JESUS AND THE CHILDREN – ACCOUNTABILITY

jesus-children

“13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” – Matt. 19:13-15

It is interesting that Matthew and Mark (Mk. 10:13-16) call the children in these Scriptures “paidion” (young children) while Luke (Lk. 18:15-17) calls them “brephe” (a new born baby). There was probably quite a range of ages represented. The disciples thought it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be distracted from His more important work by children, so they scolded the mothers who were pressing forward with their little ones.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant with this action of His disciples. Great emphasis is given throughout the Scriptures on the importance of the proper care and training of children, and yet many pastors, like the disciples of old, think it is below their dignity to minister to such. They always want to be delving into the “deep” things of God. Why waste their years of study and training on such simple folk? Relegate the children to those of lesser or no special training!

Both Mark and Luke record the further application which Christ made that unless one receives the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter in. Because children are of such a trusting nature it is doubly important that they be given God’s truth to believe, and to be protected from false teaching which they would receive with equal readiness. Parents who take the attitude: “I am not going to force my beliefs on my children. I am going to let them grow up and choose what to believe for themselves,” are not only unwise but are definitely disobedient to the Scripture (Prov. 22:6).

There are certain Christian denominations which teach that the Church is spiritual Israel and therefore heir to Israel’s covenants. They believe that the children who are members of their church family are children of the covenant and therefore have a special relationship to God which other children do not enjoy. They believe baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so that at baptism the infant is regenerated as a child of the covenant. Some call this “presumptive regeneration,” that is, they presume the child is regenerate until later in life the contrary becomes evident. Thus, churches become filled with young people who presume they were regenerated at baptism but are in fact un-regenerated. Regeneration takes place only in association with personal faith in Jesus Christ.

The logical conclusion of infant baptismal regeneration is that unbaptized children are lost and if they die in an unbaptized state, they will be forever separated from God. Rome tries to mitigate this harsh doctrine by teaching that such infants do not actually go into the fires of hell but are confined to a place called “limbus infantium,” forever shut out from heaven.

Much confusion and harm has been done by a failure to distinguish between Israel and the Church of this dispensation, and the relation of people to the covenants of Israel. Baptism never took the place of circumcision in New Testament times. Both were practiced concurrently by the believing Jews. No child is regenerated by baptism. Children are born with a sinful nature and need to be saved as they become able to personally receive Christ as their Savior. They need the redemptive work of Christ the same as an adult. And on the basis of that redemptive work, God is now free in His elective purposes to apply that work to any and every infant that He chooses to remove from this life in infancy. But God has not set an age of accountability, so that we can say, the child is covered by the work of Christ until he is six or twelve years of age. That age may differ widely with different individuals. We cannot begin too early to tell our children the story of God’s great love and grace in giving the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (29)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 5)

23.  Parable of the Unjust Steward

Reference: Lk. 16:1-13

Alford in the Greek Testament states: “No parable in the Gospels has been the subject of so much controversy as this.” The main problem concerns the commendation of this unjust steward by his master. Some contend that according to the laws that governed stewards, this man had the right to discount bills and thus he actually did nothing amiss in thus ingratiating himself with his master’s creditors.

Others think his action in discounting the bills was illegal and that the master’s commendation was not an approval of the act of bilking him out of his rightful due, but simply a recognition of the shrewdness and sagacity of the steward in planning for his future welfare. But if the steward was guilty of malfeasance, why did not the master have him arrested? One answer is that the steward, knowing he would be fired, made up out of his own pocket the amounts he had allowed the creditors to discount their bills, knowing that he would be more than repaid by the favors he might expect from the creditors.

The Companion Bible makes vs. 9 a question: “Do I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness?” And the answer is, “No.” The Living Bible paraphrase also gives this sense, holding that the end does not justify the means. Although the exact meaning of the parable may be hard to come by, it is clear from what follows that it was spoken against the Pharisees, for we read that they being covetous “derided him.” The word “derided” is derived from the word for “nose,” and means “they turned up their noses at Him.” The ancients had an expression, “to hang on the hooked nose,” that is, to turn up the nose and make a hook of it, on which to figuratively hang the subject of ridicule.

The general lessons from the parable are that worldly people show more wisdom in making provision for their future material needs than the children of light do in making provision for their future in the Kingdom; that faithfulness or unfaithfulness do not depend upon the size of the responsibility; that unfaithfulness in caring for another’s goods unfits one for being entrusted with true riches; and that it is impossible to serve two masters.

24.  The Rich Man and Lazarus

Reference: Lk. 16:14-31

There is, of course, a vital connection between this story and what has gone before. Jesus has been dealing in particular with the Pharisees who were sticklers for law observance, and yet many of their traditions had negated the law. That is why Jesus told the parable of the unjust steward, for the Pharisees were lovers of money (covetous – vs. 14); and why He brought up the matter of divorce, for the Pharisees had liberalized divorce far beyond the permission of the law. And that is why He told the story of Dives (Latin for rich) and Lazarus, for no doubt the rich man represents the Pharisees.

This story is often called a parable, although the Scripture does not do so. Since this story, if factual, proves the falsity of all views about death being soul-sleep or non-existence, those who hold such views claim that this is a parable and suppose that they have eliminated the objections posed by this story. But whether it is a parable or not has not the slightest effect upon its reference to death. A parable is a figure of speech in which a story from real life is used to illustrate some higher truth. If consciousness does not continue after death, then it would be impossible to base a higher spiritual truth upon a statement which is false.

Consider, for example, the parables in Matt. 13. If a sower never sowed seeds but only rocks, the parable of the sower would be ridiculous, for rocks never sprout and produce fruit. The same would hold true for the parables of the tares and the mustard seed. If a field was not a plot of ground but only a mental concept, then hiding a treasure in a field would be meaningless. If pearls were dead leaves, it would not make sense for a man to sell all that he had and invest his entire fortune in one dead leaf. If nets were never cast into the sea but only into a vacuum, how could it trap all kinds of fish? And likewise, if death is always complete unconsciousness or non-existence, as some claim, how could the dead be represented as talking to one another?

There are numerous doctrinal questions raised by this story. Perhaps the most evident one is: Was Lazarus saved because he had no enjoyments in this life, and was Dives lost because he did have enjoyment? The context gives ample evidence of why Dives was lost. As representative of the Pharisees he was a hypocrite (12:1); he denied the claims of Jesus Christ (12:9); he was a rich fool (12:20,21); he was an unfaithful steward (12:47,48); he was unrepentant (13:5); he refused John’s baptism (7:30), thereby rejecting the counsel of God. No statement is given why Lazarus was saved, but perhaps his name throws some light upon his character. Lazarus is the Greek name for the Hebrew Eleazar, which means “God is helper.” The fact that the beggar is named but the rich man is not is significant. God calls His own by name.

There is also an eschatological question: Is Abraham’s bosom heaven and is hell or hades where the rich man went, the lake of fire? Apparently, the story dealt with the then present time, for the rich man’s brothers were still alive. The lake of fire had not yet been opened up, but after it is, hades will be cast into it (Rev. 20:14). Although the final judgment had not yet taken place, the unsaved were already in a place of suffering.

Old Testament saints at death went to sheol (Hebrew equivalent to the Greek hades), Genesis 37:35, grave is sheol. Therefore, it would seem that Hades must be divided into two parts, for the saints did not go to the same place as the wicked, yet both went to sheol. The story of Lazarus does present two places with a great gulf fixed between them. Many also believe that Christ went to Hades, for God’s promise was that His soul would not be left in that place (Acts 2:27). Some believe that when Christ ascended He led all of the souls of the saved in the upper compartment of Hades into heaven itself. However that may be, it must be remembered that the saved have not yet been perfected in their resurrection bodies.

Luke 16:24 might seem to contradict this fact, since Dives prays that Lazarus might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his parched tongue. How could disembodied spirits have fingers and tongues? In answer we can say only that man was made in the image of God, and that God is pure Spirit, and yet God can speak; the Bible speaks  many  times  about  God’s  hand  and  His  arm  (Ps.  44:3;  Isa.  52:  10), and other members which we associate with the body. If pure spirit without bodily parts can have faculties comparable to our bodily parts, it may well be that the human spirit without the physical body has similar counterparts.

This parable or incident from history, whichever way it may be understood, teaches several important lessons. God’s people should have social concern for those less fortunate. The greater wealth God permits one to gain, the greater the responsibility to use it for the good of others. Riches in the life to come are far better than riches in this life.

Decisions made in this life endure for eternity. After death there is a great gulf fixed between the saved and the unsaved. There will be no second chance after death. There is conscious existence after death, either of joy or of sorrow. On the part of the unsaved they would do anything to keep their relatives and friends from sharing their fate. God has given us His Word and if we won’t be persuaded by that Word, nothing will persuade us, even though one rose from the dead. People often say they would believe the Bible if they could see someone come back from the dead and tell them about it. The fact is that some One has come back from the dead and has told us all about it, and still they refuse to believe, all of which shows their insincerity and pretense.

25.  Repentance and Forgiveness

Reference: Lk. 17:1-6

Compare this passage with Matt. 17:20; 18:6,7,15,21,22. Children often play pranks on their fellow-playmates, such as tripping them and causing them to stumble or perhaps fall. Sometimes such pranks can cause very serious injury. It seems that as we grow up, we are prone to transfer this trait from the physical to the moral and spiritual, where the results are even more serious.

Christ said that in the world, constituted as it is, it is inevitable that occasions of stumbling will come, but woe to the one who causes them. The word “skandalon” (from which we get our word scandal) meant originally the part of a trap where the bait was fastened, and then it came to mean a snare or the trap itself. In Scripture it is always used metaphorically of anything that causes prejudice, that hinders others or causes them to fall or stumble. It is translated “occasion to fall (stumble), offense, thing that offends, stumbling block. Almost always the cause of stumbling is evil, as in the present case. On the other hand, the wicked may be caused to stumble by that which is good in itself. Christ Himself is called a “rock of offence,” (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8; 1 Cor. 1:23), and a cause of stumbling to those who are disobedient to the Word. The preaching of the Cross was a stumbling block to Israel. Paul speaks of “the offence of the cross” (Gal. 5:11). Romans 11 is all about Israel’s stumbling and fall. In vs. 9 we read: “And David said, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them.”

Paul shows that the misuse of Christian liberty can be a cause of stumbling: “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion of falling in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13). He also shows that teachings contrary to sound doctrine can be occasions of stumbling (Rom 16:17). Especially serious is that which causes a little child or a young Christian to stumble and go astray. A mature person should be able to protect himself from tripping over such stones and is therefore the more responsible.

A failure to forgive may also be a cause of stumbling. Christ goes on to say: “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against thee seven times in a day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” There is a great deal of teaching in the Bible about forgiveness and the impression is often gained that forgiveness should be granted to all, regardless of their sins or their attitude. In this teaching of Christ, it is plain that forgiveness is to be granted only after repentance or change of mind on the part of the one who has sinned. God is surely the most gracious and forgiving One in the universe, but does He forgive the unrepentant? Those who refuse to admit they have sinned and therefore refuse to receive the gracious gift of salvation? We may do great harm both against the offender and the one offended by granting blanket forgiveness without any indication of change of attitude on the part of the offender.

We can feel with the disciples when the Lord told them to forgive a brother who offends seven times in one day. That almost seems too much. We can almost hear them sigh: “Lord, increase our faith.” The Lord spoke much in parabolic language and we take His words to have this meaning, when He said: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye would say unto this sycamine (actually the black mulberry) tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea, and it would have obeyed you.” This is in itself a parable in answer to the disciples’ request for more faith to be able to live up to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. Faith is compared to a mustard seed. The seed is planted in the ground where it has to overcome many obstacles in pushing its seed-leaves up through the hard, lumpy soil. A living faith is something like that; it has power to overcome all obstacles.

26.  Parable on Discharging One’s Duty

Reference: Lk. 17:7-10

The social order has changed much since Biblical times. Slavery was universally practiced. Whereas the word slave occurs but twice in the A.V., the word meaning slave but translated servant appears hundreds of times. Even though our social order has changed, so that we no longer find slavery permitted in most civilized societies, there are still two masters to whom men are slaves: either to God or to Satan. Paul states:

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves slaves to obey, his slaves ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the slaves of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you . . . But now being made free from sin, and become slaves to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:16,17,22).

God owns the Christian by right of creation and by right of redemption. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19,20).

The parable before us is based upon the duty of the slave to his master. The slave has certain duties which he is supposed to perform. He deserves no praise for doing only what is his duty. Service to the master comes first, before consideration of self. Therefore, Jesus says: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say ‘We are unprofitable slaves; we have done that which was our duty to do.'”

Although he has done all his duty, yet he has done nothing except what he ought to have done, so he can claim no merit for himself. He could claim to be profitable only if he had done more than his duty. This parable may give the impression that Jesus is a hard taskmaster, but from the Christian’s viewpoint, if he is truly humble, his very best service for Christ falls short of his ideal. But from the divine standpoint, even though we feel ourselves unworthy and unprofitable, yet He will reward even a cup of cold water given in His name. God sets us free from the slavery of sin and Satan, and we then yield ourselves to Him as His bond-slave. We must never forget that relationship.

27.  Raising of Lazarus

Reference: John 11:1-46

We have already considered its significance in connection with the raising up of the nobleman’s son who was at the point of death. It took place at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry when the nation of Israel was at the point of death, but now at the end of His ministry He has been rejected and Israel is dead spiritually. Having already considered the typical and dispensational aspects of this sign, we will point out a few matters of special interest.

When Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death,” it might appear that He was mistaken, since Lazarus did die. What He meant was that the final outcome of this sickness would not be death, but that which would glorify God in restoring life to Lazarus.

It seems strange that after saying Jesus loved, in a very special way, these two sisters and their brother that He would delay two whole days before setting out to help them. But God always does things at the right time, and Jesus knew by waiting two days Lazarus would have died and been buried four days before His arrival, and this would give Him the opportunity to demonstrate that He was indeed the Resurrection and the Life, by bringing back to life one whose body had already gone into corruption. No doubt God often delays in answering prayers for similar reasons. The sisters were probably saying, “O, if He would only hurry and get here in time.” And then after He did arrive, all they could say was, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” But Jesus had told His disciples: “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there.” If we were going to see a loved one who was critically ill we would be sad and disappointed to learn that he had died before we could get to him. If he had been there Lazarus would not have died, for no one ever died in His presence, and He would not have been able to perform this sign.

We have already seen a difference in the spiritual character of Martha and Mary (Lk. 10:38-42). Martha makes a good confession of her faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and in her belief in the resurrection, and she says exactly the same thing to Jesus that Mary said a little later: “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” But when Mary spoke these words and Jesus saw her weeping, we read: “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him?” and “Jesus wept.” There was something in Mary’s spirituality that touched Jesus far more deeply than in Martha’s.

No doubt the raising from the dead of Lazarus can be used as an illustration of salvation when a spiritually dead person is raised to life. First, it is important to understand that this work of regeneration is wholly the work of God. Jesus did not say, “Now, Lazarus, you do your part and between the two of us we will get you back to life.” Jesus simply shouted: “Lazarus, come forth.” And he came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes. This was a double miracle. He came out of the cave-tomb even though his binding was tightly wrapped so that he couldn’t move his hands or feet. Although the giving of life is entirely the work of God, there are things that man can do and is responsible for doing. Man could roll away the stone from the door of the tomb, and man could loose him from the grave clothes. Both of these things are the responsibility of the Christian ministry. But sad to say, many converts never get fully loosed from the grave clothes so they can enjoy the freedom and liberty there is in Christ Jesus. Christ spoke of the Son setting us free and Paul exhorts us to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free (Gal. 5:1), and not to be bound with the grave clothes of ritualism.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (28)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 4)

17.        How Many Will Be Saved?

Reference: Lk. 13:22-30

This is a question which many, no doubt, have asked. In our modern world comparatively, few are professing Christians and fewer yet are truly saved people. How was it back in Israel in Jesus’ day? Jesus did not answer this man’s question directly, but instead appeals to his questioner to strive to enter in at the narrow door. (Gate in the A.V. should be door, for it is an entrance to a house.) Christ does not state what the narrow door is, but it is the door that leads to eternal life and salvation.

In a similar illustration in Matt. 7:13, Jesus said: “Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus in other places declared that He Himself was the Door and the Way, and it seems most reasonable to give that meaning to the “door” before us in this passage.

The door and the way do not lead to heaven as such, but to the Messianic Kingdom which will be established on the earth. When Christ returns the door will be closed and it will be too late to try to enter. There will be great weeping among the unsaved when they see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets, along with those from the east and west, north and south, sit down at the banquet, and themselves cast out. When we remember that there will be great tribulation just before Jesus returns to earth, it will be better understood how different the way will be for those who received Jesus as Messiah. While the principle of Christ as the Way is the same today, our Gospel message is not to strive to enter it, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His vicarious death in order to be saved.

18.        Jesus Warned About Herod’s Plot

Reference: Lk. 13:31-33

Jesus, at this time, was journeying from Perea toward Jerusalem through Galilee. Galilee was Herod’s jurisdiction (Lk. 23:7). The Pharisees, surely not to protect Jesus, but apparently to frighten Him, told Him: “Get out of the country; for Herod has determined to kill you.” But Jesus knew their intentions and replied: “Go tell that fox.” It is illuminating the figures under which the Bible characterizes certain people. The Gentiles were referred to as dogs, an unclean and vicious animal at that time. His disciple Simon He called a Rock. He refers to Himself in the verses that follow as a lowly hen who projectingly gathers her chicks under her wings. But Herod was a fox. He had murdered John the Baptist and numerous others in his quest for power. What was the message they were to carry back to Herod?

“Behold, I cast out demons and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” There is disagreement about the meaning of being perfected. The word, perfect, means to come to an end, and the question is whether Jesus meant His ministry in Galilee would be completed within three days or He would come to the end of His life. We know that His death did not occur within three days, and we do know that He soon after left Herod’s jurisdiction, so that He was out of Herod’s reach. It does seem however, that clearly implied in that “third day” and His being perfected was His death upon the Cross, for He goes on to speak of His death in the next verse: “Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem has been called the slaughterhouse of the prophets. What Jesus is saying is: “It would not be fitting for such a Prophet as I to be killed anywhere but in Jerusalem.” His mention of Jerusalem and its hostility to God’s prophets caused Him to begin weeping over this great city, the account of which follows in the next section.

19.        The Lament Over Jerusalem

Reference: Lk. 13:34,35

This lament over Jerusalem took place outside the land of Judea. After He reached Jerusalem He lamented over the city again as recorded in Matt. 23:37-39. Perhaps the most striking thing about this lament is not the tender compassion of Jesus for a people who hated Him, but the mystery of the interaction of the Divine will and the human will. The words, “how often would I” and “ye would not” are actually the words for “to will.” “How often I willed to do it, but you willed otherwise.” There are some who believe that there can be no such a thing as human will if God’s will is sovereign. Others practically make man’s will sovereign by discounting the will of God. But both can be interpreted as being taught in Scripture and human wisdom may not be able to reconcile the existence of both. Some of the difficulties associated with this subject may be alleviated by recognizing the distinction between the two words used for will in the Greek N.T., “thelo,” and “boulomai,” the former implying more the idea of wish, desire, and the latter more the idea of the deliberate exercise of the will, determination. But with all of the lexical helps there is still an unbridged gulf in our understanding of this subject and between Calvinism and Arminianism.

Christ further declared: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” and “Ye shall not see me, until the time when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The temple was originally God’s house, but Christ now calls it “your house.” It is evident that this prophecy was not fulfilled until the year

Before 70 A.D., when the Romans under Titus destroyed the temple, God gave Israel another opportunity to repent and receive the Kingdom, but again they rejected Christ, persecuted His Apostles and blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

20.     Two Parables In the House of a Chief Pharisee

Reference: Lk. 14:1-24

Although the Pharisees opposed Jesus, it seems that He was often invited into their houses to eat. Their motives most often seemed to be that they might find something in His teaching to condemn Him. This occasion took place on the Sabbath day. They were constantly looking for Him to break the Sabbath, the penalty for which was stoning to death (Num. 15:31-36). There was a man present who was afflicted with dropsy and Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. By now they apparently had learned not to answer Jesus’ questions, for every time they did, they got themselves into deeper trouble, so they remained silent. Jesus then healed the man and let him go. He asked them again, as He so often did, if their ass or ox fell into a pit on the Sabbath would they pull it out on the Sabbath day? And again, they remained silent.

A. The Parable of the Ambitious Guest. This parable was evoked by the actions of the guests who tried to beat the others to the seats of honor at the table. The parable is a simple lesson in courtesy and humility in social behavior, but it surely has spiritual applications also. The one who exalts himself will be abased and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. There may be exceptions to this rule, at least temporarily, in the social realm, but not in God’s realm.

Then Jesus turned to His host who had invited Him and told him when he made a feast not to invite his friends and relatives and rich neighbors, for they would repay him by inviting him to feasts in their homes. Instead, he should invite the poor and crippled and blind who could not recompense him in this life, then he would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. The principle is that men will not be rewarded or recompensed by God in resurrection if they have already been rewarded in this life (cf. Matt. 6:1-7). It is certain Jesus did not intend by this parable that people should not be hospitable to family and friends. He was speaking here of parties given to ingratiate one’s self with others for ulterior motives.

B. The Parable of the Great Supper. One of the guests upon hearing Jesus’ words said, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Jesus answered him with a parable, the nature of which indicates that this seemingly pious remark actually indicated that the man looked upon himself as an elect Israelite who had been predestinated to eat bread at the Messiah’s table in the Kingdom, but who had actually been making excuses in summons to God’s invitation.

This certain man made a great supper and invited His guests: “Come, for all things are ready.” But they all had what they thought were legitimate excuses. So, the Host told His servants to go out into the streets and alleys and bring in the poor and crippled and blind. Having done this the servants reported there were still empty seats, so He sent them out again into the highways and hedgerows to compel them to come in until the house was filled. “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”

There can be no doubt that the ones that were bidden were the people of Israel, particularly the leaders, the rulers of Israel. The poor and crippled and blind are not necessarily representative of the Gentiles, although we know that in the Kingdom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Paul states an important principle in Rom. 9:6: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Mere physical descendants of Abraham are not children of the promise. There is a spiritual Israel but they are also physically the seed of Abraham (Gal. 6:16). Gentile Christians have made the mistake of making themselves to be spiritual Israelites.

21.     Parables on Counting the Cost

Reference: Lk. 14:25-35

The healing miracles of Jesus made Him very popular with the common people. Great multitudes followed Him, but they were following Him largely for what they might be benefited and not because of love or dedication to Him. So He turned and said: “If any man come unto me and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” No doubt Jesus was using hyperbole, for to actually hate father and mother is to break God’s commandment. And Paul states: “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh” (Eph. 5:29). What He was saying is that no man could be His disciple who places love for anyone else, even his own self, above his love for Him. He was God and the Law demanded love with the whole of man’s being and powers toward God, while at the same time requiring love for others. If present day church rolls were called of all who did not meet Jesus’ requirement, there would be a drastic drop in membership statistics. We are prone to go for numbers, to make grace to mean relaxation of responsibility, to make Christianity popular. Jesus had only a “little flock” (Lk. 12:32) of real disciples, in spite of the fact that great multitudes thronged Him.

Both the parable of the tower and the parable of the king going to war teach the same lesson. The lesson is stated in vs. 33: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean a literal forsaking of parents or wife or children, which would be desertion, which again would be the breaking of God’s Law, but one who does not so dedicate all that he has to Christ cannot be His disciple.

Both of these parables are most often misinterpreted. In the first a man planning to build a tower sits down first and counts the cost to be sure he has sufficient money to complete it. Not to do so and having to leave it half finished would expose him to ridicule. This is usually interpreted to mean that before one becomes a Christian he should sit down and see if he thinks he has enough strength to hold out to the end, and if he decides he doesn’t he should forget the whole idea of becoming a Christian. The same interpretation is given to the parable of the king going to war. The king sits down first and consults with his generals whether his army of ten thousand can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. And if he sees he has no chance of a victory he sends a message ahead before the battle begins desiring conditions of peace. This stronger King has been made to represent Satan and before declaring war on the Devil one should be sure he is strong enough to defeat him.

But the true interpretation of these parables is just the opposite. When or where in Scripture did God ever tell people to sue for peace with the Devil? Or where did He ever tell people to be sure they were strong enough to live a good life before becoming a Christian? If Scripture teaches anything, it is that the natural man is weak and sinful and incapable of doing anything to please God. And who is the King who confronts the sinner, if it is not Satan? It is God. When we see our weakness and sinfulness and our inability to fight against Him, all we can do is to sue for peace. Don’t wait until the judgment day and then go into battle for your goodness and righteousness. One who thinks himself sufficient to confront God in that way will turn but like the salt in the following parable (vs. 34,35), which lost its savor and was good for nothing but to be cast out. Refer to Matt. 5:13 and Mk. 9:50 for other references to salt.

22.     Three Parables of Lost Things:

The Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Lost Son

Reference: Lk. 15

These parables were spoken to the Scribes and Pharisees who were complaining because Jesus was receiving sinners and eating with them. They not only did not consider themselves to be sinners; they isolated themselves from those they called sinners and had only hatred for them. Jesus was just the opposite.

In these parables He portrays God’s joy and rejoicing over the repentance of sinners. It is most common for us to talk about the joy of sinners upon finding salvation, but Jesus emphasized the joy of the Father in finding sinners. Grace is emphasized more in Luke than in either Matthew or Mark. The word “grace” does not even appear once in those two gospels, but it is found eight times in the Greek in Luke. The word does not occur in these parables but the working of grace is clearly manifested. The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin manifest the grace that seeks out the sinner, and the Lost Son manifests the grace that receives the sinner. There is a parable about the Lost Sheep also in Matt. 18:12 which was given as a conclusion to Christ’s teaching about little children, which reinforces the truth that children need to be saved. They are not automatically saved because they are children. A terrible condemnation rests upon one who offends or leads astray one of these little ones.

It is most important to distinguish between repentance and salvation. Repentance is a change of mind and this change of mind is always involved when one is saved. However, one may change his mind and still not be saved. Repentance is not sorrow for sin, although it often does and should result in such sorrow, but sorrow for sin is not to be equated with salvation. Many other factors are involved in the act of salvation. However, one may be truly saved and still have the need for repentance (cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-12).

The question therefore arises whether the parable of the Prodigal Son best represents the original salvation of a sinner, or the restoration of a saint. This problem is complicated by the fact that the Jewish people were, for all practical reasons, in covenant relation with God, which in a sense made them all children of the covenant and children of God. The emphasis of John’s and Jesus’ preaching was repentance for this straying, sinful chosen people of God.

Today, the covenants as such are suspended. No one by nature has a privileged place before God. God has placed all on the same plane and all must believe the gospel about Christ’s death and resurrection to be saved. Only truly saved people are children of God today: under the covenants a whole nation was the people of God which included many whom we would not consider having been saved. This fact is borne out further by the older son in the parable. All acknowledged that he represented the Pharisees, but the Pharisees were the chief enemies of Christ who plotted to have Him put to death, and yet the Pharisee is pictured as a son, and not only as a son, but as a son who had stayed with the father faithfully serving him. To apply the parable to salvation today one must make some changes in the story to fit the facts. For today it might better represent two saved persons, one who had gone away into deep sin and the other who had become self-righteous and unloving.

It will be well to notice a few principles from this parable. The younger son said, “Give me.” This was the moment of his fall. He fell as soon as he desired his father’s wealth apart from his father’s presence and fellowship. Sinners never fall up, they always go down and it was not long before the son found himself down in a pigpen, eating what the swine left. The boy came to himself and then came to his father. The Holy Spirit speaks first to the conscience and then to the heart. The father saw him when he was a great way off and ran and kissed him. No one turns to God without God meeting him more than halfway. The father did not reprimand his son and tell him to go take a bath and find himself some decent clothes. He kissed his son and told the servant to prepare a feast and to bring the best clothes and robe him royally. The son hoped only that his father might take him back as a hired servant, but the father honored him as his son.

The other son was angry and refused to take part in the celebration, thus revealing the true heart condition of the Pharisee who professed to be righteous and law abiding. Actually, he was hateful and opposed to God’s love and mercy and grace.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 2 Of 2)

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DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us?

A) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DO

Some people believe that the dead do indeed see what is happening here upon the earth. In other words, our dead loved ones know the intimate details as to what is taking place in our daily lives. The biblical arguments for this idea are as follows:

1) The Rich Man Could See Lazarus

The Scripture says that the rich man in Jesus’ story could see the dead beggar Lazarus in the unseen world. We read of this in Luke’s gospel:

“In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23 NRSV).

Lazarus was visible to the rich man. The fact that the dead can see others apart from themselves may indicate the dead can view what the living are doing.

2) Abraham Knew Details Of The Life Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Also in this account, we find that Abraham was aware of details of the life of the rich man as well as the beggar Lazarus. We read the following:

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish’” (Luke 16:25 ESV).

Abraham knew that Lazarus had suffered while the rich man lived in comfort without any regard for the needs of others. The fact that he knew these details may give further indication that the dead know what the living are doing.

3) There Is A Cloud Of Witnesses Watching Us

The writer to the Hebrews says that the people who are presently living are surrounded by a number of witnesses. He put it this way:

“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1,2 CSB).

The witnesses are able to see the believers who are on the earth. Consequently, they know what is happening to us.

4) The Martyrs Knew What Happened On The Earth

The Bible says that the martyrs in heaven knew what was happening on the earth. We read of this in the Book of Revelation:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV).

They wanted to know how long it would take for victory to be granted, for their lives to be avenged. They were told to rest a while longer because the number of the future martyrs was still incomplete. It seems that they could only ask the question because they were observing events here upon the earth, or at the very least, knew what was going one.

In addition, the fact that they were told to rest a while longer further indicates they knew exactly what was happening on the earth. We also find that those in heaven were conscious that Satan was being defeated. Again, we read of this in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10 ESV).

They knew Satan had been thrown out of heaven to the earth. We also find these believers in heaven rejoicing at the fall of Babylon. This is also revealed in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“But you, O heaven, rejoice over her fate. And you also rejoice, O holy people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her on your behalf” (Revelation 18:20 NLT).

These passages are thought to teach that dead can see the living or at least know what they are doing.

B) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DON’T

While there are passages that seem to teach that the dead do indeed know what is happening to the living upon the earth, others feel the Scripture does not either teach, or imply, that the dead know what the living are doing. Indeed, they believe that there are better ways to understand these passages.

The main arguments which are given, that the dead do not know what is occurring on the earth, are as follows.

1) The Dead Do Not Know About This Life

To begin with, there seems to be a number of statements in Scripture about the dead not knowing what the living are presently doing.

In the Book of Job, we find that Job said that the father, who had died, did not know whether his sons were rich or poor. He states it in this manner:

“They never know if their sons grow up in honor or sink to insignificance” (Job 14:21 NLT).

Though this could refer to his present earthly knowledge, it may also apply to him in the afterlife.

However, this statement is found in the section of the Book of Job where Job and his friends are trying to determine why Job was suffering so greatly. Later, the Lord would call their discussion “words without knowledge.”

Consequently, we must be careful in using any statement from them to determine the truth of what goes on in the next life.

2) There Is No Knowledge In The Grave

The Book of Ecclesiastes also says the dead have neither knowledge nor wisdom of what is happening in this life. It says:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).

This passage teaches lack of knowledge on the part of the dead. This, however, may be speaking of things from a human or observational perspective.

From our vantage point here upon the earth, it appears that the dead do not know anything which is going on. Consequently, this passage should not be used to give a definitive answer to the question.

3) Abraham And Jacob Do Not Know What Is Presently Going On

From a passage in the Book of Isaiah we find that two of the patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob (Israel), do not know what is presently happening upon the earth. In other words, they have no knowledge as to what their descendants are doing. The passage read as follows:

“You are our Father. Even though Abraham doesn’t know us and Israel doesn’t pay attention to us, O LORD, you are our Father. Your name is our Defender From Everlasting” (Isaiah 63:16 God’s Word).

This is thought to be another indication that the dead have no knowledge of what is presently happening on the earth.

Again, this statement may only be speaking of something that could possibly happen; not necessarily something that does happen.

In addition, the passage says that Abraham and Israel may not acknowledge or pay attention to the people. This does not necessarily mean that they are unaware of them or what they are doing. Consequently this passage is not conclusive.

4) We Are Not Told That Lazarus Could See The Rich Man

In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that the rich man could see Lazarus. However, we are not told that Lazarus could see the rich man. All this says is that unbelievers could see the believers, not the other way around.

In addition, it says nothing about seeing those on earth or knowing what they are doing. The rich man saw Lazarus in the realm of the dead, not the realm of the living.

5) Abraham Knew Details Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Furthermore, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham, in heaven, knew of the earthly details of the lives of Lazarus and the rich man. This does not necessarily mean he could see them while they were living or that he was observing their lives.

6) The Cloud Of Witnesses Are Examples Of Faith

The witnesses that are referred to in the Book of Hebrews are the heroes of faith mentioned in Chapter 11. There is no thought whatsoever in this passage of them knowing what is presently occurring on earth.

7) There Is No More Pain In The Next World

The Bible says the presence of the Lord is a place where there is no suffering or pain for the believer. If, however, the dead in heaven could see what their loved ones are doing on earth, they certainly would be in pain. They would see many of their loved ones on a course to eternal separation from God.

This is certainly inconsistent with what the Bible says about the situation of believers in the afterlife; they are in constant joy and happiness.

8) The Exact Situation With The Martyrs In The Book Of Revelation Is Unclear

The only possible example that we have in Scripture of the dead in heaven knowing what is going on here upon the earth is found in Revelation 6:9-11. In this passage, the souls under the altar cry out for vengeance. Yet there are other explanations of this passage which do not indicate that the dead are watching those on the earth or knowing what people are doing.

Indeed, all we are told is that these martyrs realize that they have not yet have had their deaths avenged. Nothing more. We do not find anything said about their understanding of precise details of what is happening on the earth. They are merely lamenting the fact that the number of martyrs keeps increasing.

This of course would lead them to conclude that their deaths have not been avenged. To draw the conclusion that they can see what is happening on the earth is not warranted.

Consequently, while we have a number of arguments which may teach the dead do know what is presently occurring upon the earth there does not really seem to be enough evidence to make a conclusive case. In fact, when we examine the totality of Scripture the idea that the dead know what the living are doing seems unlikely.

On Final Point: There Should Be No Attempted Contact With The Dead

Even if one believes that the Bible does teach that the dead know what the living are doing, this should NEVER cause anyone to attempt to reach out and contact them. As we stressed in a previous question, any attempt to do so will result in deception. We again call to mind what the Lord said.

“So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? “Check their predictions against my testimony,” says the LORD. “If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no ight or truth in them” (Isaiah 8:19,20 NLT).

Therefore, even if one supposes that their dead loved one is watching them here upon the earth this should never be a justification of trying to talk to them. They can be of no help whatsoever to us. We are to talk to the Lord and to Him alone.

CONCLUSION

While there are seemingly some passages in Scripture that may indicate that the dead know what the living are doing there are other passages in Scripture that seem to contradict this idea. As far as we know on the earth, the dead know nothing. We know from other parts of Scripture that they are conscious in the next world.

It would seem to be inconsistent with the idea of total happiness in the afterlife if the dead know what the living were presently doing. How could they really enjoy the blessings of heaven if they were observing the living in their current state?

So, do the dead believers know what the living are doing? From the totality of Scripture we would have to conclude that this is highly unlikely.

Indeed, the Scriptures are clear that the dead cannot truthfully communicate with the living. God forbids this practice of attempting to contact the dead in the strongest of terms.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 1 Of 2)

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Upon death, the soul, or spirit, of the believer goes immediately to be with the living God. Believers are alive and conscious in this state. In the Bible, there is no idea of a period of soul sleeping. The blessings of Christ are received immediately.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER IMMEDIATELY UPON DEATH?

The intermediate state for the believer is the time in which the spirit, or soul, exists between physical death and the resurrection of the body.

Though the Bible does not devote a lot of space to this topic, there are some basic conclusions we can make. They include the following.

1) The Spirits Of The Believing Dead Are With God

The spirits of departed believers are with the Lord. This Bible clearly teaches this. For example, we read in Ecclesiastes:

“The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV).

The writer to the Hebrews also makes it plain. He wrote the following.

“You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23 NLT).

There are, at this moment, redeemed people in heaven. Their perfected spirits reside in the presence of the Lord while awaiting their resurrection from the dead.

Jesus also talked about believers being with Him in the next world. In His prayer to God the Father shortly before His betrayal, trial and death, He said the following:

“Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation” (John 17:24 CSB).

Jesus desired that those who had trusted in Him would be with Him in the afterlife. This is a further indication that the spirits of the believing dead are with the Lord.

2) Believers Are Immediately In Christ’s Presence At Death

We also discover that, at death, the spirit of the believer immediately enters into Christ’s presence. There are a number of illustrations of this in the New Testament.

The Criminal Next To Jesus

Jesus promised the dying criminal on the cross that he would be with Him immediately after death. Luke records the following:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV).

This promise also applies to each of us who believe. We will immediately be with Christ in paradise upon our deaths.

The Testimony Of Stephen: Jesus Is Waiting For Believers

Upon his death, the martyr Stephen called upon Jesus to receive his spirit. We read of this in the Book of Acts:

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:55-59 ESV).

This is another indication that the believing dead go immediately to be with Christ.

The Teaching Of The Apostle Paul

To The Corinthians, the Apostle Paul also taught that believers would be in Christ’s presence upon their death. He wrote:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling . . . We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2,8 NIV).

Paul said that being “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord.” The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT).

To The Philippians Paul wrote::

“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23 NKJV).

Paul says that his death would be far better for him than remaining alive because he would be in the presence of Christ.

The Example Of Lazarus In Jesus’ Story

In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, when the beggar Lazarus died, the Scripture says that he was immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord.

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:22,23 ESV).

The rich man in Hades saw both Lazarus and Abraham. Each was in a better place than the existence which he found himself. They were with the Lord!

Therefore, from these five examples, it seems clear that believers go to be immediately with the Lord upon their death.

3) The Intermediate State Is Not The Place Of Final Reward

Though there is an in-between state for believers, it is not the place of their final reward. In other words, it is an incomplete state. Final rewards will occur after the resurrection of the dead, which is still future. Though Christians who die go to be with the Lord, this is not the time when they receive their final reward, or their resurrection body. This is something which still awaits them in the future.

4) Believers Are Conscious After Death

Believers, however, are in a state of awareness after their death. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. He reminded them what the Lord had said to Moses at the burning bush.

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32 NRSV).

At the time the Lord made that statement to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years. Yet God said that He “is” their God, not that He “was” their God. This means they were still alive in His presence though they had been physically dead for many years.

This is another indication that there is a conscious existence for the believer after death.

5) Believers Will Live Together With The Lord

Paul told the church at Thessalonica that believers, once united with the Lord, will always be with Him. He put it this way:

“He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return” (1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT).

The wonderful promise is that believers will live together with the Lord for all of eternity.

6) The Intermediate State Is A Place Of Rest And Blessedness

We also find something else from Scripture. Those who die in Jesus Christ are in a restful state. The Bible says:

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until [the number of] their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been, would be completed” (Revelation 6:9-11 CSB).

These martyrs, while in a restful state, needed to rest a little longer before the Lord avenged their death.

We also read that those with the Lord are said to be “blessed.” The Book of Revelation puts it this way:

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13 ESV).

The presence of the Lord is indeed a place of blessing.

7) There Is Activity In The Intermediate State

Though the intermediate state is a place of waiting, it is also a place of activity. We read about this in the Book of Revelation where it describes those believers who have died.

“That is why they are standing in front of the throne of God, serving him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will live among them and shelter them” (Revelation 7:15 NLT).

The intermediate state does not consist of inactivity. In fact, it is a place of service.

8) It Is A Place Of Holiness

The believers who have died are presently in a state of holiness. In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John asked an angel the identity of certain individuals. This angel gave the following answer to the prophet:

“And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14 NKJV).

The clothes that they are wearing, white robes, speak of holiness. They had been washed white with the blood of the lamb.

9) Spiritual Growth During The Intermediate State

While it may be possible for some type of growth or development in the in-between or intermediate state, the Bible is completely silent on the matter. We do not know, one way or the other, if there is any spiritual growth for the believing dead. If the Bible is silent then we should not speculate. We simply do not know the answer.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE INTERMEDIATE STATE

There are other observations that need to be made about the intermediate state. They can be summed up as follows.

1 There Is An Emphasis On The Final State

Though we have some information from the Bible concerning the intermediate state, it is not something that is emphasized. The hope of the believer is the coming of Jesus Christ. It is at that time the dead are raised in a glorified body, judged, and receive their rewards. The intermediate state is only a short interval between this life and the fullness of God’s promises. Hence, this is the reason for the lack of emphasis on the intermediate state.

2) There Is A Limited Amount Revealed

In addition, the Bible only reveals a limited amount of information about what goes on in the presence of the Lord. Paul wrote of his experience.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know– God knows. And I know that this man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4 NIV).

We find from these verses that Paul was not allowed to tell what he had experienced. If we knew exactly how wonderful it was, we probably would not be content to remain on the earth for one more hour. Being with the Lord will truly be an incredible experience!

Although believers have a natural curiosity about the intermediate state, Scripture focuses on the time when Jesus Christ returns. At that time, He will raise and judge the dead, and then set up His everlasting kingdom.

The Lord will then bless His people with such wonderful things; things that our minds presently cannot even imagine.

DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us? These questions will be answered in part 2 of our series.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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A FEW FACTS ON THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

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1 PREMILLENNIALISM IN THE EARLY CHURCH

Most of the earliest Church Fathers believed in a literal kingdom on earth which would follow the return of Christ. Philip Schaff, an amillennialist historian admitted:

“The most striking point in the eschatology of the Ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origin, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustine) opposed it…. It distinguishes, moreover, two resurrections, one before and another after the Millennium, and makes the millennial reign of Christ only a prelude to his eternal reign in heaven, from which it is separated by a short interregnum of Satan.” – Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church 2.XII.158.

2 WHY A MILLENNIAL KINGDOM?

Old Testament and New Testament promises require it.

Scripture contains many prophetic passages which include promises which require an earthly kingdom for their fulfillment (e.g., Mat. 19:28). Without a future earthly kingdom, huge portions of the Old estament must be spiritualized into meaningless generalities.

Biblical covenants require it.

Four unconditional covenants were made with Israel: the Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, and New covenants. Elements of each of these covenants remain unfulfilled and require a future earthly kingdom to bring them to pass. For example, Israel must occupy the Promised Land in peace, never to be removed again (Amos 9:1415).

Passages which don’t fit now or the eternal state.

The Old Testament contains numerous passages which cannot find fulfillment in the present state nor the eternal state. They describe a time of great blessing which is far beyond our current experience, but which includes birth, sin, death (Isa. 65:20), and the sea none of which are found in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1, 4).

To demonstrate righteous rule in the original creation.

With Jesus ruling from the throne of David on earth, the world will see what life should have been in the original created order which was “very good.”

3 MILLENNIAL PASSAGES

Identifying Millennial Passages

In many cases, Millennial passages can be readily identified because they describe an incredible time of blessing and promise, but they contain elements which are abolished in the eternal state. Watch carefully for passages which sound like “heaven on earth,” but which include mention of sin, death, rebellion, judgment, a Temple, or the sea. None of these occurs in the eternal state and provide indicators that a millennial passage may be in view. Also look for the transition between the Tribulation (or Day of the Lord) with great judgment and bloodshed, followed by promises of restoration.

Key Millennial Passages

Although there are many millennial passages, some of the most prominent include: Ps. 72:1-20; Isa. 2:2-5; Isa. 11:1-10; Isa. 66:19-24; Eze. 37:21-28; Eze. 47:1-12; Zep. 3:8-12; Mic. 4:1-13; Zec. 14:8-11, 16-21; Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Acts 1:6-7; Rev. 20:46.

4 BIRTH AND DEATH IN THE MILLENNIUM

Raptured and Resurrected Saints

Raptured and resurrected saints participate in the Millennial Kingdom, but they do not contribute to the growth in population because they have glorified bodies (Mark 12:25).

Living Saints Survive the Tribulation

Isaiah indicates children will be born and people will die at a great age (Isa. 65:20). Who bears these children? They are from the faithful who remain alive on earth at the Second Coming. This includes the believing Jewish remnant, many who were kept safe (Rev. 12:6) and other Jews and Gentiles which managed to survive. They enter the kingdom from the “sheep and goat judgment” (Mat. 25:3134).

No Post-tribulation Rapture

This precludes a posttribulational rapture. If all the believers are taken in the Rapture at Christ’s return and then immediately return to earth, there are no believers left in their natural bodies to form the initial birthing population of the Millennial Kingdom.

5 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

Duration

One thousand years. (Rev. 20:25)

Theocratic Rule

God will rule in the person of Jesus Christ on the throne of David. King David reigns as a prince under Christ. (2Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:20-37; Isa. 24:23; Jer. 30:9; 33:15-17; Eze. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; 45:22; Dan. 7:13-14; Hos. 3:5; Luke 1:30-33)

Representative Rule

The twelve apostles will represent Christ ruling over the twelve tribes. Church age and Tribulation saints will represent Christ ruling over the Gentiles. (Isa. 32:1; Dan. 7:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev. 3:21; 5:10)

Universal Rule

Christ’s rule will extend both spiritually and literally over the entire earth. (Ps. 2:69; 72:8; Dan. 2:44; 4:34; 7:14, 27; Mic. 4:12; Zec. 9:10)

Seat of Government

The earthly Jerusalem will be restored, blessed, and greatly expanded to serve as the seat of government and worship. (Isa. 62; Isa. 65:18-19; Eze 48:15-19; Luke 21:24; Rev. 11:2)

Global Environment

The heavens and earth will be renewed to restore the environment to Eden-like conditions and repair the damage from man’s long reign of abuse and the judgments of the Tribulation period. (Isa. 65:17; Mat. 19:28)

Populace

Resurrected and glorified saints will rule in the midst of Christ’s “brothers” (the faithful Jewish remnant), and the “sheep” (faithful Gentiles) who survive the Tribulation and enter the kingdom to form its initial population. Children will be born to those who enter the kingdom in their natural bodies. (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 26:19; 65:20, 23; Mat. 25:31; Rev. 20:4)

The Curse

Many aspects of the curse (Gen. 3:1519) will be reversed. People will live to a great age, but death will still occur. As before the flood, animals will revert to vegetarianism and will no longer fear man. Living waters will flow from beneath the Sanctuary of the Temple bringing life to the regions they water. (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:20, 25; Eze. 47:8-12; Zec. 8:4; 14:8 (cf. Rev. 21:12)

Productivity

The earth will be fruitful and men will enjoy the fruit of their labors. (Ps. 67:6-7; 72:16; Isa. 35:1; 55:13; 65:22; Joel 2:24-26; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14)

Mt. Zion

The region of Mt. Zion will be lifted up to form the Mountain of the Lord’s House (where the Millennial Temple will be). (Isa. 2:2; 56:7; Eze. 20:40; 40:2; Zec. 14:4, 10-11; Mic. 4:1)

Israel

Israel will finally inhabit the Promised Land permanently and in peace. She will serve as the focal point of the nations because Jesus will reign from Jerusalem. (Gen. 13:15; 17:8; 1Chr.17:9; Ps. 105:8-11; Isa. 60:21; Jer. 3:18; 7:7; 30:3; 31:8-9; Eze. 37:25; 39:25-29; Amos 9:11-15)

Peace

All implements of war will be destroyed in favor of implements of productivity. Nations will no longer go to war. Disagreements between nations will be judged by Christ from Jerusalem. (Ps. 72:37; Isa. 2:5; 9:7; Eze. 37:26; Mic. 4:3)

Worship

A temple will stand in Jerusalem and all the nations will go up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles. Sacrificial offerings will be resumed. (Isa. 2:3; 56:6-7; 60:20-23; Eze. 43:20, 26; 45:15, 17, 20; Jer. 33:18; Dan. 9:24;

Joel 3:18; Hab 2:7-9; Zec. 6:12-15; 8:20-23; 14:16-21; Mal. 3:35)

Demonic Realm

Satan will be bound in the abyss and demons will be imprisoned in the regions of Babylon, Edom, and possibly the abyss. (Isa. 34:8-17; Rev. 18:2; 20:3)

Language

The curse of Babel (Gen. 11:7), which introduced varied languages will be reversed. All the earth will have one language. (Zep. 3:8-12)

(Source: Tony Garland – Spirit & Truth)

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MODERN PROPHETS AND BIBLICAL PROPHETS

prophets1

In these modern days, many people love to add the title of Prophet to their names. Towards the end of the Jesus’ earthly ministry, His disciples came to Him with several questions concerning the future: “Tell us … what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus responded: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”

It is it is our duty as watchmen and watchwomen on the tower, to warn Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to deceive and to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony.

How could the people in biblical times tell the difference between a genuine prophet of God and a fraud? The mere claim that someone had the prophetic gift certainly did not make it so. How would the people know which person spoke for God and who did not? What were they to do?

The Lord made provisions for this problem. The Bible lists certain tests for a genuine prophet of God. Moses recorded God as saying:

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18.18-22 NIV).

There are a number of things we can learn from what the Lord has said about who had the prophetic gift and who did not.

  1. They Were To Speak In The Name Of The Lord

From this passage, we observe that a prophet of God must speak in the name of the Lord. The prophet shall not encourage the people to follow after false gods.

No matter how correct a prophet may seem to be, if he, or she, does not encourage people to follow the Lord, the God of Israel, then that person cannot be considered a prophet of God. Merely getting some future events correct is not enough to be considered a genuine prophet of God.

This is primary.

  1. They Were 100% Right 100% Of The Time

Another characteristic of Bible prophecy is that the biblical prophet must be 100% right 100% of the time. If a prophet is representing the Lord, then their predictions will always be without error.

As soon as a so-called prophet makes one mistake, then that person is no longer able to be called a prophet of the true and living God. God’s prophets did not make mistakes! The prophet Habakkuk wrote:

“The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 CSB).

The words of the Lord, through the prophets, will indeed truly come to pass, and they will not be late! Indeed, when the Lord predicts the future what He says always comes to pass.

  1. They Had To Give Evidence Of Authenticity Of Their Gift In Their Lifetime

A practical question arises. How would the people know if a particular prophet was sent by God? Anyone could claim to have the prophetic gift.

What if someone claimed to be God’s prophet, yet predicted events that would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years? How could the identity of the prophet be established?

God provided a simple method so that the people would know if this person was actually speaking for the Lord. Their authenticity, as a genuine prophet, would be demonstrated by making a specific prediction of something locally that would happen in their own lifetime.

In other words, before that person could be received as God’s prophet to the people, they had to give supernatural evidence of their calling. This would be evidence which everyone could weigh and evaluate.

An Example: The Local Prediction Of Isaiah

For example, Isaiah the prophet spoke to King Hezekiah about the possible attack of the Assyrian army. He made the following prediction:

“Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it” (Isaiah 37:33 CSB).

The prophecy was clear. Although the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army, there would be no destruction whatsoever.

Furthermore, there would not even be one arrow shot into the city by the enemy. This specific prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Bible says:

“Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the [next] morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned [home] and lived in Nineveh” (Isaiah 37:36-37 CSB).

Therefore, we have an immediate fulfilment in the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah that demonstrated he was speaking for God. His words came to pass exactly as he said that they would.

The same test held true for other biblical prophets. They had to make a specific, local prediction which would be literally fulfilled in their lifetime before they could be considered as one of God’s true prophets.

Consequently, the people of God would never have to wonder who was truly speaking for Him. A genuine prophet would always be right, would encourage the people to follow the Lord, would command them not to follow other gods, and would accurately predict some event in their own lifetime. Those who passed all of these tests would qualify as a true prophet of God.

The Prophet Could Not Play Any Part In The Fulfilment Of His Or Her Prediction

We should also emphasize that those men and women who gave the divinely-inspired prophecies, the biblical prophets, could not play any part in their fulfilment.

In other words, the predictions they made had to be completely fulfilled apart from anything that they said or did. Consequently, the genuine prophet of God could have absolutely nothing to do with the precise fulfilment of their predictions. This had to be the work of the Lord and of Him alone.

This sums up the tests that the biblical prophets had to pass.

Summary To The Question: What Are The Biblical Tests For A Prophet?

While many people in the ancient world rose up and claimed to be prophets of God, the Lord provided a way in which their claims could be tested.

Indeed, there were a number of tests the Scripture gave to identify a genuine prophet of God. These tests made it clear who was speaking for the Lord and who was not speaking for Him. We can summarize them in the following manner:

According to the Lord, a true prophet of the living God would always be correct in everything that he or she predicts. They could not make any mistakes when making predictions of the future in the name of the Lord.

If they made a mistake, then they could not be speaking for Him, for God does not make mistakes. This test must be passed.

In addition, the biblical prophet must encourage the people to follow after the Lord. This is crucial. It is not enough for the prophet to correctly speak of “things to come.” The prophet must also urge the population to serve the God of Scripture. Otherwise, he or she could not be considered as a genuine prophet.

(Main Source: Don Stewart – God Wants Us To Know The Future)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (27)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 3)

9.        The Leaven of the Pharisees

Reference: Lk. 12:1-12

There are a number of warnings against the leaven of the Pharisees, cf. Matt. 16:6, 11; Mk. 8:15, which the Lord described as hypocrisy. A hypocrite is one who plays a false part, one who feigns to be something other than he really is, an actor on the stage who wears a false face. But Jesus declares the day is coming when everything that has been covered up is going to be revealed, when things spoken in secret will be shouted from the housetops.

10.        Parable of the Rich Fool

Reference: Lk. 12:13-34

This parable is introduced as a result of an appeal of a bystander for Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him. Jesus refused, for He apparently saw that this request was motivated by covetousness. A man’s true life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Many a rich man has committed suicide because his riches couldn’t buy anything that satisfied him.

There are a number of principles which may be derived from this parable. A man who lays up treasure just for himself is a pauper towards God. The parable points out the uncertainty of life and of worldly riches. Man works hard to amass a fortune and when he is ready to enjoy it the stock market may crash, he may lose his health, or life itself. And what he has laid up for himself is left behind to be enjoyed and perhaps squandered by others. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is a commentary on this parable. “Yes, I hated all my labors which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that ú shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored” (Eccl. 2:18,19 cf. 5:10-17; 6:1,2).

There are many general lessons to be drawn from this parable; however, there are some important dispensational principles also which must be distinguished. These are primarily “Kingdom teachings” and they are addressed to the little flock to whom the Father was going to give the Kingdom (vs. 32). If the mark of a true Christian is selling all that he possesses and giving away every cent of it, there are not many Christians in the world. Many attempts have been made to establish Christian communism, where all things are had in common, as in Acts 4:32, but they have all ended in failure and delusion. The failure was not that of God’s Word, but of refusing to rightly divide that Word. Having all things common worked as long as God’s Kingdom program was in effect in the early Acts period, but after that program was set aside and God began a new dispensation under Paul, the old program fell apart.

By the end of the Acts period these people, who had had all things common so that no one lacked, found themselves destitute, so that Paul had to take up collections from the Gentile churches to help these poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27). Paul never tells members of the Body of Christ to sell all and give it away. He does tell the believer to work with his own hands, so that he might supply not only his own needs but the needs of others (Eph. 4:28; 1 Thes. 4:11), and if any would not work neither should he eat (2 Thes. 3:10). Paul does not tell the rich to sell everything, but he does charge them to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:17,18). Paul’s instructions on Christian giving are to be found especially in 2 Cor. 8 and 9, which he wrote in connection with this collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. If Paul’s Gentile converts had given away all of their possessions they would not have had anything left to give. Political and economic conditions will be vastly different in the coming Kingdom from what they are in the present world.

11.        Parables on Readiness for the Coming of The Son of Man

Reference: Lk. 12:35-48

There is great emphasis in the Kingdom teachings of Christ upon readiness for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world and to set up His Kingdom here on the earth (cf Matt. 24:42-51; 25:1-13; Mk. 13:34-37; Lk. 21:36).

There are actually three parables in this section. The first is based upon the bridegroom returning from the wedding and finding his servants ready and waiting for him. The second concerns the unexpected visit of the thief who breaks into the house, and the third that of a wise and an unwise steward, one who always acts in view of his master’s expected return, and the other who acts as though his master will long delay his return. This latter parable ends with a statement of principle upon which judgment will be based: greater punishment for those who knew God’s will but did not prepare themselves to do His will, and lesser punishment for those who did not know. Stated in another way: “Unto whom much is given much will be required. Unto whom little is given, less will be required.”

There is always the danger when speaking of judgments and rewards, to apply these things to the salvation of the soul. It will help to remember that no one, in any dispensation, receives salvation as a reward for his works or faithfulness. The unsaved who are finally cast into the lake of fire are judged and punished according to their works, and therefore there will be degrees of punishment. The saved will also be judged, but not for the penalty of their sin which has been forgiven, but for their service for Christ. This will result in reward or loss of reward. Believers in this present dispensation also are instructed to wait for the coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:7; Tit. 2:13), but this coming is not to earth to judge the world and to set up His Kingdom, but His coming in the air to catch up the Church in resurrection and glorification.

12.        The Baptism of Death

Reference: Lk. 12:49-59

Christ’s statement that He had come to bring division on earth rather than peace seems to contradict the angel’s announcement of peace on earth, good will toward men. His object in coming was to bring peace, but the effect of His coming was to bring fire and persecution and division, for the people were divided over Him.

Christ was baptized by John the Baptist at the beginning of His ministry, and now He says I have a baptism which will bring my ministry to a close. The first was a baptism in water, the second a baptism into death. This death baptism would be the culmination of the division among the Jews regarding Him. Through the Apostle Paul it has been revealed that the believer shares in His death baptism through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ (by the Holy Spirit) were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). For that reason, Paul could say, “I was crucified together with Christ.” None of this truth of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is to be found in the Gospels. It is part of the distinctive revelation given to Paul. (On this death baptism see also Matt. 20:22- 24 and Mk. 10:39).

Christ follows this with a denunciation of the people in that they were able to discern the signs which affected the weather, but were not able to discern or interpret the signs from the Word of God regarding the coming of the Messiah. “This time” in vs. 56 is the time predicted by the prophets, such as Dan. 9:25; see also Matt. 16:2,3.

Then Jesus asked why they could not judge what is right. They were in the wrong and He advised them to do as a man would who was being brought before a judge by an accuser. Settle the matter before you get into court or you will go to jail and stay until you have paid the last penny. This verse is wrongfully used by Roman Catholics to support the idea of purgatory. It is rather advice to get right with God before being hailed into the final judgment from which there is no release, for man can never atone for his own sins.

13.        Repent or Perish

Reference: Lk. 13:1-5

Public calamities often happen and we wonder why certain people should meet such fate. Had they committed some terrible evil? Was God punishing them for their sins? Two such calamities are here mentioned, one in which Pilate had shed the blood of certain Galileans, mixing their blood with the blood of the animal sacrifices they were offering, and the other the death of eighteen men when the tower of Siloam collapsed and crushed them. Jesus said that none of these unfortunate people were greater sinners than the rest, but He predicted, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” It is altogether possible that Jesus had in mind the coming destruction of Jerusalem in which great multitudes perished. The parable which follows bears this out.

14.        Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree

Reference: Lk. 13:6-9

There are three basic parables about the fig tree in the Gospels. In two cases the tree was unfruitful. In one it was cursed and withered away (Matt. 21:19), in the other it was cut down. (Cf. Matt. 24:32-35; Mk. 13:28,29; Lk. 21:29-31; for the sign of the Fig.)

Israel is depicted in Scripture under the figure of the Olive Tree, the Fig Tree, and the Vine (cf. Rom. 11:24-26; Isa. 5:7; Jer. 24:1-10). All three are mentioned in Jotham’s fable of the trees in Judg. 9:8-15. The Olive is an evergreen which has great length of life, and is thus a fitting type of Israel’s covenant blessing which will never fail. The Vine seems to refer more to Israel’s spiritual blessings, as set forth in John 15. The Fig probably represents Israel’s national blessings. The Fig was chopped down, but branches of the Vine and the Olive were cut off, so that the covenant and spiritual blessings still existed for those who believed.

The certain man of this parable represents Christ who came to Israel looking for fruit and found none. This is exactly what Christ did in Matt. 21:19 when He cursed the fig tree and it withered away. In this parable, however, the owner of the vineyard told the gardener that He had come for three years looking for fruit and had found none; therefore, cut it down. Why cumbereth it the ground? That is, why is it taking up valuable space and making the ground unproductive. But why did Jesus say, “three years” instead of perhaps two or five? Three years was the length of His public ministry to Israel. But notice that the Dresser of the vineyard interceded in behalf of the fig tree. He said, “Let’s give it one more year. I will cultivate and fertilize it, and if it then bears fruit, well and good, but if it doesn’t, then we will cut it down.”

Traditional interpretation cuts Israel’s fig tree down at the Cross, at the end of Christ’s three-year ministry, and begins an entirely new spiritual order on the day of Pentecost; thus completely negating the plain teaching of this parable. What about the extra year when Israel was to be given another opportunity? What are the historical facts?

First, we know that Christ did intercede for Israel as He hung upon the Cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Next, we know that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stated in Acts 3:17 that through ignorance Israel and its rulers crucified Christ. And finally, Peter still addressing the people of Israel states: “Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).

Whether one bases his teaching on this parable or not, the fact is that Israel was not set aside at the Cross, but because of Christ’s intercession Israel was given another opportunity in the early chapters of Acts to repent and receive her Kingdom blessings. If Israel and her Kingdom were not set aside in early Acts, then it is evident that a new and unprophesied spiritual order did not begin on that notable Pentecost. Instead it was the fulfillment and continuation of Israel’s prophetic Kingdom program.

15.        A Daughter of Abraham Healed

Reference: Lk. 13:10-17

It seems that Jesus intentionally performed many of His healing miracles on the Sabbath day, apparently to show that He was Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), and also that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27,28).

As Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath He saw this woman with a strange illness which Satan had brought upon her, so that for eighteen years she had not been able to stand up straight, but was constantly bowed over. He called the woman and laid His hands on her and pronounced her healed and immediately she stood up straight and glorified God. The president of the synagogue was indignant, got up and announced to the congregation there were six days in the week for working; therefore, come on one of those days to be healed. No wonder that Jesus stood up and no doubt pointed His finger at the ruler and said: “Thou hypocrite; does not each one of you untie your ox or ass and lead it out to drink on the sabbath? Ought not this daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound be loosed from her infirmity on the sabbath?” This rebuff shamed the leaders and the remainder of the people rejoiced for the glorious things Jesus had done. The contrast is between the bowed over woman who was made straight, and the upright indignant ruler who was forced to bow in shame.

16.        The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Reference: Lk. 13:18-21

They were told again here to meet the immediate need. The word “Then” in vs. 18 shows the connection between what went before and these two parables. The word is actually “therefore.”

Both parables begin with something small which grows into something large: a seed becomes a great tree, and a few cells of yeast multiply until all of the meal is permeated. This is what the Kingdom of God is likened unto. The usual interpretation is that the Gospel begins in a very small way in the hearts of a few and it grows until it converts the whole world. The only thing wrong with this interpretation is that it is contrary to the facts. The world did not get converted under the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel, and it is far from being converted after 2000 years of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God. It is also contrary to Scripture because Scripture plainly asserts a great apostasy will take place before the return of Christ.

Other parables liken the Kingdom to a field in which good and bad seed is sown and both grow up together until the return of Christ, and to a net cast into the sea that enmeshes both good and rough fish, or to different kinds of soil, some of which produces little if any fruit. Therefore, when we think about the Kingdom of which Jesus was speaking, we must not think of heavenly bliss with everything pure and holy. It is something like the temple at Jerusalem. It is called the temple of God. Jesus called it My Father’s house, but it had become a den of thieves (Matt. 21:12,13). Israel’s Kingdom was the Kingdom of God but it was filled with evil.

Some feel that the fowls of the air which lodged in the mustard tree are representative of Satan’s emissaries, as they apparently are in the parable in Mk. 4:4, which devoured the good seed before it could sprout. Likewise, leaven is always representative of the principle of evil at work. Leaven was excluded from the food and even the homes at Passover (Ex. 13:6,7). Jesus called the false teachings of the Pharisees leaven (Matt. 16: 6). Paul likened leaven to malice and wickedness and warned that a little leaven would leaven the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Thus these two parables explain how a daughter of Abraham in the Kingdom of God could be bound by Satan for eighteen years, and how the rulers of the synagogue could be so blinded as to rebuke the Lord for healing this woman on the Sabbath day.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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JOHN WALVOORD’S COMMENTARY ON REVELATION 12

Woman-Pregnant

THE CONFLICT IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH

Revelation 12 is a parenthetical section of the book of Revelation, which actually only ends at 14:20. Within this section seven primary characters are introduced: (1) the woman, representing Israel, (2) the dragon, representing Satan, (3) a male child, referring to Christ, (4) Michael, representing the angels, (5) Israel, the remnant of the woman’s seed, (6) the beast out of the sea, the world dictator, and (7) the beast out of the earth, the false prophet and religious leader of the world. Around these main characters swirls the tremendously moving scene of the great tribulation. Chapter 12 is the most symbolic chapter in the Bible’s most symbolic book.

THE WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN: ISRAEL (12:1–2)

12:1–2 “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

The first of the seven personages to be introduced in this section is the woman who is described as a great sign in heaven, clearly indicated to be someone of regal splendor. The word “sign” signifies a symbol of important truth rather than merely a wonder. Subsequently, six other signs are mentioned (12:3; 13:13–14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). This sign in verse 1 is distinguished by being called “great.” Though the sign is seen in heaven, it apparently portrays a reality on the earth, for the woman pictured is afterward persecuted by Satan in the great tribulation. The woman is pregnant and due to give birth to a son.

Many explanations have been offered for the identity of this woman.

She does not represent Christ, nor the church in general because the church did not give birth to Christ. On the contrary, Christ gave birth to the church. Since the woman’s child is obviously Christ, some have suggested this is Mary—an implausible identification given that this woman is persecuted in the last half of the tribulation. The Roman Catholic Church insists this is Mary, but the church also teaches that Mary gave birth to Christ without pain, a teaching that is contradicted by Revelation 12.

Rather, the woman is Israel as the matrix from which Christ came. By contrast, other representative women mentioned in Revelation are Jezebel (2:20), representative of false religion as a system; the harlot (17:1–7, 15–18), the apostate church of the future; and the bride, the Lamb’s wife (19:7), the church joined to Christ in glory.

The identification of the woman of Revelation 12 as Israel is consistent with Old Testament teaching. There Israel is frequently presented as the wife of Yahweh, often in her character as being unfaithful to her husband (cf. Hosea’s prophecy). Here is the godly remnant of Israel standing true to God in the time of the great tribulation.

The regal description of the woman is an allusion to Genesis 37:9–11, where these heavenly bodies represent Jacob and Rachel, thereby identifying the woman with the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

In the same context, the stars represent the patriarchs, the sons of Jacob. The symbolism may extend beyond this to represent in some sense the glory of Israel and her ultimate triumph over her enemies. This identification of the woman as Israel also seems to be supported by the evidence from this chapter. Israel is obviously the source from which have come many of the blessings of God, including the Bible, Christ, and the apostles. According to Isaiah 9:6, Israel is the source of the Messiah.

As noted above, the persecution of the woman coincides with the persecution of Israel. The woman as the nation of Israel is seen in the pain of childbirth, awaiting delivery of her child. Frequently in Scripture, Israel is pictured in the tribulation time as going through great trial and affliction. Though historically the nation gave birth to Christ through the Virgin Mary, the implication of verse 2 is that the references are to the sufferings of Israel as a nation rather than to the historic birth of Christ. It may refer to the sufferings of the nation in general over its entire history. If strictly interpreted, it may signify the pain of Israel at the time of the first coming of Christ as borne out by verses 3 and 4.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON: SATAN (12:3–4)

12:3–4 “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.”

The second sign appearing in heaven is a great dragon. From the similar description given in 13:1 and the parallel reference in Daniel 7:7–8, 24, it is clear that the revived Roman Empire is in view. Satan, however, is also called the dragon later in 12:9, and it is clear that the dragon is both the empire and the representation of satanic power. The color red may indicate his murderous characteristics (cf. John 8:44).

The seven heads and ten horns refer to the original ten kingdoms of Daniel 7:7–8, of which three were subdued by the little horn who is to be identified with the world ruler of the great tribulation who reigns over the revived Roman Empire.

The tail of the dragon is declared to draw a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. This seems to refer to the gathering under his power of those who oppose him politically, and also involves his temporary subjugation of a large portion of the earth.

The dragon is seen awaiting the birth of the child with the intent to destroy it as soon as it is born. The allusion here is unmistakably to the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (the dragon referring to the Roman Empire at that time as dominated by Satan) and the attempts of Herod to destroy the baby Jesus (cf. Matt 2:13–15). It is significant that Herod as an Edomite was a descendant of Esau and of the people who were the traditional enemies of Jacob and his descendants. Whether motivated by his family antipathy to the Jews or by political consideration because he did not want competition in his office as king, Herod nevertheless fulfilled historically this reference to the destruction of children in Bethlehem.

THE CHILD: CHRIST (12:5–6)

12:5–6 “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

The woman identified as Israel gives birth to a child who is destined to rule all nations with an iron rod (a reference to the Messiah from Ps. 2:9), but who for the time being is caught up to God’s throne. A similar expression is found in Revelation 19:15, where it is stated of Christ, “He will rule them with a rod of iron,” to be distinguished from His rule over Israel, which is of more benevolent character (cf. Luke 1:32–33).

While many Bible expositors have agreed that the woman is Israel, there has been considerable difference of opinion on the identity of the child. Some have argued that this is the New Testament church destined to reign with Christ and that the act of being caught up to God is the rapture. But the church is not the “child” of Israel, nor is the church’s mission to rule the nations. In addition, the child is clearly identified as a male, while the church is referred to in the feminine as the bride of Christ (cf. Rev. 19:6–8).

Though the pregnant woman is to be identified with Israel collectively rather than with the Virgin Mary specifically, the interpretation that the child is Christ Himself is far preferable. His catching up to God and to His throne seems to represent His ascension. An alternative view is that the “catching up” refers to the flight to Egypt after Jesus’ birth to protect Him from Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13–15). But that incident does not satisfy the conditions of Revelation 12:5, where the catching up is to the throne of God in heaven.

The Greek verb for “caught up” in verse 5 is a form of the word harpazō. This word is sometimes used to mean “to seize” or “to catch up,” as a wild beast would its prey, as in John 10:12 where the wolf “snatches them and scatters them.” The same word is used for the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the church is caught up to heaven, and is likewise used of Paul being caught up to paradise (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), and of the Spirit of God catching up Philip (Acts 8:39).

If the identification of the twenty-four elders is properly to be regarded as the church in heaven, it would seem to mix metaphors to have the church represented as a male child, especially when the church is regarded in chapter 19 as the wife and bride. There is no good reason for not identifying the man-child as Christ and interpreting the drama of verse 5 as describing His ascension, as noted above. The fact that He is caught up not only to God but to “his throne” is another indication that Christ is intended.

In verse 6, the attention is directed back to the child’s mother, Israel. Here she is seen in the time of great tribulation fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared by God where for 1,260 days she is cared for (again, the exact length of three-and-a-half years). There is obviously a tremendous time lapse between verses 5 and 6, but this is not an uncommon occurrence in prophecy; the first and second comings of Christ are frequently spoken of in the same sentence. Since Israel is comparatively tranquil and safe in the first three-and-a-half years of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:27), the reference must be to the preservation of a portion of the nation Israel through the great tribulation to await the second coming of Christ.

SATAN CAST OUT OF HEAVEN BY MICHAEL (12:7–9)

12:7–9 “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

Though the conflict of the end of the age is primarily on earth, there will also be war in heaven. Michael and his angels (that is, the holy angels) fight against Satan and the evil angels associated with him, with the result that Satan and his hordes are thrown out of heaven. The description of Satan in verse 9 is significant as all of his important titles are given: “the dragon,” a term that also applies to the empire that he dominates in the end time; “that ancient serpent,” a reference to the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Eve; “devil,” which means “defamer” or “slanderer,” the master accuser of believers; and Satan, meaning “adversary.” This name is mentioned fourteen times in the book of Job, and occasionally elsewhere (1 Chron. 21:1; Ps. 109:6; Zech. 3:1–2). Given Satan’s all-out opposition to God, it is fitting that the Greek construction of verse 7 indicates that the dragon will start this war.

The concept that there is a spiritual warfare in the very presence of God in heaven has been resisted by some expositors, preferring to regard this war as being fought in the atmospheric or the starry heaven rather than in the very presence of God. The event here prophesied was predicted by Daniel the prophet in Daniel 12:1, where it is recorded that Michael shall “arise” as the one “who has charge of your people.” This event marks the beginning of the great tribulation described in Daniel 12:1. It is undoubtedly the same event as in Revelation 12.

It may seem strange to some that Satan should have access to the very throne of God. Yet this is precisely the picture of Job 1, where Satan along with other angels presents himself before God and accuses Job of fearing God because of God’s goodness to him. Thus early in biblical revelation, Satan is cast in the role of “the accuser of our brothers,” the title given him in Revelation 12:10.

From this point in Revelation, therefore, Satan and his hosts are excluded from the third heaven, the presence of God, although their temporary dominion over the second heaven (outer space) and the first heaven (the sky) continues. Satan’s defeat in heaven, however, is the occasion for him to be cast down to earth and explains the particular virulence of the great tribulation time. Note that even as Satan accuses believers before God day and night prior to his being thrown out of heaven, so the four living creatures of 4:8 do not stop day or night to ascribe holiness to the Lord.

This is another place where we must let the words and events of Scripture speak for themselves and take them at their face value unless compelled to do otherwise. Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (literally, “the inhabited earth”), is now limited in the sphere of his operation. A major step is taken in his ultimate defeat. Believers in this present dispensation, who are now the objects of satanic attack and misrepresentation, can rest assured of the ultimate downfall of Satan and the end of his ability to afflict the people of God. Though the events of this chapter deal in general with the end of the age, it is clear that they do not come chronologically after the seventh trumpet. Rather, the fall of Satan may be predated to the time of the seals in chapter 6, or even before the first seal. His fall begins the great tribulation.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF SATAN’S WRATH AND THE SAINTS’ ULTIMATE VICTORY (12:10–12)

12:10–12 “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

The loud voice making this important announcement is not identified and probably cannot be with certainty. Some have ascribed this voice to God Himself, others to the angels, the twenty-four elders, or the martyred saints in heaven mentioned in 6:10, because they also cry with a loud voice. Support for the latter view is given in that in the same verse the loud voice mentions “the accuser of our brothers.” This would seem to eliminate angels and indicate believers in heaven. The “loud voice” may very well be the shout of triumph of the tribulation saints longing for and anticipating their ultimate victory.

The salvation mentioned here is not salvation from the guilt of sin but salvation in the sense of deliverance and completion of the divine program. The reference to strength implies that now God is going to strengthen His own and manifest His own power. The kingdom being announced is the millennial kingdom when Christ will reign on the earth. Coupled with this is the power or authority of Christ. The expression “his Christ,” also used in 11:15, parallels “his anointed” in Psalm 2:2, a reference to God’s Messiah against whom the kings of the earth rebel but under whose authority they are certain to come.

The victory of the saints in that hour is revealed in verse 11 through the use of three strong spiritual weapons. Satan’s accusations are nullified by the blood of the Lamb that renders the believer pure and makes possible his spiritual victory. The word of the believers’ testimony opposes the deceiving work of Satan in that the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The believers also exhibit total commitment to their task in which many of them die as martyrs. The word for “loved” is a form of the familiar Greek word agapē, which describes the love of God. Though these believers do not foolishly seek a martyr’s death, they do not regard their lives as more precious than their witness for Christ. They follow the instruction given to the church in Smyrna (2:10) of being faithful unto death, as well as the example of the Savior, who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15; cf.  Matt. 16:25).

The voice from heaven continues, exhorting those in the heavens to rejoice because of this great victory. At the same time, the voice pronounces a solemn woe upon the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea. The awfulness of the hour ahead is attributed to the fact that the devil has been thrown down to earth and is about to unleash his wrath on the earth’s inhabitants.

The short time Satan has, refers to the great tribulation after which he will be bound for the duration of the millennial kingdom. Though many of the judgments of God inflicted on the earth during the great tribulation originate in divine power rather than satanic influence, the afflictions of the inhabitants of the earth spring largely from the activities of Satan, resulting in the martyrdom of countless saints and in widespread human suffering of every kind.

THE PERSECUTION OF ISRAEL IN THE GREAT TRIBULATION (12:13–16)

12:13–16 “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.”

Satan immediately turns his anger toward Israel. This apparently is the beginning of the great tribulation of which Christ warned Israel in Matthew 24:15–22. This had its foreshadowing in Herod’s slaughter of the infants following the birth of Christ (Matt. 2:16). It seems here to refer specifically to the great tribulation that is yet future. The persecution of Israel is a part of the satanic program to thwart and hinder the work of God. As far as Israel is concerned, this had its beginning in the miraculous intervention of God required to bring about the birth of Isaac and fulfill this portion of the promise to Abraham.

Satan used other means thereafter to persecute the descendants of Jacob, including the effort in the time of Esther to blot them out completely.

Israel is hated by Satan not because of any of its own characteristics, but because she is the chosen of God and essential to the overall purpose of God for time and eternity.

The divine intervention of God thwarts this attempt at satanic persecution. The figure of the “two wings of the great eagle” seems to be derived from Exodus 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:11–12, and similar passages where God uses the strength of an eagle to illustrate His faithfulness in caring for Israel. The same flight is indicated in Matthew 24:16, where Christ warns those in Judea to flee to the mountains.

Some have felt that the reference here is to some specific place such as the rock city of Petra, in the southern part of modern Jordan, as the end-time city of refuge for the Jewish people where at least a portion of Israel might be safe from her persecutors. Fruchtenbaum makes a strong case for Petra, pointing to clues in Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14; Isaiah 33:13–16; Micah 2:12; and Daniel 11:41. Benware links this time of tribulation with Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, which relates to the Gentiles’ treatment of Israel as the nation undergoes this persecution.

Verse 14 implies that there is some supernatural care of Israel during this period such as that which Elijah experienced by the brook Cherith (cf. 1 Kings 17:5), or that which Israel experienced during the forty years she lived on the manna in the wilderness. Whether natural or supernatural means are used, it is clear that God does preserve a godly remnant, though according to Zechariah 13:8, two-thirds of Israel in the land will perish.

The time element of Israel’s suffering is described as “a time, and times, and half a time.” This again seems to be a reference to the three-and-a-half years of tribulation. A parallel reference is found in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 referring to the same period of great tribulation. The dragon is here called a serpent (cf. Matt. 10:16; John 3:14 where the word is used in other contexts; Rev. 12:9, 14–15; 20:2 where “serpent” is used in connection with the devil).

The flood sent by Satan to destroy Israel and God’s supernatural protection have been the subject of various interpretations. This may be a literal flood, but the contour of the Holy Land and the fact that Israel’s people would probably not all flee in the same direction combine to make such a literal, physical interpretation improbable.

It is more plausible to understand this symbolically. The flood is the total effort of Satan to exterminate Israel, and the resistance of earth is the natural difficulty in executing such a massive program. The terrain of the Middle East provides countless places of refuge for a fleeing people. Though the exact meaning of these two verses cannot be determined with certainty, the implication is that Satan strives with all his power to persecute and exterminate the people of Israel. By divine intervention, both natural and supernatural means are used to thwart the enemy’s program and carry a remnant of Israel safely through their time of great tribulation.

THE PERSECUTION OF THE GODLY REMNANT OF ISRAEL (12:17)

12:17 “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”

The godly remnant of Israel is identified by their faith in Christ, “all those who name the name of Jesus Christ.” While the program of Satan is against the Jewish race as such, anti-Semitism as a whole will reach its peak against Jewish believers during this period. There is a double antagonism against those in Israel who turn to Christ as their Messiah and Savior in those critical days and maintain a faithful witness.

Undoubtedly, many of them will suffer a martyr’s death, but others will survive the period, including the 144,000 sealed in chapter 7.

In some versions of the Bible such as the New International Version (NIV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the phrase translated here as “and he stood on the sand of the sea” is part of Revelation 13:1, although in the Greek text it is listed as Revelation 12:17. The English Standard Version (ESV) better reflects the Greek text, which suggests that the dragon is the subject of the verb “stood,” rather than John and also ties the dragon more closely to his origin in the sea. The reading “I stood,” meaning John, is found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts, but the reading “he stood,” meaning the dragon, is attested by the better manuscripts.

Taken as a whole, chapter 12 is a fitting introduction to the important revelations given in chapter 13. Here are the principal actors of the great tribulation with the historic background that provides so much essential information. Israel, Satan, Christ, the archangel, and the godly remnant figure largely in the closing scenes of the age. Next, the two principal human actors are then introduced: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth, the human instruments that Satan will use to direct his program during the great tribulation.

(Source: John F Walvoord – Revelation)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (26)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 2)

6.     The Feast of Dedication Reference: John 10:22-42

The feast of dedication was not one of the original Mosaic feasts in Israel. This feast was established during the inter-testament period by Judas Maccabaeus when he freed Jerusalem and the Temple from the Greeks in 164 B.C. It was held on the 25th of Chisleu (December), which seems to be good evidence that Jesus was not born on that day. Just three years to the day after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple it was rededicated. The word dedication means “renewal.” It was also called the feast of Lights. For the eight days of the festival lights were kindled in the temple and in every Jewish home. Solomon’s porch, according to Josephus, was a remnant of the original temple of Solomon which had remained intact after the Babylonian destruction. It was on the east side and the morning sun would warm the place on a winter morning.

The Jews asked Jesus, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus had told them plainly on several occasions and He repeats His claim to Messiahship again. Jesus attributed their unbelief to the fact that they were not His sheep and therefore did not hear His voice. The case was just the opposite with those who were His sheep.

Verses 28 and 29 are very strong security promises for the believer. “I give (not will give or may give) unto them eternal life and (if it is eternal then it must be true) they shall never perish.” The believer is pictured as being held in the hand of Christ, and His hand held in the Father’s hand, so that no man will ever be able to snatch him out of those almighty hands.

Christ follows this, not only with the claims of Messiahship, but with equality with the Father: “I and my Father are one.” The Greek reads: “I and my Father one we are.” The verb is plural and “one” is neuter singular. If “one” had been masculine, it might have implied “one person.” The neuter implies “one in essence.” The statement thus affirms the distinction of Persons in the Godhead and the unity of essence and nature. But this claim of equality with God, perfectly understood by the Jews, angered the Jews and they took up stones again to kill Him for blasphemy. They could find no fault with the good works which Jesus had done, but for a man to make Himself God was too much. Then Jesus quoted Scripture to them, as He often did: “Is it not written in your law, I have said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”

You will notice that Jesus said that this was written “in your law,” that is, the Jew’s law, which means God was calling certain Jews gods. This fact is further emphasized in the statement “to whom the word of God came.” The word of God came only to the people of Israel back then. This does not mean that God called every Israelite a god; howbeit, He did call them all, children of the most High (Ps. 82:6). This verse begins, “I have said,” indicating that God had said this previously.

If we turn back to Ex. 21:6 and 22:8,9, we discover that the word translated “judges” in these verses is the Hebrew “Elohim,” or gods. Moses is also called a god in Ex. 7:1. Thus God called the judges, the prophets, and the rulers “gods” as being His representatives. Jesus is not saying that He is a god only in the sense that the judges of Israel were called gods. But rather, if they could be called gods in an official sense, how much more properly could He, who was sealed and consecrated by the Father, be called, Son of God. After answering their charge of blasphemy He appeals again to the character of His works: If they don’t bear the character of the Father, don’t believe me; but if they do, which you have admitted, believe the testimony of the works, even though you don’t believe me, that you may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in Him. Again, they would have stoned Him but He escaped out of their hands. So Jesus went away again “beyond Jordan” where John at the first had baptized and there He abode and many believed on Him, for John’s testimony of Him had proved to be true.

We should point out that Jesus also defended the infallibility of the Scripture on several occasions: here, when He asserted: “The scripture cannot be broken.”

7.     Discourse on Prayer Reference: Lk. 11:1-13

This chapter begins with Jesus teaching some disciples to pray, as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. Jesus used almost the same format for prayer as we find in the sermon on the mount. The setting here in Luke seems altogether different from that in Matthew, although the wording of the prayer is very similar.

A The Parable of the Importunate Friend.

Jesus follows this instruction with two parables on prayer. The first is that of the Importunate Friend, and is found only in Luke. On the surface prayer seems to be a very simple thing, simply making request for a particular need. But there is more in the outworking of prayer than human wisdom can fathom. Men rationalize that if God has foreordained and foreknown everything that will ever happen from the beginning, how can man’s prayer cause anything different to happen? We can answer only by saying that God has ordained the means as well as the result, and prayer is often the means. Thus, God foreknew that a missionary would have a particular need and that He would supply that need, but He also foreknew that a group of believers ten thousand miles away would pray for that need and their prayer would be answered.

The present parable deals with the importunity of prayer. Importune means to urge with frequent application, press urgently, be insistent. The parable seems to be saying that if one keeps on asking long enough God will finally give in and grant the request. But on another occasion the Lord said: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). The parable is not encouraging man to act like a selfish child, always crying, “Gi’me! Gi’me!” There is more to real prayer than simply saying, “Bless the foreign missionaries,” and then taking the attitude you have discharged your duty and there is no further need to talk to God about it until another urgent request is received. Prayer should be born of concern. If a loved one is at the point of death, we do not pray in that fashion. We continue in prayer pouring out our hearts, and that is a good Pauline admonition: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). The teaching of the parable seems to be if we can by importunity obtain our requests from an unwilling friend, how much more can we expect to receive from a willing Giver?

B The Parable of Fatherhood.

This is a self-explanatory parable of God’s willingness to give good things to His children. Often people think of God only as a Judge whose only motive is to catch us doing wrong, to punish, and to take away our pleasures. God is, of course, a righteous Judge, but the believer has passed out of judgment into God’s family and now knows God as a loving Father. The objects which Christ contrasted in this parable: a stone for a loaf of bread, a serpent for a fish, and a scorpion for an egg, might seem odd at first sight, but there is a similarity in appearance between these pairs of objects. There are also contrasts between an earthly father and the Heavenly Father and between good material gifts and spiritual gifts.

Apparently the Lord did not mean that the Father would give the Person of the Holy Spirit to those who asked, for Christ made it plain that the Holy Spirit could not come as an indwelling presence until He had ascended to the Father (John 16:7). In the Greek text Holy Spirit appears without the definite article, and this usage usually means gifts or endowments of the Spirit. Christ also told His disciples while He was with them the Holy Spirit was also with them, but that later on He would be in them. Believers in the present dispensation do not have to pray that God would give them the Holy Spirit; nor do they have to tarry for Him (Lk. 24:49); they receive Him and are sealed by Him upon believing (Eph. 1:13, where the present participle “after ye believed” should be translated, “upon believing”). Both of these parables lend great encouragement to the child of God to make request to His heavenly Father.

8.     Conflict With the Pharisees

A The Unpardonable Sin: Matt. 12:22-32; Mk. 3:22-30; Lk. 11:14-23.

After healing a man who was blind and dumb, the Pharisees accused Jesus of using Satanic power, but Jesus showed the inconsistency of such a charge, for in that case Satan would be fighting against himself and his kingdom would be destroyed. But if He was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, this was proof that the Kingdom of God had come upon them. He illustrated this truth with the parable of the stronger man (Christ) binding the strong man (Satan) and then spoiling his goods. Matthew and Mark give the added details of what is generally called the unpardonable sin.

Christ stated that all manner of sin against the Son of man would be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven: it is an eternal sin. This passage has caused many Christians to fear, lest they have committed this sin and have therefore lost their salvation. First of all, it should be evident that anyone who is sincerely concerned about being saved through faith in Christ has not committed this sin. In fact, after one has received the gift of eternal life and has been sealed by the Spirit unto the future day of redemption, there is no sin or power that can separate him from the love of Christ, or as we have recently seen from John 10, nothing that can snatch such a one out of the hands of Christ and the Father.

The unpardonable sin is usually interpreted as ascribing the work of Christ which He wrought through the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan, as these Pharisees were doing. It seems, however, there is a deeper meaning than this, for Jesus Himself prayed that these people who had thus accused Him and finally had Him crucified might be forgiven because they really didn’t know what they were doing. However, when the Holy Spirit was miraculously poured out at Pentecost and the people of Israel were enlightened by the Spirit (cf. Heb. 2:3,4; 6:4-6), they were no longer ignorant of what they were doing. We read in the book of Acts that the Jews blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, which means that that generation of natural Israel committed this sin and they could not be renewed unto repentance. This, we believe, is the true meaning of that sin. It was committed by Israel, and as such it is a sin which cannot be committed today. Every sin is forgivable through faith in Christ, and no sin is forgivable apart from faith in Him.

B The Unclean Spirit Who Returned: Matt. 12:43-45; Lk. 11:24-26.

All we know about demon spirits is what we read in Scripture. Jesus said that when such a spirit goes out of a man he walks through dry places seeking rest and finds none, so he returns to the man from whence he departed and finds the place swept and garnished and then brings with him seven other spirits worse than himself and the latter end of the possessed man is worse than the first. This is apparently not a case where a demon had been cast out by Jesus, for we cannot imagine that these people He healed ended up the worse for His healing. It seems that the demon left of his own accord, at least when he left, the man’s house or body was left empty, unoccupied.

When a person is saved today his body is occupied by the Holy Spirit, which rules out the possibility of an evil spirit coming back to take possession again. It seems that man’s body is either occupied or strongly influenced by either the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. Paul states that before we were saved, the prince of the power of the air was the spirit that was energizing us (Eph. 2:2). This does not mean that all unsaved people are demon possessed, but it does mean that Satan has access to their spirits and can mightily work in them. But thank God, the Spirit who energizes us is greater than Satan and will not permit him to take control of us, although when the Spirit is grieved and not allowed His rightful place in our lives it is possible for Satan to take advantage of us.

Some feel that this story of the unclean spirit is a case history of Israel. Israel became idolatrous in O.T. times; God sent them into captivity and they gave up their idolatry in reformation without actually committing themselves to God, and now in the days of Christ the demons have come back and the latter state of Israel is worse than it was at the first.

C The Mistaken Woman: Lk. 11:27, 28.

People often make the mistake of placing the emphasis upon the wrong thing. What they say is not necessarily untrue, but the truth is distorted. While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd, apparently admiring Jesus for His wonderful words and works, and perhaps wishing that she had had a son like that, shouted out: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!” The woman was blessing the mother of Jesus, rather than Jesus Himself.

Sad to say, this mistake has become a creed in Christendom. She is honored as the Mother of God, immaculately conceived, assumed up into heaven, where she intercedes for mankind with her Son, Jesus. Mary was indeed highly honored in being chosen to become the human mother of Jesus Christ, but the gentle rebuke of Jesus in answering this woman clearly indicates that Jesus did not give Mary the exalted place above Himself which Rome has given her. Jesus said, “Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” He did not dishonor His human mother, but as far as blessedness was concerned, any humble soul who heard God’s word and obeyed it was more blessed than His mother in the flesh.

D The Sign of the Prophet Jonah: Matt. 12:38-42; Lk. 11:29-32.

It will be noted that Matthew placed the sign of Jonah before the story of the unclean spirit, whereas Luke reverses the order. Matthew includes the statement: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,”(cf. Jonah 1:17), whereas Luke simply states: “For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” The men of Ninevah will rise up in the judgment and condemn the men of Jesus’ day, because they repented at Jonah’s preaching (cf. Jon. 3:5-10), and a greater One than Jonah was there present and they repented not.

The Queen of Sheba will also testify against those of Jesus’ day, for she came from a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon (cf. 2 Chron. 9:1-12), and a greater than Solomon was there. The generation which lived through the earthly ministry of Christ bore the greatest responsibility of any generation in the past. Earlier generations had much less light of revelation and yet in many cases they were more responsive than those of Jesus’ day. It is our belief that people in our present generation bear even a greater responsibility than those of Jesus’ day, for we have the full and completed revelation of God’s Word which leaves man totally without any excuse whatsoever.

E Parable of the Lighted Lamp: Lk. 41:33-36; cf. Matt. 5:15; Mk. 4:21; Lk. 8:16; Matt. 6:22,23. See notes on the above passages where this parable is expounded.

F Dining at the Pharisee’s House: Lk. 11:37-54.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner marvelled that Jesus did not baptize Himself before reclining at the table. It would have been a great service to the English reader if the translators had always rendered the Greek “baptizo” as baptize, instead of “wash” as in this instance. By saying that Jesus and His disciples did not wash before eating, the impression is left that Jesus paid little attention to bodily cleanliness. Also the true significance of baptism is veiled. Most Christians suppose that baptism has only one meaning and that it is a ceremony to be performed only once at the time they join the church. The Mosaic religion contained many baptisms, according to Heb. 9:10, and the Jews had added many more since Moses’ day. They ceremonially baptized themselves before every meal, as well as baptizing their eating utensils. Jesus not only did not practice these traditions of the elders, but stated that these practices had made void the word of God.

It was no doubt because Jesus understood what was going on in this Pharisee’s mind that He began pronouncing woes upon them. They washed the outside of the cup, the part that man could see, but left the inside dirty and encrusted with mold and corruption. If only they would cleanse the inside they would not have to worry about the outside. They obeyed meticulously the smallest outward requirements of the law, such as tithing of various things, but they passed over judgment and the love of God. They should have done the lesser outward things, but even more they should have done the weightier things that were inward.

He said they were like unmarked tombs that men trample underfoot without knowing it. In another place He called them whitewashed tombs, white on the outside but full of dead men’s bones. There were some lawyers present also, the experts in interpreting the Bible. And they said, “Master, you have insulted us also by your words.” And Jesus fearlessly flayed them also. They placed heavy burdens upon the laity but freed themselves from all obligation. They built tombs for the prophets which their fathers had murdered, thus consenting to the deeds of their fathers. And again we see the great responsibility which devolved upon that generation. He said that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the beginning of the world, all the way from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-22), would be required of this generation. The lawyers had taken away the key of knowledge; they had not gone in themselves and they stopped those who were trying to go into the Kingdom.

It had not been a very pleasant dinner party for the Pharisees and Lawyers. After dinner they became very bitter and tried to draw Him out on many subjects, hoping to pounce upon some incriminating statement, whereby they might condemn Him.

For further denunciations of the Pharisees, cf. Matt. 23:4-36 and Mk. 12:38-40.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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