Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Burial and Resurrection

As we discovered in my previous article, “The Beating, The Whipping And The Crucifixion,” the injuries Jesus suffered most assuredly led to His death. From His death, we move to His burial and resurrection.

THE BURIAL
Day 1 – Jesus died at approximately 3PM. The Sabbath was quickly approaching and His body needed to be buried before sunset (Deut. 21:22-23 / Gal 3:13). Everyone had to move quickly. Joseph of Aramathea sought and received permission from Pilate to claim Jesus’ body. The nails used to pin Jesus hands and feet to the roughly hewn cross, the Roman’s execution device, were removed so that Jesus could be freed. His limp and lifeless body was quickly carried to the tomb that Joseph of Aramathea had originally built to house his own body. The tomb was located among the gardens, close by the site of Jesus’ execution (Jn. 19:41-42).

The act of ensuring a proper burial was regarded as one of the greatest acts of benevolence one could bestow upon another. Great care was taken when preparing a body for burial, but there was barely enough time to provide such care for Jesus. They had to move quickly!
It was customary in Jesus’ time to use great quantities of spices for embalming the dead, especially for those held in high esteem. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus brought with them about 100 pounds of aloe and myrrh.

“In preparing a body for burial according to Jewish custom, it was usually washed and straightened, and then bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served partially as a preservative and partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering…” Tenney, Merrel C., The Reality of the Resurrection, Chicago: Moody Press, 1963.
After wrapping Jesus’ body, Joseph and Nicodemus left the tomb. The stone was rolled over the entrance, leaving Jesus’ body to lie alone in the dark.

Day 2 – It was the Sabbath and the chief priests and Pharisees weren’t done with Jesus just yet. They went before Pilate to request that guards be placed at the tomb. They told Pilate that Jesus had declared He would rise from the dead in three days and the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t want Jesus’ followers to steal His body and then falsely claim that He had risen. Pilate granted their request.

The chief priests and the Pharisees headed to the tomb, taking with them a few Roman soldiers. At the tomb, the chief priests and the Pharisees “sealed” the tomb (most likely using clay, in order to leave their mark by pressing their signet rings into it). This, of course, would have been done in the presence of the Roman soldiers. Why? The soldiers were posted to make sure the disciples didn’t gain access to the tomb and the seal was used to ensure that there would be no collusion between the Roman soldiers and the disciples. If the seal was broken, both the disciples and the soldiers would be held responsible.

Throughout that day and throughout the long, chilly night, Jesus’ body lay in the tomb as the guards stood watch just outside the entrance.

Day 3 – Jesus’ lifeless body remains in the sealed tomb. The guards have kept watch all night. No one has approached the tomb. Sunrise was moments away.

THE RESURRECTION
It was the beginning of a new week. While it was still dark, Mary Magdeline and Mary the mother of James and Salome gathered the spices they had prepared to anoint Jesus’ body. They made their way to the tomb in the early morning light. As they fought off the chill of that early hour, they wondered if they would be able to find help to move the stone from the entrance of the tomb.

At the tomb, the guards kept watch. Without warning, the earth trembled and then shook. The earth quaked as an angel of the Lord descended. The guards stood in astonishment as the angel, by himself, easily rolled the stone away from the entrance of the tomb, breaking the seal. This angel, whose had the “appearance of lightening” and who had clothing “as white as snow,” then took a seat on the top of the stone. The Roman soldiers, seeing this mind-boggling site, either passed out or were slain in the spirit, almost mimicking the incident that occurred in the garden of Gethsemane just days before (Jn. 18:4-6).

Since there is no mention in the Gospels about the women noticing the Roman soldiers on the ground, it can be assumed that they had quickly recovered as those at Gethsemane had and had fled the scene by the time the women arrived. The guards went to the chief priests and reported all that they had seen. After the chief priests discussed the matter, it was decided that the guards would say that they fell asleep at their post and that the disciples had come during the night and stolen away the body of Jesus. The guards were also told that if the news of the incident reached the ears of the governor, then the religious leaders would take care of the matter and the guards would not suffer punishment. Unfortunately, the guards agreed to participate in this deception.

When the women arrived at the tomb, the angel was still sitting atop the stone. He told them not to fear; that Jesus had risen from the dead. He instructed them to tell the disciples and Peter about Jesus’ resurrection and to let the disciples and Peter know that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. The women, at the angel’s prompting, entered the tomb where they found three angels. One was sitting on the right side of where Jesus had been laying. The other two were standing beside the women. The women fell with their faces to the ground in fear of the Lord at the glorious appearance of the angels. The angels repeated what the first angel had told them and revealed some of the prophecies that Jesus had to fulfill with His suffering and death. As the women left the tomb, they were filled with fear and joy.

The women ran from the tomb. Mary delivered the message to the disciples and to Peter. Peter and James raced to the tomb. James got there first and just peered in. He saw the linen clothes lying where Jesus’ body had been. Peter, upon his arrival, went into the tomb. He, too, saw the empty linen clothes. They both noticed, folded and placed by itself, the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. (This may be a good place to note that as I understand it, in Jewish custom, when a guest folded their napkin at the table and left, it meant that they were returning to finish their meal. Could the folding of the face cloth be seen as a message from Jesus that He would be back?) The disciples left the tomb.

Later Jesus appeared in the midst of the disciples. He even encouraged poor doubting Thomas to examine the wounds to His hands, feet and side so that he would be convinced that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. After forty days, Jesus gathered His disciples and was lifted up into the sky on a cloud until He had disappeared from their sight. Two angels appeared, standing beside them, and told them that Jesus would come back in the same manner in which He left.

DID JESUS DIE?
Now some may claim that Jesus never died, that somehow He managed to survive the beatings, the whipping and the crucifixion. Of course, this is nonsense. If He had survived, surely the disciples, Joseph of Aramathea, Nicodemus or one of the Roman soldiers witnessing His execution or removing Him from the cross would have noticed (Romans were experts in death). Even if Jesus had some small spark of life left in Him, remember that He was mortally wounded. Could He really survive all that time in a cold tomb with no medical attention for His injuries? Surely He would have died from shock, exposure, dehydration or blood loss. No. Jesus was dead.

SOMEONE STOLE HIS BODY
Could the disciples or some of His other followers have stolen His body? That’s highly unlikely and here’s why:
• His resurrection was still a mystery to the disciples at that time. That’s why they were grieving His death. They had not yet comprehended what he meant when He said that He would rise again.
• If the disciples or some of Jesus’ other followers had stolen His body, would they take valuable time trying to carefully remove the tight wrappings in one piece like a cocoon (which would have been very difficult because it would have been stuck to his body with the gummy spices that had been applied) or to carefully fold the linen cloth that covered His face? Wouldn’t they have taken Him, linen and all, so that they could spend as little time at the scene of the crime as possible?
• Could they have arrived, moved the stone and stolen Jesus’ body without making a sound or being seen by the guard?
• The official story that the Jewish leaders spread was that the guards said that they had fallen asleep and that Jesus’ disciples stole the body. Question: If they were asleep, how would that know who stole the body? The bible states that the Roman guards saw and reported what really happened and that they were bribed by the Jewish leaders to change their story.
• The chief priests and Pharisees did not go out to inspect the tomb. Their lack of concern for viewing the scene of the crime screams cover-up.
• Breaking the seal on the rock in front of the tomb was a punishable offense. None of the disciples were ever charged with such an offence.
• The Roman soldiers couldn’t have been in collusion with Jesus. Not only was their allegiance sworn to Caesar, Jesus (if He was just a man) could not have possibly known which guards would have been chosen to guard the tomb.

There is always the possibility that Jesus was never placed in the tomb to begin with, but that isn’t possible either. There would have been too many witnesses to His burial to try a stunt like that. If the chief priests and Pharisees weren’t sure of His presence in the tomb, then they never would have sealed the tomb and posted the guard. Groups, both for and against Jesus, witnessed His burial, we can be confident of that. He was a high profile and very controversial person. We can be sure that a crowd was at His execution and burial, including the chief priests and Pharisees.

So, if Jesus did not survive the crucifixion, if He wasn’t taken by His disciples or other followers under the cover of darkness, if He was in fact placed in the tomb on the first day and then sealed in by the chief priests and Pharisees, then what is the alternative?

“What does the critical historian do when the evidence points very strongly to the reality of an event which contradicts his expectations and goes against the naturalistic view of reality? I submit that he must follow his critically analyzed sources. It is unscientific to begin with the philosophical presupposition that miracles cannot occur. Unless we avoid such one-sided presuppositions, historical interpretation becomes mere propaganda. We have a right to demand good evidence for an alleged event which we have not experienced, but we dare not judge reality by our limited experience.” (Ronald Sider, A Case for Easter, HIS magazine, April 1972)


“We have no right to begin with the presupposition that Jesus can be no more than a man. For then, obviously, our conclusions may simply reflect our preconceptions instead of representing the actual content of the documents. We must, in other words, objectively try to discover the picture Jesus and his contemporaries had of him, whether we agree with it or not. The question of us is not whether Jesus is pictured as a man. Virtually no one today would question this, for the records tell us that he was hungry and tired, that he wept, that he suffered and died, in short, that he was human.
The question we face today is whether he was depicted as no more than a man.” (John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1971)


Could He be who the scriptures say He is? We'll take a look at the validity of scripture in my next article.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Beating, The Whipping, And The Crucifixion

This article was written with the expectation that readers, like yourself, have more or less come to the conclusion that Jesus is an actual historical figure and that your study of the Bible, the writings of other Christian authors, or the writings of secular scholars, historians and/or philosophers have convinced you of this. You are not alone. The majority of secular historians no longer argue this point. They, too, believe that Jesus was a real man who lived approximately 2,000 years ago. It is also becoming clear that the Bible can be relied upon as being accurate and reliable. More about that in a future article.

This article briefly describes the physical torture that Jesus endured from the moment of His betrayal to His death on the cross. Whether Jesus was just a man or was fully man and fully God is a personal decision that everyone needs to make for themselves. This is just one of a series of articles that will culminate in one or two articles that will bring all of this information together.

THE BEATING

Jesus had been betrayed (Ps. 41:9/Mt. 26:20-25). Judas singled Jesus out with a kiss on His cheek. And the price? Judas carried with him the 30 pieces of silver that had already been paid to him for his betrayal (Zech. 11:12/Mt. 26:15). Approaching were some of the chief priests, temple officers and elders. They arrested Jesus, which caused his disciples to flee into the darkness of the night out of fear that they, too, would be arrested.

Jesus was bound and brought before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year. While being questioned, Jesus was slapped in His face for what they deemed a disrespectful response. This would be the first strike of many. Jesus was then brought before Caiaphas, the chief priests and the elders. As they proceeded, false witnesses were called forward to make known their accusations. Jesus was eventually declared guilty of blasphemy because He dared call Himself the Son of God. Those in attendance covered His face, spit on Him, struck Him, slapped Him and mocked Him. Even the guards beat Him (Isa. 50:6/Mt. 26:67-68).

Following this physical assault, Jesus was taken to Pilate, who spoke with Him. After refusing to respond to any of the charges made against Him by the Jewish leaders (Isa. 53:7/Mt. 27:12-14), Pilate sends Jesus to Herod questions Jesus as well, but again Jesus does not respond to the charges made against him (Isa. 53:7/Lk. 23:8-10). Herod and his men treat Jesus with contempt, mocking Him as they dressed Him up in fine clothing, like royalty. Jesus is then sent back to Pilate dressed in that manner.

Pilate is amused with Herod’s display of mockery. Their shared contempt of Jesus causes an instant bond of friendship between the two of them (Luke 23:12).

Pilate, since he could find no reason to give Jesus the death sentence, assumed that a severe whipping would be sufficient to placate the Jewish leaders, so Jesus is handed over to the guards, a full battalion, who gather together for what they consider the day’s entertainment.

One soldier fashions a crown of thorns and presses it into the flesh on Jesus’ head. They then strip Jesus and clothe Him in a scarlet robe. They put a reed, like a scepter, in His right hand. Then they begin saluting and bowing to Him, laughing and yelling, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

They blindfold Him, spit on Him and continue to mock Him. Then they begin beating Him with their fists. The Roman soldiers do their job well as they pummel Jesus (Isa 50:6/Mt. 26:67-68). Once they have had their fill of fun, they remove the scarlet robe that they had put on Him to mock Him, and they dress Him in His own clothing. After experiencing two physical assaults, being beaten about the head, face and body, Jesus is about to experience a more severe punishment.

THE WHIPPING

Sore and bleeding, His face swollen and bruised practically beyond all recognition, Jesus was bound to a pole or a stump. The whipping that Jesus was about to endure was more than just a few strikes with a leather whip. It was a brutal act meant to cause serious bodily harm and severe pain.

The instrument of punishment used by the Romans to scourge their victims was called a flagrum. Attached to the leather straps were pieces of sharp bone and metal, which would tear into and lacerate human flesh. It was created to do damage!

“…veins were laid bare, and… the very muscles, sinews and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” (Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, 3rd century historian)

Although Jewish law limited the number of lashings a person could receive, the Romans did not have such limitations. The victim was at the mercy of his punisher, however long he chose to extend the punishment.

The severe wounds Jesus received would never have time to close or to heal, because Jesus was never allowed to rest or recuperate. Shortly after they whipped Him, He was on the move again, being brought before Pilate and before the crowd. Then the judgment… “Crucify Him!” Wounds still fresh and being forced open as he moved, he was led away.

Jesus, being led through the streets to His execution, managed to carry the cross, but not for long. The blood loss and the physical damage to his body from the beatings, the whipping and the lack of food and water brought Him to the point of near death. Another man, Simon of Cyrene, was forced to carry the cross that Jesus was too weak to carry. All this torture was a prelude to the horror that was about to unfold.

THE CRUCIFIXION

The Romans weren't unfamiliar with crucifixions or death. They were experts at both. The suffering endured on the cross was intense and severe. In Jerusalem, it began with carrying your own torture device, the cross, through the streets, out of the city and up a hill. Jesus, drained of blood and strength, could not manage this task for long. As I already mentioned above, that task was forced upon another.

At the crucifixion site, Jesus would have been stripped naked, the fabric of his clothing brushing over His open wounds causing Him additional pain. He would have then been laid on top of the cross, the wood pressed against the inflamed and swollen lacerations, causing fresh blood to seep from them.

Then the huge nails, driven into his hands and feet, brought the new pain of metal puncturing flesh, causing wounds that expel even more of His precious blood (Ps. 22:16/Lk. 23:33). Bleeding from His head, His body and the new wounds to His hands and feet, He’s lifted up until the cross is vertical and His body is displayed for all to see.

There He hangs, a man barely recognizable as human. His face disfigured from the beatings and His body torn apart (Isa. 52:14). Behind the scenes, the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. (Psalm 22:18/John 19:23-24) On either side of Him hangs a thief, crucified for their crimes (Isa. 53:12/Mt. 27:38).

Suffocation, dizziness, cramping, thirst, hunger, shame of His nakedness, blood loss, raw exposed nerves… all endured by Him. Eventual death on the cross was inevitable, but His injuries and dehydration would quicken the process. Every breath was painful and laborious and He would need to use His legs to lift Himself up for every breath He took. Eventually, the loss of blood, the torture and anxiety He suffered eventually becomes too much for His human body to withstand. The centurion, standing in front of the cross, watched Jesus take His last breath. Jesus dies of what can be described as a *cardiac rupture (Ps. 22:14/Jn. 19:34)

Jesus hung from the cross, His life drained from Him. The Sabbath was quickly approaching. It was already the 9th hour (3:00 PM) and Jewish law demanded that He be buried before the Sabbath began. The Romans, seeing that Jesus was already dead, did not break His legs, but instead thrust a spear into his right side (Isa. 53:5, Zech. 12:10/Jn. 19:34), which caused blood and water to flow. The Romans, masters of death, recognized a dead man when they saw one. Pilate sent a guard to the crucifixion site to double check whether or not Jesus was truly dead. Pilate then released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea.

*An article in JAMA concluded from the Gospel accounts that Jesus certainly had died before He was removed from the cross: “clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung, but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured His death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.” (Edwards, PDJC 1463)

*Samuel Houghton, M.D., the great physiologist from the University of Dublin, relates his view on the physical cause of Christ’s death: “When the soldier pierced with his spear the side of Christ, He was already dead; and the flow of blood and water that followed was either a natural phenomenon explicable by natural causes or it was a miracle… Death by crucifixion causes a condition of blood in the lungs similar to that produced by drowning… A copious flow of blood, succeeded by a copious flow of water… would occur in a crucified person, who had died upon the cross from rupture of the heart… there remains, therefore, no supposition possible to explain the recorded phenomenon except the combination of the crucifixion and rupture of the heart.”

Part two of this series can be found by clicking HERE.

This article will be updated with more scriptural references and links to additional information as time permits.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Saturday, September 21, 2013

You Can't Compromise On Who Jesus Says He Is

You can't call Jesus a great teacher or just a prophet of God or a great philosopher while at the same time ignoring the fact that He says He is God. Many try to walk that fine line between His deity and His humanity. The compromise is to view Him as a man and accept his "moral teaching" while ignoring the fact that He is God.

If Jesus is not God, then He was a liar and a con man and should not be held up as an example of how we should live our lives. If Jesus was a liar, then how can we explain the fact that He left us with the most profound moral instruction and powerful moral example that anyone has ever left? Could a deceiver teach such unselfish ethical truths and live such a morally exemplary life as Jesus did?

Throughout history, Jesus Christ has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people who have striven to pattern their lives after His. Some may deny that Jesus ever claimed He was God, but scripture tells a different story.

Scripture shows us others recognized that He was God (and Jesus did not refute them):

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matt. 16:16-18

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” John 11:25-27

28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. John 9:35-38

31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:31-33

Jesus Himself said He was God:

60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Mark 14:60-63

43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Matthew 27:43

24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish;, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:24-30

10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:10

28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. John 8:28

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. John 8:58-59

21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:21-23

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14:23

Since none but God can forgive sins, then Jesus, who forgives sins, is God:

5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

If you accept that Jesus lived on earth and that the bible gives an account of His life, then you need to take all that Jesus did (as well as what others said about Him and responded to Him) into account when forming an opinion on who He is.

Was He a liar? A con man? Or is He the Son of God who stepped out of eternity and gave up His glory to come to earth, lived the life of a common man (a laborer), and lived a sinless and blameless life as an example of how God intended us to live when He created Adam and Eve? Did He come as just a teacher or prophet, or did He come to redeem us and save us from the penalty of sin by laying down His own life to save ours? Was He God in the flesh?

His teachings were ultimate, final, above those of Moses and the prophets. He spoke with authority. He made Himself equal with God. How can we ignore such vital information when searching the scriptures? How can we strip Him of His divinity and make him nothing more than a man like us?

If you question the divinity of Jesus, then you question the validity of the word of God. If you don't believe that the bible is the true inspired word of God (which is what you're saying when you deny the divinity of Jesus), then your attempts to follow the teachings of the bible are in vain. You will eagerly covet those scriptures that you agree with and try to apply them to your life from a humanistic perspective while ignoring those scriptures that you feel are to difficult to understand and apply, or that seem outdated or intolerant. Cherry picking which scriptures you choose to believe in is like writing your own bible. Following an incomplete bible can only lead to worshiping a false god, and that's idolatry.

You can't compromise on who Jesus is or on understanding that the bible is the complete word of God.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Take Off Those Muddy Boots

I borrowed this analogy from a friend on another blog site. I liked what he had to say, so I expanded a little on what he wrote. It's very simplistic, but the message is still clear.

People often say, “God loves everybody just they way they are.” That may be true, but He also loves us too much to let us remain in our sin.

We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven in our present unsaved condition. We must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.

Those who are not born again believers in Christ continue living with their spiritual connection with God severed. It’s not until we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that this spiritual connection is repaired, offering us a direct line of communication with God and giving us the opportunity to begin building a lifelong relationship with Him.

God has revealed to us that we are sinners and unless that condition changes, we can’t enter into His kingdom. Look at it this way... Just as you refuse to let somebody walk through your clean house with muddy boots on, God has a requirement for His home too. You love your child, but he isn’t coming in the house until he takes off those muddy boots, no matter how much he sweet-talks you or tries to use his intellect to convince you otherwise.

It’s the same with God. He’s pretty much saying, “Come to me dirty, just the way you are.” He even kneels down and takes those filthy boots off of us; all we have to do is let Him. But people still refuse to repent; still refuse to go through the trouble of taking off their dirty boots, claiming those boots will be coming into God’s house in spite of what He says.

We all have a choice. Do we take off those filthy boots or do we remain outside of God’s kingdom forever.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Demise of Damascus

The demise of Damascus is prophesied in Isaiah 17:1 "The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from [being] a city, And it will be a ruinous heap."

This prophecy has not been fulfilled (as of the date of this article), and it makes one wonder how the Lord will bring about the destruction of Damascus. As we can see, things are again heating up in the region as reports circulate about the deaths of innocent civilians occuring as a result of the use of biological weapons. Whether the regime or the rebels had control of those weapons we may never know, but the fact is that there is an outcry from world leaders for the United States to step in and bring down the regime. What could be the result of US involvement in a strike against Syria?

Here is the scenario that I see if the US makes the decision to proceed with a military option:

Syria and Iran have already threatened to fire missiles against Israel if the United States takes military action against Syria. They already have missiles aimed at Israel, so it wouldn't take but a push of a button to trigger them. If the United States strikes Syria, Syria and Iran will have to fire on Israel. They've been waiting for a good excuse to rid themselves of that nation and it's people since Israel first declared themselves an independant state in 1948 (and officially became a nation in 1949), and an attack on Syria may be just the trigger needed to set the whole Damascus prophecy in motion.

If Syria and/or Iran fires even one biological weapon at Israel, we can expect Israel to defend itself by pulling out the big guns and firing a nuclear weapon against Syria. What would be the logical target? Damascus, the center of terrorist activity in the region; the nation that has provided terrorist organizations protection, financing and weapons. The blast of a nuclear weapon would destroy the capital of Syria and make it a "ruinous heap" as the prophecy foretold.

The question I would then ask is this: Would the use of a nuclear weapon and the destruction of Damascus bring about a quick response from neighboring countries and Russia resulting in the war of Gog and Magog? This is also part of biblical prophecy and can be found in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Although the attacking forces will come against Israel from all sides, God intervenes and brings about the end of the war supernaturally. This attack will devastate the military forces of Israel's enemies.

Once this happens, the surrounding Arab countries will have no defense against Israel's military might. Could this be the incident that finally brings some peace to the region? Could this be what prophecy states as a time of "peace and safety" for Israel? Will this allow Israel finally feel it can rest and not have to be on constant guard against the enemies that surrounded her in the past?

Whether biblical prophecy is fulfilled in the coming days or not, I still eagerly await the Lord's return for His bride... us. What a glorious day that will be. Praise God who was, who is and is to come!

Updates and Recent Headlines


Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Fascinating Information About Preparations For The Third Temple

I just read the book, "The New Temple and the Second Coming" by Grant R Jeffrey. There were a few intesing bits of information that I found fascenating. Some of you who have kept up with recent events surrounding the plans for the Third Temple will undoubtedly find this information redundant, but I know that there are some readers who will find this article informative. Most of what I will write below will be quoted from the book.

The Discovery of the Oil of Anointing
An archaeological team discovered a clay vessel that contained oil that had solidified to the consistancy of molasses. When the oil was analized, it was shown to be composed of five ingredients, exactly as God commanded Moses (Exodus 30:23-26, 30-31). Intensive testing by the Dept. of Hebrew Univ. established that the oil inside the clay vessel was the ancient oil of anointing. It was given to two chief rabbis of Israel for safe keeping.

One of the five ingredients in this oil is the rare persimmon or balsam (afarsimon) oil. There were only two groves in the whole Middle East where the precious balsom trees grew. When it became apparent that the Romans were going to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, priests burned the two groves to keep them out of the hands of the Romans. With their destruction, it became impossible to reconstitute the ancient oil of anointing. Without the oil of anointing, it would seem to be impossible to anoint the sacred objects and the priests. However, the discovery of this ancient sample of the oil of anointing makes it possible to anoint the Temple, the sacred vessels and the priests.

Special Blue Dye
The Bible records that many of the special garments, including the avnet-belt of the high priest, must be dyed with a special blue dye known as tchelet. This dye was produced from a rare mollusk found only in the Mediterranean Sea, a marine creature long thought to be extinct. However, in the late 1990's, Israeli divers discovered the mollusk, the hillazon snail, in the Red Sea. A thick liquid is extracted from a gland in the mollusk to produce the rich blue dye. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has created a supply of the blue dye, which will be used to create the garments required in Temple worship... and used to produce the tsitsit fringes worn by observant Jewish males in the temple. The unspun wool for the priestly robes is dipped in this liquid, turning the wool a bright green. When the new green wool is exposed to the light, it takes on a rich blue color. Once it dries, the wool is spun into a blue thread.

Ashes of the Red Heifer
The Third Temple cannot be built and used for worship until the appropriate area on the Temple Mount is ritually purified using waters of purification from the ashes of an unblemished red heifer. The ashes from the burned sacrifice will be mixed with water, scarlet thread, cedar, and hyssop, producing the waters of purification. Then the priest will sprinkle the water on the stones of the Temple Mount, the priests and the Temple vessels according to the Bible's commands as recorded in Num. 19.

A pure red heifer is very rare... Jewish authorities are raising a number of red heifers in Israel so they will have a qualified candidate when they receive a divine sign that the time has come to rebuild the Temple.

But do we need a red heifer? Could ashes from the last red heifer be found just as the oil of anointing was found?

During the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, priests took the ashes from the Temple in a vessel called the Kalal, a container made with clay and dung from a previous red heifer. The Essene priests buried the container holding the ashes near Qumran, along with a great number of the sacred objects (including the oil of anointing, which has already been discovered). The chief rabbis believe the recovery of the ashes of the red heifer... is key to rebuilding the Temple.

We are witnesses to the fulfilling of numerous prophecies as we live and breathe in this era of biblical history. We are filled with hope as we anticipate the return of our Messiah. We are encouraged by the progress of the Temple Institute and other organizations in retrieving Temple artifacts and discovering clues to the exact location of the First and Second Temples.

I pray for the peace of Israel and the return of Yeshua HaMashiach!


Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Disciples Were Probably Teenagers

Were Jesus' disciples teenagers when He called them to follow Him?  If you take a look at the education process for the male population, you'd see that it probably was true that the individuals Jesus called to follow Him were most likely in their early to mid teens.  Here's a brief description of the education system at that time:

From the ages of 5-12 boys would receive an education from a Torah teacher.  Their responsibility was to memorize the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh) inside and out, front to back.  If by the age of 12 they had not fully memorized every word, then their training would end.  They would be sent back to their family so that they could learn the family business and make a life for themselves.

From the ages of 12-15 these young men received an education concerning the explanation of the Torah.  They would also begin memorizing other books of the Tanakh.  In addition to this, they would also receiving training in the family business from members of his household. This was the point where most students would wash out. Most didn't proceed to the next stage of learning.

From the ages of 15-30 they would study the remainder of the Tanakh, and would use their critical thinking skills to interpret it. If at the age of 30 they could be considered brilliant thinkers, they would become Torah teachers. That wasn't the end of their education, though.

From the age of 30, once becoming a Torah teacher, they would become the student of a Rabbi, and that's a whole other teaching in itself, so I'll leave it at that for now.

As you can see, men continued on with their education unless they didn't make the cut.  After that, there was no other option other than to go into the family business.  

So here's an important question: What were the disciples doing when Jesus called them?  Were they students or were they laborers? 

That's right, they were laborers just like Jesus was before He began His ministry.  They all failed in their attempts at education and were working at various professions. That's why it wasn't an issue with them or their family when they just got up and left at the call of the Rabbi. It was an honor to be chosen by a Rabbi to follow him and learn from him, so these young teens who had no hope of continuing their religious education just laid everything down when Jesus beckoned them, and their family understood.  It was a proud moment for son and family alike. 

Here's another question for you to ponder.  Why was Jesus a laborer?  Did he flunk out of school?  How is that possible?  Remember the story of when Jesus was 12 and went up to Jerusalem with His family?  They left Jerusalem without Him and when they returned, they found Him teaching in the temple 

"Now so it was that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." Luke 2:46-47

So we know that Jesus had a command of the Torah and probably the Tanakh at that time, so surely His lack of knowledge and critical thinking wasn't the issue.  So why was Jesus a laborer? My guess is that He was under the tutelage of those who were more knowledgeable than the Rabbis. Could God have provided another teacher for Him, or could God, through His Holy Spirit have been Jesus' teacher? That will give you something to think about, huh? Either way, Jesus authority was confirmed by two witnesses:

John the Baptist:


"And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God." John 1:34

God the Father:

"And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

Okay, so you might say that just because the disciples failed in their education doesn't mean that they were teens when Jesus called them. Well, there is another portion of scripture that makes me believe that these guys were teens (except for Peter, of course, because scripture tells us that he was married).  Here is the scripture I'm referring to:


"When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, 'Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?' 25 He said, 'Yes.' And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, 'What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?' 26 Peter said to Him, 'From strangers.' Jesus said to him, 'Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.'" Matthew 17:24-27

Did you catch that?  "...take that and give it to them for Me and you."  As I understand it, you didn't have to pay the temple tax until you were around 20 or 21 years of age. If Jesus only paid the temple tax for two people, that would mean that the other disciples were exempt. 

"Well," you may say, "maybe the other disciples weren't with Jesus at the time.  They probably paid their temple tax separately." Jewish tradition shows that the disciples of a Rabbi would never leave his side unless commanded to do so.  They were to be with him 24/7, unless He commanded otherwise.  There is no indication that Jesus asked them to stay put as he walked through the city.  In fact, it would be out of the ordinary for a Rabbi to make that request of his disciple.

Also, Jesus and His disciples were poor. If the other disciples were of age and needed to pay a temple tax, then God would have provided Jesus with enough coinage to pay for everyone's temple tax and not just His and Peter's. 

Here's something else. Look how the bible describes Peter and John:

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13

This shows that they had failed to progress to the next step of their education, most likely washing out between the ages of 12 and 15 the latest. That's why the rulers, elders, scribes, high priest and everyone with them marveled at the boldness of these two men, knowing that they had been with Jesus.

That certainly gives us something to think about, doesn't it? So next time you see a movie on television that portrays the disciples as grown men, think about what you've read here today. We can see how easily it is for men's traditions to creep into biblical history and distort the truth. Whether they were teens or older men doesn't really affect the message that was given through God's word, but it does give us a different perspective on who these men were.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Was Jesus Really A Carpenter?

The only references we have to Jesus’ vocation are the two times when He’s called a tekton or the son of a tekton (the word often translated “carpenter”).

“Is not this the carpenter (tekton), the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?  And they were offended at him."  (Mark 6:3).


“Is not this the carpenter's (tekton) son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"  (Matt 13:55)

The word tekton refers to "one who works with his hands" so it could be used to describe both a carpenter or a stonemason (a tekton of wood or a tekton of stone).  God never made it clear through His inspired word whether Jesus was a carpenter or a stone mason. 

Why would the Greek translation be so vague?  Maybe it's because the Hebrew word for carpenter and stone mason are exactly the same.  That's probably why the Greek word tekton was used, because the original Hebrew word for Jesus' occupation was not specific.

Modern tradition would consider a "builder" or "one who works with his hands" to be a carpenter, since modern structures are built with wood, but we need to remember the point in history when these letters were written.  The majority of structures in the Nazareth area in that era were built of stone, the same material that Nazareth had no shortage of.  In fact, wood would have been an expensive commodity, so it is probably unlikely that Jesus would have worked extensively with that material.

Of course, when building a home, wood was used, so Jesus could have worked with wood as well (making windows, doors, etc...).

Another hint that Jesus may have worked with stone are the many references He made to stones and rocks:

And saith unto him, If thous be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Matthew 4:6

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Matthew 7:9

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  Matthew 7:24-25

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:18

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?  Matthew 21:42

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. Matthew 21:44

And he brought him to Jesus.  And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.  John 1:42

Even from the moment of His birth, rock may have been an important part of His life.  Joseph and Mary placed Him in a feeding/watering trough when He was born.  Could this trough had been made of stone?

Jesus was even buried in rock:

And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.  Matthew 27:59-60

Paul described Jesus as a "rock."

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  1 Corinthians 10:4

Whether Jesus was a carpenter or a stone mason remains is one question that will be unanswered until we're together with Him in the clouds.  Whatever the answer may be, it sure provides some interesting conversation, doesn't it? 

Don't be shy about leaving your own opinion.  I'd really like to know what you think.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Saturday, June 08, 2013

WAKE UP!

Look at your clock.  Not your digital clock, but an analog clock that actually shows the seconds ticking by.  Now watch the clock for a full 60 seconds................................................................

Did you actually watch the clock for 60 seconds?  Most people won't, but if you did, then during the time you spent looking at the clock, approximately 100 people died worldwide, and that's being conservative.  Multiply that by 24 hours and you come close to 150,000 people per day!  That not only includes the victims of war and religious persecution overseas, it also includes people in your own neighborhood!  Victims of violent crime, deaths at your local nursing homes and hospitals, a neighbor's suicide or death from an automobile accident just down the street.

If we estimate that 25% of these individuals are true born again believers in Christ, then that would mean that 112,500 people enter an inescapable eternity of pain and suffering every day!  How many of these 112,500 individuals can you be credited to have witnessed to, either directly or indirectly?  Let me make this a little simpler.  How many people did you reach for Christ today?  This week?  This month?

We are all called to be a part of the great commission.  Some receive a call from the Lord to give up everything and become missionaries, ministering and spreading the gospel in sometimes hostile regions of the world.  Do you pray for them?  Do you offer consistent financial support for them?  If not, why not?  Do you know that by supporting missionaries, the souls saved through that ministry are also credited to you as well?

I look out on the streets of my own city and wonder where God's people are.  Where is the message of salvation being shared with the lost?  It's not at the soup kitchen or the bread line.  I've been there, I know.  Other than a couple of incidents I've witnessed, it's not in the streets either.  I'm encouraged that my church is planning on some major outreach in the coming weeks, but I am deeply concerned that Christians aren't taking it upon themselves to witness to the lost on their own, without having to wait upon the organized church to plan an outreach event.

I hear Christians praying that the church body will rise up and be used by God to spread His word, but I can't help but to think that so many people don't understand what they're actually praying for.  If we're asking God to use us, we can't honestly believe that God will use us in the little comfortable bubble we've surrounded ourselves with.  Many Christians are willing to sacrifice a meal or two, an extra $20 in the offering basket and maybe even give someone a ride to church every once in a while (as long as it's on the way, of course).

While we're comfortable with our daily routine and the "fruits" of our labor that we've accumulated, we forget that people are dying all around us.  We ask the Lord to guide our steps for the day, but at night, when we reflect upon our day, can we honestly say we were walking the path He prepared for us, or did we stray from that path?  Did we miss an opportunity to be a witness for Christ out of fear of men or because it was inconvenient at the time?  Did others notice our lack of faith and as a result pushed Jesus further out of their lives?

WAKE UP!
You are the light and salt of the earth!  Do all your friends, neighbors and co-workers know you're a bonified born again believer in Christ?  If not, why not?  We can be so self absorbed and concerned about how we're perceived by others that our Christianity becomes a reflection of ourselves, often causing it to become watered down.  We need to remember that our Christianity needs to be a reflection of Jesus, not a reflection of us.  We do not reflect our own light, but the light of Christ!

My own brother and sister have disowned me because of my faith in God.  My sister even wanted to have me forcibly admitted to a psyche ward for evaluation because she believes I've gone "too far" in my faith in God.  Talk about rejection!  But I shared the word of God with her even while she shook her head and called me crazy.

When those you are trying to witness to begin to ridicule and belittle you, when they reject your efforts to share the word of God with them, then you are partaking in the sufferings of Christ like so many brothers and sisters who have gone before you and like so many who are serving the Lord here and now.  Pray for those who reject the gift of salvation knowing that if they never repent, then these moments of witnessing will be recorded and used against them on that terrible day of judgment.  How heartbreaking is that?  That makes our suffering seem small, doesn't it?

We've been conditioned to flee rejection/persecution and sometimes we even feel forced to conform to the world so that we don't have to feel the sting of rejection.  As we know, God doesn't operate under a worldly system.  We're commanded to enter the enemy's territory where rejection is the norm.  Jesus warned us that we would be rejected, just like He was.  Matthew 10:24-26 (KJV) The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.  25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?  26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.


He also warned us that if we were ashamed of Him, He would be ashamed of us.  Mark 8:38 (KJV) Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
 
Ask yourself this question: "Does my comfortable life reflect God's call for me to put on my armor to do battle with the enemy?"
 
If you are physically limited in what you can do, then can your brothers and sisters depend on you to be a prayer warrior and to offer up words of encouragement when they call?  If you make a decent salary, are you investing in the Kingdom of God with more than your tithes?  Are you supporting a missionary?  Are you investing in local Christian businesses?  Are you sponsoring an outreach event in your community?  We're all called to share the gospel no matter where our talents lay, no matter what our circumstances. 
 
A life of comfort comes to us all when Jesus raptures His church.  Now is not the time to get comfortable.  So many Christians don't seem to comprehend that we're in the middle of a war.  What would our reaction be if the Lord removed the veil from our eyes for just a few moments... when we could actually observe the spiritual warfare going on all around us.  Do you think we would more likely to enter the battle?  I believe we would!
 
If a foreign army were to invade this country, we'd all be up in arms, ready to defend our country and our personal liberties.  There would be such an outcry nationwide that we would feel called to sacrifice as much as was necessary to expel this foreign invader. 
 
WAKE UP!
Not only is our country under siege, but so is the rest of the world!  The enemy is all around us and we seem to have become complacent with his presence.  Satan has rooted himself in our governments, our schools, our churches and our homes!  Praise God that the Holy Spirit is still holding back the full force of evil in this world!  Where is the outcry?  Where is the willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes to expel this enemy from our homes and our communities?
 
Sadly, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask yourself another question:  "Do I choose to live a Christian life that brings me only comfort and peace or am I willing to wield my sword and charge into the enemy's territory to take back the captives"
 
Every time we share the gospel with someone face to face, every time we pray for an unbeliever, every time we pass out a tract or say, "God Bless" to someone, giving them an opening to ask us questions about God, every time we show compassion for someone the world would reject or stand and every time we rebuke the enemy in someone's life, we're operating in enemy territory.  And just for your information, there is no physical comfort for the Christian while operating in enemy territory.
 
When Jesus returns, what do you want Him to find you doing?  Watching television (the big game, a reality show, an R-rated movie)?  Playing video games?  Reading romance novels?  Sitting back reflecting on the pleasures you've surrounded yourself with?  Or would you rather have Him find you witnessing to the lost or rejoicing with someone who has just given their life to Him; to find you reading and studying His word; to find you handing out tracts; to find you at a men's/women's fellowship or participating in a time of fasting?
 
It seems to me that the further away we get from the front lines of the battle, the more comfortable Christians get.  They deal with the occasional skirmishes that get through (treating them as if they were major battles), but the real battle is far from them.  It reminds me of Proverbs 6:9-11 (KJV)  How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?  10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man."  Are some of us in spiritual poverty?  Will we travail because we lack passion to perform the work of the Lord and will be found in want when the battle breaks down our front door?
 
Where will the Lord find you when He returns and how have you invested what God has given you to use for His kingdom?  Will you be rewarded and given more, or will you be chastised for wasting your opportunity?  Matthew 25 (KJV)

There are those who will read these words and they will fall on a lukewarm heart or a heart that seeks only after personal comfort. My prayer is that there will be some who will meditate on what I've shared.  Is this message for you?  Have you been avoiding the front lines?  Take heed, our Father up in Heaven knows your heart and knows your mind.  We have all been given the blessing of living in one of the most exciting times in history when we anticipate the return of the Bridegroom!  The enemy has sunk his roots in every aspect of life on this planet and his main goal is to deceive as many as possible before the day of the Lord comes!  We should be more eager to step out in faith and rescue as many of our lost brothers and sisters as possible before our work here is done.  Every day that passes is one less day to forcibly enter into the enemy's territory to take back what belongs to the Lord! 

Embrace what God has called you to do and take up your armor, especially your sword, because it represents the word of God.  Romans 10:17 (KJV)  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Find your comfort in the arms of Christ, not in the the trappings of this world.  We're on a rescue mission and the enemy knows it, but take heart, because if God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net