God’s Existence, Religion and Gospel

GOD’S EXISTENCE (The Moral Test argument)

1. Through our inescapable drive to assess (judge) all things from an ethical perspective (right and wrong), we (humanity) are not only confirming our unique identity as moral creatures but also our belief in: 1) this life as a test (ethics indicate a test) and 2) the existence of God (i.e., an objective test-grader) Who in the after-life, will reward or punish us based on our performance of the test.

1.1. Hence the reason humans suffer guilt, depression and mental illness, b/c we as moral creatures sense our failures in relation to the test we instinctively know exists (Deu 28:20, 28).

1.2. The Moral Test argument cannot be refuted nor should anyone want to refute it given the other options: 1) this life is the only life or 2) everyone goes to heaven makes all suffering and evil meaningless and unbearably cruel (Deu 28:34 “you will be driven mad by what you see”).

1.3. Support: (Rom 1:18-21; Luk 20:35; Rev 3:4-5; Jam 1:12 [Hence Jam 1:1-3]; Psa 62:12 Pro 24:12; Mat 16:27; Joh 5:28-30; Rom 2:6, 14:12; 1Co 3:13; 2Co 5:10; Eph 6:8; Col 3:25; Rev 2:23, 20:12, 22:12).

RELIGION

2. The principles (i.e. rules for the test) established by God’s Word and gospel is the only ancient system of morality (i.e., religion) that creates true equity in the world.

2.1. There are two important things to consider when determining the rules of the test:

2.1.1. He is there and not silent.

It is only reasonable to assume that when God created humanity, He provided them with the rules to the test – i.e., the system of morality (religion) they would need to follow to pass the test.

2.1.2. Ancient is better.

Given the correspondence between time and corruption – or the fact that the reliability of something diminishes the further you move from its point of origin, those religions closest to the beginning of Creation would therefore be the most likely to possess an accurate record. Two of the oldest possessing a record of rules are: 1) the religion of the Babylonians (Code of Hammurabi [18th century BC]), 2) the religion of the Hebrews/Jews (Mosaic Code [15th century BC]).[1]

2.2. Though the similarities between these two ancient religions confirm prior oral tradition (the laws originally given to Adam and Eve were passed down to Noah and his sons and their descendants)[2], only the Mosaic Code establishes the same moral expectations and justice for all people without discrimination due to status, health or race (Deu 16:20; Num 15:16. IOW: it is the only ancient religion that truly establishes equity (or love – Lev 19:15-18).

GOSPEL

3. The only way human beings have ever received salvation (i.e., passed the test/avoiding failing the test) is by entering into a marriage covenant with God (i.e., by marrying Jesus)[3].

Support: (Jer 31:31-32 w/Jud 1:5)

4. Because the way we get saved is through entering into a marriage covenant with Jesus:

4.1. Gaining that relationship has always required a faith-pledge of our allegiance – i.e., our solemn promise to obey the latest version/application of Jesus’ moral law (e.g., 1Co 5:1-5 versus Lev 20:11) and observe its associated covenant signs (“clean laws”)[4].

Support: (Deu 32:51)[5]

Covenant signs associated w/our faith-pledge in our human marriages = Wedding rings exchanged at the time of our vows (our faith-pledge of allegiance to one another)

Covenant signs (CS) associated w/our faith-pledge in our marriage to Jesus:

4.1.1. Adamic and Noahic Covenants (Gen 6:9 “Noah walked with God) = Most likely indicating that pledges or vows of allegiance have been taken and that the respective parties have entered into a covenant relationship with one another – (Consider for example, Amo 3:3 “Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” = Context is that of covenant agreement); CS = Animal sacrifice (Gen 3:21 ,8:20).

4.1.2. Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:6); CS = Animal sacrifice and circumcision (Gen 17:1-14) = The obligation to obedience being communicated by God is not new to Abe. No doubt this is what Abe originally committed to in his pledge of faith. Seeing however that this is what his new “sign in [the] flesh” is meant to communicate, necessitates its rehearsal by God.

4.1.3. Old Covenant (Exo 24:7-8); CS = Animal sacrifice, circumcision, separation and sabbaths. In the NT these are referred to as “the works of the law”(Exo 31:13).

4.1.4. New Covenant (1Pe 1:2 w/3:21 “appeal to God”) = Pledge of allegiance; CS = Baptism and the Lords Table.

4.2. Maintaining that relationship has always required faithfulness to our prior faith-pledge of allegiance.

Support: Human marriage = Unfaithfulness leads to divorce (Mat 5:32); Marriage to Jesus = Unfaithfulness likewise leads to divorce/apostasy (Heb 10:26-30, 12:14-17; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:38; 1Co 10:1-12 [5-6 and 11-12]) = The only way the OC Jews can serve as an example w/respect to NC salvation is if the same consequences suffered by them for unfaithfulness can also be suffered by us.

5. To simply say that people under the OC gained their salvation by observing the OC clean laws erroneously implies they were only necessary – or needed to be observed at the initial point of a person’s salvation.

Reductio Absurdum: no bacon on the Israelite’s burger the day they got saved, but after that it was okay.

6. That a bi-partite distinction exists within God’s Word and that it is the OT covenant signs that Paul is opposed to when speaking of the end of the Law (Rom 10:4) is not only confirmed by their proximity to the phrase “works of the law” (e.g., the mention of circumcision in Rom 3:28-30 where Paul also states that we are “justified by faith apart from the works of the law”), but also what Paul says in (1Co 7:19 “circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, what matters is keeping the commands of God” ).

7. Though they may look different in application, the principles established by the moral commands of the OT remain in full force today as confirmed not only by their repeated mention in the New Testament, but also the principle of stare decisis.[6]

7.1. In re: to repeat: (Rom 13:9) “if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” = Love is accomplished through obedience to God’s moral commands (w/Gal 5:13-14) “through love serve one another…the whole Law is fulfilled…in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” = Paul’s command to love is a repeat of the second greatest commandment which requires observance of all God’s moral commands to accomplish [again, Rom 13]).

7.2. In re: to stare decisis: (e.g., 1Co 6:18) = Unless I am willing to think that only sex with a prostitute (v16) constitutes immorality, I need the OT to determine the scope of the crime which means the moral commands established in the OT remain authoritative.

 

 

 

[1] The distinction between these two religions is the different path taken by the sons of Noah and their descendants: 1) the descendants of Ham and Japheth who rebelled against God (Gen 10:1-11:9 = The Tower of Babel, the Babylonians), and 2) the descendants of Shem who continued following God (Gen 11:10-35:29 = Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – or Israel, the Hebrews/Jews).

[2] For example consider: 1) (CH197) “If he has broken a [landowner’s] bone, they shall break his bone.” with (Lev 24:19-20) “Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered.”; 2) (CH195) “If a son has struck his father, they shall cut off his hand.” with (Exo 21:15) “Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.”

[3] As should be expected, the concept of divine marriage for salvation was likewise a part of ancient religion – including the religion of the Babylonians, “The very ancient rite of the sacred marriage was of the utmost importance, if not the essential and pivotal element of Babylonian religion. The principal role was played by the god of the city-state, and the sacred marriage was celebrated in order that, by a species of sympathetic magic, the resulting fruitfulness might be extended to the people and the whole land, that is to say, that fertility and abundance might be bestowed upon the head of every family, his flocks and herds, and the land he cultivated.” – E. Douglas Van Buren (“The Sacred Marriage in Early Times in Mesopotamia”)

[4] Jesus represents the Law’s personal embodiment and author – including its historical codification at Sinai (Joh 1:1; Heb 9:16).

[5] See Matthew W. Bates, Salvation By Allegiance Alone

[6] This principle assumes – among other things, that laws established in the past remain authoritative in the future unless overturned. As a result, it is this legal maxim that allows us to assume that when previous laws are cited as support for present cases – or used to understand them, it is because those laws continue in force. As such this too provides an irrefutable argument for the Law’s continuing authority under the New Covenant since how could Jesus, the apostle Paul and the rest of the New Testament authors use the Old Testament as their support unless those commands are still in force?

Doorstep Theory

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Doorstep theory (def.,): Many of those currently living today (2024) will witness the return of Jesus (i.e., we are living on the “doorstep” of Jesus’ return) (Mat 24:32-35).

1. What makes this kind of claim (theory) provocative or (once more) fringe?

1.1. The great number of people who misunderstand what Jesus taught regarding knowledge of His return:

1.1.1. They think Jesus taught that the time of His return was unknown (even to Him) (Mat 24:36, 25:13; Mar 13:32-33).

1.1.2. Though Jesus did say we cannot know the exact day or hour, such statements were made in the context of telling His disciples what to look for as the sure-fire signs that His return was imminent (or would take place during the lifetime of many who witnessed them; again Mat 24:32-34; Mar 13:29). IOW: we may not know the exact day or hour, but we can be confident with respect to a small window of years (Mat 24:22).

1.2. The great number of people who fail to consider that Jesus gave such sure-fire signs so that those living at the time of His return would be prepared.

1.2.1. (Mat 24:42-51) = Those who are ignorant – or not convinced that Jesus’ return is imminent run the risk of falling away or being found unfaithful when He comes.

1.2.2. We as a church would therefore be foolish to avoid discussing such things if the evidence of these sure-fire signs seem to be present in our time.

2. What are the reasons for believing that we may be on the doorstep of Jesus’ return? Four sure-fire signs have been confirmed:

2.1. We are living less than ten years away from the 7th or Sabbath millenium.

Per God’s perspective and plan, each millennium represents one of the days of Creation. As such, the time the world will end and Messiah will return is on the Sabbath -or the beginning (seventh) millennium (i.e., 6,000 years after the 1st day of Creation).[2] We will officially enter the Sabbath or seventh millennium in 2033/34.

Support for saying Jesus will return during the Sabbath millennium which begins in 2033/34:

2.1.1. Peter confirms this as God’s view (2Pe 3:8).

2.1.2. The context of Peter’s words (in 2Pe 3) is Jesus’ return and the end of human history (2Pe 3:1-10).

2.1.3. Peter confirmed 2033/34 as the year we enter the Sabbath millennium in his preaching on Pentecost.

(Act 2:17-20) = Peter’s divinely inspired interpretation of Joel 2:28 as “And it shall be in the last days” indicates that the IPO of the indwelling Spirit marks the beginning of the final two millennia before the Sabbath millennium/time of Christ’s return. Why? 1) Peter indicates there will be plural days [or millennia] before the end – or Christ’s return (17, “last days”). 2) At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we were already somewhere in the range of 4,000 years – which means Peter’s reference cannot be more than two.

This puts Jesus’ return somewhere around 2033/34 (or two thousand years after Christian Pentecost which took place in 33/34 A.D.).

2.1.4. Ancient Jewish tradition also taught this view (e.g., Talmud, Midrash literature).

2.2. Satan’s global misinformation campaign has begun and been successful.

(Rev 20:7-8a) = One thousand years after Satan’s incarceration in the abyss – or the advent of the church age (Rev 19:1-20:6), the dimensional portal will be opened allowing him to “deceive the nations” into thinking they are worshipping Jesus – when in reality, they have embraced false gospels and gods.

Support for saying that Satan has been released and poisoned the world w/false versions of Christianity and the gospel:

2.2.1. The official start of the false Christian religions of Roman Catholicism (RC) and Eastern Orthodoxy (EO) happened almost exactly 1,000 years (11th century Great Schism) after the establishment of Christ’s church on earth (Rev 20:7).

2.2.2. In fulfillment of Peter’s words, Martin Luther twisted the words of Paul and invented the FAG leading to the equally false Protestant Reformation (16th century) (2Pe 3:15-17) = As before, the context of these verses is the end of human history/the return of Christ.

2.2.3. False Christianity is now not only the predominant form of Christianity in the world but also the largest group of people on the planet. Almost 3 billion human beings (37.5% of all humanity) claim to be Christian according to some version of its main three false religions (PR, RC, EO).

2.3. The FAG has become the dominant gospel and those not adhering to it are heavily persecuted.

(Mat 24:8[3]-13) = The gospel being preached by the “false prophets” just before Christ’s return will be antinomian in nature (it will amount to “lawlessness”). IOW: obedience to God’s Law will be considered “nice but no longer necessary.” This lawless/antinomian gospel will also be the dominant gospel of the day. Hence the reason it “mislead many” (not few) causing “many” to “fall away and betray one another and hate another” (i.e., violate their covenant allegiance to Christ and/or His people, the church).

The desire for this gospel to remain dominant will also cause its lawless recipients to heavily persecute those who preach against it and lay siege to those remaining vestiges of God’s divine council on earth (Jud 1:8-10 w/14-15 = Rejection of the church’s DC/authority will also characterize the time just before Jesus’ return).

Support for saying the FAG gospel has become dominant and the authority of Christ’s churches and gospel are rejected and reviled:

2.3.1. The FAG is now a part of all popular versions of Christianity around the world – including RC/EO.

IOW: Most – including those in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, teach some version of the FAG in that obedience is nice but not ultimately necessary to that person getting to heaven.

2.3.2. It is currently hard (impossible?) to find churches teaching a gospel where obedience to all of God’s Law is necessary to be saved (Rev 20:8-9) “surrounded the camp of the saints” = Indicates that Christ’s churches – or those covenant community embracing the true gospel, will (at that time) be few in number and therefore easily outnumbered (“surrounded”) by those in Satan’s false gospel (FAG) churches.

2.3.3. The Evangelical church’s rejection of church authority/DC (2Pe 2:10).

2.3.4. With respect to persecution: our experience at Christ Covenant Church (e.g., the lies, slander and other forms of ill-treatment we have endured for speaking against the FAG, asking questions or attempting to create dialogue) (Mat 10:25).

2.4. Just before Christ’s return, the true gospel will be recovered and revealed to the world.

(Mat 24:14) “preached to the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come.” = Just before Christ’s return, the gospel lost through the deception of Satan and suppression of false Christianity will be found and bore witness to as not only part of God’s final judgment against the nations, but also the means to saving those few who remain welcome to Him (2Pe 3:9).

Support that the true gospel has been recovered and is being preached to the whole world:

2.4.1. The gospel of G&M preached throughout redemptive history by Jesus has been recovered by Christ Covenant Church (“Judaism 2.0.”, covenantal nomism).

2.4.2. Our internet presence has allowed us to accomplish this global gospel witness almost instantaneously given that most (if not all) of the civilized world (who Paul is referring to) has access to the internet.

3. What things remain unfulfilled – yet seem to be on the horizon (what should we be looking out for)? Two things:

3.1. Satan and his demons’ returning to earth as Jesus and His angels/holy ones.

Satan’s entire global misinformation campaign has been leading to one major event: the great Jesus fake-out. He and his demon’s will return to the 3rd dimension as Jesus and his angels/holy ones in supposed fulfillment of the Scriptures – or more specifically, its Dispensational Premillennial interpretation. This means the immediate establishment an earthly, global kingdom of unified peace, healing miracles (e.g., healing cancer), massive blessings and last chance salvation. All nations and people (even those formerly not Christian) will unite under him (as Jesus) given he will (in his big reveal) also save the planet from nuclear war; a war he has secretly been instigating and influencing between the US and Russia for many years (also consistent w/Dispy Pre-mill doctrine).

Support for this view:

3.1.1. (Mat 24:15-28) = Satan presenting himself to the world as the returning Jesus; (2Th 2:1-10) [v3, 9] “apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…the one whose coming is in accord with/conforming to the activity of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders” = Satan disguising and designating himself as the returning Jesus and promoting the lawless – “lawless” obedience is nice but not necessary FAG. [v7a] “mystery of lawlessness is already at work” = The seeds of the Evangelical FAG will precede and prepare the stage for his arrival along w/its most popular eschatological system: Dispensational [Pre-Trib Rapture] Premillennialism. [v6,7b] “what restrains him now” = Not who but what: the tech to not only get back to the 3rd dimension in corporeal form but also stop the nuclear war he secretly instigated to win the rest of the planet to him. [v8] = The reign of Satan-Jesus will be short lived as the real Jesus’ return will bring immediate destruction [“slay with the breath of his mouth”] to him and his rebellious FAG followers (2Th 1:7b-10 and Rev 20:9b).

3.1.2. (Rev 20:8 “Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war”; See also Eze 382 and 39:1) = Many scholars believe this is a reference to modern day Russia and the (nuclear) war they will (be influenced by Satan – vv7-8) to start.

3.1.3. Becoming the savior of the problem/war you (secretly created for that very purpose) is a proven age-old tactic for winning the masses to you or your cause (e.g., create gun violence as a means to getting legislation against gun ownership; “Lest we forget…[we must acknowledge] the very first radical…known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.” – Saul Alinsky, Rules For Radicals).

3.1.4. Evidence of UAPs/UFOs shutting down nuclear missile silos in the US and Russia coupled w/the fact that the rise in UAP/UFO activity started when we gained nuclear capability in 1945. Is it possible this is also the reason for the frequent number of UAP/UFO sightings off our coasts by our Navy? In all of this are we simply witnessing the test flights of the vessels they intend to bring down the missiles, stop the war and save the planet? Is it possible that alien abductions are real and additionally a means to testing the tech they will eventually use to stage a mass “pre-trib rapture” of Evangelicals (before the nuclear launch)? Is it possible Satan is behind all of the recent pre-occupation with aliens and UFO/UAPs(e.g. Government and govt official’s admission of UAPs and/or alien lifeforms, Congressional hearing with David Grusch [Air Force intelligence officer], David Fravor [Navy pilot] and Ryan Graves [Navy pilot], Jacques Vallee [famous astronomer, computer scientist who believes aliens may be angels: “when God exited, the angels beamed in”], Cymone’s Homeland Security briefs [w/Space Force, regarding disclosure from the Vatican]) as a means to getting us ready to receive the supernatural w/open arms? (e.g., military dropping propaganda leaflets to influence/prepare the people to be favorable to them when they arrive).

3.2. A large number of Jews will become true Christians.

The nation of Israel will receive the recovered gospel and convert to true Christianity rejecting the counterfeit Jesus and his false FAG.

Support for this view:

3.2.1. The Jews will never receive or recognize as Messiah anyone who rejects their Law as necessary to salvation.

3.2.2. Paul seems to predict a future mass conversion of Israel (Rom 11:25-27; Also Hos 3:4-5)

3.2.2. John seems to predict that the time of Israel’s conversion will be right after the great Jesus fake out – or just before true Jesus’ return (Rev 20:9) “camp of the saints and the beloved city” = Very possibly a reference to the nation of Israel’s conversion to Christianity [G&M gospel/law-loving gospel/Judaism 2.0.] in defiance of Satan-Jesus and his “lawless” FAG. If so, then God’s justice will prove to truly be poetic (since according to Premillennial doctrine and expectations, Israel will not oppose – but submit to Pre-mill Jesus).

4. What are the practical implications and application of what we just learned?

4.1. Deep conviction in relation to Marriage Covenant Gospel and the ability to prove it from the Scriptures will be the only thing that will keep you from being duped by Satan-Jesus and falling away when things get crazy (Mat 24:13,35-44 22; 2Th 2:11-15).

4.2. There is no time to waste when it comes to not only doing what it takes to produce the aforementioned conviction and knowledge but also faithfulness to God’s law, church and gospel (Mat 24:42-25:46).

 

 

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] “The belief that the seventh millennium will correspond to the Messianic Age is founded upon a universalized application of the concept of Shabbat—the 7th day of the week—the sanctified ‘day of rest’. This tradition maintains that each day of the week corresponds to one thousand years of creation: Just as the six days of the work week culminate in the sanctified seventh day of Shabbat, so too will the six millennia of creation culminate in the sanctified seventh millennium (Hebrew years 6000–7000) — the Messianic Age.” – Wikipedia (Year 6000)

[3] “the beginning of the birth pangs” = Adverse weather and wars (vv6-7) are not the definitive signs that the end is near but “merely” the pre-requisites or precursors to what will be.

Big Picture Gospel – Part 2

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose: 1) to have relationship with Him and others (and) 2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation.

It is this two-fold purpose that establishes the two greatest commandments in the Bible (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) (Mat 22:37-40).

It should therefore come as no surprise that moral physics – most specifically the practice of justice (or equity), is what makes us peacemakers (Mat 5:9 “peacemakers” = Equity promoters and protectors – Mat 7:12 “for this is the Law and the Prophets” [Mat 22:40 “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets”]; IOW: Equity [or justice] is the foundation of moral physics, the Bible and our creation mandate. Hence Psa 89:14 “justice is the foundation of your throne”).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is defined by the Bible (God’s written words).

Anything therefore not agreement w/the Bible is not truth, beauty or justice.

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

It is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships w/God and the rest of Creation.

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

This then is the other reason we suffer; this life is a test.

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation).

6. Like our human marriages, the covenant relationship we exist in with God operates according to the principles of gain and maintain: we gain the relationship w/God by grace through vows of faith (expressed in baptism) and we must maintain it through faithful submission to the rest of His covenant laws (His moral physics: truth, beauty and justice) as our Head or Husband.

1) (Exo 24:7-8 w/Lev 18:5 [Eze 20:11]; 1Pe 1:1-2 w/3:21 w/Gal 3:26-27 [“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”; IOW: faith = baptism]; Mat 28:19-20).

2) (Mat 19:16-19 [v21, “if you wish to be complete”]; Luk 10:25-28; Rom 3:28 w/Jam 2:21-24 [v22, “faith was completed”]; Phi 2:12-13; Phi 3:16 [“let us keep on living by that standard to which we have attained” = Let us maintain what we gained] followed by a warning vv17-19; Deu 29:18-20 w/Heb 10:26-30; Jer 3:3-8; Isa 50:1).

3) Faithful not perfect (Deu 28:1); We can be faithful (Deu 30:11-14).

4) God is our head/husband (Isa 54:5).

5) We must obey the latest version of God’s Law and its application – i.e., the one associated w//His current salvific covenant. In our case, the New Covenant. In every case, this Law is comprised of two-parts: clean laws (the signs associated w/that covenant’s justification/right standing w/God: 1] Adamic and Noahic = Animal sacrifice, 2] Abrahamic = Animal sacrifice and circumcision, 3] Old = Animal sacrifice, circumcision, separation and sabbaths [in the NT these are referred to as “the works of the law”], 4] New = baptism and the LT) and moral commands (the rest of God’s commands according to the current covenant’s prescribed application – e.g., 1Co 5:1-5 versus Lev 20:11).

7. Jesus, the fully God – Son of God is not only the specific Person of the Godhead[6] with whom we must gain and maintain a marriage covenant if we want to be a part of the new Creation (i.e., He is the divine Husband), but also the One lovingly sent to earth by the Father so that through His death and resurrection, sin could be sufficiently cleansed from His covenant people and the way of salvation finally opened to all those nations who formerly rejected Him.

1) (Joh 1:1 “Word” [Grk., logos] = Jewish philosopher Philo id’d Melchizedek as “the logos of God” before the time of Jesus w/Joh 8:56 [Gen 14:17-20 w/Heb 7:1-28 and Heb 11:10 “city whose builder was God” = Jewish tradition says that Mel was the builder of Jerusalem – i.e., Jesus built Jerusalem; Jud 1:5; Heb 9:15-16 w/Exo 24:1-8; Eph 5:22-23).

2) (Joh 3:16; Eph 2:4-5; Rom 3:25 w/Heb 10:1-18; Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:1-4).

3) (Mat 1:21; Luk 2:32 [Act 13:47]; Act 17:26-31; Luk 10:1w/17 = Seventy sent out to take control back from the demons as a sign of Jesus’ coming deliverance of the seventy gentile nations given over to Satan and the demons [Gen 10:1-11:9 w/Psa 106:35-37 w/1Jo 5:19]. Hence v18; Eph 2:12).

8. Because God is reasonable and just (or equitable), He will give to people as their eternal home what they freely chose based on their deeds in this life which means hell – or a place of nothing but fire – for those who rejected their two-fold purpose since this is all that is left after God takes His truth, beauty and justice with Him into the New Creation.

1) (Deu 7:9-10; 1Sa 26:23; Mat 16:27; Rom 2:6-10; 1Pe 1:17; Hence Rev 20:11-15).

2) (2Pe 3:10-13) = The removal of the righteous and all that is righteous from this Creation will start a blaze that will never be put out or escaped by those left behind.[7]

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE = Do your best to give people the big picture (gospel).

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (your are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] The one true and only God of heaven and earth eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence the reason all three are named in our baptism of allegiance (Mat 28:19 w/1Pe 3:21).

[7] Hell or the lake of fire is also described as a place of utter darkness (Rev 21:8 and Mat 25:41 w/Mat 8:12, 22:13, 25:30 and 2Pe 2:12, 17 and Jud 13). Is it possible this is all that remains when the elements of Creation are removed? A field of dark energy or burning plasma similar to that found in space? Is it possible that the expansion of the universe caused by this dark energy (which scientists believe came after initial creation of the universe) is a result of sin and the countless demons and dead spirits which are expanding its realm (Eph 6:12 “forces of this darkness”)? “An exotic possibility is that [dark energy] springs from the physics of extra dimensions.”(Ron Cowen, “A Dark Force in the Universe,” Science News).

Big Picture Gospel – Part 1

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose:

1) to have relationship with Him and others.

1) (Gen 1:27 “image”) = Not only does this word infer humans are eternal, free-will spirits w/a moral conscience like God but also relationship w/God and other image-bearers given this is the primary reason things are created to be like one another: to make them compatible in relationship.

2) (Gen 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply” = Create others w/Gen 2:18-20 “there was not a suitable helper found for him”) = Because of the massive dissimilarity between humans and animals, animals cannot be used to create other humans and remove loneliness (deficiency of deep relationships w/others like you -i.e., humans).

2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation. 1) (Gen 1:31 w/2:15-17 “cultivate”) = Promote or develop and expand…the borders of Eden according to its moral design (“Eden” = Paradise – a place filled w/truth, beauty and justice); “keep” = Protect and care for… Eden according to its moral design.

2) God’s moral physics (t/b/j) were to be promoted and protected in relation to both Him and His Creation – which included the woman or other image-bearers since the garden of Eden was her (or humanity’s) original residence as well.

3) It is this two-fold purpose that establishes not only the two greatest commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) but the entirety of God’s Law and Word (Mat 22:37-40).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is always in agreement with His law, as established by His written words in the Bible.

1) (Gen 1:31 [Heb., tobe]) = Full of truth, beauty and justice (excellence).

2) (Gen 2:7 w/19) “formed” [Heb., yasar] = To form as art (beauty); “breathed” = Filled w/His moral essence (t/b/j). This same idea is communicated when speaking about the Bible (2Ti 3:16).

3) Consider also (Psa 119:142, 15, 160 w/Joh 17:17 “your Word is truth”; Psa 119:96 “I have seen a limit to perfection [beauty]; Your commandment is exceedingly broad” [the most beautiful] w/ also Ecc 3:11 “everything [in God’s Word] is appropriate [beautiful] in its time [perfect for understanding God’s purpose and plan]”; Psa 19:7-9 = God’s Word establishes justice).

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

1) IOW: it is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships and/or w/the rest of Creation.

2) (Gen 2:17 w/3:16-19; Rom 6:23; 1 Jo 3:4)

3) Consider also (Rom 8:19-21) = The rest of Creation suffers b/c of the sin of humanity in failing to promote and protect her according to t/b/j. As a result, we suffer also. Hence the reason the Creation waits w/eagerness for the revealing (or arrival) of those who will be her good moral stewards (i.e., “the sons [children] of God”).

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation[6] where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

(Mat 10:37-38 [Contra Mat 22:8]; Luk 20:35; Rev 3:4-5; Jam 1:12 [Hence Jam 1:1-3]; Rev 21:1-8)

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation – Gen 1:28 w/Gen 2:18).

1) What you discover when you read the Bible is that God uses covenants to save people. And those covenants are marriage covenants (e.g., Jer 31:31-32). Hence the reason the Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage (Gen 2 and Rev 19) and a great portion of the language of Scripture is marital in nature (e.g., Rev 21:2). 2) In addition, the first marriage (Gen 2:23), possesses the same Hebrew structure as the Bundesformel [“I will be their God and they will be My people”], the vow of allegiance God makes when He enters into covenant w/people for the purpose of salvation (Lev 26:12; Jer 31:33; 2Co 6:16).

3) We likewise take vows of allegiance in our marriage to God (Exo 24:7-8 and 1Pe 1:1-2 and 1Pe 3:21 “appeal to God for a good conscience” = Pledge/vow of our allegiance to God).

4) As an additional connection between marriage and new creation, consider what we become when we get saved/enter into marriage w/God (a new creation – 2Co 5:17).

To be continued…

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (you are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are the lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] This then is the other reason we suffer: this life is the test.

Publications

FAITH ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

In the two thousand years since Christ walked this earth, His one true gospel has been corrupted in innumerable ways, leading to the creation of many false and damning heresies. None, however, has been so popular or so destructive as the faith-alone gospel, which holds faith as the sole condition of salvation and rejects the necessity of faithful obedience.

In Faith Alone is Not Enough, Kasey Bales dissects the faith-alone heresy, isolating its inconsistencies and contradictions and demonstrating how each is solved by Scripture's true gospel. Again and again, she proves from the pages of Scripture that when it comes to salvation, faith alone is not enough.

God’s New Covenant Prescription for Singing in the Church

Scholars agree that the subject of Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). What many also agree on is the interchangeability of the terms “psalms”, “hymns” and “spiritual songs.”[1] IOW: these terms do not refer to different types of songs but rather function as “overlapping near synonyms”[2] meant to emphasize the imperative of congregational singing.[3] With that in mind, here (then) is God’s prescription for our congregational singing:

1. The focus must be on God and His work not us or ours.

1.1. (Eph 5:19, “singing…to the Lord”; Col 3:16 “singing… to God”)

1.2. Too many songs in MCW (modern Christian worship) are guilty of placing the focus on us (what we are feeling, doing or going to do for God) w/very little – to no communication in respect to God (Who He is and what He has done or is doing). IOW: they are heavy on us and light on God.[4]

1.3. Compare: 1) (Psa 8, 46) = Words focused on God: Who He is and what He has done.[5] 2) Crown Him With Many Crowns (“the Lamb upon the throne…Awake my soul and sing of Him Who died for Me; And hail Him as they matchless King thru all eternity…Crown Him the Lord of heaven; One with the Father known…His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.”) = The focus is on God (Jesus): Who He is and what He has done (not us or what we are going to do).

to [Last week’s top 20 worship songs, CCLI]: 1) I Speak Jesus (“I just wanna speak the name of Jesus, Over every heart and every mind, Cause I know there is peace within Your Presence, I speak Jesus, I just wanna speak Jesus”) = The focus of this song is what we are going to do – not Jesus or His work. 2) How Great Is Our God (“sing with me, how great is our God and then the world will see how great is our God…name above all names worthy of all praise, my heart will sing…”) = Besides being entirely about what we are doing or singing (we are the primary acting agent), the song makes no mention of Who God is or what He has done or is doing, nor speaks any of words directly to God. Consider also [the 7 top cliches in MCW]: 1) I want you, 2) I need you, 3) I lift you up, 4) I lay it down, 5) I’m in awe, 6) I’m alive in you, 7) I am living for you. = All focused on us as the primary acting agent.

1.4. PNTM: We are here to sing to God – or about God not ourselves (i.e., bows not vows is how we give praise to God).[6]

2. The words (and music) must communicate God as our King not our girlfriend.

2.1. (Eph 5:19) “Lord” = A term used to confer majesty to those in positions of authority. Our songs must therefore communicate this majesty. IOW: the songs we sing must sound like an expression of majesty to a king versus a solicitation for intimacy with our girlfriend.

2.2. Example: All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name (“All hail the power of Jesus’ name let angels prostrate fall, to Him ascribe all majesty and crown Him Lord of all, to Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all!”).

2.3. Compare: The Secret Place by Phil Wickham (“Where are you going to run my soul…How you gonna keep this flame alive…In the fading light when night is breaking, I know you will always be waiting, You’ll always be there, I running to the secret place. Where you are…you stole my heart, stole my heart. Better is a moment I spend with you…I’m running, I’m running to the secret place.”).

to The Secret Place by RC Sproul (“He who dwells within His most secret place, Is never far from His blessed grace…The secret place of God Most High, The shadow of our Mighty King, The dwelling place where angels cry, Is where our praise will forever ring.”).

2.4. Examples from other MCW songs: 1) “Capture my heart again, your love is extravagant, your friendship, intimate.” (Your Love Is Extravagant by Casting Crowns), 2) “As I feel your touch, you bring a freedom to all that is within.” (Pour Out My Heart by Craig Musseau), 3) “A sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside my chest.” (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan), 4) “Lay back against you and breath, hear your heartbeat, this love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand” (The More I Seek You – Kari Jobe), 5) “We’re going all the way, and the wonder of it all is that I’m living just to fall more in love with you.” (Deeper ’99 by Delirious)

2.5. It is not just a song’s lyrics that can make us be guilty of treating God like our girlfriend. It can also be the music. Does the music [melody etc.,] make you feel like God is your king or your lover? Does it sound more like the Michigan Wolverine’s fight song, Hail To The Victors! or Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On?

2.6. PNTM: what we sing and how it sounds must be majestic. If it doesn’t feel majestic, then we probably shouldn’t be singing it.

“Care must always be taken that the song be neither light nor frivolous, but that it have weight and majesty.” – John Calvin

“There is a great difference between music which one makes to entertain men at table and in their houses, and the [songs] which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels.”- St. Augustine

3. Songs must also communicate rich wisdom and theology that will aid in the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.1. (Col 3:16) “Let the word of Christ [or early manuscript version: the Lord] richly dwell within you [in] all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” = Because of its large biblical content, our congregational singing should represent the first sermon of our church service. Our worship in song should feel like “the meal before the main course.”

3.2. With the exception of the Getty’s (and a few other modern hymn writers), the wisdom and theology found in most MCW is extremely lacking or completely non-existent.

“Too often today the church serves up affective sentiments without much care for the discipline of the Word.” – R. Kent Hughes

“One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that [it is filled with] trite jingles that have more in common with contemporary advertising ditties than with [God’s inspired music], the Psalms. The problem here is not so much the style of the music, though trite words fit best with trite tunes and harmonies. Rather the problem is with the content of the songs…Today’s songs reflect our shallow or nonexistent theology and do almost nothing to elevate one’s thoughts about God.” – James Montgomery Boice

“Many American evangelicals continue to exhibit a considerable gap between the materials they sing and the theology they preach. They confess to believe in a transcendent God who is above all creation, yet they sing few [songs] which properly reveal God’s excellences. Some congregations expect “strong meat” in biblical preaching but seem to be satisfied with “milk” or even lollipops in song.” – Donald Hustad

3.4. MCW Examples: Oceans by Hillsong (“You call me out upon the waters; The great unknown where feet may fail; And there I find You in the mystery; In oceans deep my faith will stand, I will call upon Your Name; And keep my eyes above the waves; When oceans rise; My soul will rest in Your embrace; For I am Yours and You are mine; Your grace abounds in deepest waters; Your sovereign hand will be my guide;
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me; You’ve never failed and You won’t start now; Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters; Wherever You would call me;
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander;
And my faith will be made stronger;
In the presence of my Saviour; I will call upon Your Name; Keep my eyes above the waves; My soul will rest in Your embrace; I am Yours and You are mine.”) = This song could be talking to any (so-called) God given there is nothing specific or any theology which exclusively ties it to the God of the Bible. It is completely void of any biblical wisdom or theology.

3.5. We need to be concerned about more than simply making sure the lyrics are orthodox, they need to also be rich in wisdom and theology (“Poor songs [also] lead us to idolatry. Not just inferior worship – idolatry. It’s that important.” – Chris Anderson). [7]

3.6. In contrast, most hymns – including modern hymns (e.g., Getty’s) are packed full of wisdom and theology that aids the saints in their spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.7. Example: Crown Him With Many Crowns (“The Lamb upon the throne; Hark How the heav’nly anthems drowns; All music but its own! Awake, my soul And sing; Of Him Who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King; Thru all eternity [Rev 5 and 7]…Crown Him the Lord of heav’n; One with the Father known; One with the Spirit thru him giv’n; From yonder glorious throne; To Thee be endless praise; For thou has died for me; Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days; Adored and magnified [Heb 1; Rev 15 and 22]; …His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.” [Rom 4 and 5; Rev 5, 12 and 13]).[8]

3.8. PTNM: Worship (in song) is not testimony it’s teaching (“rhythmic theology” – Anderson). The question then to ask when deciding whether a song should be sung by the congregation: What is it teaching? Is it (this “first” sermon) doctrinal sound or sinfully idolatrous? Additionally, how much wisdom or theology is being communicated through its verses and chorus? Is it an aid to the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude?[9]

4. The words and music must be beautiful but without a feminine vibe.

4.1. Similar to the above point, much of MCW makes God seem more like a metrosexual than the mighty warrior portrayed in Scripture (e.g., most if not all music/songs by Chris Tomlin especially when it is sung by Chris Tomlin).

4.2. Among the many reasons God only identifies Himself in masculine terms in the Scripture is most certainly this: to make clear that His tastes are not feminine. The words we sing and the music we use must therefore never be anything less than fully masculine. No feminine vibes allowed!

4.3. That being said, our God also cares deeply about beauty – especially in His house and what takes place there (Exo 28:2, 40; Psa 27:4, 50:2, 96:6).

4.4. What this means is that: 1) beauty is not a feminine invention – nor something that only women should care about. It is instead at the heart of masculinity (rightly understood), 2) the masculine music we sing must also be beautiful (e.g., masculine music that is not majestic/beautiful = Country worship music [words may promote aspects of masculinity but the music is not beautiful – it is instead as the saying goes, “like clean underwear covered in a sh*tty suit”]).

4.4. “The Christian Life should not only produce truth– but also beauty” – Francis Schaeffer

4.5. Beauty is achieved when our music/songs are “skillful” (i.e., complexity performed w/excellence; Psa 33:3), “glorious” (i.e., filled w/rich wisdom and right theology; Psa 66:2) – and (again) majestic (def., beauty expressed in dignity, power, perfection and stateliness).

PNTM: We must protect the masculinity of God and the beauty He loves (and is!) in the songs we sing since anything less can also make us guilty of idolatry.

CLOSING COMMITMENT: 1) song-writing group to start writing hymns, 2) a hearty diet of singing only hymns for the next 8 weeks (to inspire our song-writing group and strengthen our souls) 3) a removal of all music from our congregational singing that do not meet the criteria discussed today.

 

 

[1] See for example, F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians; Douglas J Moo, The Letters to Colossians and Philemon; Andrew Lincol, Ephesians; Frank Thielman, Ephesians; See also David F Detwiler, “Church Music and Colossians 3:16”

[2] Scott Aniol (Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs: Assessing the Debate”). That the terms psalms, hymns and spiritual songs should be viewed as referring to the same thing (as overlapping near synonyms) is supported by their interchangeable use in Scripture. For example: 1) all three terms are used in the LXX as titles for the Psalms, 2) The NT writers use the term “psalm” (Grk., psalmois) to refer to “hymns” ([Grk., hymnois]1Co 14:26; cf. 1Co 14:15) and spiritual songs ([Grk., odais] Jam 5:13). “Since [these three Greek terms] are each used as translations of psalm titles in the LXX and are employed interchangeably in the NT, the weight of evidence seems to suggest that Paul did not intend the terms to designate clearly identifiable genre of corporate song.” – Aniol (ibid)

[3] That Paul expects the church to be characterized by singing that involves the entire congregation (versus a select few – or one) is established by the “one another” phrase found in both verses. Additional PNTM: 1) the people leading us in worship are not the only ones ministering to others thru singing (we are all “speaking [ministering] to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”), 2) singing is not optional (how we accomplish the command to “let the word of Christ [or the Lord] dwell richly in [us]” is by “singing”), 3) refusing to sing or singing w/an unthankful heart is sin which not only qualifies as a threat to our eternal future (Heb 10:26-30), but may also place us under God’s immediate and special wrath (Heb 13:28-29 w/13:15), 4) the songs we sing together must be something that is easy for us to sing (hymns are “songs for unmusical people to sing together” – Erik Routley) .

[4] “In many cases, congregations have unwittingly begun to sing about themselves and how they are feeling rather than about God and His glory.” – Chris Anderson (Theology That Sticks)

[5] Keep in mind that not all of the Psalms were meant to be sung by the congregation. Only 55 of the 150 are directed to the choirmaster. Most of the psalms were meant for special music or special occasions (e.g., songs of ascent).

[6] Music must be tethered to God – His attributes, His names, His works, His purposes, and His glory. This is vital, perhaps more than anything else.” – Anderson (ibid)

[7] “Careful attention to the selection of hymns and praise songs is important. People learn from everything that happens in a worship service, not just the sermon. Indeed, there are probably many Christians who imbibe more of their theology, for good or ill, from what they sing than from what they hear taught.” – Carl Trueman (“The Trinity and Prayer”)

[8] “The old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways and with winsome, memorable language. They lifted the worshiper’s thoughts to God and gave him striking words by which to remember God’s attributes.” – James Montgomery Boice

[9] “Congregational song is part of the teaching ministry of the church. Church musicians and pastors should ask themselves: if our people learned their theology from our songs what would they know in twenty years about God, the cross, the resurrection, the offices of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, creation, justification, election, regeneration, the church, the sacraments, and all the other fundamental doctrines of the faith?” – Anderson (ibid)

Divine Council – Part 3

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim).

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? After considering the possible options, there is only one that meets all the biblical tests: the anointed priests and levites (judges) of the covenant community.[2]

3. What are the practical implications and application associated with the God’s divine council being the priests and levites in Christ’s churches (the New Covenant community)?

3.1. Deacons/officers are a part of the DC by proxy (i.e., they are deputized not anointed, e.g., Korah the levite – Num 16:3 “we are all holy” [anointed]) (Deu 21:5 [priests are judges] w/2Sa 15:1-4 and 2Ch 26:21 [kings are judges] = Deu 17:8-9) = The king and priests are the anointed judges in the CC (high court judges or divines[3]). Levites and the heads of households help the king and priests in judging. They are the low court judges (2Ch 19:8). They have been deputized to represent the high court judges – i.e., the divine council or council possessing divines or those w/divine authority/anointing (Deu 16:18 “judge the people…tribes…in all your towns”; “judging ones [participle; the wise heads of household in each tribe[4]] and officers” [Levites] versus 17:8-9 “if any… cases of dispute” are “too difficult…then you shall arise and go to…the Levitical priests and judge” [priests and king/the anointed/divines]; NC = Pastors and deacons, Isa 66:21 [priests and deacons selected as heads of their households] w/1Ch 17:6 “the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd My people”).

3.2. Jesus confirms that the NC possesses a DC just like the OC which means there is supernatural authority, power, protection and guidance in our church that Jesus Himself backs up or supports – which is what makes it a divine council issuing divine judgments:

1) (Mat 18:15-16) = [Deu 16:18, 17:6],

2) (Mat 18:17a) = [Deu 17:8],

3) (Mat 18:17b-20) = [Deu 17:9-12].

3.3. The way God perfectly cares for and leads His people to heaven is through the fallible and fallen leadership of His DC which means:

1) though fallible and fallen, God’s DC can judge/rule with justice (or equity) and righteousness (e.g., 2Sa 8:15).

2) unless it can be disproven to the congregation, our default position as a congregation should be to view the decisions and judgments made by our DC as coming directly from God (Pro 16:10; 2Co 1:21 w/4:6-7; Consider also 1Ti 3:1-16 = The P+D are what make the church the pillar and buttress [fortress] of truth; Mat 10:40 and 18:19-20; Act 15:22).

 

3.4. Anyone who thinks the church possesses no DC (i.e., no human judges w/divine authority):

1) is ignorant of the Scriptures and God’s power (in the church) (Mat 22:29).

2) has not considered the implications of such thinking w/respect to not only the preservation of justice and righteousness in the church but protection from demons and demonic influence (e.g., how many of us wb okay w/getting rid of the American judicial system which appoints secular men as judges w/final authority in relation to laws and issues of justice? If we deem them necessary to procuring the aforementioned things in this country, why would the same not be necessary for the church? [1Co 6:3-4]. Do we not view the secular judges as possessing authority from God? [Rom 13:1] Then why not those leaders in the church?).

3) are more than likely rebels who despise such authority or judges since they are a threat to their wicked way of life (Pro 21:15).

3.5. The church’s DC will be under stricter judgment by God and so should be careful in their decisions and judgments to make sure they are always promoting justice and preserving equity (Deu 16:20; Jam 3:1; the result of such carefulness wb the ignorant/disobedient viewing many of their decisions/policies as petty or unrighteous – e.g., late = absent; Pro 28:5).

3.6. Understanding that the DC in the church is actually referred to as elohim, brings further clarity and certainty to why insubordination or insurrection amounts to apostasy from God (Deu 17:9-12 [Num 15:30-31; Deu 29:18-20] w/Mat 18:17b-20 [Mat 12:32]; Mat 10:14-15; Rom 13:2 w/5; the crayon-eaters dilemma = When you refuse or reject the counsel of the DC, you have pushed your case to God on J-Day – which allows for no recourse/redemption after judgment).

3.7. It makes sense that the DC of the church will be involved in the final judgment of those who were a part of their congregation given they will also be involved in the judgment of those angels who caused their office and congregation pain and distress (1Co 6:3 = Those angels who caused trouble to the CC over which that DC was responsible. The righteous angels will face no judgment; Heb 13:17; Hence why then even the archangel Michael chose never to speak against the DC – Jud 8-9; Consider the context of Jude: humans treading where no angel would dare to tread; 1Th 5:12-13 “live in peace w/one another” = CC w/their DC; Num 12:1 w/9-10).

3.8. The existence of a DC in the church means that though Jesus has left us for heaven, He has not left us as orphans (i.e., persons w/o a father – or one who through their vision and discernment, discipline and discipleship, provides them with the tools to prospering in this world and passing the eternal test).

In the ANE, it was assumed that those w/o fathers were also those w/o the proper leadership in their lives to become wise or make wise decisions. Orphans – or those left as orphans, were as a result, often the idiots and criminals of society.

How (then) Jesus (though again in heaven), keeps His church from becoming aimless idiots and crooks who ultimately damn their souls b/c of such folly or lack of wisdom = Through the special anointing of “another Helper…the spirit of truth…the Holy Spirit” on certain members of His DC (Joh 14:16-18a w/25-26).

Why we cb confident that John 14 is a reference to the HS’ special anointing of the priests (in Jesus’ DC) and not the HS given to all at baptism:

1) bc the three things Jesus says about it are in perfect agreement w/what Jesus says at the initial special anointing: 1] He will personally deliver it after His death (18-20), 2] it will be associated w/Jesus’ special peace (26-27), 3] it will strengthen their belief (28-29). All three of these things are only found in (Joh 20:19-22).

2) the purpose of the John 14 HS is not the purpose of the Spirit given at baptism/@Pentecost. It can make someone a prophet (the gift of revelation – Act 2:15-18) but not a judge/part of the DC (the gift of remembrance in re: to truth – Joh 14:26; Consider also 1Co 15:29 “others judge” = The judges/DC [v28 w/Act 15:19 “my judgment” = James the anointed priest]. IOW: prophets are not judges. What about the prophet Samuel who “judged Israel”? [1Sa 7:15] Sam was also a priest – 1Sa 2:18 w/22:18 and 7:9 in contrast to 13:12]).

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

[3] Old term for priests and theologians (e.g., Westminster Divines)

[4] In ancient times, being the head of a household or tribe did not require you be the oldest in the family (e.g., David; hence Psa 119:100). It meant that those in the community (or household) viewed you as among the wisest and most righteous of their clan (Exo 18:21).

Divine Council – Part 2

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[2]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim). [3]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3; 1Ki 11:33)

Why this is not a viable option: Other deities do not exist (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13)

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible, God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings (the view of Michael Heiser)

Specifically: Satan and the other fallen angels who are identified as “sons of God” before His throne (Job 1-2) and are responsible not only for the Fall but mating with humanity and promoting global rebellion against God leading to the Flood (Gen 6 w/1Enoch 6-11). God placed these demons over the Gentile nations as their divine council (or spiritual authorities) after their rebellion at Babel (Deu 32:8-9 w/17 = “Sons of Israel” sb “sons of God” referring to “demons”, who inherited the Table of “Nations” as God’s judgment against the Gentiles for the Tower of Babel event [Gen 10-11]). God’s rebuke and condemnation of this council in Psalm 82 is the result of their poor oversight. Though wicked they were still expected to rule righteously.

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (Heb 1:14). [4]

2) The idea that angels had sex with women infers not only that angels have the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[5].

3) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 is not only a false assumption – one leading directly to Heiser’s change of the phrase “sons of Israel” (MT) to “sons of God” (DSS), but a failure in reading comprehension.[6]

The entire context and focus of the Deuteronomy 32 (Moses’ Song) is God’s inheritance for the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the MT is correct.

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is simply recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]) since this is what prohibited them from receiving or realizing this land inheritance.

4) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans).

2.5. the anointed priests/judges of the covenant community (Deu 17:8-9 w/Deu 21:5 = Priests/levites are the judges in the CC)

1) the place where the elohim carry out their office as rulers/judges is on earth (not heaven), the same place as the priests/judges of the covenant community (1-4; hence why God will also judge them on the earth – v8 “Arise O God, judge [the unrighteous judges] on the earth for it is You [God] who possesses [owns] all the nations”).

2) the judges (priests and levites) of the covenant community are also referred to as elohim (e.g., Exo 21:6 [See “God” Fn]; Exo 22:8-9).

3) the word translated “earth” in (5,8 [eretz]) can also be translated as land – as in the land of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., 2Ki 5:2 “land” [eretz]).

4) the word translated “nations” in (8) can refer to the tribes of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., again Gen 17:4-6).

5) The predominant concern and scope of Scripture is justice in the covenant community and among its leaders – not the other leaders or nations. To therefore assign a context bigger than God’s people to Psalm 82 (as Heiser does – the 70 nations of the Gentiles from Gen 10-11), is to assume an interpretive position or approach contrary what is most common in the OT – including its largest literary portion, the Prophets (e.g., Jer 22:1-17; Eze 45:9; Amo 5:10-24)[7].

6) Paul uses divine council language to speak of Old and New Covenant priests and levites:

1] (Eph 2:6) “seated us” = Paul’s audience according to 1:1-3, is the church (“Paul” along w/the “saints…and faithful…in Ephesus”) not the individual. At the very least then, the “us” of ch.2 refers to the covenant community – most specifically, her priests and levites (“faithful” = Or “faithful ones” – most likely a reference to her priests and levites – See Phi 1:1[8]). This is further supported by Paul’s connecting phrase “with Him in the heavenly places” – a direct allusion to (Psa 89:5-7) = The leaders of God’s assembly/covenant community are viewed as existing in heaven. IOW: this is the origin of their office and authority (Eph 3:10).

2] That Paul is indeed referring to spiritual leaders in the covenant community when using the phrase “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”) versus spiritual beings such as angels or demons (again, Heiser’s view) is confirmed by the role of the church in explaining and proclaiming the “mystery” and “gospel” of God’s Messiah [Jesus] – most especially to the Jewish nation (Act 1:8; Rom 2:10) – including its spiritual leaders (Eph 3:1-10) = Assuming Heiser’s view, why would the gospel need to be preached to demons or angels – those with no hope of salvation? These verses therefore have to be referring to a human occupied divine council – most specifically those in the OC community. Why the OC divine council (priests and levites) and not those under the NC? Because of (Eph 3:11-15) = Paul’s preaching this gospel (as the ambassador of the “church”) to the aforementioned rulers and authorities has caused him “tribulations” that will bring the Ephesians “glory” (or “glory in the church”). It can’t therefore be New Covenant priests and levites Paul is referring to since not only would they not be guilty of persecuting him, but by such tribulation, bring glory to the church (such actions – if true, would bring shame to the church). How then will Paul’s preaching to OC divine coucil bring glory to the church (one that makes the tribulation/persecutions suffered bc of it worth it)? Through their conversion. They remain a part of “God’s family” (again, vv14-15) and therefore the field of final harvest for the church before Christ’s return (Rom 11:11-12). Consider (Rom 11:11-12).

3] What Paul says about these heavenly rulers or authorities in his letter to the Colossians confirms this is who Paul has in mind (the OC divine council/priests and levites) (Col 2:15-16) “When He (God) had disarmed (or defrocked and dismissed) the rulers and authorities” (through Jesus’ atoning death that removed our debt before God – v14), He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him” = IOW: Christ was able to make us righteous before God without the OC priesthood which in turn made them essentially obsolete (Heb 7:12 w/8:13). Additional support: (v16) = B/C the priests of the OC community have been defrocked and dismissed, we are to no longer recognize them as our spiritual authorities (our divine council).

4] Lastly, consider how Paul uses this phrase (“rulers…in the heavenly places”) at the end of his Ephesian epistle. Close cross examination of this phrase with earlier portions of the letter and other Scripture also points to Old Covenant priesthood.

(Eph 6:11-12) “schemes of the devil” = Schemes accomplished thru the “deceitful scheming” and trickery of men (4:14) = More than likely a reference to the Jews since this was – once more, the main antagonist in Paul’s ministry – and the apostolic church[9]. Additional support (1Th 2:14-18) = Notice Paul views the Jews “hindering” his mission in the gospel as satanic [“Satan hindered us”]). Paul’s point (then) in verse 12 of Ephesians 6: “Our struggle is not (only) against flesh and blood but against the rulers…in the heavenly places” (i.e., the OC divine council) who – though they have been defrocked/dismissed from their former poisitons, are now being empowered by “the powers” related to “the world forces of this darkness…the spiritual forces of wickedness” (i.e., Satan). That Paul is in these verses referring specifically to the Jewish rulers and authorities (“in the heavenly places”) is also supported by the fact that the Greek term Ioudaioi (v14, “Jews”) was the common way to refer to the Jewish priesthood and its levites (e.g., Joh 2:13-18).

7) If the anointed leaders of the Old Covenant community possessed spiritual authority (i.e., represented God’s divine council), how much more this would be true for the New Covenant community given:

1] the biblical evidence of priests and levites (judges) existing under the New Covenant just as they did under the Old (Isa 66:21; Deu 17:8-9 w/Mat 18:15-20; Consider also 1Co 6:1-4 = The church will appoint her own judges who will not only be competent enough to make righteous decisions concerning “matters of this life” but also one day judge the angels. How is that possible unless they like their predecessors have been anointed and/or deputized as God earthly vice-regents?).

2] the Body of Christ has also been given the indwelling Spirit to help her leaders – something not present under the OC.

3] We possess the “perfect” or completed corpus of God’s revelation for securing justice in the covenant community (i.e., the completed canon of Scripture – 1Co 13:10).

8) In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE/CONTEMPLATION: What are the practical implications and application associated with the divine council being God’s anointed leaders in the church (the New Covenant community)? List as many as you can and discuss with others.

 

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[3] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[4] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2Co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[5] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men” [human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[6] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

[7] The Prophets (major and minor) contribute 250 chapters to the Old Testament’s total of 929 chapters – almost as many as the entire New Testament (260 chapters).

[8] The Ephesian church is made up of Christians (or “saints”) including also “faithful ones” (priests and levites). See similar in Col 1:2.

[9] This only changed after 70 A.D. and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Neronic persecution – influenced, aided and abetted by the Jewish priesthood, ultimately back-fired, turning Rome’s destructive forces against them and their religion.

Divine Council – Part 1

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[1]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand ([participle -singular], “taking His stand) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods; See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” [again, elohim]). [2]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3) “You shall have no other gods (elohim) before Me”, 2) (1Ki 11:33) “Ashtoreth the goddess (elohim) of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god (elohim) of Moab, and Milcom the god (elohim) of the sons of Ammon.”

Why this is not a viable option: (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13) [in reference to Samuel the witch of En-dor says],“I see a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth.”

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible (e.g., besides 1Sa 28:13, see also Isa 29:4), God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings

1) (Psa 8:5) “gods” [elohim] translated as “angels” in (Heb 2:7); (6) “I said, ‘You are gods (elohim), and all of you sons of the Most High (a reference to God) = elohim are sons of God w/(Job 1:6) “sons of God” (elohim) which included “Satan” who exists as part of the angelic class known as Watchers/archangels [Dan 4][3] or cherubim [Isa 28]). In the case of Psalm 82, fallen watchers/cherubim -i.e., demons, hence the rebuke and condemnation of (2-7). This is the view of Dr. Michael Heiser.[4] Included in Heiser’s view, is the belief that the global flood was the result of Satan and his fallen watchers/cherubim having sexual relations w/human women (which produced the Nephilim or giants) and convincing humanity to (once more) rebel against God. Heiser’s view comes from an Enochian understanding of (Gen 6:1-4).

“The divine transgression before the flood is retold in several Jewish texts from the intertestamental period. At least one has the divine offenders coming to earth to ‘fix’ the mess that was humankind—to provide direction and leadership through their knowledge. They were trying to help, but once they had assumed flesh, they failed to resist its urges. The more common version of events, one with a more sinister flavor, is found in 1 Enoch 6–11…The story begins very much like Genesis 6: “And when the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget for ourselves children’…The offspring of the Watchers (sons of God) in 1 Enoch were giants (1 Enoch 7)…But what does it all mean? Why is Genesis 6:1–4 in the Bible? What was its theological message? Yes, there were giants, renowned men, both before and after the flood (Gen 6:4). But those offspring and their knowledge were not of the true God—they were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings. Genesis 6:1–4, portrays…a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout humankind. Genesis 6:5 is essentially a summary of the effect of the transgression. It gets little space—it’s a restrained account. The later Second Temple Jewish literature goes after it full bore. First Enoch 8 goes on to elaborate how certain watchers corrupted humankind by means of forbidden knowledge.” – Heiser (ibid)

 

“They [the Watchers] became servants of Satan and led astray those who dwell upon the dry ground” (1 Enoch 54:6)… “These are the Watchers (Grigori), who turned aside from the Lord, 200 myriads, together with their prince Satan(ail)”(2 Enoch 18:3).

2) (Deu 32:8-9 w/17) “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the sons of Israel” (Masoretic Text) – versus “sons of God” (elohim) (Dead Sea Scrolls) = A reference to God giving over the 70 nations of Genesis 10 (the “table of nations”) to Enoch’s watchers (the “demons” of verse 17) due to the people’s rebellion at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). It is therefore also these individuals that God is rebuking and condemning in (2-7). Though fallen, the demons were still expected to exercise righteous judgment.

“Deuteronomy 32:8–9 describes how Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people. This is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 1:18–25, a familiar passage wherein God ‘gave [humankind] over’ to their persistent rebellion. The statement in Deuteronomy 32:9 that ‘the LORD’s [i.e., Yahweh’s] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage’ tips us off that a contrast in affection and ownership is intended. Yahweh in effect decided that the people of the world’s nations were no longer going to be in relationship to him. He would begin anew. He would enter into covenant relationship with a new people that did not yet exist: Israel. The implications of this decision and this passage are crucial to understanding much of what’s in the Old Testament. Most English Bibles do not read “according to the number of the sons of God” in Deuteronomy 32:8. Rather, they read ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel…’ The difference derives from disagreements between manuscripts of the Old Testament. ‘Sons of God’ is the correct reading, as is now known from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Frankly, you don’t need to know all the technical reasons for why the “sons of God” reading in Deuteronomy 32:8–9 is what the verse originally said. You just need to think a bit about the wrong reading, the “sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:8–9 harks back to events at the Tower of Babel, an event that occurred before the call of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. This means that the nations of the earth were divided at Babel before Israel even existed as a people. It would make no sense for God to divide up the nations of the earth ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel’ if there was no Israel. This point is also brought home in another way, namely by the fact that Israel is not listed in the Table of Nations. So what happened to the other nations? What does it mean that they were apportioned as an inheritance according to the number of the sons of God? As odd as it sounds, the rest of the nations were placed under the authority of members of Yahweh’s divine council. The other nations were assigned to lesser elohim as a judgment from the Most High, Yahweh… God decreed, in the wake of Babel, that the other nations he had forsaken would have other gods besides himself to worship. It is as though God was saying, ‘If you don’t want to obey me, I’m not interested in being your god—I’ll match you up with some other god.’ Psalm 82, where we started our divine council discussion, echoes this decision. That psalm has Yahweh judging other elohim, sons of the Most High, for their corruption in administering the nations.” – Heiser (ibid)

3) (6b) “sons of the Most High” (elyon).

“Elyon is a completely transparent title for deity, both in Hebrew and Ugaritic. The word refers only to God in the Bible and Ugaritic religious texts. The point here is that the phrase ‘sons of Elyon’ in Canaanite (Ugaritic) material always refers to gods/divine beings.” – Heiser (“Divine Council 101: Lesson 2: The elohim of Psalm 82 – gods or men?”).

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (e.g., guardian angels) (Heb 1:14). [5] The idea that angels had sex with women (Enochian understanding of Gen 6) infers not only that angels have penises, but sperm – or the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[6].

2) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 and the Tower of Babel incident in Gen 11 is a false assumption[7]. The entire context and focus of the chapter (Moses’ Song) is instead about God’s allotment to the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve tribes or nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16 = All references to nations in these verses are speaking about the twelve tribes of Israel; See also God’s words to Jacob in Gen 35:11) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the Masoretic text is correct. How then we should understand Deu 32:8-9:

“When the Most High (God) gave the nations (the twelve nations of Israel) their inheritance (Israel btw is the only one ever spoken of in the OT as receiving an inheritance from God), when He separated the sons of man (the Jews), He set the boundaries of the peoples (God pre-determined the borders of the land that wb given to each Jewish tribe when they entered the Promised Land) according to the number of the sons of Israel (twelve sons equaling twelve nations within the one nation of Israel).”

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation which eventually led them to being prohibited from entering into the Promised Land (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]).

3) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans). Furthermore, though the term “sons of God” can be used for angels and other spiritual beings, the term “sons of the Most High” is only used in relation to humans (Christians) (Luk 6:35).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Who are the members of God’s divine council?

 

[1] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[2] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[3] “The term ‘Watchers,’ meaning ‘wakeful ones’ (Aramaic ןיריע), glossed as ‘sons of Heaven’ in 1 En. 6:2, refers to a class of angels, mentioned in the Bible only in Dan. 4:10, 14, 20. – Angela Kim Harkins (The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions)

[4] “The term elohim more broadly does not refer to ‘deity attributes.’ Rather, it points to a plane of existence. An elohim is simply a being whose proper habitation [or origin of office and authority] is the spirit world…An elohim is a divine being, in that an elohim is an inhabitant of [or office-bearer in] the spiritual place of reality.” – Heiser (ibid)

[5] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[6] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men”[human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[7] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

What the Bible Teaches About Resurrection

Resurrection (def.,): The supernatural phenomenon whereby the present state of those who have died is replaced by once more being alive in a physical/material body yet unable to die again.

1. Easter is also known as “Resurrection Sunday” since it marks the day Jesus Christ became the first person to experience resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is also the reason God’s people corporately worship God on Sunday rather than Saturday (Rom 6:9; 1 Co 15:20; Act 20:7 = Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday).

2. Jesus’ resurrection (to Paradise): 1) proved that He is the Divine Son of God (Rom 1:4 w/Joh 10:18), 2) means His sacrificial death was sufficient to propitiate – or satisfy God’s requirements for cleansing the sins of His people and make them truly righteous before God the Father. As such, the temporary injunction of animal sacrifices (“pass-over atonement”) was forever canceled (Rom 3:23-25, 4:25 w/Heb 10:10-17; also Mat 1:21).

3. No one since Jesus has experienced resurrection since: 1) the son of the Shunammite woman, the widows’ sons, Lazarus, Dorcas, and Eutychus experienced resuscitations not resurrections given they died again (1Ki 7:17-23; 2 Ki 4:18-37; Luk 7:12-15; Joh 11:39-44; Act 9:36-41, 20:9-10), 2) all those who have died in the past currently exist like God without physical/material bodies ([Due 4:15-18 w/Joh 4:24 w/Luk 24:39] w/1Co 15:20-23; 1Th 4:16-17; 2Co 5:8).

4. Every person who has ever lived will experience a resurrection at the return of Jesus to earth (Joh 5:28-29; Act 24:15 [Dan 12:2; Psa 11:7]).

5. Before Jesus’ resurrection, those who died went either to Abraham’s bosom (the temporary resting place of righteous disembodied spirits) or Hades (the temporary torturing place of wicked disembodied spirits) and neither could cross over to the other (Luk 16:19-26).

6. After Jesus’ resurrection, those in Abraham’s bosom were allowed into heaven (their sins having been propitiated versus simply passed over) to fellowship w/the Trinity, the angels and the righteous disembodied spirits of those who die after Jesus’ resurrection (Heb 9:15-16 w/Eph 4:8-10; 2Co 5:8; Luk 23:43).

7. Experiencing the resurrection of the wicked will: 1) be the fate of most human beings because they chose to love wickedness rather than put faith in and be faithful to Jesus during their earthly life (Mat 7:18-23; Luk 13:23-24; 2Th 2:1:5-9, 2:10-12, 2) be followed by God’s condemning judgment and then being tortured in a lake of fire everyday forever (Psa 11:4-6; Rev 20:11-15; 2Th 2:10-12; again Joh 5:28-29 and Dan 12:2).

8. Experiencing the resurrection of the righteous will: 1) be followed by God’s approving judgment then an eternal life of never sinning, suffering or being bored, as they will be forever equipped with superhuman bodies and forever occupied with discovering, developing and enjoying King Jesus’ perfect new – and infinite universe to His glory (Rev 21-22), 2) require not only pledging your allegiance to Jesus in this life through baptismal faith but then living in faithful obedience to those vows until you die or Jesus returns (1Pe 3:21; 1Jo 3:7-10; Luk 20:35 “those considered worthy to attain to the resurrection [of the righteous] w/Joh 5:29).

9. We should not be surprised that people mock our belief in a future resurrection, the resurrection was as unpopular (a belief) in the ANE as it is today (e.g., Act 17:18 w/31-32). To not believe in a resurrection – most especially, the resurrection of Jesus, will eternally condemn you (1Co 15:1-4 “the gospel which I preached to you” w/Gal 1:6-9 “a different gospel…anathema”).

“Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter claimed that somebody had been truly dead and had then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.” – N.T. Wright (The Resurrection of the Son of God).

10. The fact that there will be a future resurrection not only confirms that this is not the only life we will live, but that the point of this very temporal life is to determine what version of eternal life we deserve (1Co 15:32).

 

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY: GOD IS REAL. THIS LIFE IS THE TEST. GAIN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE RIGHTEOUS.

 

PHI 3:10-11

“10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

A Tale of Two Kings: David

1. David had all the potential to be a great king.

– 16:1, 5-13 = Divine blessing, confirmation, & guidance

**notice however, humble beginning

**notice also, God’s choice for ‘most likely to succeed’ v.7

16:18; 17:4-11, 26, 32-37, 45-47; 18:30 = Courageous, confident, & great leader (vs Saul hiding in the luggage), giving guarantees ahead of time.

2. David demonstrates his righteous careful character through extreme trials.

18:10-11, 17, 19, 25, 19:6, 9-12, 18, 20:41-42, 21:13-22:2, 22:21-23 = Saul’s attempts to kill David -> Saul makes aggressive efforts to kill him, David loses one of his best friends, flees like a criminal, makes himself look insane, and Saul kills the priests in pursuing David.

*23:1-14 = stands up to his people, seeks God’s guidance

*24 = David’s test of sparing Saul’s life & standing up to his men. Attention to detail despite everything pointing to God’s deliverance.

*26 = David spares him again & again stands up to his men.

*30 = David’s own peeps talk of stoning him. Seeking God through the situation is part of being righteous.

2Sa 1 & 4 = David continuing to respect the King’s office

2Sa 7 = David’s covenant with God

8:15 = justice and equity

9:1-13 = David’s integrity

Character tests = Spares Saul’s life, is pressured by his men, is under threat of being stoned, David is reliant on God, trusts God, continues to pray to God (ref Psalms)

3. David saves his soul by submitting faithfully and quickly to God’s discipline.

2Sa 11 = David’s complacency leads to committing serious sin.

2Sa 12:1-25 = discipline (Psalm 51)

*Notice that David accepts what God uses to punish him. David doesn’t mope around.

*Ref David’s continued rapport with Nathan all the way into 1Kings

2Sa 15-18 Absalom’s rebellion and David’s response.

David ends his life with the legacy of a man after God’s own heart intact, ‘faithful in all things’, (Act 13:22; 1Kings 15:3-5)

Concluding principles that come from comparing Saul & David’s life:

1. What makes a man mighty in God’s eyes is not his ability to physically conquer but rather his commitment to carefully obeying God.

2. Response to discipline is a defining moment and test for people, possibly more than anything else.

3. Having the deck stacked in your favor is an indicator of future POTENTIAL, not future SUCCESS.

New principles from David’s life

1. Complacency kills. (David’s comfy in his palace instead of going to battle, Pro 1:32)

2. God expects us to respond righteously to authority even if/when they respond unrighteously. (Rom 13; 1Ti 5:19; 1Pe 3; Mat 5:38-41)

3. God expects us to be faithful, NOT perfect.

4. Growing distant from church members and/or your pastor(s) after discipline is a huge red flag. (notice David’s continued comms with Nathan vs Saul)

5. God doesn’t hold grudges. (He will bless and work all things for good if you’ll just turn and be faithful to Him. e.g. God doesn’t desire the death of the wicked [Eze 18, 33], and uses Bathsheba to continue David’s bloodline)

6. God demands our attention to detail even under pressure. (David slows down when pressured to kill Saul, doesn’t violate God’s command about building the temple, etc. vs Saul’s compromise, or Moses’ rush to strike the rock)

7. God expects you to honor your covenants/keep your word even to your own detriment. (Psa 15:4; 1Sa 20:14-17 w/ 2Sa 21:1-2)

8. Your sin has consequences and God expects you to accept that and move on. (David’s life was characterized by trouble after what happens with Bathsheba, but he doesn’t complain about it)

9. It’s important to be in your place when the fighting starts. (You don’t have to go sword to sword but do your part! This requires sacrifice, the good of the “ nation” over personal achievement/comfort. Don’t be someone who sits on the sideline or worse, thinks we shouldn’t be fighting)

Closing Contemplation: at the end of your life, will your choices reveal you to have been more like Saul or David?

A Tale of Two Kings: Saul

1Sa 2:1-10 – Similar to Charles Dickens’ intro to his famous book “A Tale of Two Cities”, Hannah’s prayer provides for us a preview and an intro to the themes present in 1st & 2nd Samuel. In these two books, we are told the life-stories of Israel’s first two kings, Saul & David.

1. Saul had all the potential to be a great king.

9:1-2 = Rich upbringing & physical presence

10:1-10 = God’s blessing, confirmation, & guidance

10:17-24 = The approval of most of the people

11:1-2, 5-8, 11-15

– Saul was Israel’s yearbook selection for “Most likely to succeed”

– Think of this from their perspective and the way Scripture lays it out

2. Saul’s life falls apart because he refuses to change his character flaws.

2.1. Impulsive = 1Sa 13:5-14 – Saul’s wrong sacrifice

Notice Saul’s arrogance to take it on himself to sacrifice. (e.g. Uzziah doing the same becomes a leper for taking priestly duties upon himself 2Ch 26 – too big for your britches syndrome)

Notice Saul makes excuses for why he did it (I feared b/c the people were scared, and the Philistines were bearing down on me)

VERY interesting, v. 12 – word for “forced” is typically “Restrain, or control yourself”, Saul does the opposite by “restraining” his conscience and acting anyway. Rom 14:23

2.2. Impulsive, rash & arrogant = Saul’s vow. 1Sa 14:24, 27-33, 38-46, 52

Saul creates a far worse situation by taking a vow that no one required. One he didn’t think through and resulted in further wrongdoing (eating w/ the blood). Pro 19:2/Pro 15:28

2.3. Impulsive, inattention to detail, arrogance, and fear of man = 1Sa 15:1-3, 7-9, 10-24, 25-31

Notice Saul still believes he did it correctly. V.13 & TRIPLES down on doing it the right way in the face of God’s messenger (e.g., Mat7; God’s present-day messengers = pastors). Saul makes excuses for what he did, doesn’t take ownership. Usually when people are zealous about taking ownership, it’s there BEFORE doing something wrong. Instead, getting Saul to own anything is like stapling jelly to the wall, moving target, all appearance-based.

Notice Saul 1) blames the people for preserving the sheep & fears what they’ll say if he puts his foot down. 2) Saul doesn’t want the shame of Samuel leaving, he asks him to “honor me before the people. V30-31. Look at how fearing what men think controls & makes you pathetic. Desperately clawing after Samuel to avoid the shame of discipline. When you don’t take ownership and don’t value obedience, you fear man, and can’t live with the disapproval of the people.

3. Saul is disciplined for his rebellion but shipwrecks his soul by refusing to submit to God’s discipline.

3.1. Notice the paranoia and attempts to stay in control that Saul makes. Despite Saul’s love for David, as soon as Saul perceives a threat, he attempts to kill David twice & then to get him killed. David 18:5-16. 25-30. Saul attempts to kill David once more & even Jonathan with the spear in person and hunts him in at least 4 major instances documented for us.

3.2. In his pursuit of David, Saul DOES murder the priests due to them helping David. 1Sa 21:1-10, 22:6-19. 1Ti 5:19

3.3. Saul ends his sad life still expecting to find God’s favor & throws a tantrum when God doesn’t answer. 1Sa 28:4-6 w/ v7, 10-11, 14-15, 16-19, 1Chr 10:13

Concluding principles from Saul’s life:

1. Response to discipline is a defining moment and test for people, possibly more than anything else (Heb 12, Jam 1, Pro 6; Pro 15:10 – hates reproof = death, Pro 15:31-33)

2. We shouldn’t be surprised or worried that those who refuse to submit to God’s discipline often end up being the worst enemies of God and His people. (e.g. Simon the Sorcerer, Cain, Judas; it can seem crazy that close friends/family leave the church and quickly turn around to lie, slander, and become enemies of Christ, but understand this follows the pattern in Scripture)

3. Moral decline doesn’t happen overnight. (Take stock of your current trajectory, not your current state. You can’t just look at data points, you have to plot the trajectory) Birds of a feather flock together. Don’t think ‘it happened to them, but it won’t happen to me’. What is it about these people that you’re attracted to?

4. What makes a man mighty in God’s eyes is not his ability to physically conquer but rather his commitment to carefully obeying God. This should be SUPER encouraging to us. God doesn’t need warriors or inherently special people to do great things – he just needs people to obey. You don’t have to be a king capable of routing nations, leading armies, slaying giants, for God to delight in what you’re doing, all you have to do is obey.

5. Having the deck stacked in your favor is an indicator of future POTENTIAL, not future SUCCESS. Your future success is contingent on being faithful now and in the future, not the amount of potential you currently have.

Dimensional Portals – Part 3

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

1. Summary of what we learned in our previous two discussions:

1.1. In the Bible, access to the divine (a heavenly portal/gate which in most cases, is also identified as the house of God) is associated w/mountains (including hills and high places). Hence the name, “El Shaddai” (Literally, “God of the Mountain”):

1) Mt. Eden (Eze 28:13-14 “Every precious stone was your covering” = This statement along w/what follows could be a reference to a temple like structure that existed as God’s house on the mountain – Precious stones were a part of Solomon’s Temple – 1Ch 29:2)

2) Mt. Ephraim (Gen 28:10-22 “a ladder was set on earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it…‘This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate [portal] of heaven [Bethel].’” w/Jug 4:5 “Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim”)

3) Mt. Sinai/tabernacle (Exo 24:1-18 w/the tabernacle being constructed at the base of the mountain – Exo 40)

4) Mt. Zion/Jerusalem Temple (Psa 84:1-3, 9), 5) Jesus as the eschatological Mt. Zion/Temple (house of God) (Mat 16:18 “rock” [mountain] w/Dan 2:35 [7:13] w/Isa 2:1-3; Joh 1:14 “dwelt” = Literally, “tabernacled”; Joh 2:19-21 w/Rev 21:22; Mat 16:19 “keys [to the portal/gate] of the kingdom of heaven”). Hence why also (Gen 11:1-9 “Babel” – later, “Babylon” or “Gate of Heaven”).

 

1.2. In the Bible, bodies of water (seas, lakes and rivers) are associated with death, the wicked and demons (Psa Psa 9:17 “the wicked…Sheol”; Luk 8:31 “demons…the abyss”, 16:23 “[wicked] in Hades”; Mat 8:31-32 “[the demons possessing the swine] rushed…into the sea” w/12:43 “[exorcised demon] passes through waterless places seeking rest [a water-filled place]”) (In re: to both Psa 18:1-17).

 

*For further study see L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend The Mountain of the Lord?)

 

2. Conclusions (Inferences/Hypotheses) that can be drawn from what we have learned:

2.1. The above two truths, are why God’s salvation often involves (or is depicted as) deliverance from the watery depths and ascent to the mountain heights (bc we are moving from death to life/new life):

1) Noah and family: were delivered from the global flood to Mt. Ararat (Gen 7:6-7 w/17w/21-8:4)

2) Moses and Israel were delivered thru the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai (Exo 14:29-30 and 19:1-2)

3) David (in re: to Saul’s deadly manhunt) was delivered from “the torrents (rushing water) of ungodliness (or demonic assault, 1Sa 16:14)…the cords of Sheol…the snares of death…the many waters” to a place “on high” to the mountain of God – or God who is the mountain (“rock”) (Psa 18:1-7 w/15-17)

4) Us/Christians were delivered thru the waters of baptism symbolizing the place of our sin/death to new life on the mountain that is Christ (1Pe 3:20-21 w/Rom 8:3-4) Who experienced the same path in His mission to save us: baptism unto death (Luk 12:50) leading to resurrection and heavenly ascension from the top of a sacred mtn (Mt. Olivet).

 

2.2. Access to God – or His sacred mountain (for forgiveness, blessings, empowerment, guidance) has never been something available in any place, at any time or in any way (Exo 19:10-19 w/Psa 15 = Access to God/His mtn is limited and restrictive; Joh 12:25-26 = Access to El Shaddai Jesus is limited and restrictive; Again Mat 16:18-19 [Joh 20:21-23] = Forgiveness exists only in the church planted on El Shaddai Jesus and thru the hands of His anointed priests [Jam 5:14-16]).

2.3. Only God can open portals to heaven. The only portals we can open, are those to Hades (e.g., Gen 28:16 “surely God is in this place and I did not know it”) = Jacob plays no role in opening the portal, only in recognizing it. (Gen 11:4 w/6) = Their efforts in opening a heavenly portal was an exercise in futility, what however they could open in respect to evil had no limits [“nothing evil which they purpose to do will be impossible for them”]; 1Co 10:20 “sharers in demons” = Sacrifice to demons opens portals to [contact w/] demons).

 

2.4. Heavenly portals are necessary for salvation (Joh 3:3 “born again”) = Literally, born from above (Grk., anothen = Above, e.g., Joh 3:31 [“He who comes from above”]). Hence the reason the sacraments reside w/the church (i.e., the house of God/gate of heaven where these portals exist) (Mat 16:19).

 

2.5. The closer the portal the closer the help or hindrance (Dan 10:2-13) = It seems as though the angel was not able to simply appear at the place where Daniel was praying and fasting, but rather had to travel (from Jerusalem) through Persia to get to him (i.e., God was not willing to open a portal in Babylon). This implies that portals are not everywhere and the time it takes to receive supernatural help is determined by their proximity (See Num 1:51-2:2 w/Psa 34:7; Consider also Mar 5:25-30 = Jesus as the new house of God, was a walking portal). The proximity principle should also be assumed in relation to demonic activity (1Th 2:18 “Satan hindered us”).

 

2.6. The world is filled w/churches (sacred mountains) who, because their gospel is false and/or are compromising, have filled the world w/portals open to the demonic realm (Mat 16:18 “gates of Hades” w/Rev 18:2; Combined w/the previous point consider all the Evangelical churches that start in public schools – or false Christian schools [Roman Catholic, Evangelical] and what that means for those places – i.e., they are being overrun by demons. Could this be the reason for the uptick in violence, idolatry and immorality in our schools today?).

 

2.7. It should come as no surprise that false versions of Christianity share many similarities to true Christianity since this is how all effective false religions work. Consider the false religions of the ANE started by the 70 nations who are the descendants of Noah’s rebellious sons Ham and Japheth (Gen 10 Table of Nations). Because they share the same ancestors and experiences as the true followers of YHWH, what they produce as their god and religion share many of the same names, stories and beliefs (e.g., portals, sacred mtns and high places, the necessity of sacrifice, stories of Creation and the Flood, etc). The differences (in these false versions) exist in those areas where the truth is incompatible with their desires or agenda (e.g., a gospel req’g only faith to be saved).

The PNTM: counterfeits versions of YHWHism are bound to look like what is legitimate because of their past history or prior connection to the truth. Yet in the end, what they are – no matter the level of similarities, is a religion worshipping demons (e.g., Evangelicals are worshipping demons they call YHWH or Jesus. How many demons have been afforded the name YHWH or Jesus?).

 

2.8. Our tithing (or lack thereof) affects whether or not the heavenly portal (and its benefits) are available to us (Gen 28:22) = The ancient religion passed down to Jacob by Isaac and Abraham taught him the necessity of tithing to maintaining access to God’s heavenly portal and receiving His blessings (Mal 3:8-10 “windows” [Heb., arrubbah] = Flood-gate).

 

2.9. The biblical relationship between the sea and the demonic (Rev 13:1), as the alternate, acceptable existence for demons (Mat 8:32), could be the reason for UFOs entering and exiting from our oceans.

 

2.10. False churches are our world’s greatest threat: they promise a portal to heaven yet open those leading to the Hades and the devil (Rev 18:2)

 

2.11. The safest place on earth: Christ’s church (Joh 1:51; Mat 7:24 w/Psa 18:1-3),

 

2.12. Is it by accident that Christ Covenant Church sits on a high place (a hill) in the Mile High City – or is it poetic providence?

Dimensional Portals – Part 2

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist in the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

What to keep in mind when discussing subjects like this: (1Ti 1:3 “strange doctrines”) = Doctrine that does not agree with orthodoxy – e.g., Gen 6:1-4 according to 1Enoch (fallen angels mated with human women who gave birth to the giants who actions and dead, demonic spirits are the main reason for humanity’s corruption [tbd under Divine Council]).

Why talking about these subjects are important:

1) we are living in stranger times (e.g., The US secret program that employed what is known as remote viewing [clairvoyance] from 1978-1995 [Project Stargate]; UFO/UAP and alien phenomena and their possible connection to world govts, the divine or demonic and other dimensions, our culture’s current obsession w/the supernatural [super-heroes, aliens, stargates/portals to other dimensions or multiverses [The Marvels, Avengers Infinity War and End Game, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spiderman Across the Spiderverse, Zac Snyder’s Justice League, Stargate, Fringe, Resident Alien, Ancient Aliens, Stranger Things, etc.], quantum mechanics/physics and its belief in multiple dimensions).

2) much of what the Scriptures have to say about these kinds of subjects were suppressed in the over correction of the Protestant Reformation [16th century] as the means to not only curtailing the myths of Roman Catholicism but also the hyper-supernaturalism that characterized much of the Middle Ages [400 – 1500 A.D.].

3) the evidence for dimensional portals (or “stargates”) or divine councils are not only present in the Scriptures but also other ANE[1] literature (Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Egyptian and Assyrian [e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of Gates).

4) the Bible presents a material world that is very connected to, dependent on, impacted and affected by an immaterial world filled with supernatural beings and power.

“Human events are inextricably intertwined with the events in heavenly places.” – Sinclair Ferguson (“Preaching From The Book Of Daniel”)

5) to speak of the events of life without consideration of their connection or impact on the spiritual realm would have seemed strange to the biblical authors living in the ANE. If we are to understand our bibles and its message to us, we must then understand it from their perspective.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is not Augustine or any other church father. It is not the Catholic church. It is not the rabbinic movements of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is not the Reformation and the Puritans. It is not evangelicalism in any of its many flavors. It is not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

 

1. The cosmology[2] established by the Bible seems to identify certain geographical locations as more likely to possess dimensional portals. The geographical locations most frequented by those living in the ANE for the purpose of connecting with the spiritual/immaterial/supernatural realm were the high places. Hence the reason communication w/God (or false gods), religious sacrifices and temples often existed on mountains (e.g., Mt. Sinai, Mt. Zion) or mountain-like structures (e.g., pyramids, ziggurats; the Tower of Babel)(See Tabernacle Prefigured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology In Genesis and Exodus, Who Shall Ascend The Mountain Of The Lord? by L. Michael Morales).

 

2. Those high places confirmed to be dimensional portals between heaven and earth are also referred to as the “house of God” (other by its other terms: “sanctuary”, “tabernacle” or “temple”). This is the point behind God resting on the seventh day [after the six days of Creation] – and the reason we are told to be gathering for worship on the Sabbath in God’s house. ANE thought teaches us that though God’s home is in heaven, the place He chooses to rest is in His house [think vacation home] on earth. In the beginning that was Mt. Eden, later it was Mt. Sinai.[3] Other houses of God and dimensional portals associated w/high places/mountains: 1) Jacob’s Bethel (Gen 28:10-19 [“Beth-el” = House of God; “gate of heaven” = Dimensional portal] w/Jug 4:5 [“hill country of Ephraim” = Mt. Ephraim; See also Gen 35:3, “let us go up to Bethel”]),

2) Israel’s tabernacle (Exo 29:44-45 w/1Chr 6:48 [“the tabernacle of the house of God”]; Exo 40:34 w/24:15-16 [“cloud…glory of the Lord” = God’s Presence transfers to the tabernacle identifying it as the new sacred mountain of God and gate to heaven] [4]), 3) Jerusalem’s temple/sanctuary (2Chr 6:6 w/Psa 78:68-69; Psa 48:1-3 w/9 w/13 [“Mount Zion…His holy mountain…Your temple…her palaces”] w/Psa 27:4 [“house of the Lord…His temple”]).

Understanding the connection between high places and heavenly portals (the presence of God/the divine) helps us to better appreciate why: 1) important events or meetings are often referred to as “Summit Meetings” (e.g., G5 Summit; Gen 31:51-32:2 = The fact that Jacob and Laban are on a mountain when all these things happen [covenant/“pillar” of “witness” est’d, God invoked for judgment, sacrifice is made] and supernatural events are experienced [“angels of God” are on the mtn] is not by accident. Jacob and Laban no doubt saw this place as a potential portal [“This is God’s camp”]), 2) Jesus and His disciples found solace in the high places or mountain gardens (Mt. Olivet, Luk 21:37; its mountain garden:: the Garden of Gethsemane – consider also the angels who are there – Luk 22:39-43), 3) the gospel is connected to a high place/mountain (Isa 52:7 [Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15]) = Reference to the mountain tells us the messenger possesses a message from “on high” – i.e., it comes from God.

 

3. Jesus moves the house of God or dimensional portal between heaven and earth off the former sacred mountains and on to Himself and His churches. The physical location of Jesus’ churches wb be global and no longer require the need of a literal high place or sacred mountain (Joh 4:20-24 “worship in spirit and truth”) = Access to God (for forgiveness, blessings, empowerment, authority) would no longer be based on Jewish bloodline or its former sacred mountain (Zion/Jerusalem). God’s people would instead be born by the Spirit and building their lives on the truth/teachings of Jesus – God’s new sacred mountain – the eschatological Mt. Zion of the prophets. (Mat 16:13-18a) “I also say to you that you are Peter” = Jesus seems to be indicating that the reason He gave “Simon Barjona” (v17) this nickname (“Peter [Grk.-masc., petros] is a modified version of the actual term for rock [Grk., – fem., petra])[5] at the beginning of His ministry (Joh 1:42 “Cephas” [Aramaic for rock]) was for this divinely orchestrated moment, Simon (or Peter’s) powerful proclamation of Jesus’s identity (“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – v16) a statement which also identifies Jesus as eschatological Mt. Zion of the nations, the foundation of God’s new house and fountain of His new laws (Isa 2:1-3 w/Dan 2:35) = The eschatological “mountain” of Isaiah and Daniel’s visions are the same. And according to Dan 7:13-14, the divine mountain is a Divine Person (Dan 7:1-18 is a repeat of Dan 2:31-45). Jesus alludes to Himself as the mountain and His church where His laws/truth will not only be taught but obeyed in (Mat 7:24 “rock” = An epithet for mountain often used when speaking of God – e.g., Psa 18:2, 31, 46[6]). Like before however, worship on this new mountain (and new house) would require a portal/access to heaven since it too would possess spiritual commodities to be received by heaven (the sacraments). Hence (Mat 16:19). The church is therefore the new Jacob’s ladder or heavenly highway, the sacred space on earth where an influx of celestial traffic and new spiritual commodities [e.g., the sacraments; judgments – Mat 18:18-20” I am there in your midst” = The heavenly portal is open and I am participating w/you in your judgments; See also 1Co 5:4 and Act 15:19-20 w/28-29][7] pass through on a regular basis (Mat 28:20b “I am with you always” [i.e. there on a regular basis] w/Joh 1:51; Heb 12:22-29; Hence Eph 1:23 “fills all in all” = Christ’s full presence resides in the church b/c of the heavenly portal that exists there).

4. Like those worshipping false deities (demons), those churches given to moral compromise or false gospels, can become portals and/or open portals of Hades. Like those houses of God before it, Jesus’s promise in Mat 16:18b (“gates [or portals] of Hades will not overpower it [the church]”is conditioned upon the church’s practice of righteousness and justice – and embracing the true gospel.[8] (e.g., Rev 3:8 [notice the implied condition, they “kept His word and did not deny His name”] in contrast to Rev18:2 w/16:13-14 [“false prophet” = Israel’s priesthood] = B/C of her rejection of Jesus and His gospel, the OC church [Israel] not only became a false religion but a portal to Hades that filled Jerusalem w/demons]; Deu 32:15-17 [“Jeshrun” = Israel] w/Psa 106:37-38 and 1Co 10:16 w/19-20) = As in the case w/God, what can be safely assumed is that worship [sacrifice] to demons [knowingly or unknowingly] likewise opens portals allowing them passage into our dimension – or bodies. Hence the reason the global corruption of the church will eventually accomplish the permanent emancipation of Satan and the demons from Hades (Rev 20:7-8).

 

CLOSING COMTEMPLATION: What conclusions (inferences or hypotheses) can be drawn from what we have learned about the Bible’s cosmology and teaching on dimensional portals? [Make a list and discuss!]

[1] ANE: Ancient Near East. The world of the bible’s authors and teachers (2,000 BC – 100 AD).

[2] Cosmology refers to the way we understand the structure of the universe. According to ANE thought, the universe was comprised of three realms or dimensions: 1) heavenly for God and angels, 2) earthly for humans, 3) underworld (under the earth) for the dead, the devil and his angels. All three are depicted in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:4).

[3] It is possible that like Moses on Mt. Sinai, so also Adam would summit Eden to meet w/God on the Sabbath. On the other days, God could be found walking in the garden at its base (e.g., Gen 3:8).

[4] “The experience at Sinai as mountain of God will give way to another reality as this approach to God in worship is carried though the tabernacle as a portable mountain of God…Because the tabernacle is an architectural embodiment of the mountain of God, the transfer of God’s Presence from Sinai to the tabernacle yields other links and correspondences between them. Commentators, at least since Ramban in the Middle Ages, have noted the similarity between Mount Sinai and the tabernacle, first in relation to their tripartite divisions whereby the holy of holies (the priest’s sole access) corresponds to the summit, the holy place (accessed by the priesthood) corresponds to the second one partway up the mountain, and the outer court with the altar (accessed by the people) corresponds to the base of the mountain, also with an altar (Exo 19:1-25 w/24:1-2, 9-18)…After Adam’s and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden, YHWH installed cherubim to guard the entrance – specifically to bar access to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). The only other place within the Pentateuch where one reads of the cherubim is in relation to the tabernacle (Exo 36:8, 35). Also, the tree of life in the garden…symbolizing God’s life-giving Presence, appears to find correspondence in the stylized tree the menorah – of the tabernacle.” – Morales (ibid)

[5] The Roman Catholic church’s attempt to identify Simon as the same rock where Jesus will build His church reveals either their ignorance – or deliberate choice to ignore that these words are different and therefore referring to two different things.

[6] “The word ‘rock’, sometimes a synonym for mountain, is also an epithet for YHWH.” – Morales (The Tabernacle Pre-Figured)

[7] With respect to spiritual commodities consider the OT sacrifices or burnt offerings whose very name implies movement upward through God’s portal. “The supreme sacrifice, the burnt offering, or holocaust, is in Hebrew ‘ola, a going up.’” – Morales (ibid)

[8] It is worth noting that where Jesus makes this promise (“the gates of Hades”) is also on a mountain, Mt. Hermon, a place known in the ANE as “the gates of the dead.”

Dimensional Portals – Part 1

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist in the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

 

What to keep in mind when discussing subjects like this: (1Ti 1:3 “strange doctrines”) = Doctrine that does not agree with orthodoxy – e.g., Gen 6:1-4 according to 1Enoch (fallen angels mated with human women who gave birth to the giants who actions and dead, demonic spirits are the main reason for humanity’s corruption [tbd under Divine Council]).

 

Why talking about these subjects are important:

1) we are living in stranger times (e.g., The US secret program that employed what is known as remote viewing [clairvoyance] from 1978-1995 [Project Stargate]; UFO/UAP and alien phenomena and their possible connection to world govts, the divine or demonic and other dimensions, our culture’s current obsession w/the supernatural [super-heroes, aliens, stargates/portals to other dimensions or multiverses [The Marvels, Avengers Infinity War and End Game, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spiderman Across the Spiderverse, Zac Snyder’s Justice League, Stargate, Fringe, Resident Alien, Ancient Aliens, Stranger Things, etc.], quantum mechanics/physics and its belief in multiple dimensions).

2) much of what the Scriptures have to say about these kinds of subjects were suppressed in the over correction of the Protestant Reformation [16th century] to not only curtail the myths of Roman Catholicism but hyper-supernaturalism that characterized much of the Middle Ages [400 – 1500 A.D.] and its theology.

3) the evidence for dimensional portals (or “stargates”) or divine councils are not only present in the Scriptures but also other ANE[1] literature (Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Egyptian and Assyrian [e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of Gates).

4) the Bible presents a material world that is very connected to, dependent on, impacted and affected by an immaterial world filled with supernatural beings and power.

“Human events are inextricably intertwined with the events in heavenly places.” – Sinclair Ferguson (“Preaching From The Book Of Daniel”)

5) to speak of the events of life without consideration of their connection or impact on the spiritual realm would have seemed strange to the biblical authors living in the ANE. If we are to understand our bibles and its message to us, we must then understand it from their perspective.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is not Augustine or any other church father. It is not the Catholic church. It is not the rabbinic movements of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is not the Reformation and the Puritans. It is not evangelicalism in any of its many flavors. It is not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

 

 

1. The cosmology[2] established by the Bible seems to identify certain geographical locations as more likely to possess dimensional portals. 1.1. The earth’s oceans or large bodies of water are depicted as uncreated space, the place of darkness, chaos and evil – and therefore the place where those go who are now dead (uncreated physically, no longer attached to a physical body, spirits) those who have left the “light” of creation or “light of life” (life/creation being associated w/life – Gen 1:3-4; Job 33:30; Psa 56:13; Joh 1:4, 8:12). The sea was therefore thought of as a portal to the underworld (again Exo 20:4). Most common biblical terms used to identify the underworld: “Sheol or Abbadon”– Job 26:5-6[3]). Support: (Gen 1:1-2, “formless and void” = Uncreated; Gen 6:17 w/7:21-23 w/1Pe 3:20-21 [Like the blood of the sacrifice, water removes what should not exist in creation – i.e., sin, to the place of uncreation[4]]; See also 2Pe 3:5-6 [“formed out of water by water” = The water represents the instrument of creation rather than creation itself. Peter also associates it w/destruction – which coincides with the idea of uncreation since this is the end product of destruction]; Psa 18:4-6 w/16-19, 49:14 [Sheol is associated w/darkness in contrast to the upright who rule in the light/“morning.” It is also the place where our created “form” is uncreated or “consumed”]; Job 17:13]; Jon 2:2-3; Isa 57:20-21; Jam 1:6; Jud 1:13; Hence Rev 21:1)[5].

Given this understanding consider water’s connection to demons or demon possession (Mat 8:31-32 w/12:43 = Water shares much in common w/physical bodies making it a nice alternative. In this sense, pigs are also a reasonable option as a transport vessel back to the water – especially given their recent eviction from their human host – the ideal home for sentient life-forms/spirits)[6].

1.2. In contrast, the earth’s land is depicted as created space and her gardens and high places or mountains (think Eden and the mountain of God in Eden) are depicted as sacred space, or the place where dimensional portals often exist. Hence the reason, ancient religions (those whose origins are closest to Creation and “religion zero”, or that originally instituted by God and practiced by Adam and Eve) are frequently associated with sacred gardens or high places, natural (mountains) or engineered (e.g., man-made ziggurats/pyramids of Mesopotamia and Egypt) (Exo 3:1; Deu 9:10; 1Ki 3:4; Psa 48:1-2, 68:15; Isa 2:3, 8:18, 14:13-5; 18:7, 51:3, 57:15; Jer 17:12; Eze 20:40, 28:13-14 [“Eden, the garden of God” in on the “holy mountain of God”]; Mic 1:5, 4:2; Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1, 21:10). With respect to the false religions existing in the ANE consider (Gen 4:12-14[7]; Gen 11:1-9[8]; Lev 26:30; Num 33:52; Deu 12:2; 1Ki 11:7, 12:31-32, 13:33; 2Ki 17:9-11, 29 Isa 65:3, 66:17). Mountains as sacred space also played a role in how those living in the ANE perceived the watery depths of the underworld. It existed at “the roots of the mountains” (Jon 2:5-6).

“[In the Bible] sacred space was poetically conceived as a world-mountain surrounded by the primeval waters. At the cloud-covered summit of the mountain is the temple, the dwelling of God, and at the base are the chaos waters, underneath which lies Sheol, the place of the dead. Representing God’s life-giving Presence, the waters of life flow from the summit of the mountain. Movement away from life (creation) toward death (chaos); and, conversely, movement toward God is expressed as an ascent from death to life…Hence the movement from death to life, from exile to entry into God’s Presence, involves a pattern of deliverance through waters to the mountain of God. Noah and his household…will be delivered through the waters of deluge to the Ararat mount where he will offer sacrifices and receive divine blessing. Later, Israel will be delivered through the waters of the sea and brought to Sinai, entering into covenant with YHWH. The pattern of exile or expulsion entails the reverse movement: from the temple of God to the waters of destruction.” – L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend)

“God’s holy mountain, where His temple is located, is the center of the cosmos, or orderly creation. The farther away from the center of the cosmos one goes, the more one moves into the realm of chaos or non-creation. The spatial image is equally vertical and horizontal. Vertical, the heavens are the source of existence and creation; the underworld and abyss are the place of death and nonexistence. Horizontally, the land around the mountain of one’s god is known and understood and therefore thought of as most ‘created’; the sea which lay beyond the limits of the land was unsolid, non-formed – in other words, ‘uncreated’.” – B.F. Batto (“The Reed Sea: Requiescat in Pace”).

[1] ANE: Ancient Near East. The world of the bible’s authors and teachers (2,000 BC – 100 AD).

[2] Cosmology refers to the way we understand the structure of the universe. According to ANE thought, the universe was comprised of three realms or dimensions: 1) heavenly for God and angels, 2) earthly for humans, 3) underworld (under the earth) for the dead, the devil and his angels. All three are depicted in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:4).

[3] When referring to the unrighteous dead, the NT uses the terms, “Hades” or the “abyss” or the “bottomless pit.” This underworld place is also associated w/Satan and the demons (e.g., Luk 16:23; Mat 11:23; Luk 8:31; Rev 9:1-11, 20:1-3).

[4] With respect to the animal sacrifices of the Bible, the reason God prescribes them is so that sin – a corrupting element to the code of creation or life, can be properly dispensed of (or cleansed) through (or upon) something which (through its death) is leaving creation (i.e., being uncreated). What however man needs to truly experience freedom (from sin), is new creation. This then is what was accomplished and has been applied to us through Christ’s “uncreation” (death) and “recreation” (resurrection).

[5] That the sea is more than simply a metaphor can be seen by its use in Revelation where it also provides clues to the Beast’s geographical origin (e.g., Rev 13:1).

[6] The underworld is itself not filled with water. According to Zechariah, it is a “waterless pit” (Zec 9:11) implying that it is also a place of some level of discomfort or unrest (compare again to Mat 12:43 and also Luk 16:23 [Hades]).

[7] The first deviation from “religion zero” is connected to the Bible’s first apostate, Cain. After being driven from the presence of God and Eden’s east door/gate (the established place of sacrifice after the Fall – Gen 3:24 w/11-16), Cain, no longer able to receive forgiveness (hence his response, v13, “my punishment is too great to bear!”), finds spiritual solace (and “new religion”) in his son (Enoch) and seeks a high place (or mountain) to build a city in dedication to his name (versus the name of God) (v17; archeology: Mesopotamian island hill-city of Eridu; in Sumerian, Nun-ki) . Hence the contrast mentioned in vv25-26. Archeology believes Cain’s city to also be the later site of the Tower of Babel/Babylon (which means, “Gate of God”) – the engineered (man-made) religious high place constructed on a now very flat (post Flood) area (Gen 11:1-4).

[8] “The ziggurat builders wanted access to the divine through the gate [portal] of heaven.” – L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?); “Such cultic towers were typical of the time in ancient Mesopotamia. Their purpose was to serve as a gateway between heaven and earth whereby the god could come down and even refresh himself on the way down to the earthly temple.” -G.K. Beale (“The Descent of the Eschatological Temple in the Form of the Spirit at Pentecost.”); “The Sin of the tower builders is their desire to storm the heavens and make a name for themselves, which symbolically means that they seek to invade the divine realm and become immortal like gods [to dethrone God and set themselves in His place].” – A. Gnuse (“An Overlooked Message: The Critique of Kings and Affirmation of Equality in the Primeval History.”).

The Power of Loyalty – Part 1

In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus reveals the power our discretionary and listening loyalties possess not only for determining who we truly serve (who we are loyal to as King), but also producing the salvation-essential attributes of affection (for God) and conviction (in regard to the Word of God). Our confidence that loyalty is indeed His subject is confirmed by His conclusion (24 “serve…be devoted to” = be loyal to).

Understanding For Encouragement And Overcoming

1. The problem is not ours, but theirs.

2. We are in good company.

3. Our primary mission is to be the aroma of Christ to the lost, not win the lost to Christ.

4. Our primary audience and antagonist is and will be the false churches of the world.

5. God uses the persecution of false churches to purge the apostate from Christ’s true church.

6. Persecution serves as one of the greatest and most reliable assurances that we are going to heaven.

7. The Evangelical rejection of the true gospel may also be another sign that Jesus will be returning soon.

What the Bible Has To Say About The Transfer Of Our Church Membership

Common belief today: “We have the right to transfer our membership whenever we want, for whatever reason we want, as long as we believe the other church to be biblical.”

Those who believe such things indicate they are not only completely ignorant – or rebellious to, what the Bible actually teaches on this subject, but also the church’s divine authority in such matters[1].

1. We cannot transfer to another church without our current church’s allowance or approval.

Why? Because our membership is attached to our baptism and our baptism is the property of the church currently possessing it -not us.

1.1. God only recognizes us as a member of a specific church when that church performs/possesses our baptism (Act 2:41 “added” [to the church as members] at the point of baptism). IOW: Membership = Baptism.

1.2. To transfer our membership to another church therefore requires the transfer of our baptism to that church.

1.3. Given that baptism is also the way we receive initial forgiveness or the washing away of our sins, it constitutes one of the keys of salvation given to the Christ’s churches – not the individual (Act 2:38, 22:16 w/Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 16:18-19: Keys unlock gates – in this case, the gates to the kingdom of heaven [in contrast to v18 “gates of Hades”]. The key of baptism gives us access to the blessings of the Spirit and forgiveness [the blood of Christ]).[2]

1.4. Transferring to another church would therefore also require allowance/approval of the church (possessing your baptism) since: 1) they (not you) are the owners of that heavenly access key (baptism) (again, the keys are the property of the church not the individual) (Gen 28:11-18: Notice the gate to heaven is in God’s house, the pillar of truth; the NT church is that place today – 1Ti 3:15 “household of God…pillar…of the truth”), 2) it is impossible to have access granted by another church since only one legitimate baptism is allowed (Heb 6:1-6 “washings” which makes us “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” = Baptism; “impossible to renew them again to repentance since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God” = No second forgiveness or cleansing from sin – i.e., No second baptism; Hence, Eph 4:5)[3].

1.5. As additional support that our baptism is the property of the church and not us, consider also the church’s authority to permanently bind or remove forgiveness (i.e., declare apostasy) – which therefore means the rescinding of that person’s baptism (Mat 16:19 and Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 18:17-20). Hardly could the church do that if baptism was the property of the individual (at least not without their consent)!

 

2. The church where our baptism resides, must be very careful when it comes to transferring a person’s baptism/membership to another church.

Why? Because the church where our baptism currently resides – most specifically its shepherds (elders/pastors), have been assigned as our primary overseers for protection and the promotion of obedience to Christ’s commands (Mat 28:19 w/20; Act 20:28).

2.1. Allowing members of the church to leave without absolute confidence in the new church and its pastors, would therefore constitute a failure in these shepherds’ duty of care for which they will be severely judged (Act 20:26-27 w/Eze 33:7-9; Jam 3:1).

2.2. This will be especially true if the church where their membership is transferred possesses: 1) a false gospel (allowance to or approval of a church with a false gospel is the same as approving a false gospel which in turn brings judgment on their former church – or at least its pastor; Gal 1:6-9 w/2Jo 1:9-11) or 2) no relationship w/their current church by which to confirm the legitimacy of their gospel (that they are a true church) and competency of their shepherds (that they are a safe church) (Act 20:28-31 = Guard the flock from wolves. Would anyone consider someone to be a good shepherd guarding their flock from wolves if they allowed them to be cared for by strangers or someone they knew to be incompetent? This is akin to those Jesus refers to as “hired hands” or false shepherds – Joh 10:12-13; Consider this same question from the perspective of a parent)

 

3. Clear evidence it is not God’s will that the church allow or approve of the transfer of someone to another church:

3.1. They have outstanding discipline or grievances with their existing church (Mat 5:23-26).

3.2. The church they wish to be transferred to is false or not safe (point #2; Consider Paul’s perspective in regard to those pastors he knew to be false though they claimed to be comrades and had received the support of the people – 2Co 11:6 w/10-15 = Paul fought against giving approval or equal footing to flaky or false shepherds – regardless of what other people thought. Notice also, Paul has no problem using strong language in his assessment of such men).

 

3.3. Their current church does not know or have a relationship w/the transfer church so as to confirm them as true and safe (again, point #2). The idea that the church can trust the individual to make that decision is like saying we trust our children to make the big decisions in the home or the patient to determine the diagnosis or prescription for the doctors [who will still be responsible for the consequences of those decisions]).

3.4. They don’t want their current pastor over them and/or believe him to be unrighteous/unfit/using his office for evil/a false teacher – though they do not have the biblically required evidence to prove it (1Ti 5:19; Deu 17:12-13; Num 16:1-3 w/Num 15:30-31 w/Mat 12:32; Consider also 2Co 13:1-2).

3.5. They want to live somewhere too far from the existing church w/o confirmation of a church in that area (Jam 4:13-17).

3.6. There is nothing to be gained by them or the other church (this is the pattern est’d in the NT: those sent out will profit those other churches [e.g., Phoebe, Rom 16:1-2; Apollos, 1Co 16:12 w/Act 18:24; Timothy, 1Ti 1:3; Paul and Barnabas, Act 13:1-4]).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: What should the church follow, the will of God or the will of people (those wanting to transfer)?

 

[1] Both now and going forward, what is to be assumed is that the church we are attempting to transfer from is a biblical church as well as the church where we were baptized or is currently possessing our baptism based on the allowance or approval of our baptizing church.

[2] Hence the reason churches have always viewed the sacrament of baptism as the prerequisite to the other key of the kingdom, the LT (the sacrament where we receive continued cleansing by Christ’s blood – Joh 13:1-10), because baptism is the only way to gain access to this atoning reservoir (the blood of Christ resides in His church – Act 20:28; In this light Consider again Joh 13:10 = IOW: the original bath or washing of baptism by Jesus is what grants us access to the additional – and necessary washing provided thru the “supper” [v4]).

[3] “The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person,” – WCF, (ch.27)

Mission Critical Truths

Our Billboard campaign has begun! Below are the mission critical truths we need to know if we are to be successful in fulfilling our evangelistic ministry (2Ti 4:5):

 

1. Salvation requires you believe/practice the right gospel (i.e. the gospel of gain by faith in Jesus Christ and maintain by faithful obedience to all His commands versus the false gospel of faith alone).

1.1. (Rom 3:28 [gain] AND Jam 2:24 [maintain]; 1Jo 1:6, 2:3-4) = We need more than faith to get to heaven. We must be faithful, otherwise what was gained initially by faith wb lost and we wb counted as “liars” (to our covenant oaths) before God. GRAVEDIGGER: Can a Christian get to heaven whose life is characterized by disobedience? (No, Jam 2:14ff). Obedience is therefore another condition of salvation and the FAG is (therefore) false.

1.2. Popular today is the idea that precision/correctness w/respect to the gospel doesn’t matter. What God cares about is strictly belief and practice. IOW: Even if our gospel is wrong/false, we are good as long we truly believe it and are committed to its practice.

1.3. What God’s Word teaches (Gal 1:6-9) = The context is gospel mechanics (what we must do to be saved) not historical facts (Who Jesus is and what He did). We need to get both right (historical facts: 1Co 15:1-4).

1.4. What about those who sincerely love God yet are ignorant to the right gospel? God leads those people out of their ignorance and into the truth (He sends messengers):

1.4.1. The apostle Paul (1Ti 1:12-15 “Yet for this reason I found mercy”) = B/C Jesus saves the ignorant sinner who is sincerely seeking God (v12, “faithful” = Paul’s problem was intellectual not moral)

1.4.2. Cornelius (Act 10:21-22 w/34-35)

1.4.3. Apollos (Act 18:24-26)

1.4.4 Woman at the well (Joh 4:20-24 [“must worship Him in spirit and truth” = You need to have the right gospel] w/28-29, 39-42).

1.5. These are the kinds of Evangelicals we are looking for (those welcome to God/those whose problem is intellectual not moral/those “worthy” to receive the gospel). What to do w/those whose problem is moral (Mat 10:12-15) = Notice: those who are “worthy” are: 1) the only ones we give our time to, 2) the ones whose problem is not moral (v14, “does not receive you, nor heed your words” = Is not teachable to what you are saying; Mat 16:1-4).

1.6. POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) There is no such thing as a saved person that believes and practices the wrong/false gospel. 2) God wants us to be seeking those who are seeking Him (those whose problems are intellectual – not moral).

 

2. Just because a person or church claims to believe/practice the right gospel doesn’t mean they do.

2.1. (Tit 1:16)

2.2. Most every person or pastor who claims to be a Christian will initially “agree” that obedience is necessary to salvation yet when pressed further, it becomes only nice but not necessary (e.g., Andy and Kasey pastoral interviews). Further investigation is therefore necessary.

2.3. Questions for assessment: 1) do they hold to the FAG? (if a church, check their website), 2) Can a Christian get to heaven whose life is characterized by disobedience (e.g., continues to live with their girlfriend) if that person continues to fully trust Christ for their righteousness and faithfully confess their sin to God? 3) In relation to a church, how often do they practice church discipline, enforce obedience or declare people apostate? (Mat 7:15-23: bad fruit = practicing lawlessness – or in the case of a church, allowing for the practice of lawlessness).

2.4. Verifying a person or church as truly legitimate takes time. In the early church, you could not move from one church to another w/o pastoral collaboration for this very reason. Churches or people professing to be legit was not naively assumed to be true (or allowed to be true b/c people wanted to take a “vacation” from their current church [usually a sign of rebellion and thinking they will be more effective at flying under the radar elsewhere – (e.g., my conversation w/a Reformed Baptist pastor in LA; our response to the elder and people from the Evergreen church).

 

3. You cannot be a saved person (Christian) yet not baptized and a member of church believing/practicing the right gospel.

3.1.There is no such thing as a saved person who has not received remission/forgiveness of their sins (“Baptism is said to be ‘for the remission of sins’ and to ‘wash your sins away’. Unless one is prepared to say that one is saved without their sins being forgiven, then they must admit that baptism is a condition of salvation” – Robert Oliver, Clinton Church of Christ) (Act 2:38, 22:16; 1Pe 3:21). Consider Christ’s confirmation of baptism in the gain and maintain gospel presented by Jesus in (Mat 28:18-20).

3.2. The “keys” of the kingdom (baptism and the LT) have only been given to those churches built by Christ—churches possessing the right gospel (Mat 16:17-19 w/Joh 20:21-23 w/Act 20:28).

3.3. Hence the reason the early church was fond of saying, “there is no salvation outside of the church.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. It is possible for people/churches to have different doctrinal beliefs/practices yet still believe/practice the right gospel.

4.1. Though a church/person may possess different doctrinal beliefs or practices (doctrine or practice that may even create theological, ethical or logical contradictions), as long as those doctrines and practices do not negate their belief and practice of the right gospel, we are to view them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

4.2. Examples of different doctrine that does not immediately negate a person or church’s ability to believe and practice the right gospel: 1) Calvinism, 2) Creedal Baptism, 3) limited forms of Continuationism (those versions not negating Scripture as our final authority or the existence of a closed canon), 4) Dispensationalism, 5) Premillennialism.

4.3 Examples of different doctrine that does immediately negate a person or church’s ability to believe and practice the right gospel: 1) Antinomianism (belief that any portion of God’s Law is no longer in force or must be observed), 2) Modalism (Oneness Pentecostalism), 3) any denial of Jesus’ full humanity or full deity, 3) Open Theism, 4) denial of Ecclesiastical Soteriology (sacerdotalism or the authority of the church in salvation), 5) denial of eternal and literal heaven and hell, 6) denial of baptism as necessary to salvation, 7) any rejection of God’s Word as our final authority, a closed canon or the embracing of progressive revelation (e.g., some Pentecostals/Charismatics and all Roman Catholics), 8) Neo-Orthodoxy.

4.4. POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) There is big difference between saying that someone holds to different doctrine versus a different gospel. 2) Some doctrine/practice automatically negates a person’s belief or practice of the right gospel (e.g., Gal 5:1-4).

 

5. Just because a church believes/practices the right gospel doesn’t mean it is a safe church.

5.1. True churches can still be dangerous churches.

5.2. The problems these churches (or their pastors) can still have: 1) Intellectual problems. The pastor is weak in the following areas: logic and critical thinking, Special Revelation -i.e., Scripture [1. hermeneutics or interpretation, 2. grammar or how language works, 3. worldview/framework theology, 4. biblical theology, 5. biblical jurisprudence/justice – inc. the proper practice of church discipline/excommunication and apostasy, cap crimes, 6. systematic theology -most esp., soteriology and theology proper, 7. church history and tradition, 8. ancient culture, 9. the ability to recognize biblical patterns of continuity and timeless principles], General Revelation [philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, business, finance and law]) (Hos 4:6). 2) Moral problems. The pastor is a hypocrite (preaching against the practice of sin yet practicing sin), lazy, cowardly (not enforcing obedience) or a people-pleaser (not willing to say the tough things).

5.3. Examples of the kinds of spiritual dangers created by pastors w/intellectual or moral problems:

5.3.1. Practical antinomianism (pastor preaches obedience but does nothing to see that it is enforced).

5.3.2. Legalism (Practice/Prohibition incorrectly supported/not supported by Scripture – e.g., Some Churches of Christ claim to hold to the right gospel yet b/c of their gross ignorance of the continuity that is communicated between the Old and New Covenants, they don’t allow for anything not explicitly mentioned in the NT – like musical instruments in worship [in the OT, God establishes musical instruments for worship in His OC house, why wouldn’t we expect the same for His NC house?]. For this same reason, they also reject infant baptism [1. NT teaches the church/Christians are the inheritors of the Abrahamic promises – 2Co 1:20; Gal 3:29, 2. one of God’s promises to Abe was special provision for babies born to covenant parents – Gen 17:7-13, 3. that promise now looks like baptism – Col 2:11-12]).

5.3.3. Fail to create an environment promoting faithfulness/fail to understand what constitutes faithfulness (Def., of faithfulness = A life characterized by obedience that is driven by a constant lack of intellectual and moral satisfaction; 2Pe 1:5-11; 1Co 9:24 = Run to win not simply finish; 1Th 4:9-10 “But urge you…excel still more” w/3:12-13 = Perennial push to excel is the key to being established before God as “without blame”, the requirement for getting to heaven – 2Pe 3:10-14 w/3:17-18; Mat 18:7-9; Mat 28:20 “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” = Constant learning and changing. We are driven to increase our knowledge so that our obedience may also increase; Heb 5:11-6:6 = Lack of maturity/excelling makes us more prone to apostasy).

5.3.4. Lack of wisdom. Examples: 1) inability to make the distinction between intellectual and moral problems. An improper diagnosis w/respect to either – or ignorance of the need to make such distinction, will lead to improper prescription [discipleship or discipline], abuse and people failing to possess the tools necessary to gain victory over their sin. 2) ignorance of the church’s authority and the power of her sacraments. Rejection of these two truths results in an impotent community overrun by sin.

5.3.5. The creation of unnecessary stress and suffering that makes faithfulness more difficult (e.g., church’s position on divorce: never any grounds or limited to a very wrong understanding of what constitutes adultery [i.e., sexual intercourse w/another person versus Mat 5:32 = porneia establishes mocheuo]).

5.3.6. Lack of justice or equity. Most churches’ jurisprudence is non-existent. The pagan courts of America have thought more and instituted, more of what the Bible teaches on this subject than the majority of churches on the planet. As a result, the justice practiced by most churches often protects the guilty and punishes the innocent.

5.3.7. Lack of proper pastoral oversight (See Malcom Gladwell, Revisionist History podcast, In Triplicate (findings from the Triplicate Program during the Opioid Crisis = More oversight/policy/rules results in more people obeying the law and less people suffering as victims). Where would this congregation be if left to self-police? Would JUDCO even exist? What crimes and violations would go unpunished? How many more people wb taken advantage of? What curses wb upon our congregation for sins left unchecked in the Body? If a Christian whose life is characterized by disobedience cannot get to heaven , what is that church doing to prevent that from happening (Jam 5:20)?

5.4. POINT NOT TO MISS: Not all saving churches are safe churches. The stupidity or sinfulness of its shepherds will affect your chances of getting to heaven (Mat 10:24-25a = Most Christians will not rise above the intelligence or morality of their shepherd; Mat 18:6).

God’s Family Versus Human Family

Just as children bear the image of their family, God created us as image-bearers to be a part of His family. He also created human families with this goal in mind: we would teach our human families to join – and be supremely loyal to, God’s family -i.e., to embrace “the blood of the covenant [family as] stronger than the water of the womb”. The wonderful gift of family is therefore a deep and divinely constructed part of our DNA. It is what gives us identity and purpose. And it is central to God’s Creation and Christian mandate: we conquer for Christ and His kingdom only as a united family (Mat 28:18-20 w/Phi 1:27-30). Satan and sin have however taken this wonderful gift and perverted it: pitting human families against the family of God (e.g., Gen 11:1-9 = the Tower of Babel: the human families of Noah’s evil son Ham, stand against God and His family, Noah’s righteous son Shem and his descendants including Abraham [11:10-23] who was not only alive at the time of the Tower, but Jewish tradition records him as living at Noah’s house for 39 years and leaving to spread the truth about God after its destruction; Rev 20:7-9 = Satan will unite the human families of earth against the family of God, Rev 20:7-9).

 

What (then) we need to know (beyond this) so that we do not end in eternity w/ the wrong family:

1. Jesus knew His ministry would cause division in human families b/c it would involve calling people back to loyalty to God’s family over their human families (Mat 10:34-37) “Me” = My family (Mat 10:40; Joh 13:34-35). (Luk 1:16-17) “turn the hearts of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God” = “turn the hearts back to the children” (or “restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” – Mal 4:6). The patriarchs are the “fathers” (e.g., Abraham). In this way the Jews would be “a people prepared for the Lord” – i.e., worthy to receive salvation from Jesus/Messiah. What was the heart of “father” Abraham? He chose God (or God’s family) over his only (beloved = special, miracle, divine promised) son, Isaac, the child gaining honor for his human family (e.g., Luk 1:25; the reason some parents live vicariously thru certain children – they are the child that finally made them feel like a success/gave them the honor their former life had not afforded to them) (Gen 22:1-18: Notice the lack of hesitancy, level of commitment and trust demonstrated by Abraham’s actions in carrying out God’s instructions to kill his son. The lesson no doubt learned by Isaac from his father’s actions: 1) there sb no question as to which family possesses our supreme loyalty/love – Gen 22:1 “tested” w/16, 2) love/loyalty to God’s family should make our love/loyalty for human family look like hate – Luk 14:26).

 

2. When we become Christians we are (therefore) committing to leave behind all loyalties to our human families and cleave (or cling) to God and his family (Mat 19:27-29). This truth is reinforced by the fact that how we join God’s family is through a marriage [God/Jesus becomes our Husband] (Gen 2

 

3. God greatly rewards and holds in high regard those who do not hesitate to demonstrate their loyalty to His family over their human family (again Gen 22:16-18; Exo 32:25-29 w/Deu 33:8-9 = The Levites gained the high honor of leading God’s people bc of their loyalty to God’s family over their human families).

 

4. Jesus saw the church as God’s family and the priority during His time on earth (Mar 3:31-35).

 

5. Jesus’ human family thought He was crazy because of His loyalty to God’s family (Mar 3:20-21 [w/31-35]: Notice what loyalty looks like: our homes are constantly filled w/God’s family – Act 2:42, 46).

 

6. We are expected to separate from human family who refuse to listen to the true gospel (the gospel calling for the complete submission of their entire life to faithfully obeying Jesus as their forever Boss) or God will group us w/them in their damnation (2Co 6:14-17) v17, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” = A common OT theme w/ reference to both unrepentant/wicked outsiders and family members that – as a result of such unrepentant wickedness, have been placed under God’s damning ban/curse (outsiders – Isa 52:11, Jer 50:8, family – Deu 13:12-17; Rev 18:4). Paul’s use of this OT theme further reinforces his strong prohibition against relationship [“bound together”] or “fellowship” w/any persons (family or otherwise) who are unrepentant/wicked. Notice, Paul also makes his prohibition and its accompanying OT support, a condition of our covenant relationship w/God (vv16, 18). (2Jo 1:9-11) = Who more than our human family fits the description of those we would naturally welcome into our homes [i.e., give a greeting to]?). POINT NOT TO MISS: Being set apart as God’s holy people has always required separation from the unrepentant wicked.

 

7. Only those willing to endure the pain of separation from human family for the sake of Jesus will make it to heaven (again Mat 10:21-22 w/32-33 w/37; also Luk 14:25-35).

 

8. Jesus Himself suffered separation from human family b/c of His loyalty to God’s family (Luk 9:58-62) = The context is human family. When Jesus (therefore) speaks of having nowhere to lay His head, He is indicating He was separated from many of His human family and therefore possessed none of the expected places of rest afforded to weary travelers in ancient times (i.e., the homes of their family relatives).

 

9. Jesus’ first disciples suffered separation from human family b/c of their loyalty to God’s family (again, Mat 19:27-29)

 

10. Many among God’s family and greatest saints will be orphans (Mat 19:27; Psa 27:10).

 

11. Being a part of God’s family is performance-based and conditional – the very opposite of most human families and the reason many people choose the latter over the former (i.e., in my human family I don’t have to change or leave my sin behind to remain and receive its benefits) (Joh 10:17, 15:1-11; Jud 1:21; Deu 7:9).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Two conclusions can be drawn from the truths above: 1) False gospels (and the world run by Satan) will always preach a Jesus and gospel message that exalts human family and unconditional love and demonizes the ideas of division and separation, 2) One of Satan’s greatest tools and man’s greatest stumbling blocks to getting to heaven wb human family.

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE: 2024 RESOLUTION: Excel in our love/loyalty to God’s family (1Th 4:9-10).

 

 


 

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It's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. Maybe faith alone isn't enough.

Christian Talking Points on Feelings

We live in a world dominated by feelings and that is not by accident. It is God’s ordained trial for us (and as such, Satan’s most prized strategy). Here then is what we need to know:

1. Getting to heaven requires that we stop living by our feelings[1] and become characterized by a life of obedience to Jesus’ words (i.e., God’s will [Law and mission]): 1) the terms “flesh”, “fleshly”, “passion”, and “sensuality” or commands to deny ourselves are often a reference to our feelings (Mat 16:24; Col 3:5-7; Gal 5:19 w/24; Rom 8:12-13 w/13:13-14; Tit 2:11-12; 1Pe 2:11, 4:1-3; Consider also Mat 7:24-27 = The “sand” or foundation of the second man’s house – the man not living in obedience to Jesus’ words, more than likely represents his feelings. He lives according to his feelings. As a result, when the storms or trials of life come, he is fickle and falls apart). 2) the command for self-control is a call to have command over our feelings (i.e., emotional intelligence) (Act 24:25; Gal 5:23; 2Pe 1:5-6; lack of s-c is what brings “difficult times” -2Ti 3:3). 3) living in obedience to Jesus’ words is what it means to live by the Spirit (which is always contrasted w/living by our feelings) (Joh 16:13-15 w/[Gal 5:16, 24-25; Rom 8:5]). 4) it is impossible to live faithfully for Jesus and be under the control of your feelings (Gal 5:17; Rom 8:6-8). 5) Feelings are weak and unreliable (Mat 26:41 and Rom 7:18; 2Co 1:17; Jer 17:7 in contrast to v9 “heart” = A reference to feelings). 6) Living by our feelings is sin (2Co 12:21).

2. Living by our feelings is associated w/loving the world and the message/enticement of false teachers and Satan which is why it is impossible to live according to our feelings and please God (1Jo 2:15-16; 2Pe 2:1-2, 7, 10, 18-20; Eph 2:1-3).

3. Everybody has the ability to win the war over their feelings, some however exacerbate their situation because of their choices, making it nearly impossible (Deu 30:11-14; 1Co 10:13; Mat 19:24-26).

 

4. Overcoming our feelings (i.e., possessing self-control or emotional intelligence) will require that: 1) we are self-programmed robots (we start like animals limited to feelings, afraid and unwise to everything [feelings don’t think – e.g., Teyve barks at boxes] and become self-programmed robots [programming our feelings thru conditioning/reinforced action that results in us becoming either adult animals or proper image-bearers -2Pe 2:12]. 2) as we get older/more removed from learning, we resort back to feelings as the main driver in decision-making and as a result, more averse to change/taking risks and fearful (Ecc 12:3-5). 3) we practice extreme degradation and desertion of our feelings as a guide for truth (1Co 9:27 [Modern translation: “I make it my b**ch”] = Degradation; Rom 8:13 “putting to death” = Desertion – treating how we feel as irrelevant to what is true/false; Mat 5:29-30, 18:7-10 = Completely ignore/dessert those things convincing you of rebellion so that you do not despise [lead astray] those looking to you for guidance [e.g., your children]; Important not to miss: when considering our approach to living the Christian life, analogies are never from the business world [i.e., it is not business etiquette or best practices that we are to employ], but rather the military or sports – which uses extreme degradation and desertion to be successful [e.g., boot camp instructor; David Goggins]; 2Co 10:1-5 = Fighting for God’s kingdom requires desertion in relation to our feelings). 4) we start with our tongues (Jam 3:1-2 “bridle the whole body” = Bridle your feelings).

5. Everyone is born welcome to God and will by their response to their feelings, either solidify themselves in that state – or a state of rebellion (Gen 22:16-18; Rom 1:18-26 = God eventually gives people over to their feelings [leading to His wrath] b/c of their choice to continue living according them [“gave them over in the lusts of their hearts…to degrading passions” = You can’t give someone over to something unless this was already present and in practice. This then is the source of their unrighteousness/ungodliness – v18]; Eph 4:17-22 = Living according to our feelings will eventually corrupt our souls – and once it is corrupted, there is no fix, even for Christians. Hence Heb 6:1-6 and 10:26-30).

6. The kind of preaching or proclamation (teaching and evangelism) practiced by Jesus and the apostles and prescribed by God and the Holy Spirit was always controversial and polarizing b/c it was never sensitive to the feelings of the audience since feelings won’t cause us to live for God (What you win them with is what you win them to; 1Th 2:1-5; 2Ti 4:2; Heb 4:12; Hence Paul can say 2Co 2:15-17 e.g., Mat 15:11-14; Act 4:1-2 w/18; Act 6:9-14 w/51-53; Act 9:22-23; Act 13:5-10, 14-16 w/44-51; Act 14:1-2 w/18-19; Act 17:1-6; Act 18:4-6; Act 28:20-24).

7. God will see to it that those who hate His truth- including His life purpose and plan for humanity (i.e., this life is a test of overcoming our feelings in favor of God and His ways that will determine who is worthy of heaven), are duped by Satan at His reveal (2Th 1:3-5 w/2Th 2:1-10).

 

8. There is only one feeling that is safe and sb promoted in our life and that is genuine heartfelt love for God and for others (a choice that results also in a feeling) since this is what overcomes the feelings most responsible for our failures as a Christian, fear, jealousy and pride [i.e., caring what others think] (Joh 21:15-17 [18:25-27]; 1Jo 4:12, 16-21; Love creates lasting commitment and consistency whereas fear, jealousy and pride, nothing but posers and pansies).

 

9. The feelings associated with our conscience – or our conscience and General Revelation, were never designed to be enough when it comes to determining right and wrong (IOW: we also need God’s Word – Special Revelation) (Gen 2:16-17).

 

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE: One of the sticky wickets associated w/the subject of feelings is that most people who are living according to their feelings (versus the Spirit/in obedience to Jesus) are completely blind to it – or in absolute denial. IOW: they don’t think they are that kind of person –or they do not they see it—which is what makes it difficult—and why we need to pick up on those objective cues (or signs) from Scripture so that we can see it and make the proper spiritual diagnosis of who we are before it is too late.

 

The objective signs that you are living according to your feelings: 1) what most determines your free time is what pleases you versus what pleases God, prospers His people or prepares you to better serve and advance His kingdom (Phi 1:21). 2) you are averse to change (change creates negative feelings). 3) you are constantly fighting doubt/suspicion w/regard to God, God’s Word, church, leaders or people though you possess no sound evidence to do so (1Ti 6:1-4). 4) you struggle w/fear, pride and jealousy or wanting to be in positions of importance so that people will look up to you (Jam 3:14-15 “natural” = “fleshly or animalistic – i.e., the basis for all judgment or actions is our feelings). 5) you are prone to insurrection against God’s leaders or causing division in the Body of Christ (Jud 1:18-19 “following ungodly lusts” [their feelings] –“these are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded [Literally, natural or animalistic – same word as Jam 3:15 referring to creatures operating off their feelings]). 6) Jesus is your sponsor rather than your Lord (i.e., He serves/fulfills your Christian vision for yourself [i.e., where you feel you wb most happy]). 7) you are sloppy w/your words (e.g., “I was making fun of my coat but it actually does a good job of blocking the wind” versus “I was being negative about my coat…”; Pro 15:28 = The Righteous are committed to making sure their communication is accurate [truth] versus just letting whatever they feel in the moment roll off their tongue. Sloppy in the little, sloppy in the big – Luk 16:10).

[1] Living by our feelings = Truth, morality [right and wrong], our actions and speech are predominately determined by our feelings.

What You Should Expect If Your Church Truly Possesses a Shepherd from Jesus

A major reason churches fail to trust or follow their shepherds — or identify them as legitimately from Jesus, is bc they are ignorant of their job description – or more accurately, the job description they possess for that position in the church, does not agree with Scripture.

BC I want to avoid that pitfall in this church, this morning we are going to discover and be reminded of what God says about this subject or, What you should expect if your church truly possesses a shepherd from Jesus

 

1. They wb IMITATORS:

Jesus the Great Shepherd (Heb 13:20) promised to give Jesus-imitating shepherds as a gift to His people and primary caretakers of His body, the church, while He is in heaven. (Jer 3:15a “I will give you shepherds after my own heart”) = Shepherds w/the same heart (likes/dislikes, affections, agenda and desires) as Jesus (i.e., sheps who are imitators of Jesus in their shepherding). It’s fulfillment: (Eph 4:8 w/11 [“pastors” = shepherds] w/12 [“equipping…building up” = A caretaker]). POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) If Jesus gave these kind of shepherds to His church, then it must not only be possible, but what we should expect and believe wb true of our shepherds. Hence the reason (Mat 10:40). 2) All of us need to possess a healthy level of skepticism, but skepticism that persists even when the evidence says otherwise is not healthy nor safe. It is pathological and rebellious unbelief (not against me –BUT GOD). Scripture to keep in mind (1Co 4:5 When the Lord comes He will “bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” – i.e., no plausible deniability before God).

2. They wb EDUCATORS:

Central to their role as Jesus imitators, these shepherds will spend copious amounts of time educating their people in God’s Word since this is the key to trusting God. (Jer 3:15 [Eph 4:14 = Education/understanding of God’s Word/doctrine wb how the shepherds shore up instability/distrust; Pro 22:17-19) = Trust is the by-product of education; Education is the key to trust (not entertainment/manipulation of the emotions [e.g., the “sermons” in most churches]). The piece that makes this a little bit of “sticky wicket” = Retainage requires repetition—which means if the only time you ever hear what I preach on Sunday is (on Sunday) then what you retain wb very little (20-30% at best). Which means though I am doing the job of an educator, you are failing to do your job as a learner (i.e., to study the lecture, to go over and over it until you retain it or know it). This btw the way is what the Proverbs are talking about when it says, “seek understanding” – understanding is learning—AND learning requires repetition or study to retain the material. Are you doing that —or do you think you have more important things to do? Remember: this is the key to trust (and the reason so many of you still struggle w/trust) –B/C you are uneducated (and you are uneducated) bc you care more about spending your time being entertained than being educated (learning or studying what is given to you every week [you trade the steak dinner for terd rolled in sugar]).

3. They wb OBSESSORS:

Because obedience is so important and empiricism (truth/morality, actions/speech det’d by feelings) so dangerous, Jesus’s shepherds become obsessed with making sure their people are growing in faithfulness to God’s laws while faithfully ignoring their feelings as their guide to truth. (This was Peter as witnessed in his second epistle; in re: to obedience or faithfulness, 2Pe 1:5-13; in re: to empiricism or truth/morality, actions/ speech det’d by feelings, 2Pe 2:1-2 “sensuality” = Empiricism [2:18]; See also 2:7 “unprincipled men” = People w/o laws governing them [instead it is their feelings – “sensual conduct”], 2:10 “indulge in the flesh” = “despise authority”; Empiricism [truth/morality, actions/speech determined by our feelings versus God’s Law] is at the heart of the faith- alone false gospel [2:18-20 “promising them freedom” = Freedom from God’s law – that which keeps us from corrupting and defiling ourselves).

4. They wb ENFORCERS:

Like Jesus, these shepherds will be incorruptible and unfaltering in their use of authority to secure justice in the covenant community. (Isa 42:1-4): “My Servant…My chosen One…I have put my Spirit [mantle of authority] upon Him” = A reference to Messiah. He wb characterized by two things: 1) The justice He secures will never mistreat or abuse those under it or fail to provide the tools necessary for the repentant sinner to be restored (They wb incorruptible). (1-2, “He will bring forth justice to the nations [In doing so] He will not cry or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street [the idea of chaos or disturbance caused by the malpractice or abuse of those in authority]”) w/(3, “A bruised reed…a dimly burning wick [the repentant sinner] He will not break…extinguish [destroy or leave w/o the hope of future restoration]”). IOW: His actions will establish equity in the covenant community. 2) The taunting or condemnation of the wicked and ignorant, or the obstacles they present will not intimidate or stop Him from securing justice in the covenant community (THEY WB unfaltering) (4). Jesus-imitating shepherds will (because of such imitation) be characterized by the same two things: they too will be incorruptible (no malpractice/no abuse) and unfaltering (never intimidated or discouraged) in their use of authority to secure justice.

In addition to what has already been said, it sb noted that the securing justice for the covenant community also requires a staunch rejection of empiricism (i.e., judgments based on feelings). This too is picked in the picture painted by the prophet w/respect to the coming Messiah (Isa 11:1-5) “He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear, But with righteousness He will judge…” = Don’t miss the contrast being made by Isaiah between judgment that takes place by way of the senses (what the eyes see or the ears hear) versus judgment based on righteousness. One is sensual (or based on how judgment is affected purely by those devices – how our feelings are manipulated or moved –empiricism), whereas the other (righteousness – referring to God’s Law) is outside of us—and therefore objective (or able to make decisions that are not influenced by personal preference or experience – those things which create a double standard or inequity).

Which means this is entirely possible. Pastors can be truly equitable and just if they (like Jesus) are committed to listening only to God’s Law when making judgments/decisions for the covenant community. Hence the reason (btw) we are commanded not to pursue outside (or pagan) courts when dealing w/members of the covenant community (1Co 6:1-6). To think we need the council of outside authorities or courts to handle crimes w/in the church is to believe that the world (run by Satan) and rebellious to God are more objective or know better how to secure justice for the innocent or bring reform those individuals committing the crimes. It reveals not only a complete distrust of God but also a level of insanity, why would we go to darkness to find the light? (Isa 8:20!). All of this is true also as it relates to those functioning in the world as authorities and judges versus Jesus’ shepherds in the church. What would ever make us think that those controlled by Satan and completely ignorant of God’s Word wb more competent than those empowered by the Holy Spirit and equipped w/Scripture? Again, to do so betrays a level of insanity. Hence Paul’s command in (Rom 12:1-3) = According to Paul there are three things we all need to do (in light of what He has done for us): submit our life our minds and our ego to God and His Word — which means executing a full-stop when it comes to trusting ourselves and the “wisdom” of the world – especially as it re: to truth and justice.

5. They wb OUTLIERS:

We should not be surprised if those Jesus picks and empowers to be His shepherds are (like Him), viewed by the world as unconventional and controversial given their pedigree, practice and people.

As we saw in Isaiah 11, Messiah wb a descendant of “Jesse” – or as it says elsewhere, “the Son of David.” (Mat 21:15). What this means is that Jesus’ life would (in a very real way) resemble that of David’s. This is sometimes referred to as “type and archetype”. David was a type of Messiah, His life wb the pattern followed by the coming (and superlative) Messiah – his fulfillment or archetype, Jesus. Which is why throughout the gospels we find Jews attempting to determine whether Jesus was the Messiah by considering his life and ministry based on the prior life and ministry of David. How (then) is this relevant to our point? Well, bc of what I said about Jesus being unconventional and controversial w/respect to His pedigree, practice and people (or followers). It starts w/David and the same is reflected also in Jesus.

Both were not who the world (including the religious world of their days) would have picked to be Israel’s Shepherd. They lacked what most people view as the “confirming categories”. For example: 1) Neither David nor Jesus possessed the kinds of backgrounds normally associated w/kings. Hence the reason Jesse (his father) didn’t even think to bring David back from the field where he was shepherding his father’s flocks when Samuel revealed that one of his sons wb selected as king (1 Sa 16:1-11). Jesus (likewise) was questioned often by the religious leaders, given His strange birth and birthplace (Nazareth) (Joh 7:27, 41-42). Both David and Jesus were the unconventional pick – or bore a very unconventional pedigree (when compared to the world’s choice or expectations).

2) Both David and Jesus challenged the status quo – or religious establishment of their day—and were (therefore) considered controversial in their beliefs or practices. So much so that both were forced to flee into the wilderness w/their followers. During their earthly ministries they were hunted and condemned by those in power and denied a place among the religious elite.

3) Finally as it relates to their people, Both David and Jesus were defined by misfit followers. David’s mighty men were at one time considered the unimpressive losers” of Israel (1Sa 22:10, 25:10). In similar fashion, Jesus’s mighty men (or apostles) were considered the hillbillies of Jewish society, “unlearned men” who did not keep the traditions of the dominant form of Judaism in their day (Act 4:13; Mar 7:5).

(And) Paul’s words in 1Co 1 make that clear not only that God continues to pick these people to be His followers But WHY (1Co 1:26-31) = If we are truly in “Christ Jesus” and this is a place possessing a Jesus-imitating shepherd, then it is not bc we followed the wisdom of what was popular, but bc of God –bc of what He has done is delivering us from those things by giving us hearts that care more about the truth of His Word and gospel than being popular or accepted by that version of Christianity which is.

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: If we find ourselves possessing this kind of shepherd, what should be our response? (1Th 5:12-13)

Acts 3

WGO?

Peter heals a lame beggar and preaches to the crowd who have gathered because of the miracle.

 

WTP?

1. Evangelism can look like going to another church’s bible study (1; Act 17:1-3; Deu 33:10; Mal 2:7; Joh 18:20 = Temple courts [e.g., Solomon’s Portico] were where the people in Jerusalem would go to find teaching from various experts on the Law [priests/scribes, lawyers/judges, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.,]. Hence the reason Jesus went to the Temple to teach – because He knew the religiously inclined wb there; Similar Act 16:13 = Bible studies were not always held in synagogues or the Temple [see also Act 20:20 “teaching…house to house”).

 

2. It is the job of the covenant community to see that those born w/disabilities are provided with the financial support necessary to care for their needs (1-2, “alms” = Financial donations; Act 4:34 “not a needy person among them”; Lev 15:4).

 

3. We must graciously accommodate the theological ignorance of those whose soteriology is right (1, [“going up to the Temple at the ninth hour” = The time of the evening sacrifice] w/17 “acted in ignorance” = Peter and John knew that the sacrifices of the Temple could not propitiate for sin. They however also knew that those attending the Temple who were ignorant of this –and more importantly of Jesus’s true identity and role in this respect, possessed the right soteriology [i.e., gain thru vows/covenant signs/faith and maintain through obedience to God’s Law or faithfulness is also required to be save]. Hence the reason for referring to them as “brethren”. In this light, consider 1Ti 1:12-14 = Paul was already a faithful member of the covenant community [already saved]. Paul made similar accommodations to the Jews in Act 21:20-26).

 

4. The mantle of authority (or power) given by Jesus to those pastors possessing the right gospel remains fully intact even when they possess certain beliefs which are wrong due to ignorance (1-10 = At the time that Peter exercises Jesus’s authority/power [“in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” = According to His authority/power], he ignorantly believes the gospel to only be available to Jews or Jewish proselytes [Act 10:1-28]; Mat 18:18 “whatever you bind…loose” [Grk., hosos = Any or all things in quantity or measure]).

 

5. God gives power and spiritual authority (“piety” [Grk., eusebia = spiritual authority] to the church’s anointed pastors as a means to:

5.1. glorifying Jesus since it is His power and authority they now possess (11-13a; Joh 14:13; Joh 20:21-23). POINT NOT TO MISS: when you resist the authority of the church’s leaders you are both resisting Jesus and robbing Him of His glory.

5.2. exposing those possessing hearts of rebellion against God’s authority (13b-15 = The Jews refused, rejected and killed [“disowned”] Jesus b/c they did not want to submit to His authority. God raised Him from the dead proving Jesus’s authority was divinely-appointed). POINT NOT TO MISS: When you buck the authority of Jesus (which now resides in His anointed pastors), you show yourself to be a rebel to God.

 

6. Loyal obedience to Jesus as our King can lead to more than just spiritual deliverance (16, “on the basis of faith in His name [a pledge of loyal submission to Jesus’s authority]…has given him this perfect health”; 1Co 11:30 = Many Christians get sick or suffer ill health bc they continue to pledge their loyalty to Jesus’s authority [which we do every time we partake of the LT – “for faithfulness of life”] yet live in sinful opposition to Him).

 

7. There is mercy for those whose rebellion is the product of ignorance and not stubbornness (17; 1Ti 1:13; Zec 7:8-13 = Stubbornness leads to wrath – not mercy [God being stubborn to us]. Hence the reason we need to determine whether the problem is moral or intellectual).

 

8. God knows how to take our ignorance and evil actions and use them to advance His Kingdom (13-18, “He has fulfilled” = God’s purposes were being accomplished even thru the wicked suffering inflicted upon Jesus by the Jews; Isa 53; Pro 16:4). POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) free wills and a free future are not enough to keep God from perfectly accomplishing His plans – esp. in re: to His people (Rom 8:28).

2) possessing the proper biblical framework in re: to God and human responsibility, is essential to avoiding – or reading into passages like vv13-18, the error of determinism ([Exo 13:17; Isa 54:15; Jer 19:5] w/Eph 1:11 “works [Grk., energeo] = To give energy to, to operate – not determine/decree/fix – Act 17:26, 31 [Grk., horizo] = Some things – but not most things, have been determined by God – e.g., Jer 5:22).

 

9. There is no forgiveness of sins or blessing of salvation from Jesus for those who fail to cease in their practice of (known) sin and live in obedience to God’s commands (19, “repent and return [to loyalty to the Lord, to practicing His ways and righteousness– Act 11:21, 26:18; Jam 5:19-20; Isa 55:7 w/56:1; Jer 4:1-2]” = This is the principle of put off and put on [Eph 4:22-24; e.g., it is often people’s failure in the latter that keeps them from persevering; Other examples: dieting, unhealthy relationships – self programmed robots//*wb awkward and uncomfortable at first]; 26, “to bless you by [instrumental – how the blessing will take place] turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” = The blessing [of Jesus’s salvation] happens only where there is no more practice of sin – i.e., where [again] it has been replaced by the practice of righteousness [1Jo 3:7-10]).

 

10. Jesus will return when the Jews return to Jesus (19-25)[1] “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things” = The return of the Jews to God thru becoming Christians (Rom 11:25-29), will lead to the return of Christ and times of refreshing (new heaven, new earth (Isa 66:18-22), which will also signify the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (1:6) and the eternal destruction of all people who do not bow the knee to Jesus (22-25 [Gen 22:18; Deu 18:15-19; 2Sa 7:8-17]; Isa 66:23-24)[2].

 

 

[1] “Christ’s coming is seen as in some sense dependent on Israel’s repentance.” – Ben Witherington (Acts)

[2] “If the Israelites would repent for a day, the son of David (Messiah) would come immediately” – 1st cent., Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (p. Ta’an)

Acts 2

1. The Christian Pentecost should be viewed as Sinai 2.0. given:

1) the sacred holiday of Pentecost (Shavout – Feast of Weeks, Exo 34:22) represented not only a celebration of God’s bountiful giving of physical food (or harvest), but also spiritual food since according to Jewish tradition, Pentecost was the day Israel received the Law from God at Sinai (Hag Matan Torateinu – The Festival of the Giving of Torah[1]) (1, “Pentecost…they were all together in one place”[2]).

 

2) the parallels that exist between Sinai and the Christian Pentecost:

(Exo 19:16-18 w/20:1, 18) = Fire and awe (“fire…people trembled”) accompanying the presence of God speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’”) which all the people experienced/heard (“All the people perceived”).

(Act 2:2-12) = Fire and awe (“fire…They were amazed and astonished…they all continued in amazement and great perplexity”) accompanying the presence of God (“the Holy Spirit”) speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“speaking of the mighty deeds of God”) which all the people experienced/heard (vv5-11).[3]

 

3) like the Christian Pentecost, Sinai also shares the association of people receiving the Spirit (Act 2:4 and Num 11:16-17 [this event takes place immediately following the Sinai event – Num 10:11-13]).

 

4) Luke’s mention of the Pentecost event as “fulfillment” (1, “When the day of Pentecost had come”) = Literally, “in complete fulfillment of the day of Pentecost” (Grk., en ho hemera pentakostay sumplay-ra-oe = In sum/complete fulfillment). Luke seems to be indicating that something started in the past (i.e., Sinai) has now come to completion (at Pentecost).[4]

 

5) What follows the Christian Pentecost is the receiving of the “new” Law (the Law as transformed in application and/or semantic range by Jesus) (42, “the apostles’ teaching”).

 

2. The “other tongues” – or tongues given by the Spirit to the early church, were human languages unknown to their speakers (versus a non-human language unknown to the speakers – e.g., an angelic language [Pentecostal version of speaking in tongues]) [5] (4-6, “tongues” [Grk., glossa = human language, Rev 14:6], “hearing them speak in his own language” – See also again, vv8-11)[6].

 

3. Without the proper biblical framework, acts of God (or obedience to God) have been known to be misinterpreted as the behavior of fools or false teachers (12-13; “full of sweet wine”) = Drunk early in the morning, the behavior of fools (14-15). Drunkenness during the day was also associated w/many pagan religions who believed alcohol (or the creation of ecstatic states) was a means to connecting w/deity (e.g., early Christians were accused of being cannibals [for eating their Lord] and guilty of incest [bc they married their brothers and sisters]; we are accused of being works based/trying to earn our salvation or unaware of what Scripture teaches about salvation by faith [bc we teach salvation also requires obedience]).

 

4. Prophesy always involves the miraculous but not always new words – or predictions about the future (16-18, “prophesy”) = Peter is identifying their miraculous speech as the fulfillment of the first portion of Joel 2:28-32 (i.e., the portion re: to prophecy). Yet the content of their speech was itself not miraculous. Once more, they were “speaking (only) of the mighty deeds of God” – referring to those deeds done by God in the past. How then does this qualify as prophecy? The content of most prophecy is not miraculous; it neither speaks about anything new nor predicts anything still future. For speech to qualify as prophetic only two things are necessary: 1) speech in agreement w/God’s existing words (Deu 13:1-11, 18:20), 2) speech accompanied by something miraculous (2Co 12:12; Deu 13:1-2, 18:21-22)—which in the early church’s case, was the ability to speak the various foreign languages of those present at Pentecost w/o knowing them beforehand.

 

5. Peter’s divinely inspired interpretation of Joel 2:28 as “And it shall be in the last days (versus how it was communicated in the original text, “And it shall come about after this”):

1) indicates that the Christian Pentecost/IPO of the indwelling Spirit is not only the beginning of new words/NT canon from God but also the final millennia before Christ’s return and Judgment Day (17-18 = Gifts of the Spirit necessary to new words from God [“prophesy…visions…dreams” = The indication of new words from God/NT canon], 19-20 = Signs that will immediately precede Jesus’ return [Mat 24:29-31]).

 

2) provides further evidence that Jesus’ return will be in the very near future (17, “last days” = Plural or referring to more than one day which in Jewish tradition, each day represents a thousand years of redemptive history [2Pe 3:8] and Messiah returns on the last day, the Sabbath [or at the end of 6,000 years].

At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we were already somewhere in the range of 4,000 years – which means the “days” (or millennia) being referred to by Peter can be no more than two. That puts Jesus’ return somewhere around 2033 [or two thousand years after the Christian Pentecost which took place in 33 A.D.]. In this light, consider Jesus’ words in Joh 9:4).

 

3) should create greater urgency (in us) to be faithful and productive for His kingdom (Mat 25:14-30) – most especially in witnessing to the truth and saving others (Peter’s [Joel’s] point in v21. Once we reach the last days, there is no time to waste; again Joh 9:4, also Pro 11:30).

 

6. The indwelling (or empowering of the) Spirit is given for the purpose of:

1) witness in persecution (Chapter one: witnesses on fire in the fire) (1:8).

 

2) new Scripture (2:17, again, “prophesy…visions…dreams”).

 

3) judgment (most esp. in the covenant community – 18, “prophesy” [all God’s people] = Judgment is a form of prophecy [e.g., Eze 23:36]; The NC indwelling Spirit is the new version of Num 11:17, hence Mat 18:15 = Every member judging/holding other members accountable/responsible for preserving justice/confronting sin as the first step in congregational justice/discipline).

 

7. What God wants the Jews to know about Jesus:

1) He was from God (22; Joh 3:2).

 

2) God’s plan was to deliver Him to the Jews as the (truly) propitiatory sacrifice for their sins (23a; The animal sacrifices were neither sufficient nor penal [i.e., the lambs were not punished]– Rom 3:25; Heb 10:4; Consider also the example of Isaac [God was not punishing him or Abe] or the prophesy of the High Priest [Joh 11:50-51]).

 

3) The Jews treated Jesus as though He were a criminal (23b).

 

4) God still treated Jesus’ death as propitiation for Israel’s sin, hence the reason death could not keep Him/He was resurrected (i.e., He was victorious – Rom 4:25) (24; Heb 9:15-16).

 

5) Jesus’ resurrection and role as Messiah (the “Christ”) was prophesied by David (25-32).

 

6) Jesus is now in heaven where God has exalted and confirmed Jesus’s role not only as His earthly king (“Christ”), but the divine King of heaven and earth (“Lord”) (33-36), 7) God is holding the Jews personally responsible for Jesus’ mistreatment and death (23, 36).

 

8. Peter uses the three most relevant pieces of evidence to validate a person and their message to prove that Jesus was who He claimed to be:

1) their public body of work (22; Act 26:26).

 

2) the Scripture (25-31).

 

3) personal (eyewitness) testimony (32).

 

9. One of the ways to know that you have been a faithful witness causing conviction in others, is that those receiving the message will either be “pierced to the heart” which leads to salvation (37) or “cut to the quick” which leads to persecution (5:33, 7:54, 10:39).

 

10. We are saved and regenerated in the waters of baptism (37-41, “be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…Be saved [thru repentance and baptism]…So then, those who had received his word were baptized…and…there were added [to salvation] about three thousand souls”). That by the word, “added” Luke means salvation is confirmed by (v47 “adding to their number…those…being saved”; 1Pe 3:21).

 

11. The Bible teaches infant baptism:

1) All the essential ingredients found in the phrase, (39, “For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off”) are also found in God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 17:7-13 (“children” = infants [v12], “this promise is for you and your children” [7, 10, “you and your descendants after you”], “for all those [children] who are far off [in the future]” [13 “everlasting covenant”]).

 

2) for the entirety of Israel’s redemptive history, infants were granted this special favor by God (i.e., they were automatic members of the covenant). Hardly would any Jew have found what Peter was preaching as good news if such special favor was no longer part of the deal (i.e., they were in under the OC, but now [under the NC], they need to be old enough to understand and give consent).

 

3) to remove God’ special favor toward infants (in this respect) would be a violation of God original and “everlasting” promise (hence the reason, baptism is identified as the new form of circumcision [Col 2:11]– God is keeping His promise!).

 

12. The first true Christians were continually devoting themselves to practicing the very things the world and popular religion (which is only popular b/c it has adopted many of the convictions of the world) has always found controversial or outright rejected:

1) new understandings (of old teachings) (42, “the apostles’ teaching [on the new application/understanding of the OT/Law]).

 

2) seeking confirmation from God (not popular opinion) for what they believed (43, “wonders and signs” = Confirmation that what was being taught was from God. Such signs and miracles were needed given the absence of the NT canon [what we use today to confirm the teaching]).

 

3) treating those in the covenant community more like family than blood family (42, “fellowship” [Grk., koinoenia]) = The idea of family or sharing and becoming one in re to: our resources/care (44-45), our beliefs, convictions and perspective (46a), our personal life (transparency) (46b, “and breaking bread from house to house” = Devoted themselves to time together outside the Temple for the purpose of sharing their personal lives), loyalty (“breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” = Joyfully sharing a meal w/others was an ancient indicator of your loyalty to them), happiness and blessings (47).

 

4) signs with real spiritual power (sacraments v. ordinances) (41, “baptized” w/47 “adding…those being saved”; 42, “breaking of bread” w/Joh 13:10 w/Joh 6:54).

 

[1] Tradition also speaks of this as the day that Ruth – a Gentile, placed herself under the yoke of the Law.

[2] During Pentecost, it was customary for ancient Jews to

gather in one place, stay up all night learning Torah, and remembering their

vows of obedience to God’s commands (See “Shavout – The Holiday of the Giving

of the Torah” – Chabad.org)

[3] The famous Jewish philosopher, Philo’s words, “Then from the midst of the fire that streamed from heaven there sounded forth to their utter amazement a voice, for the flame became the articulate speech in the language familiar to the audience” were not spoken about Christian Pentecost, but Sinai.

[4] “Luke uses an odd phrase to introduce this event, literally ‘in the fulfillment of the day of Pentecost,” but clearly from what follows [is not the fulfillment of that specific day since] the day was yet young.’” – C.K. Barrett (Acts Vol. 1)

[5] Jewish tradition records that the language of angels is the same language God used to create the world, Hebrew (Jub 12:26). It is also this language that (Jewish) tradition teaches was preserved by Michael the archangel for those descendants of Noah in the line of Abraham after the splitting of the languages during the Tower of Babel incident (Apend. Of Naph. 8:4-6). Of further interest, the word “Hebrew” in Hebrew (eev’riyt) is a derivation of the Hebrew word for covenant (beriyt). Put another way, Hebrew was the language of covenant (or those in/remaining in covenant with God).

[6] “The Greek syntax, surely dictates that the phrase ‘in his own language’ must go with the word ‘speaking’ not ‘hearing,’ in v6. They heard them speaking in their own languages.” – Ben Witherington (The Acts of the Apostles A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary)

Acts 1

1. Important people can help us advance the Kingdom (1; “Theophilus” – See Luk 1:3 “most excellent Theophilus” = Title reserved for those with high social status, power or influence [Act 23:26, 24:3, 26:26]. Given that Luke’s audience was much larger than just Theophilus, strongly implies the mention of his name was for the purpose of adding extra validity – and therefore readership, to his writings – possibly to those in the Jewish community. Luke was a Gentile and therefore would have carried no respect in the Jewish community. Such an assumption infers that Theo was an important and highly respected Jew.).

2. Jesus did not go back to heaven until equipping His Church w/: 1) authority: He passed the mantle of Holy Spirit authority [anointing] to His “chosen” leaders (2, “after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders [or “charge” – Mar 13:34] to the apostles”, Joh 20:21-23). 2) assurance: He proved He was alive after His death (3, “many convincing proofs” = Evidence that removes doubt – e.g., Joh 20:17 [Mary Magdalene hugged Him], 20, 24-29 [Apostles saw/touched His wounds], 21:12-15 [Peter and other apostles ate breakfast w/Him]; “over a period of forty days” = Most likely the time when more than 500 people also witnessed Jesus alive after His death -1Co 15:6). 3) ability: He provided His disciples w/instructions for receiving the promised indwelling Holy Spirit for empowerment (4-8).

3. There is an ascending and descending gift of the Holy Spirit: 1) ascending = anointing (2; Joh 20:21-23 = Jesus gives the HS just before He ascends back to heaven), 2) descending = indwelling (4-5, 8; Eph 4:7-11; “measure” = indwelling – or indwelling and anointing; “When He ascended…He gave [aorist = tense stressing association more than indicating time]” = Christ’s HS anointing is associated w/His ascension; “descended” = On Pentecost to give the indwelling Spirit; v11 = The anointed offices today [“evangelist” = NT priest who plants churches/missionary, “pastor-teacher” = NT priest; See Isa 66:21]).

4. Being faithful as Jesus’ “witnesses” in the midst of persecution/trials is: 1) necessary to being empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (4-8 w/Luk 3:16-17 w/Mar 9:43-50 “salted by fire” = Tested by fire [or fiery trials] (Lev 2:13 “with all your offerings you shall offer salt”)[1]. Jesus went through the same process – Luk 3:21-22, 4:1-14. In this light consider also Paul’s words in Act 20:22-24 w/14:22; we are born [again] w/power that can only be released thru the trials that come thru witnessing). 2) the reason most Christians never experience empowerment from the indwelling Spirit — because they avoid witnessing for Jesus and the persecution/trials it often brings! Point NOT to miss: empowering is for the purpose of witnessing in the midst of persecution/trials which means if you avoid witnessing in these situations, you avoid being empowered (12-26 = The apostles are praying [w/ the expectation of] empowerment [12-14] bc they are planning to witness [15-26] to the same hostile Jews who killed Jesus[2]; See similar in [4:29-30]).

 

5. Jesus’ return will feel a lot like a science fiction movie, an alien invasion and episode from “Law And Order” (9-11 w/1Th 4:15-17 [Mat 24:29-31] and 2Th 1:7-8 [Psa 149; Joh 5:28-29; Mat 13:40-43]; In the end, everyone will have their day in God’s court and some of us wb called to testify against others– Rev 20:11-15; Heb 13:17; 1Co 6:2-3).

 

6. The geographical place of Jesus’ ascent will also be the geographical place of His return (11-12 w/Zec 14:1-14, 9).

 

 

 

 

7. The standard by which to measure any church is its divinely inspired prototype: the church started by Jesus, the church of the apostles, the Jerusalem church which was small and filled with a lot of personal family members (versus large and filled with a lot of strangers) [3] (13-15; As it re: to being small: “one hundred and twenty persons” = Very small in comparison to the crowds that once followed Jesus [e.g., Luk 9:12-14]; As it re: to being filled w/family members: “Judas” = Jesus’ [half] brother, apostle and author of Jude, “Mary the mother of Jesus, …with His brothers.” = This list would include James – the future senior pastor of the church, as well as Joses and Simon. His sisters were [ml] also in attendance [Mar 6:3]; According to Scripture and tradition [e.g., Clement of Alexandria], most of the “eleven” were married and had at least one child [e.g., Mat 8:14; 1Co 9:5; e.g., Peter’s daughter was named Petronilla]. More than likely then, 30-40 [or 25-33%] of the 120 persons were family members. As it re: to remaining small: though experiencing times of great expansion (Act 2:41, 4:4, 5:14), they were short lived. Persecution forced most of the church’s new members to seek shelter in churches outside of Jerusalem (e.g., Act 8:4). As a result, the Jerusalem church remained one of the smallest for the majority of her first century existence (hence Act 11:28-30; Rom 15:25-26; 1Co 16:2-3).[4]

 

8. The apostles believed that insurrection – condemning or coming against the authority of those anointed to sacred office in the church was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the unforgiveable sin and apostasy (16-20 w/Mat 26:14 w/Joh 12:1-8; “Let his homestead be made desolate and let no one dwell in it” [See the full context of Psa 69:22-28] = Let them become apostate; For blasphemy against the HS as insurrection against the anointed in the covenant community, see Mat 12:32 w/Num 15:30-31, 16:1-3; also Psa 105:15).

 

9. The qualifications for being in the anointed sacred office of apostle make clear that anyone claiming that office today is a false teacher (21-22 w/25 “apostleship”).

 

10. The congregation is the one deciding who gets anointed/ordained (15-16 w/23 [“they” = the congregation] – 26 [“added” = voted in by the congregation]; See also Act 6:1-6 [“the whole congregation…chose”; That they were choosing for the purpose of anointing/ordaining – i.e., that these were elders/pastors is confirmed by the fact these individuals had the authority/ability to baptize – e.g., Act 8:38]; OT ref. to congregational choosing for anointing – 1Ch 29:20-22).

 

11. Casting lots (sortition or selection by lottery) is a divine way to preserve equity in situations where there is no explicit counsel from God [His Word] (23-26 = Lots were cast to determine the duties of the priests. Joseph and Mattias were [ml] elders in their church [Luk 1:9 and 1Ch 24:1-5, 31, 25:8, 26:13-16] e.g., also [clothing] Mat 27:31; [land] Num 26:55; Jos 18:6; [sacrifices] Lev 16:8; in re: to it being divinely attended [revealing God’s will] – Pro 16:33 [e.g., Urim and Thummin – Exo 28:30]).

 

[1] “The reference to ritual sacrifice (Lev 2:13) would be fairly evident to the first readers of Mark. The argument has a coherence deeper than catchwords: Since undisciplined disciples risk the fire of gehenna at the last judgment, the hardships the disciple will undergo now are disciplines like the fire of a sacrificial offering that purifies, or like salt which stings but is preservative in its effect. Jesus on his way to Jerusalem is the supreme example of the sacrificial offerings ‘salted with fire.’ His sacrificial death is not to shield disciples from costly obedience, but rather show them the way: ‘For every one (meaning every disciple) will be salted with fire.’ Disciples whose lives are not characterized by rigorous self-discipline [and bold witness] are like flavorless salt. They have lost the sharpness which sets them apart from their environment and constitutes their usefulness.” – Lamar Williamson Jr. (Mark)

[2] Since both were required holidays and the cost of travel was steep, the Jews who travelled to Jerusalem to observe Passover, would often stay until Pentecost. As such, the Jews who witnessed Jesus’ death are still in town.

[3] The are several good reasons for referring to the Jerusalem church as prototypical: 1) it is the specific church Jesus is referring to when making His “church promises” to Peter (Mat 16:17-19), 2) it is the church to which all the other first century churches looked for instruction/ruling on orthodoxy and orthopraxy (e.g., Gal 2:1-2; Act 15:1-29; 1Co 11:16 = The unity of practice among the “churches of God” on this issue was no doubt due to the fact that it came from their mother, the church at Jerusalem).

[4] According to ancient church historian Eusebius, the Jerusalem church relocated to the city of Pella just before the city’s fall to the Romans in 70 A.D. It did so however without its two leaders, James (the brother of Jesus) and Peter who stayed behind and perished during the siege. At this point, most of the apostles were also dead and the church’s former members permanently dispersed to other locations. Though the city itself would continue to play a significant role in the world’s politics and religion, her church remained small and struggled to exist.