Every Knee Will Bow to Who?

yhwh-graphic

Continuing the study about the name that is above every name, the name at which every knee shall bow…to do this topic justice the hymn Paul sites in Philippians 2:5-11 must be examined.

As I said in the previous article Philippians 2:5-11 seems to “seal the deal” , seems to leave no doubt that the name that is exalted is suppose to be “Jesus”. Let’s take a closer look at this hymn.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul is actually quoting from Isaiah 45:23 which says, “To me (YHWH) every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” Just prior to that YHWH says…

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other…”

Say what? YHWH is stating emphatically, and I paraphrase, “There is no other God and there is no other name by which men can be saved.”

So what do we do with this? How do we reconcile what Paul is saying about Jesus.

From the last article The Name Above Every Name we noted that the translation of the word LORD (written in all capital letters) in the Old testament is actually the personal name YHWH.

Let’s compare Paul’s reworking of Isaiah 45:23 against the actual scripture…

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil 2:10-11

Vs.

To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.
Isaiah 45:23

As a side note, notice that in Philippians Paul writes “every tongue will confess” but in the Hebrew scriptures Isaiah writes “every tongue shall swear allegiance.” So, keep tracking with me here. Most of the time the writers of the new testament are quoting the Greek Septuagint. In other word they are not quoting the Hebrew scriptures in the new testament. That is why sometimes the OT quotes in the NT read slightly differently. I do not know whether that is the case here…but…

Any who, in the Septuagint the personal name of YHWH was often translated as “Adonai” or “Lord” in English.  Paul’s slight of hand may get past those who do not know that Paul is quoting YHVH’s own words about Himself from Isaiah 45 and now attributing them to Jesus. Quite frankly in some religious circles Paul’s rewriting of the scripture would be considered nothing short of blasphemy! As He inserts “Jesus” name into the position that is held only by YHVH. With one fell swoop of the pen, Paul proclaims that Jesus is YHVH and that the name of Jesus has replaced the name of YHVH.

He dares to do this even in light of YHVH’s own proclamation in…

“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. Exodus 3:15

and

You shall fear only YHVH your God and worship Him and swear by His name only. Deut 6:13

YHVH is, according to the meaning of His own personal name, no cosmic charlatan, he performs no slight of hand to confuse His people, He is YHVH the ever existent one who never changes.

To conclude the matter, one should ask themselves and search out the answer to this very important question:

Who gave Paul the authority to perform this slight of hand with God’s holy scriptures? (Deuteronomy 4:2)

So, my usual disclaimer is in order here, I am no Biblical or Hebrew Scholar…as always, I encourage you to search out these things for yourself. Dig deeper into God’s holy word, deeper than you ever have. You might be surprised at what you discover for yourself.

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The Way of Salvation: What Does the Bible Really Say?

hebrew-text1If you are a Christian, one of the most serious concerns you have for others (and maybe  even yourself sometimes) is “Are they saved?” When someone dies, one naturally wonders or asks discretely, whether so n’ so has really “accepted Jesus into his/her heart?”

But is this the question we should be asking? I mean, what does the Bible really say about this concept of salvation? What exactly is the Biblical definition of salvation? Further and most important do the scriptures teach us that “accepting Jesus into our hearts” is the “way of salvation”?

I have a dear friend who is very sick right now with cancer and it has prompted me to finish this study I started a very long time ago…really it is my tribute to him. An intelligent man, not given over to emotionalism or opinion. He has been a diligent student of the Bible for many years, seeking the truth, looking to reconcile the many discrepancies that are found there.

When does the Word Salvation Show up in the Bible?

The first time we see “Salvation” is in Jacob’s blessing of his son’s in Genesis 49. A general overview of the uses of the word salvation reveals the term to mean “deliverance from one’s enemies.”

Psalm 9 illustrates how the word is typically used in the Old testament.

I will give thanks to YHWH with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But YHWH sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

YHWH is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O YHWH, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to YHWH, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O YHWH!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

The obvious context here is not “salvation from sin” it is “salvation or deliverance from one’s human enemies…from the wicked.”

More specifically the psalmist writes in Psalm 9 verses 9 and 10 that YHWH is:

a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O YHWH, have not forsaken those who seek you”

Throughout the Tanak (Old Testament) we see an emphasis placed on the name of the God of the Israelite’s. It is YHWH who is the psalmist’s stronghold, deliverer, salvation etc.

Isaiah continues to expound on this theme throughout the book with his name on it…one example is…

“YHWH hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Clearly, the prophets are waiting for the great day of YHWH when all of God’s enemies will be put under His feet and righteousness will reign in the earth. That is the context of salvation as defined in the Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament, Tenak).

Who Does God Deliver From Their Enemies?

There is another theme that is intertwined with this theme of being delivered from one’s enemies (i.e. being saved). That theme has to do with who God accepts, i.e. who is the one God delivers from their enemies, who are also God’s enemies.

In Psalm 9 we see that it is…

  • Those who know the name of YHWH
  • Who put their trust in YHWH
  • Who seek YHWH

This truth is further clarified by YHWH Himself when He speaks directly to Solomon at the dedication of the temple…foretelling the future of His people and telling them exactly what they must do to be forgiven for their sins …

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Here, we see from the lips of YHWH Himself, what it takes to be forgiven from our sin…

  • Humble oneself
  • Pray, i.e. cry out to him
  • Seek His face, i.e. desire Him, request of Him
  • Turn from wickedness, i.e. follow His commandments

There is no mention of a substitutionary sacrifice, no need for blood…YHWH affirms this truth yet again through Nathan the prophet’s rebuke of King David and message of restoration to King David….

YHWH also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

In response King David is inspired to pour out the revelation YHWH has placed in his heart in Psalm 51…

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

King David’s most heinous sins of covetousness, adultery and murder are put away. Not with out consequence, but not counted against David as in His standing or relationship with YHWH.

Well what about Paul’s words in Roman’s 3…

There are none righteous, no not one… For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely through His grace

First and foremost we must deal with the issue of righteousness… the word of God cannot contradict itself…right?

Is this a true statement that there is “None righteous”? What are we to do with the many scriptures both in Old and New Testament that identify people as righteous by God in the Tanak…

  • Righteous Abel
  • Righteous Enoch
  • Righteous Noah
  • Righteous Abraham

Righteous people in New Testament…

  • Simeon
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah (they were both righteous before God)
  • Jesus speaks frequently of the “righteous” person in Gospel of Matthew

We see that it was by seeking and walking with God that men and women were pronounced righteous (Luke 1:6). By saying that these people were righteous is not to say they were without personal sin. YHWH makes it very clear from Deuteronomy 7 that He chooses people by His grace…nothing more and nothing less..He deserves all the glory…

Jesus does not contradict this statement in the New Testament. If he did he would be contradicting himself and his Father. Then we would have a BIG problem.

For you are a people holy to YHWH your God. YHWH your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that YHWH set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because YHWH loves you…

God’s people are chosen before they are given the instructions of righteous living in the Torah (aka law). There is never any mention in the Old Testament that one has to be without sin to be accepted by God…God alone is perfect and yet we are to seek to be like Him.

It seems that the temple sacrifices were an expression and ritual reminder of what YHWH has done for them. Multiple places in the Tanak YHWH states this truth…sacrifices mean nothing to YHWH, they are only a representation…God desires a broken spirit and a contrite heart…

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

And in Isaiah 57 YHWH states…

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

In that day YHWH says through Zechariah the prophet…

Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek YHWH of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of YHWH. 23 Thus says YHWH of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’

Does YHWH lie? Does He forgive sin through repentance or not? Does He call us righteous, not because we are without sin, but because we strive to walk with Him following His commandments? Is His power and grace sufficient to accomplish all that He said in the Hebrew scriptures?

Well, if you are still reading this, and you are a Christian you may be wondering (if not screaming in your head) what about Jesus?

As mentioned before scripture is suppose to harmonize right? God does not contradict Himself. YHWH says…

Your word, YHWH, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens
(Psalm 119:89)

The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of YHWH blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever … (Isaiah 40)

So when asked about “salvation” what did Jesus say? Here I want to make a distinction between what Jesus taught and what others taught after the resurrection. Especially Paul. You may be wanting to ask yourself a question right about now…

Is there a difference between the religion that Jesus taught and the religion that is taught about Jesus?

Anyway, back to the teachings of Jesus on being included in the kingdom of God…

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1)

Here is about as clear a teaching from Jesus as it gets on what it means to inherit eternal life …

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come,  follow me.”

What does it mean to “Come follow Jesus in this context.” Jesus was a 1st century Jew, living and teaching his interpretation of Torah. Nothing more, nothing less. This teaching is completely consistent with the Torah…about which Jesus also plainly said…

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The one who endures to the end will be saved…For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. Mark 13

Jesus speaks of two different concepts, that are frequently muddled together: first he speaks of salvation being a salvation from the enemy at the time, i.e. the Roman Empire. Secondly, he assumes the people he is talking to are “elect,” “chosen by God” i.e. righteous one’s following his example as he follows the Torah who will be called great in the Kingdom of God.

There is no suggestion that Jesus’ disciples were being told to believe in him or “invite him into their hearts to be saved.” Rather it is quite clear that Jesus teaches the way to inherit the Kingdom of God is to endure in following the ways of YHWH to the very end. He teaches that the way to be forgiven of one’s sins is to repent and follow God’s commandments.

Again, this is completely consistent with Ezekiel 18…

Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Lord YHVH. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord YHVH. Repent and live!

According to Ezekiel, we get a new heart and a new spirit when we repent, i.e. turn away from our wicked ways.

Jeremiah said it another way…

Circumcise yourself to YHWH, circumcise your hearts…(Jeremiah 4:4)

Remember, Jesus’ teachings cannot contradict the Torah…Jesus taught the Torah, and the author of the gospel of John said He was the word of God made flesh…That would mean Jesus was living, breathing Torah. He was from the tribe of Judah…an Israelite, a descendant of Jacob. He was the embodiment of Torah according to the gospel of John.

I started this article by asking “What is the biblical definition of salvation?” and “What is the way of salvation?”  All these scriptures, from Moses’ writings to Jesus’ words teach us that God’s people are elected to follow a path of righteous living. It also teaches that there are several concepts that Christians often muddle together…

  • Salvation ( Deliverance from one’s enemies
  • Forgiveness (Being forgiven of one’s sins)
  • Inherit the Kingdom of God (Be righteous, i.e. follow YHWH’s commandments)
  • Inherit eternal life (Be righteous, i.e. follow YHWH’s commandments)

YHWH is our Savior and there is no other. Torah teaches that, Jesus taught that. One could say that the last enemy to be conquered is death itself. Still, the answer given by Torah and Jesus remains the same, our Creator, YHWH, is God over all who elects, delivers and saves.

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The Name Above Every Name – It May Not Be What You Think

yhwh-graphicThe Name above every name, the name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess is Jesus, right? After all that’s what we sing about in many Christian songs and hymns.

I heard a well known reformed theologian teach on Philippians 2:10-11 many years ago. He informed us in his teaching that the name was not Jesus. Say What!? He informed us that Paul was not even referring to a name, but to a title. He said it was at the “name” Lord that every knee shall bow and tongue confess. This may come as a shock for some people…After all Christians love to sing, “Jesus, name above all names.”

But, what if the Name Above Every Name is neither the title Lord nor the name Jesus?

Though in a precursory read of Philippians 2:10-11 one may think, “this scripture seals the deal.” If we take a closer look, we discover that Paul is actually quoting YHWH’s own words about Himself from Isaiah 45 and applying it to Jesus…

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

YHWH says He is God and Savior and there is no other and to Him/His name “every knee shall bow and tongue swear allegiance.” Well who is it…YHWH or Jesus?

That makes me wonder, what it is that Jesus taught us about “the Name” above every name? Does he give us any clues as to what that name is?

I think the answer is “yes”. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, the first line of the prayer reveals that name that is above every name…

Jesus said…

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name...” Matthew 6:9 (NIV) (Emphasis added)

According to Nehemia Gordan and Keith Johnson, in their book, “A Prayer to Our Father” they translate the same verse from Hebrew Matthew manuscripts into English as…

“Our Father in heaven, may Your Name be sanctified”

Gordan and Johnson examined many different Hebrew manuscripts which led them to the above translation.

Now let us dig a little deeper to get a wider perspective on the subject by looking at some of the scriptures from the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e. Old Testament)…(Emphasis added)

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
Exodus 3:15

YHWH, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9

Save us, YHWH, our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Psalm 106:47

Not to us, YHWH, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1

Then I called on the name of YHWH: “YHWH, save me!”
Psalm 116:4

Let them praise the name of YHWH, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Psalm 148:13

“I am YHWH; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. Isaiah 42:8

For your Maker is your husband— YHWH Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. Isaiah 54:5

And foreigners who bind themselves to YHWH to minister to him, to love the name of YHWH, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— Isaiah 56:6

For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ” I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

And everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved... Joel 2:32

He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of YHWH,
in the majesty of the name of YHWH his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. Micah 5:4

In the above verses, I have rendered the actual name of God/The LORD as it is written in the Hebrew manuscripts, so there is no confusion about WHAT that name is. In most cases the English bible translations have replaced the actual name of God with the title “Lord” which some translators render in all CAPS, i.e. LORD.

The verses above are but a mere few verses that clearly indicate that the name that is to be revered above every name is the name of God…that name is YHWH. Some people pronounce it Yehovah, others say Yaweh, still others Jehovah and there are several other pronunciations as well…but the pronunciation is not the important thing. What is important is that the “holy scriptures” Paul refers to in 2 Timothy 3:14-17 leave no doubt as to what that name is.

To further illustrate the hypothesis, that the name that is above every name is not Jesus, but the holy, exalted, unique and superior name of YHWH…let’s take a quick look at Jesus’ name and what He taught.

First, the name Jesus would be better and more consistently translated into English as Joshua. (Hebrew Yehoshua = Greek Iesus = English Joshua). For further study look into the name Joshua in the Hebrew scriptures. In other words there is nothing unique, superior or exalted about the name “Jesus,” it would be just as accurate and more consistent to call him Joshua. We could just as well sing, “Joshua, the name above all names, beautiful Savior…”

Secondly, Jesus taught in his prayer to the Father (Matthew 6)…

a. We are to pray to “our Father” whose name incidentally is “YHWH”.
b. Jesus taught that the name of the Father, YHWH, is to be sanctified, i.e. set apart, exalted, treated as holy.

Thirdly, in Matthew 22:37-39 we see Jesus taught that the greatest commandments is (as it always had been)..the Shema (meaning to “hear and obey”) from Deuteronomy 6…

Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. Love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deut 6:4

And he taught “the second is like it” (Matthew 22:39) again quoting the holy scriptures…

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am YHWH. Leviticus 19:18

So when Paul writes something that seems to contradict the very inspired scriptures that He reminded Timothy (2 Timothy 3) to continue in…

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

We must reconcile these seeming dichotomies…

As we wrap up let’s take a look at the Hebrew name of Jesus…chances are the name Iesus was not “Jesus’” given name, other wise what the angel said to Joseph in Matthew Chapter 1 would not make much sense.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

The words of the Angel seem to be making a connection between “The name Jesus” and “save his people from their sins.” This connection is lost in the Greek and English.

In Hebrew this verse would read more like….

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will Yehsha (deliver, save) his people from their sins.

See the word play in the Hebrew? His name is Yeshua because he will Yehsha. This is called a Hebraism…a play on words if you will…the Hebrew name of Jesus and the Hebrew word for salvation are very, very similar.

Further more, the formal Hebrew name of Jesus is Yehoshua, which means YHWH is Salvation. Remember Joshua who has a book named after him? Well check it out for yourself…Joshua and Jesus are the same name, simply different transliterations. Joshua’s name in Hebrew is Yehoshua meaning YHWH is Salvation.

Of course there is no way to parse every single scripture on this topic in this format…it really would take a book to do the topic justice. So for the sake of intellectual honesty, there are other scriptures that seem to point to Jesus as the way of salvation such as Acts 4:10-12 where Peter is preaching…

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Imagine being a first century Jew, steeped in Torah and hearing this message from a fellow Jew!  Hearing a Jew preach that there is in fact NOW another name by which men must be saved. This despite the fact that YHVH said,  “This (YHWH) is my name and there is no other!”

Yet in Acts 2:21 Peter is recorded as preaching from the book of Joel …

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD (YHWH) shall be saved. (Joel 2:32)

The question here becomes, “Is Peter quoting Joel as originally written?” What did Peter actually say…here are a few options…

  • And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of YHVH shall be saved.
  • And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD (meaning YHWH) shall be saved.
  • And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord (Adonai, meaning Jesus) shall be saved.

If Peter meant anything other than YHWH when he preached those messages he was changing scripture…If he did mean/say something other than YHVH, one must ask by what authority would Peter have to change the very eternal word of YHVH?

It appears from the few scriptures quoted above that Jesus taught and even in the meaning of his name, he pointed us back to YHWH. This appears to be entirely consistent with the Old Testament Scriptures and all that the prophets taught as well. This also brings greater harmony between the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, because YHWH is the God Who never changes. He is the Great I AM, Who I AM.

So, a disclaimer is in order here, I am no Biblical or Hebrew Scholar…as always, I encourage you to search out these things for yourself. Dig deeper into God’s holy word, deeper than you ever have. Cry to YHWH for more wisdom and knowledge to know, love and obey Him. Do not simply open your mouth to be spoon fed the pablum opinions of men with their various winds of doctrine…for every “expert” thinks the doctrine they teach is the correct interpretation. Christian, do you know how many “expert” men of God have varied in their understanding of these very crucial doctrines?

What are your thoughts about these things? Did YHWH change His name? Did He give His name to Jesus? In which case should we be calling on the name of YHWH as opposed to Jesus to be saved?

Read more on this topic here.

Share your comments below.

 

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The Prophecies of Revelation: Completed or Future Events?

pompeii

As I have noted before, concerning the events surrounding the second coming of Jesus, in the article End Times Scriptures , the book of Revelation make it pretty clear that the prophet is expecting the events he is writing about to happen imminently.

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3 (Emphasis added)

Aside from what the author of Revelation writes, is there any historical evidence that supports that at least some of the events have been fulfilled?

Dr. James Tabor, Professor of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte of Christian origins and ancient Judaism, gives us one compelling argument for at least some of the events described in Revelation having been fulfilled in 79AD.

Dr. Tabor posits that John may have been writing about the cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August 79 AD. In his blog article The Destruction of Pompeii and the New Testament Book of Revelation he discusses his theory and his sources.

One source Tabor sites is a letter written by Pliny the Younger to a friend describing the events of the destruction of Pompeii based on eye witness accounts by his uncle Pliny the Elder who actually succumbed to the choking and smothering ashes that fell on Pompeii the day of August 24 79 AD.

Another source is his own research on site done in conjunction with Simcha Jacobovici. Tabor writes:

I have become convinced there is much more. In 2010 I spent several months studying the archaeological records related to ancient Pompeii, including significant time at the site working with Simcha Jacobovici and his research team who were filming his international television special, “Vesuvius and the Fear of God.” The film documents some of the major discoveries we made including some “behind-the-scenes” interviews with several Italian experts and curators who presented evidence that had never appeared on camera before. I came away convinced, based on the material/archaeological evidence, that Jews as well as Jewish and non-Jewish Christians understood Pompeii’s destruction as divine retribution. The thesis of the film is a bold one–not only that Jews and Christians saw the destruction of Pompeii as a sign of God’s apocalyptic wrath but that the utter destruction of the city served as a huge boon to the spread of Christianity in the Roman world.

The video that Jacobovici produced can be seen here.

Read Revelation 18…What do you think? What would have to happen to convince you that Revelation 18 has been fulfilled? Leave your comments below.

Revelation 18 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

14 “The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your delicacies and your splendors
are lost to you,
never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

“What city was like the great city?”

19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,

“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets,
for God has given judgment for you against her!”

21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
and will be found no more;
22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft
will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill
will be heard in you no more,
23 and the light of a lamp
will shine in you no more,
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
will be heard in you no more,
for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
and of all who have been slain on earth.”

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Why Jesus Came – In His Own Words from Gospel of Mark

the-truth-shall-make-you-freeAsk almost any child who has been to Sunday school, “Why did Jesus come to earth?” And the most likely response you will get is, “To die for our sins.” But what did Jesus really say about his coming and his purpose. Before we take a look at the words of Jesus Himself let’s notice that the Gospel of Mark begins with explaining that John the Baptist appeared for this reason:

Baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (1:4)

Notice that John’s baptizing people (i.e. a ritual cleansing) signified the person had repented of their sin and was made clean.

Why focus on the gospel of Mark? Because Mark is fairly universally recognized by scholars as a core document. Most scholars recognize that the gospels of Mathew and Luke contain all of the gospel of Mark – thus the strong implication is that both the authors of Luke and Matthew’s gospels used Mark as a primary source for their writings which are thought to have been written well after Mark. According to this article on the Dating of the Gospels Mark was written in the 70′s AD (for historical perspective, Jesus ascended to His Father around 33AD) and Matthew and Luke in the 80′s and 90′s:

This scholarly consensus holds that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were composed, independently of one another, sometime in the 80s or 90s. Both used a written form of the Gospel of Mark as source material for their own narratives. In addition, because both Matthew and Luke contain a large amount of material in common that is not found in Mark, most researchers hold that both Evangelists also had a collection of Jesus’ sayings that they incorporated into their works. This saying source is known as “Q” and was likely assembled in the 40s or 50s.  This understanding of the origins of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke explains why they are similar yet different from one another. The arrangement is called “The Two-Source Hypothesis” because Matthew and Luke are seen to have two written sources, Mark and Q.

The Gospel of John emerges from an independent literary tradition that is not directly connected to the Synoptic tradition. This explains the major differences between John and the Synoptics. The Johannine narrative is indebted to oral and possibly written traditions that were transmitted from earlier decades.

Below are the sayings of Jesus from the gospel of Mark that pertain in some way to His purpose and coming.

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(1:14-15)

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (1:17)

And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (1:38-39)

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (2:5)

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (3:28-29)

Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (3:33-35)

To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (4:11-12) (Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6:9)

Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (5:19)

(Jesus’ words to the man he delivered from the legion of demons. Telling the man delivered to give all the glory to YHWH (not to Jesus) for his deliverance.)

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (8:29)

(The Messiah/Christ was to usher in the Kingdom of YHWH – Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom of God was upon Israel through the miracles He performed and gave His disciples the power to do the same.)

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (8:34-38)

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. ” (9:38-41)

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire.50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (9:42-50)

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (10:5-9)

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:21-23)

And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:39-45)

“Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (11:21-25)

“Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (11:28-31)

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (14:22-25)

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (14:62)

And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” (15:2)

EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)

Mark 15:2-5. Pilate asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews? — These verses are explained in the notes on Matthew 27:11-14. But Jesus yet answered nothing — This is not an accurate translation of the original, (which is, ουκετι ουδεν απεκριθη,) implying, as Dr. Campbell justly observes, “that he had answered nothing to the former question, the reverse of which is the fact, as appears, Mark 15:2. All the Latin translators say rightly, Nihil amplius respondit, he answered nothing more, or what is manifestly equivalent. All the foreign translations give the same sense. Yet, to show how difficult it is to preserve a uniform attention, and how liable at times even judicious persons are to run blindfold into the errors of their predecessors; it may be observed, that Wesley is the only modern translator who has escaped a blunder not more repugnant to the fact, as recorded in the verses immediately preceding, than contradictory to the import of the Greek expression here used. His version is, Answered nothing any more. The rest without exception say, Still answered nothing, or words to that purpose. Yet, in the translation commonly used in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the sense was truly exhibited, Answered no more at all.”

And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto them, Thou sayest it.

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (16:14-20)

Footnotes:

  1. Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

This study of the Words of Jesus is simply for the purpose of letting Jesus speak for himself about what His purpose is and why He came…with very little commentary, hopefully just enough to clarify for the reader a few important points.

That said, I am not saying Jesus did not come to “die for our sins”, but my purpose is to encourage all to be a Berean, study the scriptures daily, especially two things:

  • First, study the back of the book (the Old Testament, particularly the first 5 books called the Torah aka the Pentateuch).
  • Secondly, study the words of Jesus.

Dear Christ follower, dig deep, learn for yourself from the original, historical languages and manuscripts. Stop holding fast to your favorite pastor/teacher’s interpretation of the Bible. Instead hold fast to the very Word of Life itself.

If you obey the commandments of the YHWH your God that I command you today, by loving the YHWH your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live… I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the YHWH your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days… (Deuteronomy 30:16-20)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
(John 6:63)

For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.
(John 12:49-50)

 

 

 

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The Law: Freedom or Bondage? What Does God’s Word Really Say About The Topic

Freedom or Bondage

The law has gotten a bad rap from many Bible teachers. Many who teach that Jesus abolished the law when Jesus very clearly said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus came to fullfil (pleroo) the law.

Now, if we are to take Jesus’ words at face value, that He fulfilled the Law, but definitely did not abolish it, is it possible that there has been a gross misunderstanding of what Jesus did concerning the Law and how we are suppose to understand it for our lives today?

I mean we can’t have it both ways, can we? Otherwise, it seems we have Jesus contradicting Himself.  Surely, Jesus fulfilled the law in that He perfectly executed the law and “fully” obeyed it. He showed us how it was to be done. All the law is fulfilled in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. The instructions of the commandments and the prophets all are geared towards helping us to love our neighbor and God: That is loving God the way God wants to be loved. Would you agree that God is the One who gets to define how He wants to be loved and worshiped?

After all,  Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 23:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.

Whoa, wait a minute…What!!! Did Jesus really say that? To sit in Moses’ seat was to read and instruct the Jews on the Mosaic Law. In saying this, Our Lord Jesus instructed us to follow the Mosaic Law. And why should this surprise us? After all John the apostle wrote, “The Word (Torah) became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” John 1:14.  His entire ministry was spent showing His disciples what it looked like to execute the Torah in word and deed. In fact, if Jesus is the Word, is He not also the same Word of the Hebrew Scriptures? Is He not the Torah given by YHWH on mount Sinai?

Consider some other things that the apostles of Jesus said about the commandments of God (referring to the Torah):

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Wait a minute, I thought the Law was a burden? The apostle John says they are not burdensome. There is no doubt that the oral law that the Pharisees heaped upon the people of God were burdensome and Jesus said so much…but here we have John (who learned from Jesus Himself) teaching that God’s commandments ARE NOT burdensome. John’s words are very consistent with what the Torah teaches about the commands of God. Here are just a few examples:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Whoa! “What I am commanding you is not too difficult.” Did YHWH really say that? We should be in shock and awe at this point. Are we to think that The LORD Almighty lied to us when He said, “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Again emphasizing the key phrase here where He says, “it is not too difficult.”?  I mean is this God’s idea of a sadistical joke?

Many have taught that God’s law is a burden and it is unattainable. Don’t miss read me here, I am not saying that we can perfectly obey the commandments of God anymore than we can perfectly love our neighbor or love God. But we all do our best to love one another (at least I hope so).  I’m talking about the very way YHWH Himself described His commandments. His own words tell us He did not put a yoke of burden on His people by giving us the Law. However, Pharisees did put a burden on God’s people (Christian teachers are certainly not exempt from doing the same thing), by adding to the word of God, another commandment that was explicit in the Torah:

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. Deuteronomy 4:2

Nobody except Jesus could “fulfill the law” that is executing it perfectly. Our righteousness is in God: because God called us, not because of anything we had done but simply because he mysteriously placed His affection on us and called us to be His very own.

This is the name by which he will be called:
YHWH Our Righteous Savior. Jeremiah 23:6

The law of YHWH is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of YHWH are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of YHWH are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of YHWH are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of YHWH is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of YHWH are firm, and all of them are righteous. Psalm 19

I ask you, can the Law of God be perfect and be a burden? Can the Law of God refresh the soul and be a yoke of bondage? Can the Law of God give joy to the heart and also crush the spirit under the weight of it?

I walk about in liberty for I have sought your precepts.
Psalm 119:45

Can the precepts of God be freeing and enslaving? King David did not think so.

These are but a few of the verses contained in God’s word that point us to how wonderful, beautiful, and life giving the Law of God is. So it seems a gross contradiction to suggest that the Law of God brings death and enslavement. Of course the Law brings death to sinners who will not obey it. After all, in that sense Paul writes to Timothy, “The Law is good…it is not made for the righteous…but for law breakers.”  (1 Timothy 1:8-11). Why? Because the righteous, like King David love the Law of God.

Now I understand that there are many passages in the New Testament that seem to conflict with these “positive” scriptures about the Law. But scripture must interpret scripture, so we have been taught. The point is how will you reconcile the Word of God for yourself without sweeping half of it under the proverbial rug or just taking your favorite Bible teachers word for it? Understanding that in no way could Jesus contradict the Word of God which “endures forever” . “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Now if that last scripture has you wondering about the possibility of whether heaven and earth has metaphorically passed away or whether all things have been accomplished you might want to check out this article on what the New Testament Scriptures have to say about the end times.

“Test everything, hold to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

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Why I’m Embarrassed By The Movie God is Not Dead

God is Not DeadMy husband and I watched the trailer and on the recommendation of a few friends went to see the God is Not Dead movie that features the contemporary christian band The News Boys.

First the positives. It was an emotionally charged movie with lots of feel good moments and scenes that move your emotions. One such scene was when the daughter visits her mother who has dementia and after watching her mother struggle with trying to get food on her fork, asks, “would it be ok if I helped?” In my opinion, one of the best and most genuine scenes in the entire movie was when the God hater, Amy, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and is told she is going to die…she falls to pieces, scared and alone in her home office. This confrontation with death sets Amy on a search to discover whether what Christian’s teach is real (notice I didn’t say, “what the Bible teaches”). Which leads me to the many reasons why I feel embarrassed about the movie God is Not Dead.

1. Stereotyping Characters The writers seemed unable to develop characters beyond shallow superficiality (i.e. Josh’s controlling girlfriend) and gross stereotypes (The African Missionary, the abusive Muslim father, the meek Asian student, and the angry atheist professor to name a few).

2. Unbelievable Characters The main character, an atheist Philosophy Professor begins class by saying, “I want to bypass senseless debate altogether” therefore he has his students all write a statement saying “God is dead” , sign it and hand it in. WHAT!! This is so far from believable…Fiction is one thing, but this is fantastical screen writing!

3. Projecting Western Norms as Superior A female student approaches a Muslim student wearing a hijab and declares to her “you’re really beautiful, I wish you didn’t have to wear that.” What!? Maybe this young Muslim woman did not want to wear the hijab, maybe she was struggling with her religion and culture, but what does wearing a hijab have to do with being beautiful? If she was not as physically beautiful as the actress that was portraying her, should she wear it to cover her plain face? On the contrary, the white, American student missed the entire point: many Muslim woman desire to dress for God and their husbands and so cover up their face’s and bodies out of respect for them. This scene was down right offensive in my opinion, and if the writers were hoping to reach Muslims with the gospel through this movie they really blew it on that scene, but wait…it was not nearly as offensive as the next scene …

4. Sterotyping the Muslim Father as a Child Abuser In a strange irony in the movie, the writers had this man speak one of the most theologically sound statements in the entire movie. This occurred when he was empathizing with the tension his daughter was experiencing as a Muslim living in a western culture when dropping her off at her college campus one day. He gently explained to her their identity in God, what God desires from His people and the importance of keeping oneself from being polluted by the world etc. The movie writers used it to turn a God fearing man, who was trying to shelter his family from the world, into an abusive father who clearly got violent with his daughter as he kicked her out of the house because she had converted to Christianity. (I am not condoning the actions of the father, but I ask you to consider how should a Christian parent react when their young adult brings “foreign gods” into the family home and begins to worship them?)

6. Worldly Christianity For the most part the movie depicted the Christian lifestyle as being involved in worldly things: christian rock concerts, sea world and Disney. The climax of the story was a News Boys concert, where everyone was suppose to text to 10 people they knew “God is Not Dead.” Really, is this what we want to portray to the world as a mark of true Christianity, messaging friends and family that “God is not dead? You mean, you’re a follower of Christ and your lifestyle doesn’t already express to those who know you that you believe that God is alive and well?

7. Bad theology. Examples:

  1. The tall and unassuming, dark skinned (African) missionary with broken English whose theology seemed to be anchored solely on the sound bite theology, “God is Good” combined with his Pastor friend who would on cue echo back the response “all the time“…. Tell that to the business man struggling to understand why his sinful living has been rewarded with untold wealth, contrasted with his saintly mother whose righteous living is now rewarded with dementia; the professional business woman dying of cancer; and the little boy (aka now grown up atheist professor) whose mother died despite his heart broken petitions to the all powerful God asking Him to spare her from a cruel death. I know, maybe they should have all just put their proverbial suitcases in the trunk to prove they had enough faith to make the car start. (you’d have to have seen the movie to get this one).

Which leads me to theological reason number one of why I am embarrassed about the movie. The “just invite Jesus into your heart and you’re good to go” message. This salvation theology of “Just accept Jesus as your Savior and live the way you want” because after all, it’s about a relationship right? This is about as far from what the Bible teaches as the New Age heresy of “just get in the vortex” and create your own reality!

The professor’s girlfriend (no her name was not Mary Ann) was delivered from this “bad” relationship where the professor showed her no respect, not because she was convicted of her sin, but because she learned how much God loved her. Not a bad thing to embrace the love of God, but it’s only half the message. The Apostle John wrote, and I paraphrase, “Behold what other worldly  love is this that we should be called children of God!” This other worldly love is revealed in the light of God’s holiness, justice and mercy to the repentant sinner not the one who needs little help getting out of a personal jam so they can be happier and comfortable.

A few more things to consider about this theology…

  • First, without conviction of sin, how can one grasp this love of God and this God Who is Love through and on behalf of the Christ and His work on the cross?
  • Secondly, does God love the unrepentant sinner or  has He actually prepared a place of destruction for them where on the Day of Judgment “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12

One part of the movie that I was not embarrassed about was Josh and how he defended the existence of God in a secular college setting against a hostile professor under the threat of being unpopular, loosing his girlfriend and being ridiculed by family and class mates. If anything this movie did well, it was having Josh point it’s viewers to the reality that if one is truly in Christ…

God is not dead, “He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion…”

 

 

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John Calvin and Historical Revisionism

calvinRecently I’ve been reading some articles about John Calvin (Nine Things You Should Know About Calvin and John Calvin’s Geneva Theocracy: A Study in Religious Tyranny).

I have a fondness for Calvin, because his Institutes of Christian Religion were a balm to my soul (a least the parts I read in the abridged version). But now, after learning about Martin Luther’s well documented hatred for Jews, I discover that Calvin was involved in some equally, if not more egregious behavior towards those who did not doctrinally divide the Word of God into like manner.

When I say egregious behavior I’m talking things like supporting torture and burning at the stake kind of egregious. Those examples are the most sensational…but there are many other issues for which Calvin should be scrutinized, some of which are identified in the article “Calvin’s Geneva Theocracy” mentioned above.

According to John Piper, Calvin had a “dramatic conversion” in his early 20′s. In the video below Piper speaks of Calvin’s motto “after darkness comes light” and the prolific writer, preacher of the gospel of “grace” that he was and because of the impact his prolific work had on the world. Yet, the reality is, that for many people, Calvin denied the perseverance of grace by sanctioning their deaths as heretics and sinners. After all, killing someone removes their opportunity to repent (there is no repentance in the grave). Repentance, if it be granted to a person, is bestowed upon an individual in and through the Providential and irresistible work of the Holy Spirit of Grace. It is He Who imparts the strength, faith and conviction to do so in His good timing.

It’s befuddling to say the least, to grasp how the very man who brought us the doctrine of “irresistible grace” could sanction the cruel torture and killing of so many people.

Take a listen to John Piper’s 6 minute video, filmed in Geneva where Calvin “ministered” and “light broke out of darkness and gave hope to a suffering people.” Interestingly, moments before Piper speaks the above, he mentions, without explanation, a letter Calvin received from a parent whose son was “burned alive” for something Calvin taught him (at least that’s what I understood Piper to say.)

Now read this article which exposes some of the more controversial aspects of Calvin’s “ministry.” Make sure you also read part 2.

At Piper’s Desiring God Conference on the Life of Calvin a panel discussion was held on some of the controversy surrounding Calvin’s life that is rarely brought to light, i.e. the burning at the stake of Michael Servetus a famous physician who denied the trinity. Unfortunately the panel did not address the many other questionable things that Calvin was involved in some of which are outlined in the articles cited above.

Here is the video of the panel discussion …

This new information (to me) about the life of John Calvin has caused me to contemplate a few things:

  • 1. Is it possible for one to be strongly led by the Holy Spirit to preaching, teaching and writing and understanding the great doctrines of the word of God and not be strongly led in the areas of church disciple, legislating morality and civil punishments etc.
  • 2. How is it that depending on who is writing/speaking about historical events there can be such a radically different rendition and digestion of the facts? Can we really know the truth about historical things? Are we really that blind to our own biases that we are unable to be more objective about historical facts?
  • 3. If we can justify burning “heretics” at the stake 500 years ago because it was the culture of the day, should we not be able to justify this same punishment from a moral perspective today. After all, if we think YHWH is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the question we should ask is: do we think “God smiles down on the torture of sinners and the cruel annihilation of heretics?” But if God did not smile down on these acts then, how can we in any way justify it based on the culture of the day or excuse the questionable issues surrounding Calvin’s life?
  • 4. As an example, if we determine that Calvin’s support and sanctioning of torture against accused adulterers and other sinners was not “of the Spirit” or “not Biblical” why would we have such great confidence in his theology? Can we be lead of the Spirit and Word in one area of life and be devoid of it in another?
  • 5. Is it really possible to have a regenerated heart (a new spirit that causes one to follow the Torah of God Ez 36:27) and believe that torture and burning at the stake are a God sanctioned means of dealing with sin? If so, was it the Spirit of Christ Who moved Calvin and the inquisitors to use such means of punishment?

In closing it’s interesting to contemplate that the non-trinitarian physician Michael Servetus was willing to die for his beliefs. He knew he was considered a heretic and he well knew what the punishment was for heretics in Geneva at the time.
His words to the “inquisitors” who sentenced him to death were, “I will burn, but this is mere incident. We will continue this discussion in eternity.” I expect so…

 

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What Does it Mean to Interpret the Bible Literally?

Ezekiel-Vision-Merkaba-1When we read the Bible how should we go about understanding what God is communicating to us? Are we to take it literally?  And if so, what exactly do we mean by the literal interpretation of the Bible? In understanding the sacred word of God are we to consider the literary devices of the day, time, and culture in which it was written or do we look at it mainly through our 21st century eyes? (i.e. what meaning does it have for me today?)

For example, are those locusts in Revelation 9, that looked like horses and wore something like gold crowns on their heads and had faces like humans some kind of futuristic technology that John did not quite understand or did the recipients of his letter understand perfectly what he was describing? Is Ezekiel’s vision possibly a UFO of sorts from another dimension (i.e heaven) or a common culturally understood way of depicting the throne of God?

On the other hand, should we consider the scriptures from a scientific perspective? A good example of this is the Genesis account: many believers take Genesis 1 to be a literal 6 twenty-four hour days of creation. The epic flood and story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6-8 would be another example. Some believers frame Noah’s Ark within a scientific framework, still others as an allegorical story. Who’s right? What is the truth? Can we truly know how God intended us to understand what He was communicating to His people through Moses and the other inspired authors of scripture?

Some of these debates have created so much tension and animosity between brothers and sisters as to the point where one group has gone so far as to say, in not so many words, “if you don’t believe our way of interpreting the creation event, you can’t adequately share the gospel!” In my humble opinion, there is often an underlying fear, that is semi-conscious in the group think of various factions or denominations of believers which causes them to cling to and fight for what they “think” is the correct and only way to understand scripture. Why? Because unconsciously we fear that in tugging at the thread of “literalism” when it comes to interpreting the Bible, the whole thing could unravel! And then what would we do?!

But, can we trust YHWH? Can we trust that He has communicated to us what He intended for us to know…no more, no less…as mysterious as some of it is. Can we comfortably accept that we just can’t know and understand and even reconcile every jot and tittle of the Bible and be ok with that? Furthermore, can we learn to live at peace with one another, even when we disagree on exactly what the Word of God says?

Do we need to fear seeking the truth, where ever it may lead us, even when it leads to gross differences in understanding what the Bible says?

In this video Dr. Michael Heiser delivers a challenging presentation on what it means to understand the Bible literally. Likely, there are many things Heiser presents that the average believer has not even considered or known about. Whether you agree with Heiser or not, this presentation will stretch and challenge your understanding of what the Bible is and is not and hopefully edify and encourage greater and more in-depth study of the word for the purpose of building up the body in love and humility.

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Video On How Biblical Prophecies About Jesus are Not as Clear as You Think They Are

foggy-landscape-1How often have you read so called messianic prophecies from the Old testament, like Isaiah 7:14, “and the virgin will be with child,” and wondered, “these prophecies so clearly point to Jesus. How is it that Jews can’t see the obvious, that Jesus is the Messiah?”

In fact, I would submit that Christian Bibles  and many Christian teachers have made these prophetic connections so clear, that one does not even need the Holy Spirit to reveal the connection between these old testament passages and how they point to Jesus. But do these oft cited passages actually say, what you’ve been taught to believe they say?

The problem often lies in depending on proof texting, rather than reading prophecies within their original context. If one reads many of theses key, so called messianic prophecies in the context of the New Testament, the author “states” that they point to Jesus. Ok, well I am not arguing that they don’t. However, if one goes back and reads passages like Isaiah 7:14, Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt I have called my Son”, and Isaiah 53 “the suffering servant” in it’s original context, it’s clear that some of these verses are not even considered prophetic, let alone pointing to “The Messiah.”

If Christians are to have credibility with those they are trying to reach with the gospel, it begins with humility and integrity (i.e. intellectual honesty) about what the Bible really says and what it doesn’t say. Sadly most of us have simply swallowed the teachings of men, including New Testament commentaries without searching out the scripture for our selves. How much more of a powerful witness would we be if we were more humble, more honest and most of all more knowledgeable about what the scriptures say and don’t say, what is clear and what is actually ambiguous. Can we trust that God saves and God alone? That God alone can reveal His Son to the human heart and convert the soul?

So how did the authors of the New Testament come to see certain passages from the Hebrew Scriptures as pointing to Jesus? This video by Professor Michael Heiser discusses the above prophecies, in their context and discusses a number of ways that Biblical prophecy is unclear. He also puts forth an opinion about how the authors of the New Testament came to see certain prophecies as pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.

 

 

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