Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - June 12, 2018

Today's Reading:

Romans 16

2 Samuel 1

Psalm 72

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today we read the last chapter of the Book of Romans. As we do, I thought it might be of interest to delve into some of the backstory behind this book. To me, discovering the setting of a Scripture is fascinating. It brings the Bible alive in living color. I hope it does the same for you :-)

The following is taken from the Blue Letter Bible, Intros to the Bible, "The Epistle to the Romans".

The Epistle to the Romans was written to Christians residing in the city of Rome (Romans 1:7). 

Rome (see above and below)  was the center of the Empire and was ethnically diverse. 

 In the first century AD it had a population of around one million people  in an area less than ten square miles. Of this large population, it is estimated that there was between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews in the city. The Jewish population dates back to the second century BC as part of the Diaspora.
In AD 64 there was a large fire in Rome that led Nero to expulse the Jews.  This also resulted in the first major persecution of the Church.

It is unclear how the church in Rome originally began. The best explanation is that the Romans who were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10-11) eventually made their way back to Rome and started a church in one of the synagogues. 

However, there are also other explanations. "All roads lead to Rome" was the popular saying that demonstrated the city's importance and accessibility. It should not be surprising that there was already an established church before Paul's arrival. People who may have heard the gospel in Asia, Greece, or elsewhere could have traveled to Rome. 

In Romans 16 Paul greets several people, with the most notable of these being Priscilla and Aquila. Both Aquila and Priscilla were in Rome until about AD 49 when Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city (Acts 18:2). Paul met the couple when he came to Corinth (ca. AD 51). They did further ministry in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) around ca. AD 53. From there they went to Rome. It is likely that they were not the first ones to bring the gospel to Rome. A church was probably already established as it is noted that Paul greets the church that met in the their house (16:5). 

Of course the city of Rome was predominately populated by Gentiles and so it is expected that the church was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers (cf. 1:67:1). Paul addresses both groups in this epistle.


Paul, the author of Romans and twelve other New Testament Epistles, was born as an Israelite in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 22:3Phil 3:5). The name that he went by was Saul. He studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3) and became a Pharisee (Phil 3:5). He was present at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:588:1) and became a persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1-3Phil 3:6). While seeking to have Christians bound, he was converted on the road to Damascus
as Christ appeared to him (Acts 9:1-9). He went into Damascus (Acts 9:10-19) then went to Arabia for some time (Gal 1:17) before returning to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29Gal 1:18). He met up with Barnabas and ministered with him in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). Then he began to go on various missionary journeys to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was imprisoned in Rome on two occasions and was martyred under Caesar Nero. 

In 2 Cor 12:7 Paul refers to a "thorn in the flesh" which seems to be a reference to a physical ailment of some kind. The direct or indirect result of this ailment appears to have affected Paul's eyesight. Gal 4:15 states that the Galatian Christians would have given their own eyes to Paul if it were possible. Paul even experienced difficulty recognizing the high priest in Acts 23. As a result of these vision problems, Paul needed assistance in composing his letters, which necessitated the need for a scribe to help him. Paul had multiple scribes who wrote for him-the one he utilized for Romans was Tertius (16:22).

Date and Location of Composition

Paul wrote the letter to the Romans from the city of Corinth, while he was on his third missionary journey. At the time he was gathering an offering from the Gentile Christians for the church in Jerusalem (15:25Acts 24:17). This would place the letter's composition date at ca. AD 56. 

Paul mentions three people that help to identify the letter's composition with Corinth: Phoebe (16:1), Gaius (16:23), and Erastus (16:23). He sent Phoebe of Cenchrea to the church in
Rome as the bearer of the epistle. With her being from Cenchrea, she would have had ties to Corinth because Cenchrea is the port city for Corinth. 

There was a Gaius referenced in 1 Cor 1:14 as one who lived in Corinth and many have identified him as the Titius Justus in Acts 18:7. Erastus was the city's treasurer (or director of public works) and in Corinth an inscription was discovered that refers to an Erastus as the city aedile (i.e., an official in charge of public works, etc.), which some have corresponded to Paul's reference to him. 

The Book of Romans concludes with this beautiful blessing, which comes down to us who read it, even today:
Romans 16:24-27  "The grace of our (Master Yahshua) Christ be with you all. Amen.  Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Yahshua Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:  To God only wise, be glory through Yahshua Christ for ever. Amen.

Daily Bible Reading - June 11, 2018

Today's Reading:

Romans 15:14-33

1 Samuel 29-31

Psalm 71

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Psalm 71 we read about the wonderful power and all-encompassing protection of God over His people:
Psalm 71-1-5 "In Thee, O Yahweh, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in Thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline Thine Ear unto me, and save me. Be Thou my strong Habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: Thou  hast given commandment to save me; for Thou art my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For Thou art my hope, O Yahweh God: Thou art my trust from my youth."
Reading this passage at first makes some Christians' experience unexplainable.  For example, consider the amazing story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and the other three dedicated missionaries who were martyred by the Indians of Ecuador. Where was Almighty God's protection when the savage natives speared His faithful missionaries to death?

Amazingly, God's protection was with them - even in allowing them to die! Job once said, "Tho He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," (Job 13:15). What is it about God, His Goodness, and His unfailing Protection that caused Job to say this? Clearly, this is the key that also inspired the five missionaries to Ecuador to willingly lay down their lives. 

The reason these people could trust God so much, even to the point of death, was that they knew that He would only allow something to come to them, if He deemed it good (Romans 8:28)! Precious in the Sight of Yahweh is the life and death of His saints (Psalm 116:15). God does not lightly allow His children to die. But, when He knows that their death will bring about good - salvation - to another, then and only then can his people be martyred. 

This is why Job trusted in God completely. This is why Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and their fellow martyred missionaries trusted in God completely. And this is why the wives, families and children of those martyred men were able to return and touch the lives of the very ones who had murdered the missionaries. As you watch the above videos about them, you will see the Hand of God - and yes, even His Protecting power in the whole story. God never withdrew His protection from His people - He extended His protection over the heathens also. And as a result, all of them - former heather murderers and martyred missionaries - will enjoy Eternity together.

How much do you trust God? Do you trust Him with your life? If so, lay your plans at His Feet and seek His Will in all things. Do you trust Him with your death? If so, do not be afraid of whatever may come. Rather, "trust in God" for He is so very trustworthy!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - June 10, 2018

Today's Reading:

Romans 15:1-13

1 Samuel 27-28

Psalm 70

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In 1 Samuel 28, we find the tragic story of how king Saul - through his disobedience to God - had lost the ability to get an answer to his prayers. What a terrible state in which to be! I cannot imagine a situation more hopeless than to have defied God and have lost His Voice from one's life!

King Saul doesn't handle it well. Rather than repenting in sackcloth and ashes, throwing himself - in full humility - before the Throne of God in prayer; Saul chooses to visit a witch - the witch of Endor. He disguises himself to go see her, since he has himself (in more righteous days) hunted and killed the witches and satan-worshipers, largely ridding them from the land. Saul asks the witch to bring up the spirit of Samuel the prophet, who had died.

She does conjure up "an old man in a mantle", whom king Saul accepts as the real spirit of Samuel. And the apparition correctly predicts Saul's doom in the coming battle.

This story is all wrong on so many levels! And it is still causing confusion among many Christians, even today. So, it is important to take a moment and look at this story - and the Biblical truth about death - in greater depth.

How is the story wrong on many levels? 

1) If indeed Samuel's soul (Samuel was a faithful man of God) had gone somewhere upon his death...  would he not have gone to Heaven? And, if he were in Heaven - could  a witch, using demonic power, have the power to bring him back to speak to Saul - a man whom God Himself refused to speak to! No way!

2) But even more importantly, the idea that a soul of a saint goes to Heaven upon death  is spiritualism - and goes against clear Scripture regarding what happens when we die. Is this a shocking statement? If it is, and you are serious about knowing what the Bible teaches, please bear with me, and read through the whole study before making a decision. 

The following Bible Study is from out newest doctrinal Bible study (Study Guide #7).

Christians today are fascinated by the mysteries “beyond the grave”. So great is the public interest in the subject that, in 2010, when the “true” story was published of young Alex Malarkey going to Heaven, the book quickly rocketed to the Best Seller list. But, as New York Post columnist Chris Perez reported:

The boy who came back from Heaven was full of malarkey—and he’s finally fessed up to it.

A best-selling (book) about a 6-year-old’s trip through the after-life while he was in a coma was nothing but one kid’s desperate cry for attention, according to the Christian website Pulpit and Pen.

“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex Malarkey, who is now a teenager, wrote in a statement...

Malarkey’s heartwarming book—titled The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven—will now be pulled from shelves by major Christian publisher Tyndale House after he recanted his testimony earlier this week...

“I said I went to Heaven because I thought it would get me attention,” Malarkey admitted. “When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth.”
(Chris Perez, “Teen Admits He Lied About Dying, Going to Heaven”,  
January 16, 2015, New York Post)

Actually, the repentant teen’s advice is excellent. We cannot tell the truth about what happens when we die by listening to other people’s stories. The Bible is the only Source of Truth. So, what does the Bible say happens when we die?

When God created man, the Bible tells us that He formed him from the dust of the ground, breathed His Breath of life into man’s nostrils and man instantly became a living soul. Notice 

the wording here. Man didn’t have a living soul, man became a living soul:
“And (Yah) God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. ” Genesis 2:7
Scripturally speaking, a soul is made up of two things: body and breath. When the body dies, the breath of life returns to the Creator (Job 33:434:13-15Ps. 104:29-30).
“...Because man goeth to his long home (the grave), and the mourners go about the streets... Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:5-7
According to Scripture, because the soul is made up of the body and the breath of life, when a person dies, his/her soul is also dead:
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20
“Every living soul died in the sea.” Revelation 16:3

What is the Soul?

Today, Christians largely believe that the body dies, but not the soul. According to popular belief, a saved person’s soul—believed to be the “spirit” of the person— goes immediately to Heaven, upon death. In this way, many Christians think of the human soul as an immortal entity which never dies.

But this is not how Scripture defines the human soul. Using Scripture alone—without any human tradition—let’s see how the Word of God defines a soul:

The Bible teaches that the soul is made up of two things: the spirit and the body.

What is the human spirit?

“The body without the spirit is dead.” James 2:26.
“Spirit” is translated from the Greek word pneuma, meaning “breath”. The fact that the spirit (the breath of life which is from God) is our breath is clearly shown in Job 27:3:
“All the while my breath is in me, the spirit of God is in my nostrils.”
According to Genesis 2:7, since the soul was made by the body (dust) plus breath, body and breath make a soul:
Body (dust–Gen 2:7)
+ Spirit (breath–Eccl. 12:7)
= Soul (a living being)
We cannot hold a belief because it is tradition.  In order to have the truth, we must believe the Bible.

But Doesn’t the Bible Teach that the Dead, Who are Saved, Go to Heaven?

The Bible tells us plainly that there are no dead people (in any form) in Heaven. Those who are in Heaven are all, only living. To show this, we will look at a number of Scriptures. But to start off, consider this, what one thing is most done by the occupants of Heaven? The one thing God’s creation does most is Praise Him (Psalm 150:6Psalm 69:34). Consider the following glimpse into Heaven, found in the Book of Revelation:

“And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the Throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the Throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for (Yahweh) God omnipotent reigneth.” Revelation 19:4-6
It is impossible for any living thing to be in Heaven and not praise God! But the Bible tells us that the dead do not praise God—indeed cannot—for the grave is the place of silence, Psalm 115:17:
“The dead praise not (Yahweh), neither any that go down into silence.”
If ever there was a man who was saved, it was king David. Scripture tells us that he loved God so greatly and was so beloved of God that he was “a man after God’s Own Heart” (1 Samuel 13:14Acts 13:22).

Furthermore, David is listed in the famous “Faith Chapter” of Hebrews 11, which clearly lists him among the saved. Thus, we can be certain that if God’s people go to Heaven when they die, David would surely be there. Yet, Scripture clearly tells us that David is still lying dead in his tomb, awaiting Resurrection Morning:

“David ... is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day... For David is not ascended into the Heavens.” Acts 2:29, 34
But What About People Who’ve Seen the Dead or Have Contacted Them?

We live in a time when the deceptions of Hell are so great that the devil pulls every trick to counter the Word of God. But, as we saw in Study Guide #1 of this series, titled “The Quest for Ultimate Truth”, the Word of God determines what is Truth, not our senses or feelings. The devil is a master magician, who is amply able to empower spirits to impersonate the dead or appeal to our senses! Thus, we must rely on God’s Word to tell us what happens when someone dies. We cannot rely on senses, feelings, or experiences.

As revivalist Henry Blackaby said:

“…I never deny anyone’s personal experience. I always reserve the right, however, to interpret it according to what I understand from Scripture. At times individuals get upset with me and say, “I don’t care what you say. I’ve experienced this.” I kindly respond, “I do not deny your experience, but I question your interpretation of what happened because it is contrary to what I see in God’s Word”… Our experiences cannot be our guide. Every event in your life must be understood and interpreted by the Scriptures, for the God revealed in Scripture does not change.” (Experiencing God workbook, p 14)
Scripture tells us plainly that it is impossible for the dead to contact the living.
“So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more (see 2 Peter 3:10), they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.. His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.” Job 14:12, 21
“Neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:6
The dead cannot contact the living, nor do they know what the living are doing. They are dead. Their thoughts have perished (Psalms 146:4).

We must stand upon the Word of God and not our senses. This means that we must not be fooled into believing that our dearly departed Grandmother has returned to give us counsel. Even if “her” apparition appears before us looking like her, sounding like her, and imitating her perfectly in every sensually convincing way, we will know that this apparition cannot really be Grandma, because the Bible plainly says:

“The living know they will die, but the dead know nothing. Dead people have no more reward (in earth’s history), and people forget them.” Ecclesiastes 9:5 (NCV)
Deception is the standard operating procedure of the devil’s kingdom. Satan has worked powerful miracles down through the ages through people who claim to receive their power from the spirits of the dead. Consider the following examples:
Magicians of Egypt–Exodus 7:11
Witch of Endor–1 Samuel 28:3-25
Sorcerers–Daniel 2:2
A fortune-teller–Acts 16:16-18
The Bible warns us that, in the end-time, Satan will again use sorcery to deceive the whole world (Revelation 18:23). Sorcery is a supernatural agency that claims to receive its power and wisdom from the spirits of the dead.

When we are not grounded upon the Word, but can be swayed by sensual experiences, we open ourselves up to overmastering deception. Demonic spirits may come posing as a godly loved one who has died, Christian leaders who are now dead, Bible prophets, or even the apostles of Christ. Scripture warned us to expect these impersonations. In fact, Satan will go so far as to pretend to be Christ Himself!

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
How effective will the enemy’s deception be? The Bible tells us that Satan and his angels will deceive the majority of the world! Those who believe the dead are alive, in any form, will be an easy prey, having already fallen to the deceptions of Spiritualism, now found in Christianity. 
“Spiritualism is a recognized religion and is practiced world wide.  It’s core belief is that we all possess an indestructible soul that survives death and can be contacted through a practice known as mediumship (modern day channelling).  Spiritualism’s prime tools of deception is what the Bible calls ‘familiar spirits’, these are deceptive unclean entities that can appear (in the mind of the medium) as deceased relatives...

Since authenticity is only based upon ‘evidence’ projected from the entity the practice is actually faith-based.  The medium along with the audience puts total faith into what the entity has to say.  This is no different from someone sending you an email claiming to be the Prince in line to the throne of some African State but requires your bank account details to deposit money to you...” (“Spiritualism Exposed”, New Age Deception, www.wordpress.com)

The Devil’s Oldest Lie

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were immortal. It was only when they disobeyed God’s Word and sinned, that suffering, disease, and death came upon them and this planet (Romans 6:23 and Romans 5:12).

In the Garden of Eden, Eve was presented with a test. God had given her His Word. The test was whether Eve would believe God’s Word, or her own eyes. Sadly, Eve went with her senses.

What was God’s Word to Adam and Eve? He had told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He also told them that, if they ate of the tree, they would surely die. We find this in Genesis 2:16-17:

“And (Yahweh) God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
The devil shape-shifted into the form of a serpent and appeared in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He ate of the forbidden fruit and encouraged Eve to join him. Satan lied to Eve, telling her that she would not die. Thus, the devil’s first lie was that humanity could not become mortal. He said that we would never die (which is the “key” teaching of Spiritualism).
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:2-5
The original lie was that mankind could rebel against God, fall into sin, and still possess immortality. This lie is still being told—and believed—even to this day. But the Word of God is clear:
“...The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4
And lest there be any confusion, Scripture goes on to say that our thoughts perish, at death:
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:3-4
What About the Thief on the Cross?

Many believe that the thief on the cross, who died alongside Christ, was taken to Paradise immediately after death. But this idea is based upon one misunderstood Bible verse, ignoring all the verses shared in this study guide. The verse which appears to suggest that the thief was taken to Heaven when he died is Luke 23:43. But this meaning comes from one misplaced comma. It is important to know that the punctuation of the Bible is not inspired. There was no punctuation in the original text. All punctuation, found in our Bibles today, was added by men. The meaning of Luke 23:43 is dramatically changed by where the comma is placed, as is shown below:

Luke 23:43 with an incorrect comma placement:  “Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”
This placement of the comma makes it appear that the thief would be taken to Heaven that very day. But since Scripture needs to be interpreted through other Scripture  (2 Peter 1:20Isaiah 28:9-10), we find that this comma placement doesn’t align with the rest of Scripture regarding what happens when we die.
Luke 23:43 with the correct comma placement: “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”
This placement of the comma fits all the other verses on the subject. Messiah assures the thief that he will be saved. In modern English, it should read, “I’m telling you today—I give you the assurance today—that you will be with Me in Paradise.”

The thief who died on the cross at the same time as our Saviour is not yet in Heaven, according to Scripture. Christ’s Kingdom is set up at His Second Coming (Matthew 25:31), and the righteous of all ages will enter it at that time and not at death:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Yahshua died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Yahshua will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of (Yahweh), that we which are alive and remain unto the Coming of the (Master) shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the (Master) Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the Trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the (Master) in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Far from having an immortal soul, as many believe, Scripture says that mankind is mortal. The word “immortal” is found only once in the Bible, and it refers to God.
“Now unto the King Eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17
Scripture teaches that all have sinned and come short of God’s Glory (Romans 3:23). And the soul that sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4). Because we are all sinners, in need of our Saviour, our souls are not currently immortal. However the Bible promises that the saved will all become immortal at Christ’s Return:
“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the Last Trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-54
There are people whom Scripture states have been “translated”. Enoch and Elijah are among these. But being “translated” means that they are taken without dying.
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5
As we have seen in this study, the Bible plainly teaches that there are no dead people—nor souls of the dead—in Heaven.

Paganism Creeps In...

As Biblical archaeology, history, and Scripture confirm, the teaching of the immortal soul was believed and taught in ancient times—not by the followers of God—but by the pagans.

It all began with the worship of Nimrod. Nimrod, the

grandson of Noah, became the first earthly king, known as Sargon I. Nimrod built Babylon and Nineveh.

Nimrod, which means “tyrant”, was known as a mighty hunter. He led the Sumerians of Babylon to pay tribute to the skies (sun, moon, stars, and planets). The Tower of Babel was built for this purpose, echoed in other cultures such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas.

Since the head of this government was such an idolatrous tyrant, Shem (Nimrod’s uncle) killed him. 

As is recorded in history and borne out in the stories of many cultures, Semiramis (Nimrod’s wife) told the people that their now-deceased king, Nimrod, wasn’t dead after all. She claimed that his soul had gone up into heaven and had taken a new shape—as the sun god. It was from this age-old, pagan story that most ancient cultures worshipped the sun. Thus, the pagan Nimrod was the first human to (supposedly) die and go to heaven. From that point onwards, the idea that a person went to heaven when they died became a common, pagan teaching. Consider the following statement by the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus:

“The Egyptians were the first who maintained... that the human soul is immortal… There are Greeks who have used this doctrine, some earlier and some later, as if it were their own.” Herodotus, The Histories
Justin Martyr (above) was a second century Christian historian and leading defender of the faith. He was beheaded for his unwavering faith. So monumental was his work, his defense of Scripture, and his unwillingness to give up the truth even when facing death, that all Christians slain for their faith after him are called “martyrs”, after his name. In about 150 AD, Justin wrote with concern about how pagan ideas were already creeping into accepted Christian beliefs. One of the pagan beliefs which most concerned him was the teaching of the immortality of the soul. Justin wrote that anyone believing this pagan doctrine wasn’t really a Christian after all.
“… (Martyr explained that there were those) who are called Christians, but who do not admit [the truth of resurrection], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to Heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.” Justin Martyr, Dialogues with Trypho, 80
But now, the pagan teaching of the immortal soul, which goes to Heaven upon death, has become a core doctrine of Christianity! Yet not so long ago, key Christian leaders would not have considered someone Christian if they believed in the Nimrodian teaching of the immortality of soul! In fact, this is spiritualism!

What About John 11:26?

Since we know that Scripture doesn’t argue with Scripture, we may use the many clear verses about death to help us understand the few confusing ones, including John 11:26:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”  John 11:26
There are several stages of death listed in Scripture. To understand the meaning of John 11:26, we also need to understand the many stages of death.

Death stage 1—Spiritual Death a person is considered spiritually dead when he or she does not know and love God. (For example, the Prodigal son was “dead” while lost—Luke 15:24. See also 1 Corinthians 15:22.)

Death stage 2—Physical Death
This death refers to the “first death”, which is like a sleep (John 11:11-14Hebrews 9:27). God’s people are resurrected from this stage of death at the King’s Return (Revelation 20:6Philippians 3:11).

Death stage 3—Eternal Death
This death is called the “second death”. This is the death which only the wicked die and from which there is no Resurrection (Revelation 2:1121:8).

When Christ said (in John 11:26) that His followers would never die, He was referring to the second death—or Eternal Damnation.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath Everlasting Life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from Death unto Life... The dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:24-25
One never has the truth on a doctrinal issue until all the Scripture on that subject fits into the picture. One or two verses may appear to give a confusing meaning. But when we use the weight of evidence from all the other, clear Scriptures, we find that misunderstood verses become clear also. There are Scriptures which leave no “wiggle room” regarding what happens when we die. These guide us in understanding the other verses also.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - June 6, 2018

Today's Reading:

Romans 11:25-36

1 Samuel 21-22

Psalm 66

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Romans 11, Paul mentions that many have not believed. They don't believe in God. They don't believe in His Promises. They don't believe in Heaven...  It's sad, really... On this blog, I've addressed the reality of God through Creation and in other ways. But now, I want to talk about the underlying reason folks don't believe. Largely, they don't believe because they don't want to believe!

There's the old expression, "The atheist is the person who shakes his fist at the God he says doesn't exist". There's some real truth to that. Additionally, the reason most don't want to believe in Heaven is because they think the idea of Heaven is dull, boring, and undesirable. Well, today, I'd like to share something that is very different from things I've shared in the past. Today, I'd like to share with you something meant for young people - In fact, I enjoyed it when I was young.
So, gather your young ones around the computer, and we older ones can let this talk take a few years off our own souls... But, please permit me a nostalgic blast from my own past in response to this "Heaven's-no-fun" way of thinking. 

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I was blessed to hear an amazing SDA youth pastor preach a sermon which I have never forgotten. Have you ever heard a sermon which made such an impact on you that you could remember it and retell its main points some 30+ years later? Well, for me, this sermon was that good! And just this last week, I was amazed and delighted to find that old sermon floating around in cyber space! So, here is Steve Marshall's life-changing (for me) talk that first made me get really excited about Heaven - Grandma on the Sea of Glass.

Now, don't get me wrong...  I agree that Mr. Marshall's imagination can be "far out" at times. But what he does do for us is get some of the thrill - the joy - of letting our imaginations grasp the concept of the "joy that is set before us". The reality is that Heaven is beyond our wildest imaginations. What wonders and joys await us? There's a lot of blessing in enjoying the thought! After all Yahshua says that it was for the joy that was set before Him that He was strengthened to endure the Cross. So, join me in letting your hair down, taking a few years off, and joyfully imagining some of the joys our loving Father may have in store for those who love Him.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - June 5, 2018

Today's Reading:

Romans 11:1-24

1 Samuel 20

Psalm 65

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Do you ever feel like you're totally alone? Does it seem like there is no one else out there who loves and serves God?  Finding a place to worship on Sabbath is difficult - if not impossible. Does your heart cry, "Where are the people of God? Am I the only one?"

I have certainly felt this way. I know my children have also felt this way. Many times over the years they have cried out to me asking why there aren't more young people who are like them...  It's hard! It's lonely! But as Paul encouraged in the first part of Romans 11 (verses 2-5), it isn't the reality:
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."

The powerful preacher David Wilkerson wrote about this viewpoint and gave an encouraging backstory to prophet Elijah's limited viewpoint. David's article, titled A Message about God's Hidden Remnant (April 23, 2001), is one that I believe you will find encouraging:

I want to take you to Mount Horeb in Israel, to a dark cave. Inside the cave sits a lonely prophet of God. This godly man is elderly now, probably in his eighties. And he feels all alone. He has completely given up on society.

Some forty days earlier, the prophet had begged God to strike him dead. He was convinced, "This nation is too far gone. And the church is backslidden beyond repair. Every leader is a puppet of the devil. Revival is simply impossible now. There's no hope left. Lord, I've had it. Please, take away my life" (see 1 Kings 19:4).

Who was this prophet? It was the saintly Elijah. And he came to such a despairing state just hours after he'd won the greatest victory of his lifelong ministry.

You remember the story. On Mount Carmel, Elijah faced 850 false prophets in a life-or-death showdown over whose God would prevail. Some 450 of these prophets served the pagan god Baal; the other 400 were priests of the idolatrous groves built by wicked Queen Jezebel. Now, in a demonic ritual, the Baal prophets began dancing and wailing, trying to awaken their god. When the frenzy finally ended, the prophets lay bleeding profusely, totally exhausted.

Then Elijah stepped up for his turn. He simply called on the Lord, and instantly supernatural fire fell from heaven. The engulfing blast of heat consumed both the prophet's sacrifice and the twelve barrelfuls of water he'd poured around it. It even consumed the rocks on the altar.

What an awesome display of God's almighty power. The false prophets trembled at the sight. And the backslidden Israelites who were present all fell to their knees, crying, "The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, He is the God" (18:39).

Elijah then slew every one of those 850 false prophets. Suddenly, revival was back in Israel. The awakening Elijah had prayed for had finally come -- or so he thought: "This is God's hour. It's the beginning of the renewal I've preached about for so long."

Elijah was so energized, he outran King Ahab's chariot for twenty-five miles, back to the capital city, Jezreel. His mind must have raced with exciting thoughts: "Who can stand against what God has done today? This nation's sensual, ungodly government must collapse. And Jezebel's next. She may be racing back to her idolatrous father in Zidon right now. No doubt she's heard about the fire from heaven, and she  wants to escape the Holy Ghost's purge. This has to be the greatest moment in Israel's history!"

Elijah was convinced the people would listen to him now. I believe he determined to go straight to the abandoned temple, to restore pure worship in Jezreel. But before he even came near the city, he was accosted by a messenger from Jezebel. The queen threatened, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time" (19:2). She was telling Elijah, "You've got one day to live, prophet, before I slay you the way you slew my priests."

Within twenty-four hours of his incredible victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah was back in the wilderness, trembling under a juniper tree. In his mind, everything had backfired. And overnight, all his hopes for renewal vanished.

Forty days later, we find Elijah lodging in a mountain cave, all alone. The Hebrew word used for lodge means "to stop or stay." It also implies a meaning of "to complain or hold a grudge." Apparently, Elijah had decided, "It's all over, finished. If a miraculous fire from heaven can't motivate a backslidden people, nothing can."

Then the Bible tells us, "The word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?" (19:9). This was God's way of saying, "What's bothering you, Elijah? Why the anger? What's your complaint?"

Suddenly, the prophet began to unburden his pent-up heart: "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel hath forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (19:10).

Much of what Elijah said was true. God's people were in a sad state. Wickedness abounded in Israel. And true prophets were maligned and their words mocked. Yet, in spite of this, Elijah remained faithful. He was wholly given to God's cause, praying fervently for revival. But he was wrong to think he alone carried the Lord's burden.

I don't believe Elijah was being proud when he said, essentially, "I'm the only sin-hating, God-fearing preacher left in this nation." In my opinion, Elijah was simply overcome by loneliness. I believe he was saying, "Lord, if others are as zealous for you as I am, where are they? I don't see anyone crying out against sin as I do."

The fact is, many praying people are often loners. And few are great socializers or mixers. Why? Anyone who wrestles with the Lord in prayer shares the burden of his heart. They begin to see as God sees. And they're able to discern the true condition of God's people. They're sobered by all the flesh and foolishness they see in his house. And it drives them to their faces, praying as Elijah did, with a broken heart of concern.

If you're a person of prayer, you've probably felt alone, as Elijah did. Perhaps you too mourn over your nation, especially the never-ending river of blood America has shed through abortion. Maybe you cry out, as Amos did, "Lord, don't let me sit back in ease while such great bondage exists in your church." Maybe you wonder, as Elijah did, "Where are the godly leaders and brokenhearted shepherds? Where are those who still believe in holiness instead of fleshly methods? I feel like an out-of-step fanatic. Please, Lord, bring me into fellowship with others who see the things I'm seeing."

Now think of Elijah, alone in that cave. He must have been overwhelmed by utter loneliness. Then, a still, small voice came to him, again asking, "What doest thou here, Elijah"? (1 Kings 19:13). Once more, Elijah replied, "I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (19:14).

This time God answered him, "You're not alone, Elijah. Soon you'll meet my servant Hazael. I want you to anoint him as king over Syria. And there's godly Jehu, whom you're to anoint as king over Israel. There is also the young prophet Elisha, who'll serve beside you."

Finally, the Lord said to Elijah (as translated from the original Hebrew by Helen Spurrell), "I have remaining to me in Israel seven thousand, all whose knees have not bowed unto Baal, and all whose mouths have not kissed him" (19:18). God was saying, "I've got 7,000 hidden ones, Elijah, men and women who haven't given in to the spirit of this age. They're growing in my Spirit. And they all share the same burden as you."

Among these 7,000 were 100 true prophets hidden away in caves by godly Obadiah. Obadiah was a high-ranking governor who served in evil King Ahab's household. He had hidden the 100 prophets in two caves, fifty at a time, and was keeping them alive with bread and water. Obviously, Elijah must have known about these godly men. And he also knew of Micaiah, a godly prophet who'd been jailed by Ahab for prophesying hard things to him (see 22:8). Yet, even knowing of these men, Elijah was still overcome by loneliness in his calling. 

God also has a hidden remnant in this generation who have not bowed to the idols of the age. To grasp this concept more fully, we need to examine what was happening in Israel during Elijah's day.

Baal worship originated at the Tower of Babel, under Nimrod. This godless man declared, "Let us make us a name" (Genesis 11:4). So Babel was built as a monument to human success and accomplishment. At the top was an observatory, where astrologers followed the heavenly bodies. These proud people literally "reached for the stars."

In Elijah's day, the god Baal supposedly granted its worshipers success, fame and prosperity. Those who kissed the idol's feet sought fulfillment in every area of materialism and sensuality. Who were these Baal worshipers? They were God's chosen people, backslidden worshipers of Jehovah. Like me, you may wonder how God's people could be drawn to such blatant idolatry.

First of all, these people had already been judged by God for lusting after prosperity. They had to flee to Egypt, where they faced poverty, hunger and homelessness. There they saw Baal's followers being blessed materially. And they reasoned, "We had plenty of food back in Jerusalem, when we bowed to our idols. We were blessed and successful then, with no suffering. But ever since we stopped worshipping those idols, we've faced only hardship. Let's go back to burning incense and making drink offerings to the queen of heaven. Then maybe we'll get the things we want again" (see Jeremiah 44:16-19).

God's people had fallen under the powerful seduction of a "success gospel." A spirit of greed and covetousness had gripped them, so that their lives now centered around wealth and recognition. Of course, there's nothing wrong with succeeding, if you do things God's way: clinging to Christ, tithing faithfully, submitting to his will. But in Israel, there was an unholy mixture: the people bowed to Jehovah because they feared his judgment, yet they also coveted material things.

Right now, the same spirit of Baal is raging in our nation. On Wall Street, in front of the U.S. Stock Exchange, we see the very image of this pagan god. It's a bronze statue of a huge bull, representing a "bull market": ever-increasing prosperity, great wealth and fame, human achievement. These are the gods our nation bows to.

Think about it: a man is considered successful if he amasses millions. He may have enough money to live the rest of his life in ease. Perhaps he has even obtained some recognition. I tell you, it doesn't seem to matter if his marriage fails, if he consorts with prostitutes, or if he ruins innocent people in his pursuit of fame, power and wealth. He'll still be judged the epitome of success by the world's standards.

What a confused, upside-down view of success. Yet multitudes still strive for it. Our entire nation is asking, "Who wants to be a millionaire?", longing to strike it rich. 

In churches throughout America, the same seductive Baal spirit is at work. Multitudes of believers are driven by the urgent need to make it big. As a result, they're being swept into lavish living and bottomless pits of debt.

This spirit has also produced a cockeyed view of success similar to the world's. When a Pentecostal movement in Canada recently held a seminar for "successful pastors," it stipulated that only ministers with congregations of at least 1,000 people could come. Apparently, large numbers was their only criterion for success.

I witnessed something similar when I first started working with gangs and addicts in New York. I was introduced to a well-known evangelist who was conducting a crusade at a local church. What that man told me shocked me. He said, "If you don't make it by the time you're fifty, you'll never hit the big time. I've got five years left to make it. Right now I'm working on a TV series that may be my last chance to reach the goal."

I was dumbfounded. What did he mean by "making it"? Did he want some kind of fame? To me, "making it" meant having enough money to pay the electricity bill at the Teen Challenge Center. Or, it meant finding  another drug addict who wanted Jesus to deliver him.

Too often we measure success in ministry by how big a church is or how fat its budget. If you ask the average Christian to describe how God has blessed him, he'll probably answer, "The Lord has given me a new car, a nice home, a good income." Yet, at one time, that same person might have answered, "God's blessed me with a burden for prayer and a fresh vision for lost souls. He?s renewed my hunger for him."

Jesus describes how such believers become lukewarm: "These are they which...hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:18-19). Simply put, anything that interferes with our walk with Jesus is sin. If we allow something to press into our hearts — a drive for success, money or acclaim — it will put us on our knees before Baal. Our spiritual eyes will be blinded. And our hearts will grow cold, no longer zealous for Jesus. 

The Israelites flocked to Baal's church of success and prosperity. And soon this backslidden church was rife with unspeakable corruption. That's when the Lord boasted to Elijah of the 7,000 who hadn't bowed: "I have reserved for myself 7,000 righteous saints. They have resisted all lust for fame and success. And they are wholly mine."

We should be grateful to God for the many great heroes of the faith: zealous prophets like Elijah, unbending prayer warriors such as Daniel, mightily used officials like Obadiah, men and women who did mighty exploits such as David and Deborah. I believe it's right for us to study their examples to discern the secrets of a godly life.

Yet, how many of us seek to emulate those 7,000 unnamed, unknown servants who refused to bow to Baal? Such hidden men and women of faith are rare and few. Indeed, I believe the remnant God has reserved for himself isn't as large as we might think. The Bible makes clear that in every wicked generation, only a small remnant stood true. Moreover, in the coming days of chaos, the church will face a great falling away of believers.

Paul writes, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5). And (Yahshua) warns, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

You see, it wasn't Elijah's prayers alone that brought down fire from heaven. It was the cries of 7,000 hidden, praying God-lovers. These people were shut up in underground meetings, praying in fields, some serving alone in Ahab's house, unknown to all but the Lord. Yet they were faithful in their calling to intercede, and God heard them.
So, if you've been feeling alone. Remember God has His 7000 out there. It's time to join them. You may not be able to see what Yahweh is doing with your prayers. But continue praying. Be one of the 7000 who has not bowed the knee to Baal. And keep the prayers ascending.