A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

March 29, 2017

God's Covenants and the Millennial Reign of Christ

     One of the most debatable subjects among Christians is the Millennial Kingdom in which Christ reigns from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.  There are those who think it is merely allegorical; that God's Word is simply trying to communicate "a long period of time".  But the Christians of the first and second centuries believed in the literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on this earth. These early Christians all expected Christ to return to the earth to establish His Kingdom for 1,000 years, and they believed this was why Christ taught them to pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Papias and Polycarp were two of these early church fathers who believed in the literal Millennial Kingdom.
     But over time, some leading Christians began to teach that the Kingdom was allegorical rather than literal. Specifically, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Alexandria (both in the 2nd and 3rd centuries) "spiritualized" the 1,000 year reign.  In addition, in 373 A.D., the Council of Rome under Pope Damasus [and the Catholic Church] taught that there would be no return of Christ to set up His earthly Kingdom, and that the Roman Catholic Church itself would gradually convert the world, and the promises of the Kingdom would be fulfilled by the triumph of Catholicism.
     Today, the Protestant Church has introduced "replacement theology", which also allegorizes the Millennial Age and Kingdom, teaching that there will be no restoration of Israel; that the “church” replaces Israel; that Christ will not return visibly to this earth to set up His Kingdom; and that the “church” will convert the world, bringing in a golden age. Notice that all the allegory theories are the inventions of men. As a Christian, I prefer to take my instruction from the Word of God and what He tells me in Revelation 20:2-7, where He mentions the literal 1,000 years no less than six times.
     But my focus is not on trying to convince you that the Millennial Reign of Christ is real and yet to come, but to show you that God will fulfill all the promises He has made to mankind, and we will see the completion of all His covenants in the Millennial Kingdom.  To God, a covenant is literally, a contract.  In the Bible, a covenant is an agreement between God and His people, in which God makes promises to His people. And staying true to His character, these covenants will be satisfied.  Let's take a look at them....
     The Land Covenant.  God has already fulfilled the personal aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant; Abraham did go to the Promised Land, he did have many descendants, and he is the forefather of many nations. Several hundred years after Abraham, Joshua led the Israelites to claim ownership of the Promised Land. But Israel has never possessed the specific boundaries that God promised in Genesis 15:18–20 and Numbers 34:1-12.
     Not even Solomon ruled over this particular area. Although he did reign from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates, he did not hold the area from Mount Hor to Hazarenan — into present-day Lebanon and Syria. In addition, the covenant God made with Abraham was that he and his descendants would have the land for eternity (Genesis 13:15Ezekiel 16:60). The current Israeli state may be a step in this direction, but they still do not possess the boundaries God laid out. But all that will change in the Millennial Kingdom, and this covenant will be realized.
     The Davidic Covenant.  God’s covenant with David was that his line would never die out and that David’s heir would sit on the throne of Israel forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Biblical scholars agree that Jesus is the fulfillment of this covenant—one of the reasons His genealogy is given for both His step-father (in Matthew), and His mother (in Luke). The Jews understood this when they laid down palm branches and their cloaks as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They expected Him to be a military/political leader that would liberate them from the Romans and make Israel a great nation again. But they didn’t understand that the nature of Jesus’ work at the time was for the New Covenant, not the Davidic Covenant. The 1,000-year reign will be the beginning of Jesus’ eternal reign over Israel and the earth. At this time, David's human heir will sit on His throne in Jerusalem, and reign forever.
     The New Covenant.  This is perhaps the most misunderstood by Christians.  There are those who take this to mean God's covenant with us, those of the Christian faith who have accepted Jesus as our Savior.  Yes, the work of the New Covenant—Jesus’ death and resurrection to reconcile hearts to God—has been accomplished. But we have not yet seen the complete fulfillment. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Ezekiel 36:28 gives more specifics: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” There is still work to be done to reconcile the hearts of the Jews to their God, who is now our God.
     Isaiah 59:20–21 explains that this covenant is possible because of the Redeemer, and the reconciliation He provides for the Jews will last forever. This covenant does not mean that every Jew will be saved. But it does mean that Israel as a nation will worship their Messiah. The Old Testament prophets who spoke of this covenant, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Ezekiel, all wrote that it will be fulfilled in the future. From their time on, Israel has yet to be an independent nation that worshiped its Messiah (please read Romans 9—11 for God's plan of redemption for His chosen people). They will be that nation in the 1,000-year reign of Christ!
       Other Promises Fulfilled. These are the covenants God made with Israel that are to be fulfilled in Jesus’ 1,000-year reign, but the Bible lists other promises that will be fulfilled, too. God promised Jesus He will make His enemies a footstool, and that Jesus’ followers will worship Him freely. God promised the nations of the world that they would live in peace with Jesus as their ruler. And He promised creation that the curse would be lifted, animals and the earth would be restored to peace and prosperity, and people would be freed from disease. These, too, will be fulfilled during the 1,000-year reign.
     There's more to the Story. If we are going to believe the literal interpretation of the Millennial Kingdom, it is important that we understand that these unconditional covenants demand a literal, physical return of Christ to establish His Kingdom. At His Second Coming, these covenants will be fulfilled as Israel is re-gathered from the nations, converted, and restored to the land under the rule of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the Millennium as a perfect environment physically and spiritually. It will be a time of peace, joy, and comfort. The Bible also tells us that only Believers will enter the Millennial kingdom -- some who live through the Tribulation Period, and some who come back with the Lord at His Second Coming. Because of this, it will be a time of obedience, holiness, truth, and the knowledge of God.
     This can only happen if Satan is bound for the 1,000 years. Revelation 20 tells the entire story: Satan will be bound in the Abyss during this period and the Messiah Jesus will be the benevolent dictator ruling over the whole world; Jerusalem will be the political center of the world. The resurrected saints of all times will participate in the management of the government.
     The Believers who live through the Tribulation will be mortal. They will live and repopulate the earth during the Millennial Kingdom. Without the devastation of sin taking its toll, we can imagine the population increase during the Millennium will be enormous, almost incomprehensible. All those who are born during the Millennium will enjoy the benefits and blessings of Christ's reign on the earth, but they will still be born with a sin nature, and they will still have to freely repent and believe the Gospel, personally choosing Christ as Savior and Lord.
     Yet, at the end of the Millennial Reign, Satan is loosed and is able to deceive a vast multitude to follow him in one final rebellion against the Lord of glory and His saints, gathering them to battle (God and Magog)! As a Believer, I naturally have lots of questions as to why this is part of God's plan, but I do not doubt Him. The one thing I know for sure is that Mankind will have been living in a perfect environment with every need cared for, overseen by a truly just government, yet they are still tempted to do better. Man simply cannot maintain the perfection that God requires. Even though the number who rebel with Satan are said to be "as the sand of the sea" (Revelation 20:7), they may still be a minority compared to the number who do not rebel. Yet, it will still be a large number of souls who join Satan. But at the end of the Millennium, the final rebellion is crushed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unrighteous of all of the Ages will be judged according to their works, and anyone not found written in the Book of Life will also be cast into the lake of fire.
     My main purpose for presenting this post to you was to show you that Jesus’ 1,000-year reign will be a fulfillment of God's promises and prophecies given to Israel; and the promises made to Jesus, the nations, and the whole earth. God promised He would bless Israel and restore the world in specific ways, and He will. We have much to look forward to ... After the final judgment, God and His people will live forever in the New Jerusalem, on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21). God’s plan of redemption will have been completely realized, and the redeemed will know God and enjoy Him forever. What a blessing that we can take God at His Word!

Thank you to the website got questions.org for its invaluable Scriptural and historical references.

Revelation 22:20-21      He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

March 27, 2017

When Are We Going To Stop Blaming God?

     How can we, as the supposedly most "informed" generation of mankind, be so far off-base when it comes to God's will in our lives?  Granted, it would be difficult to come to a consensus of what is  even meant by the term "God's will".  Between our doctrinal differences and theological disagreements, I'm not sure we can identify even a foundational aspect of God's will.
     On a very simple level, His will is what He desires; and we can go from that thought to knowing that He desires a relationship with us. He desires that we seek Him, and that we know Him. And as we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Holy Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ. And if you want a real clear picture of Christ's mind when it comes to the will of God, it is perfectly stated in John 6:38-40 ... " For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but that I [give new life and] raise it up at the last day.  For this is My Father’s will and purpose, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him [as Savior] will have eternal life, and I will raise him up [from the dead] on the last day.”
     The Apostles had no problem understanding the will of God. Paul was able to state God's will in a very concise and brief statement: [God] wishes all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge and recognition of the [divine] truth (I Timothy 2:4). As you have heard me say several times before, that word SAVED in verse 4 comes from the Greek word sozo. It means "healed; delivered; protected; made whole; kept safe and sound; do well; and to be kept safe from harm." THAT IS WHAT GOD'S WILL IS; WHAT HE DESIRES FOR EVERYONE!
     So why are we blaming Him when our lives go wrong? Think you don't?  What is your first thought when confronted with sickness or disease; financial difficulties; natural disasters; an accident; crime or violence; harm or death to a child; when your prayers aren't answered? If you are like some Christians, you probably think, "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" And that question can only be asked if you believe that God is in control of everything. But I challenge you to find that in Scripture!
     There are verses that say all things are possible with Him; that He directs our path; that He does whatsoever He pleases; and that He works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His will. But I do not believe that there is any verse that says He is in control of everything. If you take that thought to its logical conclusion, then you must say that if God is in control, then everything bad that happens comes from Him. That is simply contrary to His nature!
     And yes, I know that people will counter this argument by saying, "Well, God allowed it." And they always cite the Book of Job as underlying this premise. But nowhere in the Book of Job does it say that. In the first chapter of Job, Satan appears before the throne of God with other angels, and God asks him where he's come from.  Satan responds, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it".  And if you know your Scripture, then you know what he was doing ... prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9).
     Have you ever stopped to think how arrogant it was of Satan to come before God and announce what he was doing?  It was as if he was taunting God that he could do whatever he liked, and no man could resist him.  After all, Jesus declared that He [and the Father] know the intentions of the devil: to steal, kill and destroy.  So when God confronts Satan in the Book of Job, He knows what the devil is capable of.  But He accepts the arrogant challenge, and says, "Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." And what's the devil's response?  I'm paraphrasing here, but basically the devil says,  "The only reason Job loves You is because of what You give him and because of how You've blessed him." (See Job 1:9–11).
     You see, the devil counts on people loving their things [and their power and knowledge and status] more than they love God. It worked in the Garden of Eden!  In fact, Satan is sure that Christians will seek God more for things that benefit themselves than they will seek an intimate relationship with Him. So he goes about touching their "stuff" to get them to blame God for the bad things that happen to them.
     So, those who think that God controls everything, or at least allows things to happen, will point to Job 1:12 as proof of their argument: Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.  But here's what we need to consider ...  If Satan became god of this world when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, why did he need permission from God to attack Job? The answer is, he didn't. It was already in his power to do so.  The Bible very clearly states in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan is the god of this world.  Adam and Eve had been given dominion (authority, control, and power) over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), and they transferred it to Satan when they rebelled against God's commands.
     Satan doesn't need God's permission to kill this one. or cause that one to be in an accident. He doesn't have to ask God if he can take the life of a little child. He just does it. Could God stop it? Absolutely. But He will not violate His Cosmic Rule of Free Will. After all, God created mankind in His own image, and that included the ability to choose.  He says in Malachi 3:6, I, the Lord, do not change. Why do we not believe Him? God does not choose one day to allow free will, and then to prohibit it the next. So, because of Adam and Eve's rebellion, Satan received dominionship of this world and we must choose whether to follow him or God.
     Of course, there follows the difficult question of whether we have some sin in our lives that has given Satan cause or authority to bring hardship or tragedy to our doorstep.  That is a possibility, and we must all search our souls and spirits for our own accountability. But we must also realize that Sin exists in this world, and we must all pay with a death -- and Satan is glad to oblige with the death of our hopes and dreams; a death of a loved one; or the death of our trust and confidence in God.
     And we need to recognize that Death comes from the devil. We know that Satan introduced Death to man, which separated us from an eternity with God.  Before the Garden incident, man did not experience death. And we know that Jesus came and conquered Death, so that we could once again have a way to experience eternity with God. And Jesus will return soon to conquer all evil and wickedness from the earth, establishing a 1,000-year reign for God to fulfill promises (covenants) He made specifically to Israel, to Jesus, to the nations of the world, and to creation. All of these will be fulfilled during Jesus’ 1,000-year reign. (My next post will outline these specific promises and their fulfillment).
     But for now, we somehow rationalize that Satan no longer has dominionship of this earth, or that he has somehow been removed from his position of Prince of this world.  And it just astonishes me that we can so easily let ourselves be convinced that God "allowed" the bad things in our lives to happen instead of giving credit where credit is due... at the feet of Satan!
     And I'm going to say something that is difficult for me to even write, but I think we must consider it ... When people blame God for all of the bad things that have happened to them, there's no way they can truly love Him as He deserves. Oh sure, they say they love Him. But how can you trust God if you think He will put cancer on you?  Or allow a loved one to be tragically taken from you? It's impossible to truly love God if you don't trust Him, because you never know when He might "allow" the devil to have his way with you!  And that is just how cunning the devil can be in presenting an argument that can threaten our relationship with our Father.
     Earlier, I quoted John 10:10: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But that was only half of the verse. Jesus went on to say, " I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]."  This is very clear that it is the devil who kills, and Jesus [and God] who offer Life.  God never gives permission to the devil to attack anyone. The devil does it because, for now, he can, as god of this world.
     And for those who argue, "God wants to build character in our lives through trials", I would argue this ... While Romans 5 encourages us that trials bring perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, how can that happen if we think God allows bad things to happen to us?  We certainly can't build character if we've lost hope that we can always trust God. Proverbs 13:12 tells us, "Hope deferred [postponed, suspended] makes the heart sick".  And a sick heart cannot love or honor God.
     Trials and tribulations are situations in which the devil tries to get us to blame God for whatever isn't going right in our lives. When they come our way, we need to declare the authority Jesus has given us and bring the Power of Heaven into Satan's hellish circumstances. We need to make the devil wish that he never touched or tempted us! And instead of attributing anything bad to God, our trials should purify our hearts, strengthen our faith, and draw us closer to Him. We should never attribute the deeds of the devil to "God's will".  Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is His desire to harm us in anyway. It is simply not in His character!
     But remember... it IS in Satan's character to steal, kill and destroy. And the devil thought he could get Job to blame God when he began afflicting him with hardships and loss. See, here's the thing -- Satan cannot kick God off His throne in Heaven. BUT, he can try to get us to kick Him off the throne of our hearts. Anytime that we ascribe the devil's actions to God, we are denying His Goodness and attacking His Divine Character.  Stop blaming God, and give the devil his due!  Let him know that we're not buying what he's selling, and we know Who our God is! Don't let our Enemy rob you of the complete joy that is our God.

Jeremiah 29:11    For I know what I have planned for you, says the Lord. I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

March 26, 2017

Matthew 16:19

 I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven.

     This is part of the passage that includes Peter's confession of Christ as the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. Think how happy Jesus must have been, knowing that His crucifixion was coming near, but that He had successfully set His Disciples on a firm path to carry on His work. They recognize Him for who He truthfully is, and He can now begin to prepare them for when He must leave them. He can begin to reveal the Father's plan and the part they will play in it.
     He praises Peter for his steadfastness and his faith, and then announces that He, Himself, will be the bedrock or cornerstone of His Church.  This is what I picture happening ... Jesus with His hand on Peter's shoulder, saying "Yes, you are a rock".  Then, pointing to Himself, saying, "And it is on this rock that I will build My church".  Perhaps he laid his hand on his breast, as he did in John 2:19: Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 
     Then He announces today's passage and their purpose in "the plan"... they will receive the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven! What must they have thought?!? The concept of someone having the keys to anything meant they had the power to open and shut the door to it. But Jesus is telling them they have that power and authority when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven!
    I believe Jesus is telling Peter that he, himself, will open the door to faith, just as he would do to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2) and to the Gentiles in the person of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10). Those keys would unlock the blessings and the power of Heaven itself for all those who come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God of Heaven! That faith is a key that unlocks a Divine relationship between Heaven and Earth -- one that cannot be hindered.
     But those keys were not reserved for Peter alone!  Just two chapters later, in Matthew 18, Jesus repeats the same benefits of binding and loosing, once one unlocks the key to the Kingdom. This time it is directed to the other disciples.  But it also pertains to us!  When we are obedient to the commands of our Lord, Jesus (in heaven) looses the authority of His Word as it goes forth on earth for the fulfillment of its purpose. 
     It is important to understand that the expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology.  Whenever a Jew came up against the Law of Moses, that Jewish person was either "bound" or "loosed" in regard to that law. To loose was to permit; to bind was to prohibit. To loose was to free from the law, to bind was to put under the law. Their regular sense, which any Jew would recognize was to allow and to forbid. To bind something was to declare it forbidden; to loose was to declare it allowed. These were the regular phrases for making decisions in regard to the law.
     But Jesus has come to fulfill the Law, so Heaven is now the authority to which we appeal -- not the Rabbinic Law.  Therefore, whatever we bind (because it goes against the commands of Jesus) has already been declared forbidden; and whatever we loose (that aligns with Jesus and benefits the Kingdom) has already been declared allowable -- and the authority of Heaven stands behind us! It goes without saying that this refers to Kingdom work done in Jesus's Name and in obedience to His Word on earth.
     The authority that comes with the keys is still promised to the Body of Christ today. In the powerful words of theologian Charles Spurgeon, "The Lord continues to back up the teaching and acts of His servants, and as long as we abide rightly in Him, we have His sanction to make them valid. The words of His servants, spoken in His Name, shall be confirmed by the Lord, and shall not be, either as to promise or threatening, a mere piece of rhetoric." Hallelujah, that we possess the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven!



March 24, 2017

Ten Prophetic Keys

     I am an unabashed history lover. And no history is more fascinating than that of the ancient Israelite nation, whose story permeates the Old Testament in the Bible. And with the upcoming Feast of Passover in April, my thoughts turn to the deliverance of ancient Israel from Egypt. I also wanted to consider all the prophecies that the Good Book makes about the future nation of Israel, and how we are seeing them play out before our very eyes.
     I  want to begin by giving recognition to Asher Intrater, the Director of Revive Israel, for the research done on this topic. Revive Israel is a Ministry with a vision of Revival and Restoration in the land of Israel and the Nations.  And as part of the Messianic remnant in the Holy Land, the ministry team feels the Lord has a plan for them in this 21st Century.  And I was greatly interested in the unique perspective that Intrater, a Messianic Jew, could bring to the Bible's prophecies about Israel in these latter days.  So, after studying Jewish history, Rabbinic thought, and current events in Israel, Intrater gives us an interesting picture of how a modern Jew views modern Israel from a Biblical worldview. Allow me to share his insight on ten prophetic keys to the restoration of End Times Israel:

Eliezer Ben Yehuda
     1. Restoring the Language. What was perhaps the first modern prophetic key regarding Israel in the End Times, came to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in the late 1870s. He had a vision. He felt God tell him, "You will go back and restore the language of the prophets in the land of the prophets." He accepted that calling, and today is known as the father of the Modern Hebrew language. He moved his family to Israel in 1881, and his son was the first person to speak Hebrew as his mother tongue since ancient times. Intrater reports that, today, the Messianic community in Israel, has returned not just to the Hebrew language, but to speaking in tongues as the early church did for the first time on Pentacost in Acts 2.
    2. Global Reconciliation.  The second key was from Rabbi Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and possibly the most significant in modern Jewish history. In the beginning, the Ultra-Orthodox Jews were against the nation of Israel. In fact, most of them continue to be so. Kook saw that the Israeli pioneers were secular, atheist Communists. Therefore it seemed that the movement could not be from God. However, because they were bringing God&039;s people back to the Land of Israel according to Biblical prophecies, he created a bridge between Ultra-Orthodoxy and modern Zionism, and in doing so, laid the foundations of what we call Modern Orthodoxy. Today this stream of Judaism is pro-Israel and even serves in the IDF.
     Similarly, Intrater believes that the calling of Messianics is to bring together all the diverse aspects of Israel, including Orthodox and secular Jews, as well as the international Ekklesia (church). Even though they're all supposed to be on the same side, throughout history these groups have opposed each other. So the second End Times prophetic word is the joining together of Israel and the church.
     3. Stages of Restoration.  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine; a Jewish thinker, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He was born in 1865 and died in 1935. It is interesting to note than when Rabbi Kook considered modern Israel, he did not believe that it was the Kingdom of God, but rather the first stage of the restoration which would lead to the Kingdom of God. There had to be some sort of physical restoration of the Land and the people of Israel so that redemption could take place.
     It is even more interesting that Asher Intrater is saying the same thing. He believes that modern Israel today is not the Kingdom of God, but rather the initial steps of a restoration that is leading to the Kingdom of God. He states that it is a mistake to be overly Zionist and call this the Kingdom of God, and it's also a mistake to reject the idea completely. He believes that these are the beginning stages and the Messianic community is in the middle of it.
     4. Reading the Prophets.  David Ben-Gurion, visionary and leader of Modern Zionism, read the Bible, particularly the prophets. He held Bible studies each week in his home. He taught the Bible, but he mistakenly interpreted the Bible through a Communist viewpoint, as a kind of a socialist work. However, he was right to encourage the reading of the prophets, and to not just read the Bible, but try to live it. Intrater believes that because he took inspiration from the Scriptures about restoring the nation of Israel, God chose him to be the first Prime Minister of Israel.
     5. Pre-Governmeny Preparation.  During the time of the British Mandate, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Ben-Gurion also realized that one day the future nation was going to have a government, but it wasn't ready yet. They needed to build an organization that could function like a government so that they would be ready to have a nation when the time came. He set up an organization called the "Histadrut," and it began to function like a government until it later became one.
     Intrater believes that is a prophetic word for the Church. The Ekklesia is supposed to be two things, not just the people who have been gathered out of the nations to become the Body of Christ, but the word Ekklesia also means a governing body or coalition. As Believers, we are here not just to run the Church but act as our own "Histadrut" or pre-government. We are being prepared now to run Yeshua's government when He returns. That's why we believe in apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, in elders and deacons, and in the structure of the Church, because we are in training. A government isn't run by one person, but by a whole group of people. That's what discipleship is all about; getting ready to run one of the positions of His government.
David Ben-Gurion
    6. Preparing for War.  Ben-Gurion also knew that when the new State of Israel, was declared, within 24 hours every nation in the Middle East was going to attack it. They were not ready. They didn't have any weapons or soldiers. They didn't know how to fight. So he set aside all of his other functions, forming and training a military in a year and a half.
     Again, Intrater believes this is a prophetic word coming out of the body of Messiah in Israel. We are heading towards the greatest war in the history of mankind. We are moving into a period where all the nations of the world are going to attack Israel and Christians, and do everything they can to stop the second coming of Yeshua.  We need to learn to pray and prophesy, to understand the Scriptures and declare the Word of God.
     7.  Confrontation of .the Nations.  Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, goes to the United Nations and confronts them, unlike any other world leader we've seen. He tells the UN that they are making decisions against the Land and people of Israel, even though they have a mandate from God to be there. He quotes the Bible and he rebukes them for immorality and humanistic thinking, boldly confronting the nations of this world.
     There is something about the nation of Israel and its very existence that is in confrontation with the UN. Intrater believes Israel is going to begin to confront the nations of the world with the truth of God. This is one aspect of Israel's calling, and now that the body of Messiah is connected to Israel, they have a prophetic message to give to the world.
     8. Exposing Radical Islam.  Netanyahu - more than any other world leader today - understands that radical Islamic terrorism is the worst evil this world has ever seen, and we need to fight it. Intrater says, "People are being murdered at an unprecedented rate and nobody is really fighting it other than Israel. There is an alignment coming out of the nation of Israel".
     Furthermore, he says, "You have the choice either to succumb to radical Islam or to fight against it. The church doesn't necessarily need to take up weapons. But it needs to be able to speak the truth and call it what it is: a murderous, Anti-Christ spirit. When you send people all over the world to murder everyone who disagrees with you, you are breaking the Ten Commandments. That cannot be the God of Israel, and we need to actively oppose it".
     9. Establishment of the Throne of David.  In Hebrew, there is no word for 'prime minister.' Instead, the title is the 'head of the government of Israel.' Do you remember all the prophecies about Yeshua when He was born? He would sit on the throne of David and rule over the tribes of Jacob. When Yeshua comes back, He will sit on David's throne and rule the world from David's throne forever.
     Intrater, and the Messianic community in Israel, believe in a literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the Kingdom of God coming on earth. But until there was modern Israel and a government in Israel, how could you believe these prophecies? For 2,000 years much of the Church did not really believe in the Second Coming, but instead in the Second Appearance. They believed that Yeshua is going to appear, come half way down, rapture away His bride, and then leave again! But the Bible says He comes back once - all the way back to the Mount of Olives! Israel has been restored and its capital is in Jerusalem. Yeshua can now return and reign over the earth from Jerusalem.
     10. Physically inheriting the Land.  Lastly, Intrater wants it understood that one of the things that the head of the Israeli government does is to guarantee that Jews and their descendants can settle in the Land: that they have the right to build homes, establish farms, support an economy and raise their children. It is amazing how much this idea is hated by so many around the world.
     Does the Bible indeed say that when Yeshua comes back the saints will inherit the earth? Yes (Matthew 5:5 and 25:34). The way God ensures that His kingdom will come to this earth is by promising it to the Jewish people, in the Land of Israel. If it doesn't happen there, it can't happen anywhere else on the rest of the earth. The fact that Jewish people are living there is a sure sign that Yeshua is coming and we will inherit the earth.

     I hope you have found this perspective as fascinating as I have.  As Christians, it is important that we put politics aside and recognize that the modern state of Israel has yet to fulfill its prophetic fullness: 1) The full number  has yet to be Saved; 2) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical power; 3) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical character; 4) They have yet to operate in their full Biblical purpose to lead all nations.  But, as you can see by Asher Intrater's resolute conviction, the Messianic Jews in Israel recognize God's plan for the fullness of the nation of Israel, which will bring about the Glory of God in the Millennial Kingdom. Our God is a God of covenants, and His commitments and promises to His portion, Israel, will not be broken.

Amos 9:14-15    "I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God".



March 22, 2017

What's Your Real Security?

     As I wrote this post, AT&T cell coverage for nearly the entire state of Texas and major cities on the East Coast (including New York City and Washington, D.C.), the middle of the country (Cleveland, Detroit, rural Missouri), Southeast (Atlanta), and West Coast (San Francisco), was nonexistent for about 5 hours.  Not only were cell phones useless, but banks were unable to conduct business; grocery stores could not sell their goods; and businesses, in general, came to a grinding halt.  Those people and companies who rely on wireless cell coverage for their internet access were suddenly left unconnected with the worldwide web. I heard rumors that other major wireless carriers were also encountering problems.
     Fortunately for me, my internet access comes from a local cooperative, and I was able to write this post and see what was going on across the world. When checking AT&T's website, there were over 16,000 comments reporting that outages were either occurring now, or in some cases, had been reported for over 3 days. Funny thing is, there was no media outlet reporting this phenomenon! No crawlers running across news station feeds; no reports on major social media sites; not even a mention on the conspiracy sites.  On top of that, the Stock Market took a pretty steep dive (supposedly because of doubts that the Congressional House will pass a new health care bill) -- but was that the real reason? Regardless of all that, in interacting with people in my local area, there was a sense of underlying alarm ... what did this mean?  I witnessed people withdrawing money from their banks (those transactions being done the old-fashioned way, by hand; and gassing up their cars). I will admit that I took those same precautions; primarily because I needed to fill up my car anyway and didn't want to get in a long gas line (I still remember those of the 1980's).
     Without appearing to be a fearmonger, it was not out of the question to suggest that this could be a nefarious act -- someone (or nation) attempting to disrupt the business and/or economy of this nation; or at the very least, causing confusion, an interruption in day-to-day activities, and an unsettling sense of anxiety.  So, now comes the crux of what I want to say in this post ... how secure would all this make you feel?  Are your first thoughts for your physical safety, or like me, would you have a calmness in your spirit, knowing that you are not of this world? That no matter what chaos ensues, I am secure in my spiritual safety.  I seek the shelter of Almighty God and picture myself running into a strong tower where I am protected from the disorder and pandemonium swirling outside.
     I ask these questions because we are living in an increasingly unsafe world.  Terrorism, nuclear weapons, and radical ideologies are the modern weapons of this world; weapons that man is far too familiar with.  But there is a growing wickedness and evil that are dangerous spiritual weapons against us, too.  Believe me, I am seeing that in the people God is bringing to us through our ministry.  And I will tell you that ten years ago, I never would have believed that I would be hearing from people who have experienced demons trying to convince them to end their lives; or demons identifying themselves as Lucifer during a healing/deliverance session; or heard the soul-searing pain that so many have suffered in their childhoods.
     But I have also witnessed women who have seen Jesus, in their spirits, change their filthy rags into a gown of white. And I have witnessed the Holy Spirit help a hurting heart forgive the one who transgressed against them so long ago, and experienced with them, the joy of a life-long weight being lifted from their soul. I have seen soul ties broken; oaths meant to keep generations in bondage be renounced; and childhood experiences integrated into the identity of the adult, all under the compassionate authority and guardianship of Jesus.
     And that is why I can approach the uncertain and unknown [that is a reality in our world today] with complete confidence and with peace in my spirit. I am aware of the dangers in this world -- those that are possible, and those that are inevitable. I read my Bible and Jesus makes it clear that if we follow Him, we will not leave this life unscathed. But if the gates of hell were opened tomorrow, I know that He is the rock upon which I would stand, making my steps secure.  My spirit will find rest in Him, knowing my faith in Him is my shield, behind which I can abide in total confidence and trust. And I feel safe, knowing His faithfulness [to me] will protect me from the fiery darts of the Enemy. His Word promises that He will fight for me, because I am precious to Him; bought with His blood! What in this world can offer any greater security?
     So, the "wireless crisis" passed after several hours, with no apparent explanation. And I do not doubt that when the "time of difficulty" comes upon the earth, the chaos will cause widespread panic and fear.  That is the time that we Christians need to know where our real security lies. We need to know the Authority and the Power we will have to wield over the forces of evil, while being prepared to lay down our lives for our friends. The coming destruction will be sudden, and that's why we need to be settled in our spirits this very moment. Know that if Jesus is your Savior, you are not condemned to God's Wrath on the Day of the Lord. Jesus is your Rock, your Fortress, and your Deliverer. There is no need to fear because His Arms are everlasting, and He is a refuge and strength, and abundantly available to help in times of trouble. Any security that this world has to offer is inadequate and insufficient.

Psalm 16:8   "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken".


March 20, 2017

Power and Authority; Signs and Wonders

     A couple of days ago, I was deep in my Bible, studying all the places that Jesus talked about Power and Authority -- His and the Father's, and ours.  As usual, I always end up back at Luke 10:19, one of the most compelling verses in the New Testament ... Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you (NASB).
     Depending on the version of the Bible you use, you might read, Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you. (Amplified), OR, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you (KJV). See the differences? The NASB and Amplified versions tell us that Jesus has given us authority over the power of the Enemy.  The KJV version says He gives us power over the power of the Enemy.
     Since I want to understand Jesus's Truth, and the implications it has for me in acting out my Faith, I needed to determine what words were used in the original manuscripts and what their meanings were at the time the Word was first translated.  As I followed the word trail, I received some surprising revelations.  Let me share...
     My first question was, are our English translations equating authority and power? Are they the same? When determining what the Bible is telling us, it is not enough to read our modern translations. We must discern the meaning and context at the time it was written.  In this case, I wanted to know why "authority" and "power" seemed interchangeable [among the versions] when it came to our rule over the serpents and scorpions; but all versions were in agreement that the rule of the enemy was always called "power". Since there is so much doubt and unbelief in the Body of Christ as to what our spiritual abilities are, it seems important to me to understand the original intent.
     Since the King James version, along with the 1599 Geneva Bible, and the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582) are the versions that use the word "power" in referring to the abilities Jesus gave us over the rule of the devil -- and they are the oldest -- I wanted to find out if there was any difference between our power to tread on serpents and scorpion, and the power of the enemy.  Here's what I discovered...
     The power to tread on serpents and scorpions is the Greek word, exousia. It's meaning (not surprisingly) is "authority"... but there's more.  That "authority" includes: having been given leave or permission; the ability or strength with which one has been endued (endowed or provided with an ability); the power of authority; the right to exercise power.  So this explains why some versions use the word "authority" when it comes to treading on serpents and scorpions, and some use "power". It appears that they are interchangeable.
     But there is more to this word exousia.  It is the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others; the power of rule or government (as in a Kingdom).  When used, it implies that which is the subject of the authority or rule -- in this case, the serpents and scorpions. It also conveys the impression of one who possesses authority; a ruler. (In a sense, we can compare the power of our U.S. Ambassadors to represent the authority of our nation, to our power as representatives of God's Kingdom to use the Heavenly power bestowed upon us).
     So this is what we need to grasp from this particular use of the word "power" as it pertains to us.  Jesus has given us His authority -- the same authority given to Him by the Father -- to command the serpents and scorpions to be subject to us.  The Greek New Testament tells us as much in Luke 10:20.  After telling us we have the authority/power, Jesus goes on to say, "Nevertheless, do not continue to rejoice, namely, because the spirits marshall themselves in subjection under your orders...".  Nothing could be clearer!  They must do as we command [because we wield the power of Heaven]!     

    And just what was meant by "serpents" and "scorpions"?  Here's what was understood by those who heard Jesus's words:  Serpents referred to the characteristics of evil, concentrated in the arch-adversary of God and man, the Devil. It was understood that his characteristics included not only his evil, but his treachery, his venom, his murderous proclivities; the origin, hatefulness and deadly effect of Sin.  Those hearing Jesus speak understood that Scorpions produced a venomous sting and pain.  The fact that Jesus declared these two to be under our jurisdiction conveyed the thought of our victory [through Him] over spiritually antagonistic forces; the powers and forces of darkness.
     The Disciples understood what Jesus was telling them!  The power and authority was Jesus's, given to the Disciples! The 70 that Jesus sent out even declared it themselves in Luke 10:17 ...  “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” How frustrating it must be to Jesus to see that His 21st Century Disciples have lost this knowledge... and with it, the power and authority He has given to all who believe in Him [to subdue the spiritual forces coming against them]! But it is important for us, in this Age, to realize that the demons were subject to those early followers of Christ because the Disciples believed! It is not enough for us to try to command the dark spirits to leave if we are just using our human authority as part of our spiritual "medicine cabinet". We must believe that we have the very power of Jesus in us! If doubt and unbelief exist anywhere in your spirit, then your authority or power will have no effect!
     Now, let's look at the original meaning and context when it comes to our authority/power over the "power" that is the enemy's.  Not surprising, this is not the same Greek word, exousia.  In this instance, "power" is the Greek word, dunamis. The meaning of this word points to new and higher forces that have entered (and are working) in this lower world of ours; namely, supernatural power.  The Holy Spirit possesses dunamis power, and His power is in us. We see that picture in Luke 24:49, And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” We also see the this dunamis (supernatural) power in Luke 22:69, But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  This is the supernatural power of Heaven that enabled Jesus to perform signs and wonders. And to no surprise of mine, dunamis is one of the Greek words used to describe "wonders".  In fact, "signs and wonders" is defined as "indicating dunamis (supernatural) power".
     But guess what?  Satan possesses "dunamis" power, too. Because the Greek word dunamis also connotes power, strength, and violence, we see the exercise of the devil's "dunamis power" in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.  Yes, his miracles will be false, but they are supernatural signs and wonders, nonetheless. But we should not fear!  Jesus, Himself, tells us very clearly in Luke 10:19 ... With the supernatural power (dunamis) that He has given us, and the authority (exousia) to use it, we can command [in His Name] that the powers and forces of Satan's darkness (the serpents and scorpions) leave us alone; and furthermore, that power [in us] defeats all the supernatural power that Satan commands!  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world!
     So can you see how important it is that the modern Church come to the full knowledge and counsel of Jesus and the Father? The Bible tells us that darker days are ahead, and it should be clear, by now, that we cannot defeat the forces of evil under our own power.  We must believe that we have been given the abilities and strength of Heaven and the right (authority) to exercise that exousia power by His Name!  But that's not all!  Our exousia power will defeat Satan's dunamis power because his power is inferior to the dunamis power of Heaven that backs us up.
     I don't know how many of you have made it this far in reading my post -- you may have quit due to boredom or lack of interest. And to some, this may all seem like a useless exercise in semantics, but until we unpack the original meaning and context of the First Century in which this Scripture was spoken and written, we remain ineffective in our Twenty-First Century doctrine and theology. We will continue in our captivity to Satan's lies, and in our fears and self-doubt. And by not exercising our authority over the power of the Enemy, the Kingdom suffers -- we bear little fruit, we are unable to help Jesus set other captives free, we do not reflect God's glory and power in the midst of all the nations, and we are not readying the earth for His triumphal return.
     Jesus's words in Luke 10:19 were not only for those 70 Disciples who returned, declaring their victories over Satan's demons.  They were meant to inspire all generations that followed.  His words were meant for us -- to believe them and to live them! It's time the modern Church began proclaiming its own victories in the Name of Jesus!

Matthew 9:8   When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God and praised Him, who had given such authority and power to men. 

March 19, 2017

Mark 7:24-28

But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

     This is an often misunderstood verse, with implications far beyond it's surface interpretation. The backdrop of Jesus's words is that He has retired to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were important Canaanite cities, and Tyre was actually mentioned as the western border of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:29), while Sidon was included as part of the inheritance of Asher on its northern boundary (Joshua 19:28).  While Joshua included it as part of the Promised Land of Israel (Joshua 13:6), the tribe of Asher failed to conquer the land as God commanded (Judges 1:31).  
     I know this is a lot of history about the Biblical Israelites, but it is important to understand that this region where Jesus met this woman was not Israelite by population, but Gentile, and pagan according to their religious practice.  And it is logical to wonder why Jesus went there if He, as He stated, was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  Although it is not specifically stated, I wonder if there were times in Jesus's short three years of ministry that He was exhausted by His increasingly contentious encounters with the Jewish religious leaders. And we can only imagine how draining it must have been to engage with the crowds who were growing and following Him everywhere.  If he needed some time away from "the fray", so to speak, then this region might offer Him some respite.  That being said, this is only conjecture on my part.
     So, I would like to suggest that Jesus is saying, My primary mission is to Israel (the Jews), and to step in where the experts in the Law have failed, and guide and transform the people into once again, fulfilling their mission of being God's Chosen.  He is attempting to reveal God's Light to Israel, hoping to heal both their spiritual and physical blindness.  
     Jesus knew, as do we, that the covenant was between God and Israel, but "true Israel", so to speak, is composed of Abraham's children within the Jewish AND the Gentile groups. All who are identified as having faith in Jesus are "Abraham's seed".  Ministry to the Gentiles will come as a result of His rejection by Jewish believers. As the disbelief increases on the Jewish side, the door to the Gentiles increasingly widens. All this, of course, was part of God's plan.
     The Bible says in verses just prior to Mark 7:24 that Jesus's fame had preceded Him, and this Syro-Phoenician woman bowed down at His feet, seeking healing for her daughter who was demon-possessed. But what does Jesus say?  It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. It is important to recognize that this woman was asking for healing for her daughter.  She is asking, on behalf of her daughter, for Deliverance, and she believes that Jesus has the authority to do it. Therefore, we must understand that Deliverance by the authority of Yeshua is referred to here as "the children's bread". He has come to bestow Life-giving bread upon the children of Abraham; the kind of bread that should be part of our spiritual diet; the kind of bread in which every Believer has a right to partake.
     Jesus, is in effect, telling the woman that it is not His specific mission to bestow this bread upon anyone other than Abraham's children. But her faith is actually stronger than many of the Israelites, who reject the Bread Jesus is offering.  She is willing to accept crumbs of Jesus's Life-saving Bread, if that is all He will offer her. Ultimately, her faith is expressed in her confidence that God will help her and her daughter; that healing and deliverance will take place. 
     I would like to suggest that Jesus may not have intended to grant this woman what she asked for, but He may have discerned that her faith came from a genuine confidence in His Father, and since He continually stated that He only did what the Father told Him, might He have received, at that moment, a communication from His Father to deliver healing? That would make sense why He at first refused her request. Remember, He was fully man and fully God, so He must have been continually listening for the Father's guidance on how to fulfill His mission. 
     But I want to go beyond the implications that this woman was seeking the Bread Jesus offered, which afforded Deliverance and Healing for her daughter.  As I stated earlier, the Life-giving Bread should be part of our spiritual diet. And we know that Jesus has been given Authority to offer it to us, so that we might be fed.  To reject Jesus's Bread, is in effect, living in spiritual malnutrition; and to reject His Healing and Deliverance. After all, His Bread is not a food to be eaten occasionally or leisurely, but is rather, a necessity to sustain spiritual Life.  
     But when it comes to the Church, they don't recognize the full implications of  "shepherding the flock"; that it includes guiding, guarding, keeping them in the fold, and feeding them (providing pasture). Ezekiel says, in Chapter 34, "The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them".
     See that "strengthening the weak, healing the sick, and bandaging the injured (wounded)"?  That's called Deliverance!  That's what Jesus did as the Good Shepherd!  And if you need to see it in the New Testament, Acts 20:28 says it, too:  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care (feed/Deliver) for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood.  Yet, the Church doesn't recognize Deliverance as part of their commitment to the flock.  But the saddest portion of this whole scenario is that the Church can't bring Deliverance to the world, without first being Delivered themselves, and they don't even realize it.
     The Syro-Phoenician woman was willing to accept the crumbs of the Life-giving Bread Jesus offered, knowing it would provide Deliverance and Healing for her daughter.  Today, too many Christians in the Body of Christ are in need of a few of those Life-giving crumbs themselves; their need for spiritual healing is that great.  But the shepherds of the flock aren't feeding them what they need, and they continue in their weakness, their sickness, and their wounds. No one is discipling the flock or looking for those who have strayed or who are lost. We are too interested in feeding ourselves with bread that has no spiritually nutritious value.  No matter how many of those crumbs we consume, they will never make us well.  It's time for the Church to seek true spiritual nourishment and true and complete healing.


March 17, 2017

My Passion For The Bible

     Want to get an idea of what typically happens when I sit down to write a blog post?  I receive ideas from several sources -- whether it be a podcast, an article I've read, or a discussion with fellow Christians -- but they all drive me to the Bible to see what God has to say on any given subject.  Such was the case, yesterday, when I found myself in a discussion with my husband about the importance of Luke 10:19, and how it pertains to our Kingdom work.
     As you can see, if you click on this link, different versions of the Bible give us different text and slightly different interpretations. (NOTE: the use of the word "authority" in the ESV and NASB Bibles when referring to what Jesus has given us to tread on serpents and scorpions, versus the use of the word "power" in the King James Bible). I will be writing on this important verse (and its consequences for us) in an upcoming blog, but for today, I want to share where my study took me.
     When I began to research the different words used and their meanings in the original context of the Biblical writers, I went to my trusty Strong's Concordance. And that's when my focus took a different direction.  I was fascinated with what I found and how it affected my theology, but I was also curious about why the different versions of the Bible used such different words to express the context of the verse. Consequently, it was important to know what version of the Bible my Strong's Concordance is based on, since it did not reference the use of the word "authority" for Luke 10:19, but rather, "power".  Since I now know that Strong's Concordance is an index of every word in the King James version of the Bible, it was interesting to discover new insights to Luke 10:19, and how the use of "power" instead of "authority" affects my theology.
     Let me start by saying that it is important that we understand what was said to the original audience; and what was the original, intended meaning of the text.  When you read the Bible, the question you should be asking yourself is, What is the point of the original author? That is called exegesis, a term I'm sure you have heard before.  Another word you've probably heard is hermeneutics, which is the study of the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts.  But here is where it gets dangerous ... while we all want to know what the Bible means for us today, we cannot make it mean whatever we want it to mean, and then claim it was the original intent, revealed by the Holy Spirit.  As Dr. Gordon D. Fee, a Christian theologian and Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Regent College in Canada explains: A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its original readers/hearers…the true meaning of the Biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken or written. 
     I hope you're not getting bored!  I promise you this is going to get fascinating real quick!  Because I am always focused on authentic nterpretation of the Bible, I began to research history to find out just how the ancient manuscripts were first interpreted; how we ended up with our modern versions of the Bible; and just how reliable are they? Come along for the ride!
     Over 3400 years ago (1400 B.C.), the first Word of God was written by God, Himself.  He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and delivered them to Moses. It would be 900 years later (500 B.C.) that all the original Hebrew manuscripts of the 39 Books of the Old Testament were completed.  In 200 B.C., as the Greek Empire is being eclipsed by the emerging Roman Empire, the Old Testament (along with 14 Books of the Apochrypha) are translated into the Greek Septuagint (meaning "70" for the number of scholars who translated the Hebrew into Greek). It wouldn't be until the 1st Century A.D. that all the original Greek manuscripts that make up the 27 Books of the New Testament would be completed.
     In 315 A.D. the Bishop of Alexandria recognized the 27 Books of the New Testament which are today's Canon of Scripture.  Sixty-seven years later, in 382 A.D., Jerome produced his Latin Vulgate manuscripts, which are actually quite controversial for his paraphrastic style (meaning he translated in the vernacular, rather than a more critical translation of the Hebrew text. For the next 1,000 years of the Dark & Middle Ages, the Word was trapped in only Latin.
John Wycliffe
     Then, in 1384, along came John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the organized Church, which he believed to be contrary to the Bible. With the help of his followers and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the Scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!
     One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman Church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire.
     But it was the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 1450's that would eventually allow the Bible [and other books] to be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This would become essential to the success of the Reformation.
     In the 1490’s another Oxford professor, and the personal physician to King Henry the 7th and 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.” The Latin had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel… yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone who read the scripture in any language other than Latin… though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures.
     Other faithful men like Oxford professor John Colet (1496) and the great scholar Erasmus (1516) translated the Bible from the more accurate and reliable Greek and published new versions of the Bible in English (Colet) and a Greek-Latin parallel Bible (Erasmus). The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus further focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original Greek (New Testament) and original Hebrew (Old Testament) languages to maintain accuracy… and to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other language.
     As history progresses, we see men like William Tyndale, who was the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language; and Martin Luther, who published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German. Tyndale had been forced to flee England because of the wide-spread rumor that his English New Testament project was underway, causing inquisitors and bounty hunters to be constantly on Tyndale's trail to arrest him and prevent his project. God foiled their plans, and in 1525-1526 the Tyndale New Testament became the first printed edition of the scripture in the English language.
     While the Tyndale Bibles were burned as soon as the Bishop could confiscate them, copies trickled through, and actually ended up in the bedroom of King Henry VIII. The more the King and Bishop resisted its distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became. The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy, while in fact, they burned them because they could find no errors at all. One risked death by burning if caught in mere possession of Tyndale's forbidden books.
William Tynedale
     Today, there are only two known copies left of Tyndale’s 1525-26 First Edition. Any copies printed prior to 1570 are extremely valuable. Tyndale's flight was an inspiration to freedom-loving Englishmen who drew courage from the 11 years that he was hunted. In the end, Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended. Tyndale was incarcerated for 500 days before he was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. Tyndale’s last words were, "Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes". This prayer would be answered just three years later in 1539, when King Henry VIII finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of an English Bible known as the “Great Bible”. But before that could happen…
     In 1535, Myles Coverdale printed the first complete Bible in the English language, making use of Luther's German text and the Latin as sources. Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible. But the English Bible wasn't out of danger yet.  History would see the reigns of King Henry VIII and the establishment of the Anglican Church, along with the reign of Queen “Bloody” Mary, who was the next obstacle to the printing of the Bible in English. She was possessed in her quest to return England to the Roman Church. In 1555, John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers (a disciple of Tyndales's) and Thomas Cranmer  (the Archbishop of Canterbury) were both burned at the stake. Mary went on to burn Reformers at the stake by the hundreds for the "crime" of being a Protestant.
     The Protestant exiles would congregate in Geneva, Switzerland under the protection of John Calvin and John Knox, both leaders of the Protestant Reformation.  It was there that the Church of Geneva determined to produce a Bible that would educate their families while they continued in exile.  The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to add numbered verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages would be easier. Every chapter was also accompanied by extensive marginal notes and references so thorough and complete that the Geneva Bible is also considered the first English "Study Bible".
     By the 1580's, the Roman Catholic Church saw that it had lost the battle to suppress the will of God: that His Holy Word be available in the English language. In 1582, the Church of Rome surrendered their fight for "Latin only" and decided that if the Bible was to be available in English, they would at least have an official Roman Catholic English translation. And so, using the corrupt and inaccurate Latin Vulgate as the only source text, they went on to publish an English Bible with all the distortions and corruptions that Erasmus had revealed and warned of 75 years earlier. Because it was translated at the Roman Catholic College in the city of Rheims, it was known as the Rheims New TestamentThe Douay Old Testament was translated by the Church of Rome in 1609 at the College in the city of Douay. The combined product is commonly referred to as the "Douay/Rheims" Version.
     In the early 16oo's, the "translation to end all translations" (for a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The great revision of the Bishop's Bible had begun. From 1605 to 1606 the scholars engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609 the work was assembled. In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known today as "The 1611 King James Bible" came off the printing press.
The 1611 King James Bible
     The King James Bible turned out to be an excellent and accurate translation, and it became the most printed book in the history of the world, and the only book with one billion copies in print. In fact, for over 250 years...until the appearance of the English Revised Version of 1881-1885, the King James Version reigned without much of a rival. The King James Bible has the distinction of being the first English language Bible to be printed in America.
     But here is another fascinating set of facts ... Up until the 1880’s every Protestant Bible (not just Catholic Bibles) had 80 books, not 66! The inter-testamental books written hundreds of years before Christ called “The Apocrypha” were part of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880’s! The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail. Only for the last 120 years has the Protestant Church rejected these books, and removed them from their Bibles. This has left most modern-day Christians believing the popular myth that there is something “Roman Catholic” about the Apocrypha. There is, however, no truth in that myth, and no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in the 1880’s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant denomination.
     The 20th Century finds several new versions of the Bible coming into print -- the American Standard Version in 1901; and it wasn't until 1971 that it underwent a revision to become the New American Standard Version. This NASB version is considered by nearly all evangelical Christian scholars and translators today, to be the most accurate, word-for-word translation of the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures into the modern English language that has ever been produced. It remains the most popular version among theologians, professors, scholars, and seminary students today. Some, however, have taken issue with it because it is so direct and literal a translation (focused on accuracy), that it does not flow as easily in conversational English. (For me, the accuracy issue is the most fundamental; I don't demand that my Bible be an "easy read").
     The answer to the NASB Bible was the New International Version (NIV) which was designed not for “word-for-word” accuracy, but rather, for “phrase-for-phrase” accuracy, and ease of reading even at a Junior High-School reading level. It was meant to appeal to a broader (and in some instances less-educated) cross-section of the general public. But here is my problem with the NIV: there are several instances when the deity of Jesus is removed; for instance 1 Corinthians 15:47 reads, the second man is The Lord from heaven. The NIV reads, the second man is from heaven.  The NIV lowers Christ from being God’s SON and CHILD, to merely God’s SERVANT. (All believers are God’s servants).  This is evident in Acts 3:13 ... hath glorified His Son Jesus (KJV) versus has glorified his servant Jesus (NIV).  Also, the fact that Scriptures such as Matthew 18:11 and Luke 9:56 are eliminated in order to remove the statement that "the Son of Man is come to save those who are lost" is deeply troubling. There are many more changes that concern me, and believe me, I was firmly in the NIV camp for years, it being the first Bible that I seriously studied... but no more.  And I caution you about the latest version of the NIV, called Today's New International Version (TNIV), which seeks to remove all gender-specific references in the Bible whenever possible!
      As we look at the modern translations, the last few years have seen the advent of Study Bibles, some better than others.  But here is what I want us all to concentrate on ... As Christians, it is important for us to make wise decisions on which versions of the Bible that we depend upon to receive the best translation of God's Word.  And, yes, our critics will no doubt point to the various translation errors and say that is why we cannot trust the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God.  But the Word of God as revealed to man has remained unchanged from generation to generation, no matter how hard the Enemy has tried to corrupt it.  History shows us that God has always used men who were willing to die to see that His Word stayed true and authentic.  He has preserved His Word as a means to know Him and to worship Him. And just as He inspired the original writers to represent Him accurately, He can inspire us, who are sincerely seeking Him, to receive His true revelation.  No matter what version of the Bible you are reading, I recommend that you compare and contrast versions in your never-ending journey to know the God we serve.  The journey His Word has taken to get to us in the 21st Century is nothing less than miraculous.  It has survived for over 3400 years, and neither man nor devil has been able to destroy it.  May it forever be a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path!

Thank you to Greatsite.com for providing the historical facts of the Bible's timeline.  You can read a more detailed history of the facts I've given you, by clicking this link

If you are interested to know what versions of the Bible I consult in my personal study, I refer to the King James Bible, the Greek New Testament (by Kenneth Wuest), the Septuagint, the Complete Jewish Bible, the English Standard Version, the Geneva Bible, and the New American Standard Version. I am by no means stating that other versions are in error; these are just the versions that I find most useful for me.

Isaiah 40:8   "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever."


March 15, 2017

Is Your Faith A Verb Or A Noun?

     That's really a very important question if you are going to be effective in God's Kingdom on earth. Is your faith inactive or passive; something you say you "have"?  Or, is your faith a working, functioning part of who you are; something you "do"?
      I think first, we must come to an understanding of what "Faith" is, which involves unpacking the definition until we get to the very core or root of its meaning.  So bear with me for a moment, while I open up this gift of Faith from God and see what it's made of.
     I'm pretty sure that all Christians can agree that Faith involves trust, belief, and confidence in God [that He exists; is our Creator; is the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ; and that Jesus defeated the power of the devil at the Cross]. And "Belief" and "Faith" are often interchangeable in regard to our opinion of God. So, what does it mean "to believe"? I will submit to you that to believe something, one must be persuaded that it is true.  It is this persuasion of the truth that results in faith -- we believe because we are persuaded that God is real; that He sent His Son to pay the debt we owe; and our reward for being obedient to Christ is our eternal salvation.  But there's more!
     The Bible has a lot to say about Faith... Faith comes from what is heard [what is told], and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.  This verse illustrates what I meant by "persuasion that comes from the Truth" (God's Word). The Bible also says Without faith it is impossible to please Him. That implies obedience, doesn't it?  In other words, obedience is produced by our faith, and is an observable act or manner of conduct that is a result of having faith.
     Put in very simple terms, Faith is one way for God to recognize us [who belong to Him] apart from those who don't. And how is He able to do that?  By our actions! Yes, He is able to see into our hearts, but when we take action and obey God, it is visible evidence [to others] that we believe Him; that we trust Him.  Even more importantly, if we have true Faith in God, He has promised that we will receive His Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). And with the Holy Spirit comes the power of God. And that power is not to sit idle!
     Let me present a series of thoughts around which we "ran a rabbit" at our Home Church this past Saturday... Can you agree with me that we receive the full measure of the Holy Spirit at the time that we come to Faith; in other words, that we get the full measure of His power when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior? By that, I mean that God doesn't give us just a little bit of Himself to see if we can tolerate the power; or to say, "As your faith grows, I'll deposit more of my Power in you".  No, He gave each of us the identical amount, and we are completely filled with the Holy Spirit. If your faith is growing, you are trusting more to call upon the Power within you.
     Now, let's consider how we use that Power; or if I may -- if how we apply it is, in any way, in relation to how much we trust and believe [or exercise our faith] in God.  We know by the examples of Hebrews, Chapter 11, and other stories in the Bible, that there are people who by their faith, do great things for the Kingdom of God... Abel offered a greater sacrifice than Cain; Enoch was taken to Eternity; Noah built an ark; Abraham left his ancestral lands for a land promised to his descendants; Moses answered the call of God to deliver the Israelites out of bondage; the Israelites celebrated the Lord's Feasts; Joshua led the people in bringing down the walls of Jericho; Rahab helped the Israelite spies to escape; Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego entered a fiery furnace; the Apostles were persecuted and martyred; and the early Christians went to their deaths in the Roman Coliseum.
     What do each of these people have in common? They received power from God to work on His behalf!  In the Old Testament examples, it was God taking action to work on behalf of His people by sending His Holy Spirit to accomplish His purpose. Now that we are part of a new covenant with God, He has put His power IN us that we might use it to accomplish His purpose on behalf of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish.  God took back the power that man gave to Satan in the Garden, and Jesus returned it to us through the Holy Spirit, so that by our faith we could keep the devil in defeat.
     So let me ask you this ... are you using that power that Jesus deposited in you?  Can you see that the measure by which you use that [full] power might be a measure of your faith?  Do you remember that Jesus said, if you have faith and do not doubt ... you [could] say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ [and] it will happen. Do you think you could do that by your own power? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit has enough power to do it? If you believe you have the full measure of the Holy Spirit in you, is it conceivable that you could accomplish this seemingly impossible command? But, if you doubt, then you will fail.
     Now consider the Apostles who we know received the full measure of power from Jesus. It was their faith that carried them through their trials and persecution, and through their horrendous deaths.  We must remember that they would not have been able to endure the suffering if not for the power of their faith, which was manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit in them.
     Paul told us this:  My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. It is very clear from this passage that our faith and God's power are connected through the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I would be willing to say that a primary aim of Paul's ministry was to point to Faith in [and by] the Power of God.
     So, can you see why it is so important that I keep hammering home the concept of our Power and Authority [given to us by Jesus Christ]?  We have His authority to use the Power of the Holy Spirit [in us] to continue the work He began.  And that can only happen if we have Faith in who He said He was, and who He said we are.  If you are having a difficult time believing this concept, then chances are your Faith is a noun.  You pray to God and wait for Him to do something.  But if your Faith is a verb, then you are likely exerting your Authority to call on the Power of the Holy Spirit to heal people, defeat their demons, and take the message of God's Kingdom [on earth, as it is in Heaven] to disbelievers. You know that God is glorified when you put your faith in action.
     But here's what often happens ... People of active (working) Faith scare and offend those who are stationary or ineffective in their Faith. They are threatened by us, because they are suspicious of our claims of Divine Power and Authority; and they are too frightened that the devil might defeat them if they try to use theirs.  If they could just understand that until Jesus returns, we are God's ambassadors; and He has given us the gift of Faith to use His Power to challenge the power of the Enemy!
     The last thing I want to leave you with, is this ... I promise you that it is just as Jesus told us: if we have even the faith of a mustard seed, nothing is impossible for us.  Even the smallest amount of faith has the power of the Holy Spirit attached to it.  But you have to do something with it!  You have to use it! A person with little faith has as much of the Holy Spirit as a person who has great faith.  The difference is that the one who displays greater faith has done the works that Jesus did ... anyone who believes in Me will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach].  
    We believe because we have been persuaded by the Truth of God's Word.  And that believing results in Faith; and with Faith we receive the Holy Spirit and His Power. And with that faith and power we are to demonstrate God's Power.  It's all about action; all about doing something to achieve a goal -- to stand against the wiles of the devil, thereby glorifying our God who gives us eternal life.  Here's the reality -- Faith is the bold, committed act of your will; your determination [and single-mindedness] to act on behalf of God and His Kingdom. Faith requires us to take action. Let your faith be a verb!

Romans 4:20   "But he did not doubt or waver in unbelief concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and empowered by faith, giving glory to God"