Christ. He forgave all our sins, clothed us in robes of righteousness, seated us beside His Son in the heavenly realm and made us Kings and Priests who will reign on Earth, co-heirs with Jesus of God’s estate.
 
The 24 Elders
 
By the way, this lends enormous credibility to our view that the 24 elders of Rev. 4 represent the Church.
 
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. (Rev. 4:4)
 
These 24 elders confuse some people, but they shouldn’t. Their appearance gives them away. They have thrones, so they’re rulers. They surround the Throne of God where Jesus is seated, so they’re reigning with Him. They’re seated, another sign of royalty. They’re dressed in white, so they’re righteous. They’re wearing the Greek “stephanos” crown, so they’re victors, over comers. They’re called Elders, a title long associated with the Church.
 
Some try to explain the 24 thrones by saying that they belong to an unknown group of ruling angels. But four Prophets saw the throne of God and recorded their experience. They were Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1 & 10), Daniel (Dan. 7), and John (Rev. 4). Neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel made any mention of the 24 elders indicating that they weren’t present in Old Testament times. Daniel’s vision concerned the End Times and in Dan. 7:9 he mentioned multiple thrones but didn’t add any details as to number or type of occupants. This is consistent with the fact that the Church was hidden to Old Testament prophets even in visions of the future. Only John made mention of the 24 Elders. And note again that these elders are wearing the crowns of over comers. The Church won’t receive our crowns until the Bema Seat judgment that takes place after the rapture.
 
Jesus is seated at the right hand of majesty today, Paul wrote that we’re seated there with Him, and when John was transported to the end of the Age he saw us there, after the rapture but before the End times judgments begin.
 
In the Book of Revelation three groups of believers come into view. In Rev. 5:9-10 the 24 Elders are shown worshiping God and thanking Him for taking us from every tribe and language and people and nation and making us to be Kings and Priests who will reign on Earth. In Rev. 7:9-17 we see a great multitude in white robes who will arrive shortly before the Great Tribulation begins. They will serve God in His temple but are never called priests. And in Rev. 20:4 another group martyred for their faith is resurrected to reign with Christ for 1000 years, but they are never called kings.
 
Depending on their Rapture view, various scholars identify each of these groups as the Church, but only one is seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, only one is called Kings and Priests, and that’s the one represented by the 24 elders. That group is the Church, and it makes our elevation from obscurity on Earth to a throne in heaven the ultimate rags to riches story.
 
 

Receive The Holy Spirit

Receive The Holy Spirit – This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley – www.gracethrufaith.com
 
I’ve gotten a raft of comments on my comparison of John 20:22 with Acts 2:1-4 in my answer to a recent question. Some were more diplomatic than others in suggesting my understanding of these verses leaves something to be desired. So let’s take another look and see how these two passages are alike and how they’re different. We’ll take John 20:22 first, in the context of the passage.
 
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
 
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)
 
Some have suggested that Jesus was only pretending here, his breath meant to imitate the sound the Holy Spirit would make when He really came 50 days later, and not investing the disciples with the Holy Spirit. But Acts 2:2 says the sound of the Holy Spirit was much different. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” It’s like comparing the sound of blowing out birthday candles to the sound of a hurricane.
 
And the Greek word for receive in John 20:22 is lambano and means to take or lay hold of something in order to use it, or carry it away. It denotes permanence and possession. The same word is used in Acts 8:17 referring to the believers in Samaria when they finally realized they had received the Holy Spirit after Peter and John arrived. I don’t believe Jesus was pretending, any more than Peter and John were. I think the disciples who were present were receiving the Holy Spirit just like it says.
 
Jesus met with the disciples several times after that night, speaking with them about the Kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
 
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
 
The Greek word for baptize literally means to be temporarily immersed, usually in water. Jesus explained that while that was the case with John’s baptism, soon the disciples would be temporarily immersed in the Holy Spirit, giving them miraculous power.
 
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
 
This gift was not the receipt of the Holy Spirit, which had already happened, but the power to do miraculous works. Remember, He had previously told them the Holy Spirit had been with them and would be in them (John 14:17). This had been accomplished. Now He was saying the Holy spirit would come upon them.
 
This is seen in the use of the Greek word “eperchomai” which is translated to come upon or come on. It means to over power someone, or take them over. The same Greek word described the 2 instances recorded in Acts of Gentiles speaking in tongues. In Acts 10:44 the Holy spirit came upon the Gentiles listening to Peter at Cornelius’ house. In Acts 19:6 the Holy Spirit came upon a group of Gentiles when Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus. I believe both of these events were temporary situations intended to show the Jewish leadership that the Holy Spirit could come upon Gentiles as well as Jews.
 
The Holy Spirit had also come upon men in Old Testament times, as with Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Saul (1 Sam. 11:6), Amasai (1 Chron. 12:18), Azariah (2 Chron. 15:1) and Zechariah (2 Chron 24:20).
 
Understanding the difference between receiving the Holy Spirit (lambano) and having Him come upon you (eperchomai) helps clear up some of the confusion surrounding these verses.
 
And Now For Acts 2
 
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
 
The word for filled also means to be temporarily taken over. And men had been filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as well. Examples are Joseph (Genesis 41:38) when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and Bezalel of the tribe of Judah who was given supernatural skill in designing and working the gold, silver, and bronze ornamentation for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-4).
 
Both Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41, 1:67) over 30 years before Pentecost. In addition people are also said to be filled with wrath (Luke 4:28), fear (Luke 5:26), wonder (Acts 3:28), etc. In every case the same Greek word is used. And in every case it describes a temporary condition.
 
So being filled with the Holy Spirit did not originate with Pentecost, nor did having Him come upon us. But don’t get the idea that temporary means it only happens once for a little while and then it’s gone for good. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. But then he was filled again in Acts 4:8 and once more in Acts 4:31. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 9:37 and again Acts 13:9. It can happen every time there’s a need.
 
Here’s the point I made in my answer. When we first come to faith the Holy Spirit is sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephes. 1:13-14) and will remain there as long as we live on this Earth. The disciples experienced this on the evening of the Lord’s resurrection and ever since then every believer has had the same experience. But from time to time the Holy Spirit will come upon us and we will be temporarily filled with His power to perform a miracle on His behalf. Every believer can also experience this. It doesn’t require a special ceremony, and it doesn’t only happen in some churches. It can happen at any time to any believer who makes himself or herself available in faith. It has happened to me and it can happen to you.
 
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