The Righter Report

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

Exodus chapters seven through twelve document the ten plagues the Lord put Egypt through in order to secure the release of the Israelites from their bondage.  It had been some four-hundred years since Joseph and his family had first sought refuge in Egypt from the famine.  But now, with Moses as “The Deliverer,” the Jews were to be set free.

Reasons for the plagues:

The sins of the Egyptians are well documented.  Not only had they placed the Israelites in slavery, but they had also engaged in idolatry (the worship of false gods), and had even ordered the murder of the Israelite’s male babies.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”  –  Exodus chapter 1, NIV

It is unknown how many sons of the Israelites were ultimately killed, but undoubtedly it was many.

Interestingly, when another deliverer (Jesus) was promised to Israel, the enemies of the Israelites also killed their babies.

One other thing – we can logically conclude from scripture that, like the Amorites, there would come a time of judgment from God when the sins of the Egyptians would reach their full measure.

Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” – Genesis 15:13-16

The Ten Plagues

The ten plagues on Egypt weren’t just happenstance.  Not only were they punishment against the Egyptians for their sins but each of the ten plagues were directed against one or more of the Egyptian “gods,” to show the people of Egypt (and Israel) that those ‘gods’ were impotent.  For instance, the first plague turned the Nile River into blood.  The Egyptian ‘god’ of the Nile was Hapi, and it soon became clear that Hapi could not stop the plague of blood.  The God of Israel was showing beyond a doubt that He was the one who ruled over the universe.

So, here are the ten plagues, and the Egyptian ‘gods” that were judged impotent:

Plague #1: Water into Blood                                            

Egyptian god attacked: Hapi  – The god of the Nile

Plague #2:  Frogs

Egyptian god attacked: Heka (Heqt or Heket) –  The god of fertility

Plague #3: Lice

Egyptian god(s) attacked: Geb /Horus – The god of the earth

Plague #4: Flies

Egyptian god attacked: Kheper (or Khepri)

Plague #5: Death of Livestock

Egyptian gods attacked:  Apis: (Sacred Bull);  Hathor: goddess of protection

Plague #6: Boils

Egyptian gods attacked:   Imhotep (physician god); Thoth (Magic and healing); Isis, goddess of medicine

Plague #7: Hail  

Egyptian god attacked: Nut – The sky goddess

Plague #8: Locusts

Egyptian god attacked: Seth – The god of crops

Plague #9: Darkness

Egyptian god attacked: Ra – The sun god, their primary god

Plague #10: First Born Killed  

Egyptian gods attacked: Pharaoh (He was considered a  god and his first born son would become a god after him); Bes – Protector of Children; Aten – Symbol of life.

Concluding remarks:

Like many things in the Bible, it pays to do one’s due-diligence and research a particular story to gain a fuller understanding of what was going on.  In Egypt, God not only delivered the Israelites from bondage, but also punished the Egyptians for their centuries of sin, and showed them that each of their so-called ‘gods’ were impotent against the Almighty God of Israel.

One other note of interest:

Evidence of the Exodus from Egypt:  http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodus.htm

Blessings,

– The Righter Report

 

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March 25, 2014 Posted by | Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Why Israel Missed its Messiah

By Pete Righter

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ appeared on the world scene in Israel. Individual Gospel / New Testament authors record him healing the sick, raising the dead, ushering in a ‘New Covenant,’ being crucified and dying on a Roman cross, and resurrecting again on the third day, as he prophesied. And thus was born what is now known as Christianity, which Merriam Webster defines as, “the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” And I might add, “professed also by Messianic Jews” (those who believe in Jesus as their Lord, Savior, and Messiah).

But for the most part, Israel, the Jewish people, and skeptics through the ages, have rejected Jesus and Christianity. But is their rejection based on valid arguments and sound Biblical exegesis? The reasons most Jews reject Jesus involve numerous objections. The purpose of this article is to address the top three most common objections, which are:

1. Jesus didn’t qualify as the Jewish Messiah; he didn’t fulfill the Messianic prophecies.
2. Judaism doesn’t teach a crucified Messiah who will die for the sins of its people.
3. Christians incorrectly argue ‘Jesus the Messiah’ appeared right on time, according to scripture and Jewish tradition.

Let’s look at these top three objections one by one:

1. Jesus didn’t qualify as the Jewish Messiah; he didn’t fulfill the Messianic prophecies.

In my almost forty years of Biblical studies, speaking with and debating Jews and skeptics, and researching the concept of the Jewish Messiah, one thing became crystal clear: the Jewish people were expecting “Messiah ben David” and not the “Suffering Messiah,” aka Messiah ben Joseph. First, who is Messiah ben David?

In Judaism, and also in Christianity, “Messiah ben David” is the conquering king, much like King David in the Jewish Tanakh / Old Testament. It is believed in Judaism that Messiah ben David will conquer the enemies of the Jewish people, build the “Third (Jewish) Temple,” and usher in a thousand-year Messianic kingdom.

For the record, “Messiah” (Hebrew ‘Mashiach’ in Judaism), means an “anointed one,” and is generally a term used to describe chief priests and kings who were traditionally anointed with sacred anointing oil, as we read about in Exodus chapter 30, and who were more specifically spiritually anointed by God and his Holy Spirit to fulfill priestly and kingly offices and purposes.

At this point one clarification needs to be made. Whereas there are many ‘anointed ones’ in scripture, there is also one dominate, ‘anointed one,’ who is different and more important and powerful than all the others. We read about him in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 (Daniel speaking):

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The Jewish Tanakh says only God is to be worshiped, but here is another individual who also has sovereign power, glory, and authority, and who will be worshiped by people of every nation and language. Clearly, this individual is different than a mere anointed priest or king. In Christian theology, we see this same individual again in Daniel chapter 3:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three godly Jews in captivity in Babylon who refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, and thus were summarily thrown into a blazing furnace of fire. Daniel 3:24-25 records what happened next:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty. He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.

The distinction is clear: There are many ‘sons of man’ but only one who is given sovereign power and authority. There are many ‘Mashiachs’ (anointed ones) but only ONE dominate Messiah.

Objection: Jesus didn’t fulfill the Messianic prophecies.

Various Christian and Messianic Jewish websites list up to 300 Old Testament Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during his first advent. A partial list of these can be seen at the end of this article. But the objections from Jewish rabbis and others deal with the remainder of the Messianic prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. These include the rebuilding of the third Jewish Temple, the destruction of the enemies of Israel, and a thousand year millennial reign by the Messiah – Messiah ben David, the conquering king.

The answer to those objections is simple: Christian theology teaches that Jesus will fulfill the remaining prophecies during his Second Coming. So the objection is premature.

Which brings us to an interesting point: At the time when Jesus appeared in the first century, there were numerous expectations by Jews that the Messiah would appear at that time. The following link documents those expectations:

Messianic Expectations in First Century Judaism

Which also begs the question: If the Jews were expecting their Messiah at the time of Christ, when their Second Jewish Temple (Herod’s Temple) was already standing, why should we expect the Messiah to build a Third Temple 2,000 or so years later, when they weren’t expecting him to build the second temple in Herod’s time? So that objection – that the Messiah is to build the Temple – is highly questionable. All the scriptures say is that the Messiah will come to the Temple (Malachi 3:1) – not necessarily build it. By the way, Malachi 3:1 is considered by some Jewish rabbis as being a messianic prophecy.

Objection # 2: Judaism doesn’t teach a crucified Messiah who will die for the sins of its people.

Now we get to the person of “Messiah ben Joseph – the ‘Suffering Servant.”

Generally speaking, Messiah ben Joseph is described as the “Suffering Servant” who atones for the sins of his people. He appears on the stage in Israel, will be rejected by his people, and dies in the war against evil. Following that the world is filled with calamities and war until Messiah ben David – the Conquering King – appears and sets everything right.

Curiously, in Judaism, numerous ancient Jewish rabbis identified Isaiah chapter 53 as speaking about such an individual. Among the verses of Isaiah 53 are these:

2 …he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

Uncanny. If there was ever a profile of Jesus Christ, then this is it. And numerous Jewish rabbis agreed this chapter of Isaiah is a Messianic prophecy. Among the quotes from the ancient rabbis concerning Isaiah 53 are these:

Rabbi Moses Alschech(1508-1600) said:

“Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.”

Abrabanel (1437-1508) said earlier:
“This is also the opinion of our own learned men in the majority of their Midrashim.”

Rabbi Yafeth Ben Ali ( second half of the 10th Century):
“As for myself, I am inclined to regard it as alluding to the Messiah.”

Many more quotations from Jewish rabbis are in the same link as the ones above:

Isaiah 53: How do the Rabbis Interpret This?

Of course once the scriptures started looking too much like the Christian Messiah Jesus Christ, more recent rabbis changed their opinions to claim that now Isaiah 53 is speaking about the Nation of Israel as the “individual” in question. Of course this is not a very compelling argument for the reasons expressed in the following article:

Why Isaiah 53 cannot refer to the nation of Israel, or anyone else, but must be the Messiah

The New Testament contains several passages which confirm Isaiah 53 is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ:

Isaiah 53 and New Testament Fulfillments

Regarding a “crucified Messiah,” many Christian theologians point to the twenty-second Psalm as being the “Crucifixion Chapter / prophecy about Christ. A real nice article on this can be seen in the following link:

5 Allusions to Psalm 22 at Christ’s Crucifixion

By the way, I was once told by a believer in Judaism that nowhere in the Old Testament does it say the Messiah (i.e. Jesus) will come twice. My response was to ask where in the Old Testament does it say he will only appear once? Another objection was when another believer in Judaism claimed the name of Jesus (as Messiah) in not seen in the Old Testament, so he can’t possibly be the Jewish Messiah. My response to that was similar: where is the name of the Jewish Messiah that you believe in mentioned?

Thus, objection # 2 is also seen as being without merit.

Objection # 3: Christians incorrectly argue ‘Jesus the Messiah’ appeared right on time in the first century, according to scripture and Jewish tradition.

Earlier, I provided the link on “Messianic Expectations in First Century Judaism” to show that in the first century, there were definitely expectations of the Jewish Messiah appearing.

To add to that the following is offered to counter the third objection.

From my studies over the decades, there are only two places I know of in the Old Testament that predict / prophesy when the Messiah will appear in history. The first of these is documented in a separate article on my website written by Chuck Missler (From his Book “The Creator Beyond Time and Space”)

Until Shiloh Comes

The prophecy, generally stated, is this, from Genesis chapter 49:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis 49:10 (NKJ)

This strange prophecy has a few words that need to be defined in order to be fully understood. The word “scepter” has been understood by the Rabbis to mean the “tribal staff” or “tribal identity” of the twelve tribes of Israel. This “tribal identity” was linked, in the minds of the Jews, to their right to apply and enforce Mosaic law upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment, or jus gladii (The jus gladii is a legal term which refers to the legal authority to adjudicate capital cases and impose capital punishment.)

Secondly, it is well documented that the word “Shiloh” has been understood for millennia to be an idiom for the Messiah. Therefore, according to this prophecy, the tribal identity or scepter of the tribe of Judah would not cease until the Messiah came. The article goes on to conclude that the time called for the Messiah to appear is the first century – when Jesus did appear.

The second place in scripture that indicates when the Messiah would appear is Daniel chapter 9, verses 24-27. And again, the time it indicates for the appearance of the Messiah is the first century – in 32 AD. Exactly when Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the Jewish Messiah. Here is the background on that prophecy:

Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy

Both examples above are considered Messianic by various Jewish rabbis. Concerning Daniel chapter 9, we see the following quotes by ancient Jewish rabbis:

In the Babylonian Talmud, complied between 200 – 500 A.D., Rabbi Judah (the main compiler of the Talmud), said concerning Daniel’s prophecy:

“These times were over long ago.” – Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b and 97a

In the 12th Century A.D., Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides), one of the most respected rabbis in history, said:

“Daniel has elucidated to us the knowledge of the end times. However, since they are secret, the wise (rabbis) have barred the calculations of the days of Messiah’s coming so that the untutored populace will not be led astray when they see that end times have already come but there is no sign of the Messiah.”

In addition, Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi noted regarding the time of the Messiah’s coming:

“I have examined and searched all the Holy Scriptures and have not found the time for the coming of Messiah clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the 9th chapter of the prophecy of Daniel.”

And, in the Targum of the Prophets, in the Tractate Megillah 3a, the Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel noted, concerning Daniel’s prophecy:

“The date of the Messiah was foretold in it.”

Summary / Conclusion:

So there we have it: First century Messianic expectations, along with the time-sensitive prophecies from Genesis chapter 49 and Daniel chapter 9 – all indicating that the Messiah would appear in the first century. And the only logical candidate that fulfills those prophecies and expectations, the one who fulfilled numerous Messianic prophecies during his first advent (and who is expected to fulfill the remainder at his second advent); the one who is the image of Isaiah chapter 53 as Messiah ben Joseph (the “Suffering Servant”), and the one which is written about by predominately Jewish believers in the New Testament – is Jesus Christ.

By the way, the scriptures also indicate the Jewish Messiah would be divine, which is exactly what the New Testament notes about Jesus.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 shows the Messiah will be God

And now we have compelling arguments as to why Israel did not and has not recognized their beloved Messiah:

1. They were expecting Messiah ben David (the ‘Conquering King’) to appear, and Messiah ben Joseph (the ‘Suffering Servant’ – Jesus Christ) appeared first instead.
2. Most of them missed the times foretold about when the Messiah was to appear – in the first century A.D. And,
3. Almost no one prior to the first century expected two faces and two advents of the Messiah. But the first advent is documented in Jesus Christ, and the second is expected as surely as the first.

Finally, two other notes that address issues regarding the Messiah: The first is a scholarly work written by the world’s foremost Jewish Messianic expert on the Messiah, Dr. Michael L. Brown. I highly recommend anyone interested in the Jewish Messiah to invest in and read the following:

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (five volumes)

Or you can purchase one volume at a time at Amazon.com

The second is a site showing the fulfilled Messianic prophecies of Jesus Christ:

Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies

Jesus is Lord!

God bless,

– The Righter Report

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Evangelical, God, History, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Messiah

Isaiah Chapter 53 – 750 B.C.

1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken
.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities
.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors
.

Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Fulfillments

Isaiah 53 According to Ancient Jewish Rabbis

From the link above: Conclusion: This history of rabbinical thought concerning Isaiah 53 demonstrates that the traditional Jewish view of Isaiah 53 is that it speaks of the Messiah. Because of this, it is clear that the dominant Jewish view of the Messiah throughout the centuries has included the understanding that the Messiah would suffer and die as a sacrifice, bearing the sins of all people who would “believe the report” (verse 1). He would be the ultimate atonement for Jewish people and for others who would embrace him.

Why Isaiah 53 cannot be referring to Israel, but the Messiah instead

The Jewish Messiah is Jesus Christ.

Shrine of the Book Museum in Israel

January 30, 2014 Posted by | Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Baptism?

THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISM

Conservative Christianity holds that there are only two sacraments that are commanded to us by Christ – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism: 1: A Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community; 2: an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated or named. (Webster’s 88)

Baptism of fire: 1: A spiritual baptism by a gift of the Holy Spirit – often used in allusion to Acts 2:3-4 and Matthew 3:11; 2: An introductory or initial experience that is a severe ordeal (a soldier’s first exposure to enemy fire). (Webster’s Dictionary)

Hastings Bible dictionary identifies baptism as, “an outward sign and pledge of inward repentance on their (man’s) part, and of their forgiveness on the part of God. Baptism is related to repentance as the outward act in which the inward change finds expression” (Hastings 82). In his book, The Glorious Journey, Pastor Charles Stanley defines baptism as, “An act of obedience whereby the believer publicly identifies through immersion (in water) with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.”

Baptize: Originates from the Greek word baptizo; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); of ceremonial ablution. (Zodhiates 18)

I would give this definition of baptism for the true believer in Christ: “A willful, conscious, outward act of immersion in water that signifies the inner working of Christ and the Holy Spirit whereby the believer, by an act of God’s grace, is cleansed from impurity and identified in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” No doubt there are many definitions of baptism, depending on the various disciplines of Christianity.

“Baptism and the (Lord’s) Supper are for the saved alone, and only the saved can scripturally observe either ordinance” (George W. Truett).

I have heard it said that there’s not much in the New Testament that isn’t alluded to in the Old Testament. Accordingly, there should likely be some Old Testament scripture(s) that look forward to the sacrament of baptism. I submit Ezekiel 36:25-26:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will
cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I
will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

Concerning the above verse, the Geneva Study Bible provides this commentary:

“The sprinkling or pouring of water refers to the ritual purifications for removing religious defilement (Exodus 30:17-21; Leviticus 14:52; Numbers 19:17-19). It is also used as a symbol for the gift of God’s (Holy) Spirit, in the anointing of kings and priests and in the prophetic call (Joel 2:28, 29). The outpouring of God’s Spirit is a sign of the messianic age (37:14; 39:29; Isaiah 42:1; 44:3; 59:21). This rich symbolism attaches to baptism in the New Testament. The language of vs. 25-27 is closely paralleled in Psalm 51:7-11” (Geneva Study Bible).

A related New Testament verse is found in John 3:5: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” And yet another related verse is found in Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” This being said, I think it should also be noted that the apostle Paul referenced Jesus in this same context:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and
gave Himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the
washing with water through the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

The Geneva Study Bible makes this comment regarding the above: “Paul outlines in these verses the entire process to which Christ has committed Himself in His relationship with the church. He has washed her from sin and is preparing her for a glorious destiny with Himself” (Geneva Study Bible 1869). Of course the “word” (washing with water through the word) is directly connected to John 1 – “the word became flesh,” speaking of Christ. It is at this juncture that we see that both Christ and the Holy Spirit are involved in spiritual cleansing (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:25-26). To further this point I submit I John 1:7 (KJV):

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ
His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

These foundational verses support the proposition that (1) By a work of God’s grace believers are cleansed from their impurities; and (2) Christ and the Holy Spirit are both clearly identified as being instrumental in this process.

JOHN THE BAPTIST

The advent of John the Baptist was not just happenstance – he was clearly foretold in the Old Testament (note Isaiah 40:3, 5 in conjunction with Matthew 3:1-3, and also Malachi 4:5-6 in conjunction with Luke 1:17). His mission from God was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” he cried out. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:2, 11).

The first thing we note is that John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance, which is a preparatory work of God in man’s heart. I say that repentance is a work of God, for if it were a work of man, then man could boast of this “work.” And Ephesians 2:8-9 states clearly that man is saved solely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And also, John 6:44 states, “No one can come to me unless the God who sent me first draws him…” The work of repentance again brings forth the issue of a righteous and sovereign God condescending to sinful man, who is mired in an unfathomable pit of iniquity and unable to extricate himself, and bringing to fruition the Lord’s covenant promise to cleanse mankind from his impurities and reconcile him back to Himself.

Next, if John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance, then the individual engaged needs to have sufficient maturity and cognitive acumen to be able to understand right from wrong, sin from proper behavior, and be able to understand this in light of God’s word. Repentance then, as a prerequisite for John’s baptism, is not possible for newborn infants. Along these lines, there are no instances mentioned in the Bible where infants are either commanded to be baptized, or are baptized apart from such commandments. And although I don’t see anything wrong with parents baptizing their newborn children, I would recommend that the child be instructed in the ways of the Lord and then later, at the proper time, of their own accord, again undergo the baptismal sacrament.

In the last chapter of Mark (v. 16) we read:

“Whoever believes (in Christ) and is baptized will be saved, but
whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Belief in Christ (by the gift of faith) and repentance both originate from God. Once a person is convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit, repentance, along with a believing faith in Christ, is normally not far behind. I believe they are both a work of God, and both are normative in the salvation process.

As a ritual, water baptism is also seen as a public demonstration of one’s faith in Christ. In some cultures, such as China and even Saudi Arabia, a public profession of Christ along with the water baptism can result in the individual being severely disciplined, and in extreme cases put to death. Yet the public pronouncement of one’s identification with Christ seems to say, “I am no longer under the domain of Satan or the secular influences of this world. I am a blood-bought child of God, and from this day forward my allegiance to Him comes first.” Water baptism is a commandment of Christ, and is therefore our first act of obedience to Him.

It is at this point that I feel the need to state that the ritual of water baptism is not a necessity for salvation. A good case in point would be the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who could not come down from the cross in order to be baptized. Yet Jesus told him that “today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation – believing faith in Christ is (John 3:16). Spiritual baptism, resulting from a true, believing faith in Jesus Christ, is a necessity for salvation. Water baptism should follow.

People can say they believe in Christ and even undergo baptism and still not be saved. The important thing is the condition of the person’s heart, and if their faith in Christ is genuine. Outward ceremonial rituals do not save a person. Inward spiritual cleansing must occur, resulting from saving faith, and many people in the church tend to confuse this issue.

No outward act, or work of man, can bring him salvation – salvation is totally a work of God in a persons heart and mind.

BURIED WITH CHRIST

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ
Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried
with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ
was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we
too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

Paul went on to say that our “old self” (old carnal nature) was crucified with Christ at Calvary so that “the body of sin might be done away with.” Concerning the previous verse, theologian Wayne Grudem remarks,

“Now this truth is clearly symbolized in baptism by immersion. When the candidate for baptism goes down into the water it is a picture of going down into the grave and being buried (with Christ). Coming up out of the water is then a picture of being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Baptism thus very clearly pictures death to one’s old way of life and rising to a new kind of life in Christ.”

I can’t let this pass without contrasting this to the Israelites passing from their old life of bondage in Egypt, across the water of the River Jordan, into their new life in the “promised land.” And we can’t forget the typology of Noah’s flood:

“…God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was
being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved
through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now
saves you…” (I Peter 3:20)

BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY

First Corinthians 12, relating to spiritual gifts, goes on provide a good illustration of the diversification of the many believers in the “body” of Christ – His church. Paul further elaborates on this in I Corinthians 12:12-13:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and
though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with
Christ. For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body…”

In the above verse we see that through baptism we are all joined as one into the body of Christ – one spiritual family, made up of people from all over the world. You may recall from the Abrahamic Covenant that the Lord made this promise to Abraham:

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and
all the nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (Genesis 18:18)

Of course the advent of Christ through the line of Abraham was the blessing that is referred to here.

BAPTISM WITH FIRE

In Luke 3:16 John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water….but He (Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” In the Old Testament we find reference to the “Refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). This, of course, is the hand of the Lord that is working in our lives to refine us from dead works, sin, and anything else that God doesn’t think we should have in our lives. I am reminded of the friends of Daniel – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were cast into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and exclaimed, “LOOK! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). Two points I’d like to make: (1) We never go through the “fire” alone. Christ is always with us; (2) When we come out of the fire, we come out “unbound.” There will likely be many “fires” to walk through in our Christian experience, and every time we go through one, we are further “loosed” from our carnal bindings. It is the work of the Sovereign God bringing us into His likeness and image, burning off the undesirable dross.

If God brings fire into our lives through progressive sanctification to purify us, He also lights a fire in our bosoms to get His word out to others. God’s Spirit builds a fire in His people that will never be quenched.

BAPTISM AT PENTECOST

Acts chapter 1 records Jesus’ prophecy to the disciples concerning their coming baptism with the Holy Spirit: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…..You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:5, 8). The coming of the Holy Spirit with power came shortly thereafter:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one
place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind
came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were
sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that sep-
arated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the
Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Shortly thereafter Peter addressed the crowd that had gathered and told them that the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 had been fulfilled. That day three thousand people were saved through the Spirit. Interestingly, in Exodus 32:28, Moses had just received the Ten Commandments (the law) on Mount Sinai, and in the ensuing melee at the foot of the mountain, three thousand people died. I think Paul might well have spoken of what this meant in II Corinthians 3:6: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter (of the law) but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

What happened at Pentecost has fueled debates in the church over a number of related issues, the first of which involves the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:4 it says that the disciples were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Almost fifty days previously Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the disciples saying, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). Of course the question is, if the disciples received the Holy Spirit at the time Jesus was resurrected, then what was it they received at Pentecost? The answer to this is usually a matter of either private or denominational interpretation, but I would look at Acts 1:8 as providing the answer – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” It was during this period of time that the disciples went from being a collection of whimps and misfits to the dynamic apostles that we look up to in admiration.. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of power. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7 – KJV). Also consider Judges 14:6:

“The Spirit of the Lord came upon him (Samson) in power so
that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.”

We see the same thing in the life of King Saul (1 Samuel 10:10) and with David (I Samuel 16:13). The Greek word for power in Acts 1:8 is dunamis, which means, “miraculous power, ability, abundance, mighty deeds (worker of miracles), and strength” (Zodhiates New Testament Dictionary, P. 24). If I recall correctly dunamis is the Greek word from which we derive the word ‘dynamite.’ So whereas in the Gospel of John the disciples had received the presence of the Holy Spirit, in Acts they received His power.

A second issue that is constantly debated in the church addresses the issue of whether being “filled” with the Holy Spirit always includes speaking in “tongues.” I know that at one time (and perhaps even now) the Pentecostal Church and also the Assemblies of God maintain that if you don’t speak in tongues you aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe that. I’ve also heard Benny Hinn preach about the “three types (levels)” of baptism. The first is the “Leper’s anointing,” which is salvation by faith. The second involves surrendering one’s will to the Lord, which provides the “Kingly anointing” (speaking in tongues). And the third is the “Priestly anointing,” (which comes through obedience), and results in the manifestation of spiritual gifts such as healing, miracles, etc. I suspect this doctrine is more experiential than scriptural, for Ephesians 4:4-5 states,

“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to
one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one
baptism; one God and Father of all.”

Anyway, getting back to the issue of tongues as the evidence of the Holy Spirit at baptism, it seems that those who speak in tongues are mostly in favor of this doctrine, while those who don’t speak in tongues, but consider themselves saved, oppose it. Two of the most well respected Christian leaders in America are the Reverend Billy Graham and Dr. Charles Stanley of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, neither of whom speaks in tongues. You can’t convince me they don’t have the Holy Spirit. I would go on record as saying that tongues, while a legitimate Christian phenomenon, is not always an evidence of spiritual baptism, nor is it always a work of God. Pastor Roy Harthern of Orlando Christian Center has stated that speaking in tongues is not always a work of the Holy Spirit. Hank Hanigraff of the Christian Research Institute says much the same thing. There is ‘glossalalia,’ or an attempt by man to utter convincing sounds so that others might accept him in charismatic circles. And Harthern has told of several instances where he perceived that a particular person was speaking in tongues that came from a demonic spirit. So just because a person speaks in tongues, it is not always evidence that it is a gift of God.

I Corinthians 12:30 states, “Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?” The question is a rhetorical question to which the implied answer is “no, not everyone speaks in tongues.” A counter-argument back against this is that in the above verse, Paul is speaking of spiritual gifts, not the normative “speaking in tongues.” And so the debate rages on. I have seen numerous articles that seem to effectively argue both positions rather eloquently. I would just respond with 1 Corinthians 13:1:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have
not love, than I am become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”

I think in the long run, love for God and one’s fellow man is a more sure indicator of salvation and baptism than is tongues.

Now, concerning whether the “infilling” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the point in time wherein the disciples were effectually “saved,” theologian Wayne Grudem makes these points:

“But how, then, do we understand the references to baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5 and 11:16, both of which refer to the day of Pentecost? Were these not instances where the disciples, having previously been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, have now experienced a new empowering from the Holy Spirit that enabled them to minister effectively? It is true that the disciples were “born again” long before Pentecost, and in fact probably long before Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit in John 20:22. Jesus had said, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (John 6:44), but the disciples certainly had come to Jesus and followed Him (even though their understanding of who He was gradually increased over time). Certainly when Peter said to Jesus, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), it was evidence of some kind of regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Jesus told him, ‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17). And Jesus had said to the Father regarding His disciples, ‘I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me….I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition…’ The disciples had ‘little faith’ (Matthew 8:26) at times, but they did have faith. Certainly they were regenerated long before the day of Pentecost.” (Grudem 769)

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN GIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT

There are those in the Christian community that teach that at the moment of water baptism, the Holy Spirit then indwells the believer for the rest of their life. And while I’m sure there are many instances of that occurring in just that way, scripture also records that God may give His Holy Spirit to someone either before or after water baptism. In Acts 8:15-16 we see an example of this:

“When they (Peter and John) arrived, they prayed for them that
they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had
not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized
into the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Water baptism alone does not save a person. The Holy Spirit, given to an individual by Christ, is the “Seal of Redemption” (Ephesians 1:13-14) that signifies who belongs to God. So in Acts 8:15-16 we see an example where people received the Holy Spirit after baptism.

Now, in Acts 10:46-48, we see an example where people were speaking in tongues and where they had received the Holy Spirit prior to baptism:

“For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being
baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just
as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ.”

Scripture seems clear in this regard – God alone is sovereign, and He decides who is to receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and when they are to receive Him. He alone knows who belong to Him and who don’t.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

In the Old Testament, it was a covenant requirement that those who would be identified as God’s people would undergo circumcision. And even in those instances it was still faith in God that justified a person righteous, not the ritual of circumcision (note Genesis 15:6). In Romans 4:11 Paul elaborates on this point:

“And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal
of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still
uncircumcised.”

Later, in Galatians chapter three, we find much the same thing:

“Did you receive the (Holy) Spirit by observing the law, or by
believing what you heard? Does God give you His Spirit and
work miracles among you because you observe the law, or
because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2, 5)

The points I wish to make are these: (1) Circumcision was only an outward ritual, or “seal” of what had already occurred in the heart of Abraham. He was justified by faith (Genesis 15:6). In the New Testament, the ritual of water baptism is only meant to be symbolic of what God has already done, or is doing, in a person’s heart – the “circumcised heart” – which is then “sealed” by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit; (2) The important issue is the inner working of God in man’s heart. Remember, In Ezekiel 36 God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…I will move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” It is God that is sovereignly working in the hearts of man, and no amount of works or personal cleansing or dunking on man’s part will alone provide him with salvation or the Holy Spirit. This clearly speaks of the sovereignty of God condescending to sinful man and extricating him from the pit of iniquity, and reconciling him to his creator. God is a covenant God, and throughout the Old and New Testaments He is consistent in keeping His covenant promises. Baptism is a two part work – one is the work of man through immersion in water, but the greater work is the work of God in the process of regeneration and infilling with the Holy Spirit. The work of man does not get him into heaven, but the work of God will.

“….not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Four Spiritual Laws

– The Righter Report

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Ahitophel – Piecing the puzzle together

Why did Ahitophel betray King David?

Ahitophel was King David’s trusted advisor / counselor (1 Chronicles 27:33) and served him for many years. After some time passed, and because of David’s adultery and involvement with Bathsheba, and David’s complicity in the killing of Urriah – Bathsheba’s husband, note 2 Samuel chapter 11 – King David suffered a number of tragedies and judgments:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” – 2 Samuel 12:11-12

Then David said to the prophet Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD. Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die” (2 Samuel 12:13-14). Which soon thereafter occurred.

Yet King David’s ‘trusted’ counselor, Ahitophel, suddenly turned against him. When David’s son Absalom seized power and drove his father out of Jerusalem, Ahithophel stayed behind and became chief advisor to the rebellion (2 Samuel 15:31). It was he who advised Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines (2 Sam 16:20-23).

But the Bible does not tell us the real reason WHY Ahitophel betrayed King David. At least not directly. Like many things in the Bible, you have to search for the answer and piece the puzzle together.

The answer lies in different passages in scripture.

As it turns out, Ahitophel is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34, which tells us he is the father of Eliam. Since 2 Samuel 11:3 notes that Eliam is the father of Bathsheba, then the Ahitophel of 2 Samuel 15 is Bathsheba’s grandfather.

Now it becomes clear. Ahitophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, was furious with King David for his behavior with his granddaughter and David’s complicit murder of her husband. So he turned against David.

And now you know the ‘rest of the story.’

These are the things that skeptics, and those who engage in a superficial reading of the Bible, miss, but which helps instead to solidify the interconnectedness, continuity, and credibility of the Bible.

– The Righter Report

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Evangelical, God, History, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Ossuaries of First Christians

The first century catacomb, uncovered by archaeologist P. Bagatti on the Mount of Olives, contains inscriptions clearly indicating its use, “by the very first Christians in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem Burial Cave Reveals: Names, Testimonies of First Christians

by Jean Gilman

Like many other important early Christian discoveries in the Holy Land, these major finds were unearthed and the results published many decades ago. Then the discoveries were practically forgotten. Because of recent knowledge and understanding, these ancient tombs once again assume center stage, and their amazing “testimonies in stone” give some pleasant surprises about some of the earliest followers of Jesus.

The catacombs were found and excavated primarily by two well-known archaeologists, but their findings were later read and verified by other scholars such as Yigael Yadin, J. T. Milik and J. Finegan.

The first catacomb found near Bethany was investigated by renowned French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. The other, a large burial cemetery unearthed near the modern Dominus Flevit Chapel, was excavated by Italian scholar, P. Bagatti.

Both archaeologists found evidence clearly dating the two catacombs to the first century AD, with the later finding coins minted by Governor Varius Gratus at the turn of the millenium (up to 15/16 AD). Evidence in both catacombs indicated their use for burial until the middle part of the first century AD, several years before the New Testament was written.

The first catacomb was a family tomb investigated by archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau on the Mount of Olives near the ancient town of Bethany. Clermont-Ganneau was surprised to find names which corresponded with names in the New Testament. Even more interesting were the signs of the cross etched on several of the ossuaries (stone coffins).

As Claremont-Ganneau further investigated the tomb, he found inscriptions, including the names of “Eleazar”(=”Lazarus”), “Martha” and “Mary” on three different coffins.

The Gospel of John records the existence of one family of followers of Jesus to which this tomb seems to belong: “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick)…” (11:1,2)

John continues by recounting Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. Found only a short distance from Bethany, Clermont-Ganneau believed it was not a “singular coincidence” that these names were found.

He wrote: “[This catacomb] on the Mount of Olives belonged apparently to one of the earliest [families] which joined the new religion [of Christianity]. In this group of sarcophagi [coffins], some of which have the Christian symbol [cross marks] and some have not, we are, so to speak, [witnessing the] actual unfolding of Christianity.”

Bagatti also found evidence which clearly indicated that the tomb was in use in the early part of the first century AD. Inside, the sign of the cross was found on numerous first-century coffins.

He found dozens of inscribed ossuaries, which included the names Jairus, Jonathan, Joseph, Judah, Matthias, Menahem, Salome, Simon, and Zechariah. In addition, he found one ossuary with crosses and the unusual name “Shappira” – which is a unique name not found in any other first-century writtings except for the Book of Acts (5:1).

Additional photos and information in the story Here at LeaderU

– The Righter Report

November 11, 2013 Posted by | America, Evangelical, God, History, Human Interest, News, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Satan in the Garden of Eden

By Pete Righter

Unless man has free will to sin or not to sin, he is simply a pre-programmed robot. Consider the following:

MAN CREATED IN THE LIKENESS AND IMAGE OF GOD

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness….'” (Genesis 1:26). Thereafter, Genesis goes on to say that Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and fell into sin. The critical question here is: Is the knowledge of good and evil a prerequisite for coming into the likeness and image of God?

Genesis 3:22 seems to answer this in the affirmative – “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” At the other end of the Bible we see this curious verse – “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). From my research, sin, evil, and the (carnal) world are the things that God commands us to overcome. “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). But who is it that overcomes the world? “For everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). “Who overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are not allowed to eat of the tree of life and gain eternal life (Genesis 3:22). In the book of Revelation, once man has overcome evil, he is then allowed to eat of that same tree and enter into eternal life.

But is there another way for man to overcome evil and come into God’s likeness and image other than having to get “down and dirty” in the midst of it? In the book of Romans there are three sources of ‘light’ (the revelation of God to man). In Romans chapter one (1:20) it says that God reveals to man His divine nature by what has been made – the heavens and the earth (also note Psalm 19:1-6 and Psalm 97:6). But while the evidence for God is clearly known to mankind in this way, it does not necessarily or specifically provide a mechanism for overcoming evil. Man knew who God was before and after the fall, yet God would still not allow him to eat of the tree of life. Man had to go another route.

In Romans chapter two (2:15) it says that man’s conscience bears witness to him of doing right or wrong. This seems like a more viable option in dealing with evil. Yet if this was the way God wanted man to come into His own likeness and image, why was “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8)? It would have just been an exercise in futility. It is not enough to just know that something is wrong – man also needed to know why it was wrong and what the consequences of his actions would be. Knowing the personal consequences of sin seems to indicate a much further walk down the road of evil than does the work of conscience alone. In addition, man would need to know what evil is in order to be able to make a comparison to what good is. You must know what sound is before you have an objective sense of what silence is.

God created evil / calamity (Isaiah 45:7 – KJV). Again, creation denotes purpose. What was the purpose of evil? For one thing, if there is a law of sowing and reaping, then there have to be good and evil’rewards’ for both activities. Secondly, for man to have true free will, he must also be allowed to delve into the ugly morass of iniquity as an alternative to following God. If there was only goodness, God would seem to be the only option. And finally, for man to reign eternally with God, he should have a clear and in-depth knowledge of the consequences of sin and evil, and be able to overcome it. But the crux of the matter is that man’s (Adam’s) conscience was not a formidable enough deterrent to ward off his falling into sin. And this was before carnality entered into man. So conscience therefore has to be eliminated as the primary factor in dealing with evil.

The third source of light is in Romans chapter three – the revelation of righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ, the true “light.” Christ is the manifestation of grace and mercy, two of God’s most endearing attributes. Christ is the vehicle by which man overcomes evil and the world. If man overcomes evil by his own actions and conscience, then he might have something to boast about. But if by God Himself, then God plays the major role in the redemptive plan of mankind. It all seems to point towards the fall and Jesus Christ the Redeemer as the only logical alternative to overcoming evil. God ordained that man should come into His own likeness and image – knowing both good and evil – and then provided the means of overcoming evil and gaining eternal life.

SATAN, THE SMOKING GUN

“For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)

Satan is the tempter. The above verse seems to indicate that no individual is willfully tempted by God. Consider now Matthew 4:1 – “Then Jesus was led by the (Holy) Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Taken in conjunction with each other, this appears at first glance to be a clear cut case of a Biblical contradiction. God does not tempt, but it is clear His purpose was for Jesus to be tempted, and He, as the Holy Spirit, even led Jesus to that end. There are two ways of answering this dilemma without chucking our Bibles into the trash. The first would be to make the assumption that Matthew 4:1 indicates that no natural man is tempted by God. Jesus would therefore not fall into this category because He is also fully God. The second explanation, and the one I prefer, is that God does not tempt anyone, He allows Satan to do it – He allows Satan to engage in this activity, subject, of course, to God’s permissible will. We see this actually occur in Job chapters 1 and 2.

With this in mind, we go back to the Garden of Eden and who do we find? That ancient serpent, Satan (Revelation 20:2). What is he doing there? Was Adam not evicted from the garden because of his fall into sin? Why wasn’t Satan? If the garden is a sanctified, holy area, one would think that God would have the sovereign power and desire to keep it that way. Unless, of course, there was a divine purpose involved for Satan to be there. And what would that purpose be? To tempt Adam into the fall so that man would come into the knowledge of good and evil, overcome it through the power Of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and be raised complete in the image and likeness of God. Man cannot be an overcomer until he has something to overcome, like sin and Satan. In my mind, Satan is the “smoking gun” who served the greater purpose of God in the Garden of Eden.

One other observation: Whereas Genesis 1:26 states that God was to create man in His own image and likeness, Genesis 1:27 shows that man was only created in God’s “image.” It wasn’t until Genesis 3:22 when Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he became “like” God.

To Summarize:

1. Man was to be created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26).

2. Part of this “likeness” was a knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:22)

3. For Adam to be truly “like” God, he had to acquire a knowledge of evil.

4. The means to that end was eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

5. To do that a “tempter” was likely needed to entice Adam into sin.

6. God provided, or allowed, Satan as the tempter.

7. God knew in advance what the outcome would be, but allowed it anyway.

8. God knew atonement would be required, and provided Jesus Christ as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth” (Revelation 13:8).

9. Man achieves the likeness of God, acquires a knowledge of and overcomes evil, partakes of Christ, and is reunited in paradise with God. Man is now an overcomer with a keen knowledge of evil.

The key to all this remains, “Is acquiring a knowledge of good and evil a prerequisite to coming into the likeness and image of God? If the answer is yes, I think Adam has to eat from that tree, and God has to make it happen. If the answer is no, then I think you have to look back to Genesis 3:22 and reconcile that with Genesis 1:26, explaining how Adam is “like” God, but at the same time lacks a knowledge of good and evil. Also, how does man acquire that knowledge without eating of the fruit of that tree?

– The Righter Report

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Dangerous Myths: Astrology

By Chuck Missler

It seems astonishing that in our “enlightened” culture, despite our space-age sophistication, many people still believe in astrology!  A Gallup poll concluded that 55% of teenagers believe in astrology; 1220 of the 1750 newspapers include a horoscope column of some kind to serve their readers.  Many simply dismiss this as a harmless form of entertainment, feeding their curiosity. However, in the Old Testament it was a form of divination and a capital crime: practicing astrology was punishable by death!1

Empirical Results: It Doesn’t Work

  • Marital compatibility: Psychologist Bernard Silverman of Michigan State University analyzed birth dates of 2978 couples who were getting married and 478 who were getting divorced. There were no correlations with predicted compatibility.
  • Shawn Carlson of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory provided horoscope information and a standard California Personality Inventory for groups of volunteers to 28 professional astrologers (procedure approved in advance) to match each horoscope to one of three profiles submitted.  The random expectation of 34% was achieved.2
  • French statistician Michel Gauquelin sent the horoscope for one of the worst mass murderers in French history to 150 people and asked how well it fit them. 94% said they recognized themselves in the description.
  • Geoffrey Dean, an Australian researcher, reversed the astrological readings of 22 subjects: 95% identified themselves with the reversed readings.
  • Astronomers Culver and Ianna tracked the published predictions of well-known astrologers and astrological organizations for five years. Out of 3000 predictions, only 10% came to pass.

Ten Questions for the Astrologers 3

1)  What is the likelihood that 1/12th of the world’s population is having the same kind of day today?
2)  Why is the moment of birth, not conception, crucial for astrology? [Is that why identical twins always have the same personality?!]
3)  If the mother’s womb can keep out astrological influences until birth, can we do the same with a cubicle of steak?
4)  If astrologers are as good as they claim, why aren’t they richer?  (Ex: stock market, etc. How many foresaw Black Monday, October 1987? None.)
5)  Are all horoscopes done before the discovery of the three outermost planets incorrect (Uranus, 1781; Neptune, 1846; Pluto, 1930)?
6)  Shouldn’t we condemn astrology as a form of bigotry? (i.e., refusing to hire a Leo or date a Virgo, etc.)
7)  Why do different schools of astrology disagree so strongly with each other?  (…precession of the Earth’s axis, how many planets and celestial objects to be included, allocation of personality traits, etc.  No convergence of consensus.)
8)  If the astrological influence is carried by any known force, why do the planets dominate?  [The obstetrician who delivers the child turns out to have about six times the gravitational pull of Mars and about 2,000 billion times its tidal force (less mass, but a lot closer!)]
9)  If astrological influence is carried by an unknown force, why is it independent of distance? [The importance of Mars in a horoscope is identical whether the planet is on the same side of the sun as the Earth or seven times farther away on the other side, etc.]
10)  If astrological influences don’t depend on distance, why is there no astrology of stars, galaxies, and quasars? [Doesn’t the omission of Rigel, the Crab pulsar, and M31 render a horoscope incomplete?]

A Warning

Danger: don’t play around with things that are expressly prohibited in the Word of God. They are not just manifestations of ignorance, or harmless “entertainments.”  They are occultic and very dangerous. They are “entries” for malevolent influences that are out to destroy the very future you’re inquiring into! God means what He says and says what He means. You have access to far more powerful – and reliable – supernatural resources in the Holy Spirit, which has expressly been given to you if you are, indeed, in Christ. Do your homework.  Your eternity depends on it.

  1. Deuteronomy 18:9-15.
  2. Nature, December 5, 1985.
  3. Excerpted from Sky & Telescope, August 1989.

Reprinted with permission from Koinonia House

October 2, 2013 Posted by | America, Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

Until Shiloh Comes

A time-sensitive prophecy of when the Messiah will appear.

Until Shiloh Comes
By Chuck Missler (From his Book “The Creator Beyond Time and Space”)

In the 49th chapter of the book of Genesis there is another specific prophecy regarding the time of the Messiah’s coming. In verse one we read of the last blessing that Jacob bestowed to his sons.

“And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days'” Genesis 49:1 (NKJ)

When he had gathered them together he began to prophesy over each of them. When he got to his son Judah, he gave a prophecy concerning the Messiah:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis 49:10 (NKJ)

This strange prophecy has a few words that need to be defined in order to be fully understood. The word “scepter” has been understood by the Rabbis to mean the “tribal staff” or “tribal identity” of the twelve tribes of Israel. This “tribal identity” was linked, in the minds of the Jews, to their right to apply and enforce Mosaic law upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment, or jus gladii (The jus gladii is a legal term which refers to the legal authority to adjudicate capital cases and impose capital punishment.)

Secondly, it is well documented that the word “Shiloh” has been understood for millennia to be an idiom for the Messiah.

Therefore, according to this prophecy, the tribal identity or scepter of the tribe of Judah would not cease until the Messiah came. Judah was not only the name of the son of Jacob, but it was also the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.

With these definitions in place we can restate the prophecy as follows:

“The [National identity of Judah, which includes the right to enforce Mosaic law, including the right to administer capital punishment upon the people, as called for in the Torah] shall not depart from [the southern kingdom (Judah) ], nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah] comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people.”

This prophecy gives specific indicators regarding the time of the coming of the Messiah! The prophecy declares that he would come before the right to impose Jewish law (which includes capital punishment) is restricted and before the national identity of Judah is removed!

During the 70-year Babylonian captivity, from 606-537 B.C., the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah, had lost it’s national sovereignty, but retained it’s tribal staff or national identity.2 It is very significant that in the book of Ezra we read that during the 70-year Babylonian captivity the Jews still retained their own lawgivers or judges.3 The Jews maintained their identity and judicial authority over their own people even during 70 years of slavery. The scepter had not been lost during the Babylonian captivity.

During the next five centuries the Jews suffered under the yoke of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. Yet, Judah retained its tribal identity up until the first quarter of the first century A.D.

In the first quarter of the first century A.D., the Jews were under Roman domination when an unprecedented event occurred. According to Josephus (Antiquities 17:13) around the year A.D. 6-7, the son and successor to King Herod, a man named Herod Archelaus, was dethroned and banished to Vienna, a city of Gaul.4 He was replaced, not by a Jewish king, but by a Roman Procurator named Caponius. The legal power of the Sanhedrin was then immediately restricted.

With the ascension of Caponius, the Sanhedrin lost their ability to adjudicate capital cases. This was the normal policy toward all the nations under the yoke of the Romans. The province of Judea had, however, been spared from this policy up to this point. However, Caesar Agustus had had enough of the Jews and finally removed the judicial authority from them at the ascension of Caponius. This transfer of power was recorded by Josephus.5

“And now Archelaus’ part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Caponius, one of the equestrian order of the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar!”(Emphasis added)

The power of the Sanhedrin to adjudicate capital cases was immediately removed. In the minds of the Jewish leadership, this event signified the removal of the scepter or national identity of the tribe of Judah!

If you think that this is a Christian contrivance, think again. Here are several ancient rabbinical references that indicate that the rabbis believed that Genesis 49:10 was referring to the Messiah.

In the Targum Onkelos it states:

“The transmission of domain shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children, forever, until Messiah comes.”6

In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan it states:

“King and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah…until King Messiah comes”7

The Targum Yerushalmi states:

“Kings shall not cease from the house of Judah…until the time of the coming of the King Messiah…to whom all the dominions of the earth shall become subservient”7

In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b, Rabbi Johanan said:

“The world was created for the sake of the Messiah, what is this Messiah’s name? The school of Rabbi Shila said ‘his name is Shiloh, for it is written; until Shiloh come.'”

These amazing commentaries should eliminate any doubt that the Jews that lived prior to the Christian era believed that one of the names of the Messiah was Shiloh. Furthermore, these quotes should eliminate all doubt that the ancient rabbis believed that the Messiah would come before the removal of the scepter from Judah!

Woe Unto Us, For Messiah Has Not Appeared!

So far we have established that Shiloh is an idiom for the Messiah and that the scepter (that is, the tribal identity, associated with the right to impose capital punishment) had departed from the kingdom of Judah early in the first quarter of the first century. What was the reaction of the Jews when the right to adjudicate capital cases (the jus gladii) was removed from Judah? Did they view the removal of their authority on capital cases as the removal of the scepter from Judah? The answer can be categorically stated as YES!

When Archelaus was banished, the power of the Sanhedrin was severely curtailed. Capital cases could no longer be tried by the Sanhedrin. Such cases were now transferred to the Roman Procurator, Caponius. This transfer of power is even mentioned in the Talmud:

“A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.”8

This certainly corresponds to the same event recorded by Josephus we saw earlier. In Antiquities 20:9 Josephus again points out that the Sanhedrin had no authority over capital cases:

“After the death of the procurator Festus, when Albinus was about to succeed him , the high priest Ananias considered it a favorable opportunity to assembly the Sanhedrin. He therefore caused James the Brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, and several others, to appear before this hastily assembled council, and pronounced upon them the sentence of death by stoning. All the wise men and strict observers of the law who were at Jerusalem expressed their disapprobation of this act…Some even went to Albinus himself , who had departed to Alexandria, to bring this breach of the law under his observation, and to inform him that Ananius had acted illegally in assembling the Sanhedrin without the Roman authority.”

This remarkable passage not only mentions Jesus of Nazareth and his brother James as historical figures, but it also declares that the Sanhedrin had no authority to pass the death sentence upon any man!`

The jus gladii, the right to impose the death sentence, had been removed. The remaining authority of Judah had been taken away by the Romans in the early years of the first century. The scepter had departed from Judah. Its royal and legal powers were removed; but where was Shiloh?

The reaction of the Jews to these monumental events is recorded in the Talmud. Augustin Lemann, in his book Jesus before the Sanhedrin, records a statement by Rabbi Rachmon:

“When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them: they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: ‘Woe unto us for the scepter has departed from Judah and the Messiah has not come'”9,10,11 (emphasis added)

The scepter was smitten from the hands of the tribe of Judah. The kingdom of Judea, the last remnant of the greatness of Israel, was debased into being merely a part of the province of Syria.

While the Jews wept in the streets of Jerusalem, there was growing up in the city of Nazareth the young son of a Jewish carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. The inescapable conclusion was that Shiloh had come! Only then was the Scepter removed!

References:

Missler, Chuck, Eastman, Mark, M.D.”The Creator Beyond Time and Space”, The Word for Today 1996, p.144-149

Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman M.D. references:

-1. For a detailed discussion see “The search for Messiah”, Mark Eastman, Chuck Smith, p.74. The Word for Today. (714)-979-0706
-2. Paraphrased from “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”, Josh McDowell. Here’s Life Publishers, p 168.
-3. Archelaus was the second son of Herod the Great. Herod’s oldest son, Herod Antipater, was murdered by Herod the Great, along with a number of other family members. Archelaus’ mother was a Samaritan, giving him only one quarter or less, Jewish blood. At the Death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C. Archelaus was placed over Judea as “Entharch” by Caesar Augustus. However, he was never accepted by the Jews and was removed from office in 6 or 7 A.D.
-4. “Wars of the Jews”, Book 2, chapter 8
-5. “The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation: The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum”, Samson H Levy (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Jewish institute of Religion, 1974), p. 2.
-6. ibid.,p.7
-7. ibid.,p.8
-8. Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24.
-9. Babylonian Talmund, Chapter 4, folio 37.
-10. “Jesus Before the Sanhedrin”, by Augustin Lemann, 1886, Translated by Julius Magath, NL# 0239683, Library of Congress# 15-24973
-11. See also the monumental work Pugio Fidei, Martini, Raymundus, published by De Vosin in 1651. For a detailed discussion of this reference see The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaih According to Jewish Interpreters, preface p.iv S.R. Driver, A.D. Neubauer, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. New York 1969

Reprinted by permission of Koinonia House http://www.khouse.org/

– The Righter Report

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Evangelical, God, History, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment

The Bible – Is it wrong to judge?

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

Jesus is not saying that we cannot make judgments about people’s actions, he is saying that we should not be hypocrites if we do. In Matthew 7:5 he says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brothers eye.”

God acknowledges the legitimacy of civil authorities to judge:

Romans 13:1-4: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For he (the reigning authority) is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of God’s wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Also note Matthew 5:25; Acts 25:10-11)

God has commanded the church to make correct judgments:

John 7:24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (note Deuteronomy 19:15). If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector .”

I Corinthians 6:4: “Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church.”

God commands us to judge according to one’s ‘fruits’:

Matthew 7:17-20: “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…..every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

The Saints of Christ will judge the world, and angels:

I Corinthians 6:2: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?”

I Corinthians 6:3: “Do you not know that we will judge angels?”

Should no one ever be rebuked?

Jesus rebukes the teachers of the law and the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:27-28: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

John the Baptist rebukes King Herod for adultery and other sins:

Luke 3:19: “But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.”

Stephen rebukes the Jewish leaders:

Acts 7:51-53: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

God uses people to warn others to turn from their sins:

“When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.'” – Ezekiel 33

Also note all the Old Testament prophets who condemned sin and corrupt moral leadership, and who were persecuted for their discernment and duty.

Finally, when someone accuses you of being judgmental, are they themselves not being critical and judgmental in making that accusation?

But stay quiet, and evil will abound:

“The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to (say and) do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

July 29, 2013 Posted by | America, Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Opinion, Theology, Theology Articles | Leave a comment