Posts from the ‘religion’ Category

The Church the Rapture will Leave Behind

A couple weeks ago I published The Rapture of the Church in which I hoped to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we enter these last days.  As is always the case, God’s timing is perfect.  Right around that same time, I began reading the book of Revelation as I have been studying the New Testament this summer.  The comments I made in my Rapture post were still fresh in my heart and mind as I read through chapters 2 and 3 about the 7 churches.

To refresh your memory, the letters to the 7 churches are meaningful in a number of ways.  First, they were 7 letters written to 7 actual churches of the apostle John’s time, and addressed concerns and praised their good works.  Second, they are a message to individual churches all throughout the Church Age.  At some point or other we can see our own congregations in one or more of the Revelation churches.  Third, they also speak to us individually.  Who of us cannot read those letters and feel the conviction and/or hope from the Holy Spirit?  Finally, they are prophetic.  Each of the 7 churches represents a stage of the global Church throughout the whole Church Age, from the first to the last, in order.

In my rapture post, I pointed to the 6th church, Philadelphia, as the one who will be raptured to Heaven before the Great Tribulation, also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  And, I pointed to the 5th church, Sardis, as the age we are in now.  The Church looks like it is doing good, but it has fallen asleep and needs to wake up and prepare for Messiah’s return.

Revelation 3:1-4 (TLV) – To the angel of Messiah’s community in Sardis write:  “Thus says the One having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:  I know your deeds–you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains that was about to die.  For I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard–keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. But still, you have a few people in Sardis who have not stained their clothes.  They will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy.  The one who overcomes thus will be dressed in white clothes; I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life, and will confess his name before My Father and His angels.”

We are a church today who has fallen asleep.  We walk into church on Sunday, and out the exact same person.  We do not change.  Our words and deeds are hollow because we have tainted everything we do with compromise with the world.  Divorce, homosexuality, abortion, sexual impurity, the worship of money and false idols (and before you deny that, consider how many Christians idolize celebrities in Hollywood, the music industry, sports…simply observe their reaction when one of them dies).  The church today reeks of the contamination of worldly influence.  We do not fear God.  We have turned Him into a loveable, cuddly, caregiver.  The cold, hard truth of that is far too many in the Church today worship a god of their own making…he is an idol.  The God of the Bible, the One True God, YAHWEH, is to be feared and revered!  Yes, He is the God of the New Testament who loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us so that we could have a restored relationship with Him.  BUT.  He is also the very same God from the Old Testament who is holy and righteous and demands righteousness from His children.  The same God who opened the earth and swallowed the men and their families who dared to stand against Moses.  The same God who destroyed Sodam and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone for their sin.  We have lost sight of exactly who YAHWEH, the God of Israel is.  It is evidence in how we live, what we do, what we say.  Just turn on the local Christian music radio station.  I can hardly listen to it anymore.  There are a great many songs of worship and praise, but there are also many that are feel good, mushy songs.  There is little to no teaching.  No call to repentance.  Everything we do, whether good or bad, is understandable.  We think it is okay because the god we know wouldn’t ask us to live differently than what is comfortable for us.  We don’t know God.

The 6th church in Revelations 3 is the church in Philadelphia.  Prophetically speaking, it is the church that comes out of the Sardis age.  It is the people who do not stain their clothes, who overcome; the ones who wake up and repent, who strive to make their deeds complete in the sight of God.  This is the church who is rewarded for their faithfulness by being saved from the Great Tribulation.

Revelations 3:10-11 (TLV) – “Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming soon–hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

I have always believed that the Rapture would take the church and there would be no one left, except the people who attended church, but never had really given their hearts to God and received His salvation.  But as I continued to read the rest of chapter 3, I felt a hard thunking in my soul from the Spirit.  The Rapture comes during the time of the 6th church, but there are 7 churches.  A part of the church is left behind.  As soon as I understood this word from the Spirit, I began praying for further understanding.  It came from a number of different places, and each time, God gave me an ah-hah as I understood another piece.

The first question is who will be left behind.

Revelation 3:15-17 (TLV) – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  Oh, that you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’  But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.”

A new friend, and sister in Christ, gave me the word for this: the carnal Christian.  Paul talks about them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TLV) – “And I, brothers and sisters, could not speak to you as Spirit-filled but as worldly–as infants in Messiah.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready.  Indeed, even now you are not yet ready, for you are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you, arent’ you worldly and walking in a human way?”

Did you catch the word that connects the 7th church to the 5th church?  Deeds.  The part of the Church that is left behind are the Christians, and yes, I say Christians for such they are, who have not bothered to grow or striven to deepen their faith or relationship with God.  They believe, and they have received Yeshua’s (the Hebrew name of Jesus) salvation from their sins; that is salvation from judgement, but they have done nothing with it.  They still live in a way that looks exactly like the rest of the world.  There is nothing that sets them apart as different.  Paul calls it worldly.  They are content to live their spiritual life on fluff and cotton candy; milk, as an infant does.  The feel good music on the Christian radio station, and quite frankly, sung in our churches every Sunday.  Do we need the praise and worship songs?  Absolutely!  And I am in no way saying that we don’t.  Probably the thing that stands out the most to me is the listeners who call in giving the radio station credit for getting them through the day or even their salvation. That is a very tricky attitude of heart. The messages from the pulpit today refuse to call sin sin.  The Bible that sits on the shelf collecting dust.  Who even bothers to bring one to church anymore?  It used to be that people at least would do that much…it made them look like they were good Christians after all.  Prayer is said only at meals, and maybe in emergencies.  I hope that what I’m getting across is that this is the part of the church, unfortunately the growing part, that is content being a lukewarm, baby Christian; in it for the salvation, but not for the life.  If this doesn’t scare you for yourself, it probably scares you for someone you love.  And if it doesn’t at all, it should.

Jesus’ famous end times passage is in Matthew 24.  He follows that with warnings and instructions in the form of parables in chapter 25.  The first is the parable of the 10 virgins in which 10 young ladies are waiting for the Bridegroom to come for the wedding feast.  Five of the virgins have oil in their lamps, they are prepared, watching and waiting for the Bridegroom to come.  When He arrives, they are ready and are able to enter into the wedding feast.  The other 5, however, did not have oil, were not prepared, were not watching, and they were left outside.  When they asked to be let in, the Groom told them He didn’t know them.

The second parable is that of the talents.  A man goes on a journey.  He leaves a certain amount of talents (coins) with each of 3 servants.  While He is gone, the servants with 5 and 2 talents, respectively, both double the amount they are given.  However, the servant with 1 talent buries it and does nothing with it.  When the master returns, the 2 who doubled what they were given were told to enter into their master’s joy.  But the servant who did nothing with what he was given was thrown out into utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The master, of course is Yeshua.  The servants are the believers, and the talents represent the knowledge of God and His salvation.  What I want you to note is that it didn’t matter how much the servants were given, what mattered was that they did something with it, whether great or small.  Something was rewarded.  Nothing was punished.  It is the carnal Christian, who has the knowledge and salvation of God, but does nothing at all with it, who will be left behind.  If you are a slow grower, but are still growing, you are doing something.  Don’t let that be an excuse to not do more, though.  Continue daily to seek the Lord and strengthen your relationship with Him.

So what will happen to this part of the church, who remain to live out the 7 years of the Great Tribulation?

Revelation 3:18-22 (TLV) – “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may dress yourself and so the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.  Therefore, be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I myself overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach [Spirit] is saying to Messiah’s communities.”

There are a couple of things I need to point out here.  First of all, Messiah’s communities refers to the Church.  Also, note that Yeshua says that He rebukes those He loves.  So this is definitely to part of the Church, believers who have received salvation.  But they were not taken in the Rapture because of their carnal/worldly ways.

The second is this: “buy from Me gold refined by fire,” and “the one who overcomes…just as I myself overcame.”  For this I need to take you ahead in Revelations to chapter 13:7-10 (TLV) – He [the beast, Satan] was also permitted to make war against the kedoshim [the saints, Christians] and overcome them, and he was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.  All who dwell on the earth shall worship him–everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain.  If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is meant for captivity, to captivity he goes.  If anyone is to be killed by the sword, by the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the kedoshim.”

This is the refiners fire, and the way the Christians who remain will need to overcome, as Jesus overcame at the cross, through persecution, imprisonment and death.

Brothers and Sisters, I urge you, please, seek the Lord.  The end times are here.  We are seeing the evidence of it all around us every day.  Jesus said that we would know them when the world is like the times of Noah, when every thought and intent of man’s heart is evil.  The world glorifies violence, murder, deception, blasphemy, all kinds of messed up sexual immorality, and they are desperately trying to become gods themselves (changing the gender of people, rearranging DNA in a fetus to create their own life, cloning, etc.). Yeshua said that the times would be like the days of Lot when Soddam and Gomorrah were destroyed after the men of the city insisted on having sex with the men (angels) who came to see him.  Wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters abound.

Jesus also said the following in Matthew 24:14 (TLV) – “This Good News of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  We just recently had a guest at our church who is part of a mission outreach that gets the Gospel message presented in other languages through film, but also through translated Scriptures.  He reported that it is estimated that the Gospel message will be available in every language in 5-7 years, and the Bible in every language by the year 2033.  That is only 16 years away.  16!!!  Possibly only 5, if the Lord raptures the Church when the Gospel message has been shared.  We cannot say exactly when Yeshua will return, but the point is that the time is short, and if we are awake, and paying attention, like the 5 virgins in Matthew 25, prepared with the oil in their lamps, we will see the Bridegroom coming.  We will not be caught unawares, as though He is a thief in the night, as He warned the church at Sardis.

The time is here, and we MUST wake up and prepare!  The Spirit is on the move, placing in the hearts of His people the urgency to prepare themselves and the church.  I am a witness to that in myself, but I am also witnessing it in others in my own congregation as well as globally.  God is giving us that wake up call, the one Yeshua gave to the church at Sardis, the 5th church, right before the church that is saved from the hour of trial.  The time for the rapture is near.  The Bridegroom is coming to take His bride.  If we are not ready, we will be left behind, and must then face the refining fires if we are to overcome and ultimately reign with Jesus on His thrown.

The words of an old song, based on Isaiah 55:6, comes to mind:

Seek the Lord, while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought, and let him return to the Lord, and to our God.  For He will abundantly pardon.  He will abundantly pardon you.  Return to the Lord.

The Rapture of the Church

I have been wanting to write about the rapture for a few years, but have not felt the okay from the Spirit until now. ¬†So I am a little excited about this post ūüôā

I was raised in the Baptist church, and the idea that there were those in the church who did not believe there will one day be a rapture was a bit of a surprise to me. ¬†When I went off to a Christian college, and sat through a theology class where they told us that their denomination didn’t believe in a rapture of the church because it is only found in one verse in the Bible, I was dumbfounded. ¬†My thought was then, and still is, “So it is okay to say that an idea in the Bible is not true because there is only one verse.” ¬†That is a very slippery slope no Christian should set foot upon. ¬†NEVER disqualify ANY Scripture, EVER. ¬†When you do, you disqualify the very Word of God. ¬†Remember that ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD (2 Timothy 3:16). ¬†But enough of that soap box.

I want to go back to the base argument that the rapture is only mentioned once, because that is also an erroneous statement.  I will go through a number of those passages shortly.

The first thing I want to do is explain the word itself. ¬†Rapture comes from the Latin word rapio. ¬†The same word in Greek is harpazo. ¬†According to Wikipedia’s definition of the word, it means to catch up or take away. ¬†Thayer’s Greek Lexicon expands on that definition for the word harpazo: ¬†to seize, carry off by force; to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly; to snatch out or away. ¬†And Strong’s defines harpazo as: to seize, catch away/up, pluck, pull, take by force. ¬†Now lets look at some of the passages where it is seen.

Acts 8:39 (NKJV) – “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord¬†caught¬†Phillip¬†away,¬†so that the eunich saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”

Matthew 13:19 (NKJV) – “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and¬†snatches away¬†what was sown in his heart. ¬†This is he who received seed by the wayside.”

John 6:15 (NKJV) – “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and¬†take¬†Him¬†by force¬†to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.”

John 10:12 (NKJV) – “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf¬†catches¬† the sheep and scatters them.”

Acts 23:10 (NKJV) – “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and¬†take¬†him¬†by force¬†from among them, and bring him into the barracks.”

2 Corinthians 12:3-4 (NKJV) – “And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Here’s a favorite one. ¬†John 10:28-29 (NKJV) – “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone¬†snatch¬†them¬†out¬† of My hand. ¬†My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and no one is able to¬†snatch¬†them¬†out¬† of My Father’s hand.”

As you can see from these passages, the word harpazo is used several times in the Bible, and is used in varying contexts, some spiritual, some physical, some good, some bad.  The point is that it is not a word that is used only once.

I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t list any verses using harpazo in reference to the church body. ¬†Well of course I saved the best for last ūüôā ¬†Let’s take a look at Scripture passages that do talk about the rapture, harpazo, taking up of the Church. ¬†Not all of them have the exact word in them, but all point to the same event.

Generally the first passage referred to regarding the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  We will look at that one, but I want to go back further in the history of the New Testament first.

I’d like to start by looking at where the Church will go when Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) raptures it. ¬†Look at John 14:2-3 (NKJV) – “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. ¬†I go to prepare a place for you. ¬†And if I go and prepare a place for you,¬†I will come again and¬†receive you to Myself;¬†that¬†where I am, there you may be also.

One of the arguments I have heard against the rapture of the Church is this:  why would He come back part way from heaven, only to go back again.  I have also heard that because there is no rapture, this verse then must mean that Jesus will gather us to meet Him, and then we will go directly to reigning with Him during the millenium, or thousand year reign, on earth.

In order to truly understand the meaning of this passage, one must understand Jewish custom. ¬†In these verses, Yeshua, who was speaking to His Jewish disciples, was making reference to a wedding ceremony. ¬†Jesus often referred to His followers as His bride. ¬†This is the context in which we must read these words. ¬†Jewish weddings happened in 2 stages. ¬†In the first stage, the bride would be betrothed, or would commit herself to marrying the groom. ¬†After the betrothal, both would go back to their respective father’s homes. ¬†The bride would prepare her wedding attire, and the groom would pay the bride price (Yeshua’s death on the cross), and ¬†prepare a place for her, a home where they would live together. ¬†When the home was completed, the groom would go to the bride’s father’s home, physically pick up the bride, who didn’t know when he was coming, and carry her to his father’s home where they would consummate the marriage and celebrate the wedding feast, which lasted 7 days. ¬†Jesus’s disciples understood this analogy when He spoke it to them. ¬†He was going to prepare a place for us, and then come to take us to be with Him there.

How do we know that this place that Jesus is preparing for us is in heaven, and not on earth? ¬†First of all, because we know where Jesus went after His death and resurrection. ¬†Acts 1:9 says – “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was¬†taken up,¬†and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” ¬†Oh! ¬†Did you catch that harpazo? ¬†Luke 24:51 says – “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and¬†carried up into heaven.” ¬†So the bride will be¬†taken up/snached up/carried away by the groom to the home that He has prepared for us in heaven.

It should also be noted that, aside from the home that Messiah is presently making for us in heaven, there is also¬†reference to the Church’s presence in heaven during the time of Great Tribulation in Revelation 19:6-8 which says – “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! ¬†For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! ¬†Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ ¬†And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

After the marriage of the Lamb, Yeshua will return to earth to set up His kingdom, and the armies in heaven will be with Him. ¬†Who are the armies? ¬†The saints, His bride. ¬†Look at the words. ¬†Revelation 19:11-15a – “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. ¬†And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. ¬†His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. ¬†He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. ¬†He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. ¬†And the armies of heaven,¬†clothed in fine linen, white and clean,¬†followed Him on white horses. ¬†Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. ¬†And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.” ¬†(A long passage to point to one line, but I couldn’t leave out the impressive description of Yeshua.) ¬†See the words used to describe the armies of heaven. ¬†They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. ¬†These are the same words used to describe the bride of the Lamb just a few verses earlier (arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright).

Now let’s look at how the Church will get to heaven. ¬†I want to go back to Acts 1. ¬†The disciples had just witnessed Yeshua being raptured up to heaven and are standing there gawking up at the sky when two angels appear and say to them (vs 11), “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? ¬†This same Jesus, who was¬†taken up from you into heaven,¬†will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”¬† This is the same thing we see in¬†1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and I quote it here from the New King James Version. ¬†“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. ¬†And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be¬†caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. ¬†And thus we shall always be with the Lord. ¬†Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Another reference to this passage is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. ¬†1 Corinthians 15:50-53 – “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. ¬†Behold, I tell you a mystery: ¬†We will not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. ¬†For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptable, and we shall be changed. ¬†For this corruptable must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” ¬†In 1 Thessalonians Paul tells believers that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. ¬†Here in 1 Corinthians, he expands on that by telling us that our bodies will be changed at that time from corruptable, mortal bodies to incorruptable, immortal bodies since the former cannot inherit, live in, heaven.

If we are to take the Bible as God’s Word, full of His truth, we must look at these passages and agree that the Church will be raptured, taken up, caught up, snatched away to heaven, by the groom to the place He is preparing for His bride, where we will celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb, and from where we will return, clothed in fine linen, riding on white horses, to be with Yeshua when He sets up His reign on earth after the Great Tribulation.

This has been a very full post, but I want to address the when of the rapture because Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.” ¬†But what comfort is there if the rapture comes after the Great Tribulation and we must all live through it? ¬†So let’s look at a couple of things with this in mind.

First, if the rapture happened at the end of the Tribulation, we would go to heaven, then turn around and come right back down for the millenial kingdom. ¬†What then would the purpose be of the home that Yeshua is making for us? ¬†And when would we celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb? ¬†Remember, too, that the time that the bride is at the place prepared for her at the groom’s father’s house is a week, 7 days celebrating the marriage feast. ¬†The Great Tribulation is 7 years. ¬†The analogy is not coincidental. ¬†Since the bride did not arrive half way through the wedding feast, but at the beginning, it can also be understood that the Church will be raptured at the beginning of the 7 years’ of tribulation.

Let’s quickly look at some other passages that help to give us the hope and assurance of the rapture and the deliverance from the Great Tribulation.

Go all the way back to Deuteronomy where Moses prophesies¬†much about the future of Israel. ¬†In chapter 32:21 God says this – “They [Israel] have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. ¬†But I will provoke them to jealousy by¬†those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by¬†a foolish nation.” ¬†The foolish nation, and those who are not a nation are the Gentiles, to whom God would bring salvation after the Judean leadership rejected Jesus. ¬†Paul also quotes this in Romans 10:19. ¬†What would provoke Israel to jealousy for God? ¬†I’ll tell you.

Just yesterday I was reading comments on a Facebook post about a Jewish man who had become a follower of Messiah. ¬†He commented time and again about how Judaism was just a show. ¬†That the actions the people took, the feasts and holidays were in appearance only, not acts of the heart, and not a lifestyle. ¬†A very traditional, and obviously orthodox Jewish woman, argued in multiple strains of conversation. ¬†Her perspective as a Jewish person in DNA and in faith is that God is the only god (she is right), and that salvation is for the Jews only. ¬†Worship of Yeshua is idolatry in her mind. ¬†What would make this woman, and the whole ¬†nation of Israel so jealous of God that they are driven to anger? ¬†Obviously not the Christian faith, or the followers of Yeshua. ¬†What would cause the nation of Israel to become so jealous that they would turn their hearts once again to true worship of God? ¬†What do you suppose is going to be Israel’s reaction when millions of people around the world disappear, and they begin to realize that the people who disappeared are the Christian Church? ¬†Won’t they react like the brother of the prodigal son? ¬†I was here all this time, yet You throw a feast for this one?

God also promises to keep us from the time of trouble. ¬†That would be a reference to Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), and the Last Days which Jesus taught about in Matthew 24, one and the same. ¬†In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who¬†delivers us from the wrath to come.” ¬†And again in chapter 5, verse 10 – “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A very telling verse is in Revelation among the letters to the 7 churches. ¬†To be fully understood, however, the reader must recognize that these letters have a 3-fold purpose. ¬†The first was as letters to the actual churches addressing their current state. ¬†The second is as letters to individual Christians to help examine their faith. ¬†The third is prophetic covering the entire Church Age with the first letter going to the earliest church as a whole, and the seventh going to the final church body. ¬†The 6th letter is addressed to the Church in Philadelphia, and says this in chapter 3:10 – “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

This then is the hope that Paul speaks of. ¬†Will we go through tribulation? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†Jesus said we would. ¬†And we do. ¬†We are. ¬†Look around you. ¬†We suffer pain, sickness, death. ¬†Christians all over the world deal with persecution in very wide variances of degrees, from facing mockery to facing death. ¬†But this is nothing compared to the tribulation that is coming during the time of God’s wrath when He punishes the world for rejecting Him and His Son. ¬†That is the time that Jesus talks about preceding His return, the 2nd coming of Christ, which will result in the establishment of His earthly kingdom. ¬†Recall from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 that the rapture will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. ¬†It will be lightening fast. ¬†But the Bible says about the 2nd coming of Jesus that all the people of the world will look up and see Him coming and they will mourn. ¬†Matthew 24:30 – “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” ¬†Yeshua doesn’t say that they will look up and bam, He is there. ¬†He says they will see Him¬†coming. ¬†Coming is an ongoing action, not an instantaneous happening. ¬†They will see Him and they will mourn. ¬†I guarantee you that mourning won’t be a flash in the pan either. ¬†Especially since this is where we pick up with Revelation 19 again. ¬†Recall that description of Jesus? ¬†Eyes like fire, crowned with many crowns, robe dipped in blood, and followed by the saints wearing fine linen. ¬†If you pick it up there, verses 15-17, you see that He comes to judge the world. ¬†“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. ¬†And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. ¬†He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. ¬†And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: ¬†KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

At the time of the rapture, Jesus comes to take His church out of this world. ¬†God then sends judgement on all the nations of the world who rejected Him. ¬†This is known as the Last Days, and as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble because the entire world will eventually turn against Israel. ¬†Israel will scatter, many fleeing to Jordan. ¬†The antichrist will seek to completely wipe out all of Israel during this time, but God will preserve a remnant. ¬†And then…”Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. ¬†They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” ¬†Zachariah 12:10. ¬†That is the second coming of Christ, when all that remains of Israel will be saved, not just physically, but spiritually when they finally realize that Yeshua is their long-awaited Messiah.

Our salvation does not depend on whether or not we believe there will be a rapture of the Church, or when we think it will take place. ¬†Some may question then why I take the time to write about it and discuss it. ¬†I do it for this reason: ¬†“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

The Church & The Old Testament Law

I have been on a journey. ¬†It started when a friend introduced me to the idea that there was insight to be gained by studying the Scriptures through Messianic Rabbis. ¬†Then while reading through the book of Romans, God revealed quite plainly that the Jews are still His chosen people, and that the Gentile church should honor them as the root of our spiritual blessings (since our Savior was Jewish, and it is through the Jews that He came, ultimately offering salvation to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile). ¬†I had never been taught that the Church had replaced Israel as God’s people (Replacement theology), but in fact, I had never really been taught anything about Israel, the Jews, or their role in the world, or in the Church. ¬†As I continued to study throughout this journey, God slowly on taught me about His plan for the Jews and the Church.

About a year ago I wrote a couple of posts detailing the 7 feasts of Israel…those Israel was commanded by God in the Torah (specifically Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) to observe every year. ¬†My posts explained the direct link between the feasts and their purposes and prophecy, half of which have been fulfilled by the first coming of Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name…the one given by God). ¬†Those feasts are the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, and Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. ¬†They were each prophetically fulfilled in Yeshua’s death (as Passover Lamb), sinless life (unleavened bread; leaven/yeast representing sin), resurrection (first fruits of those raised from the dead to eternal life), and Pentecost. ¬†At the first Pentecost, God gave the Israelites the Law. ¬†Salvation was obtained through obedience to the Law. ¬†On Pentecost after the resurrection of Yeshua, He gave believers the Holy Spirit, marking us as obedient/righteous through the righteousness of Messiah.

These four feasts are in the spring, and all have been prophetically fulfilled. ¬†The remaining three feasts are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). ¬†The spring feasts are at the time of planting. ¬†The time of growth follows. ¬†In the fall, the remaining feasts are at the time of harvest, and they have yet to be fulfilled. ¬†They will be at the 2nd coming of Christ. ¬†The seven feasts bookend the Church Age, which is the “summer” of growth period between the spring planting and the fall harvest.

Back to my journey; as I studied and wrote about the Feasts last year, I wondered what the Gentile Christian is supposed to do about them.  And what about the Law, which is the Torah?  Is the Church supposed to be observing the Old Testament Law, including the Feasts?  The laws regarding clean and unclean?  The Sabbath?  Other?  More and more as I continued my Bible study, I was increasingly plagued by the question of how closely the Church and the Jews should be connected.

All of this was compounded this spring when I came under conviction by the Holy Spirit that I am to observe Passover in place of Good Friday.  If you follow my blog, you may recall the post I wrote as a result.  This led to more questions on my part.  Since I felt led to observe Passover, did that mean I should observe all of the Feasts?  And then of course, did that mean I needed to observe all of the Law.

After a long time of prayer and study, I believe that I can say with certainty what it is that God has been slowly on revealing to me over the years, and what His message is for the Church. ¬†Let’s begin with some basics.

First and foremost we need to understand the Yeshua, as I stated earlier, was Jewish. ¬†He was born to Jewish parents who observed the Jewish Law of Moses. ¬†We know this because they observed Passover (when he went to the temple as a 12 year old boy), and he was circumcised on the 8th day. ¬†Yeshua Himself said that he was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in Matthew 15:24. ¬†In John 4:22 He said that salvation was from the Jews. ¬†So Jesus was a Jew, who was sent to the Jews, and it was through the Jews that salvation would come to all the world. ¬†In Luke 24, Yeshua walked with 2 men on the road to Emmaus…remember? ¬†While He walked with them, He revealed to them all the prophecies from the Jewish Scriptures regarding the Messiah and how He had fulfilled them, so Yeshua is also the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. ¬†There is a direct correlation between Jesus, our savior, the bridegroom of the church, and the Jews. ¬†This connection did not end when the Church began, nor when it began to spread to the Gentiles. ¬†The connection to the Jews will continue into eternity. ¬†This we know because Revelation tells us the great city that comes down from Heaven will be called…the New Jerusalem. ¬†It’s gates will be named after the 12 Jewish tribes and the 12 Jewish apostles.

God had a plan for the Jews which He fulfilled in sending Messiah. ¬†But that plan did not end there. ¬†It will continue into eternity. ¬†God has not given up Israel, nor has He replaced her in His plans with the Church. ¬†Read Jeremiah 31:6-9, Jeremiah 33:34-36, Romans 11:1-2, 10-26. ¬†Note Romans 11:28 TLV – “Concerning the Good News, they [the Jews] are hostile for your sake [the Gentiles]; but concerning chosenness,¬†they are loved on account of the fathers–for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” ¬†(Emphasis mine.)

Romans 11 is the chapter in which Paul (a Jew) explains how the Church is a wild olive branch grafted into the “cultivated olive tree” which is Israel. ¬†He stresses that we are not to be arrogant, thinking that we are better than the Jews because we have seen the Messiah and believed when they have not. ¬†It is because of them that Messiah came in the first place, but also we must remember that God allowed their hearts to be hardened¬†so that salvation could go out from them to the Gentiles¬†through a Jewish remnant who would believe. ¬†Remember that the first church fathers were the Jewish apostles, and the first church members were Jewish. ¬†And in fact, in Romans 15: 25-27 Paul commands the Gentile church to financially support the Jews. ¬†Recall, too, that God told Abraham that those who blessed him (and his descendants) would be blessed, and those who cursed him would be cursed. ¬†God is very serious about how the Church (and the world for that matter) treats Israel, and it would behoove us to examine our attitude and actions toward her.

The second point in this is that Jesus never intended for the Church and the Jews to be two separate entities. ¬†The Old Testament Law is the basis for Judaism. ¬†It is a religion that has been¬†fulfilled. ¬†The religion in its entirety¬†points to the coming Messiah. ¬†Thus, when Jesus came, He fulfilled Judaism. ¬†The Church¬†is built on the foundation of the original Old Testament Judaism. ¬†The two, Old Testament Judaism* and the Church, are intended to be a union, two parts making a whole. ¬†Ephesians 2:11-22 explain this. ¬†In particular notice verse 14 which says, “For He is our shalom, the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation,” ¬†and verse 15b-16 which says, “He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross.”

*Old Testament Judaism:  I am using this term to refer to the very specific written law that God gave to Moses in the desert and commanded the Israelites to obey.  This is the Law that is recorded in the first five books of the Bible.  Between that time, and the time that Yeshua came, many additional legalistic regulations were added to that written law.  They were called the Oral Law; Jesus referred to them as the traditions of men.  Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, there was also added the Rabbinical Law which was established to give guidance to Jews who wanted to practice the faith, but could not fully do so without the ability to include animal sacrifice without the existence of the Temple.

So far we have established the Jewishness of Christianity/the Church through our Jewish Savior, and as the very source, or basis of it.  And we have established that Jesus intended for believing Jews and the Gentile believers to be united as one body.

Next we look at the Law, or the Torah. ¬†The Torah is contained in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. ¬†It begins with creation, including the Sabbath, the 7th day of rest; includes the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; and it also includes all of the laws regarding cleanliness, sacrifices, and the Feasts. ¬†Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 TLV – “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! ¬†I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. ¬†Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.” ¬†He continued on to say in verse 19: ¬†“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. ¬†But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

It is clear that the Yeshua intended for the Law to continue and to be obeyed; obedience making righteousness. ¬†When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said that it is to love God, and the 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself. ¬†All of the law is summed up in those two. ¬†Paul refers to this as Messiah’s Law in Galatians 5:2. ¬†If you consider the commandments (do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, honor your father and mother, etc.) this makes sense. ¬†However, one commandment does not fit in under the love God and love your neighbor umbrella. ¬†That is the “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” command. ¬†This is really a topic for another post, so I won’t go into it in great depth, other than to say that God set the Sabbath aside as holy at the time of creation. ¬†That was before the Israelites existed. ¬†It is not a command just for the followers of the Jewish Law. ¬†It is a command for all mankind. ¬†Since Yeshua also said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, I understand that to mean that we are to observe a day of rest, and keep it holy, but we should not allow legalism to rule it. ¬†In other words, whether it be on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter as much as whether or not you have a Sabbath rest. ¬†Try to limit your work, spend time in worship, and rest.

Now back to the rest of the Law. ¬†The Old Testament Law had three primary standards: ¬†the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the Temple. ¬†These three standards were all the responsibility of the tribe of Levi. ¬†The priests were Levites. ¬†The sacrifices were performed by the priests. ¬†And the Temple was cared for and maintained by the priests. ¬†These standards were necessary to fully observe the Law. ¬†What do we know about Yeshua in light of the standards? ¬†We know that He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). ¬†We know that His death on the cross was the sacrifice that was once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). ¬†And we know that our bodies (those of believers) are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). ¬†All three standards were met, fulfilled, in Yeshua. ¬†Where the Old Testament Law pointed to righteousness, Messiah’s fulfillment of the Law became righteousness, which we receive by trusting in Him (Galatians 2:16).

I’ve shared a lot of information, but I still have not clarified what the Church should do about the Old Testament Law. ¬†I already talked about observing the Sabbath. ¬†I also think it is obvious that we should be observing the Ten Commandments as they are summed up in Messiah’s Law. ¬†The sacrifices are no longer necessary as Jesus fulfilled them. ¬†That leaves the laws regarding cleanliness, circumcision, and so on. ¬†Is the Church required to eat kosher meat, and consider themselves to be unclean after coming in contact with a corpse, or observe the 7 Feasts?

Paul declared in Romans 6:14 that we are not under the Law, but under grace. ¬†The question is, how much of the Law are we free from? ¬†This was a question that received quite a bit of discussion in the early Church. ¬†Since Jews were inextricably linked to Judaism, or the Old Testament Law, there was never a question of whether a Jew was a Jew. ¬†If he was a believer in the Messiah, it did not matter, he was still Jewish. ¬†He still attended the Synagogue and still observed the Law of Moses. ¬†He just had a new understanding of the Law. ¬†When Gentiles became believers in Messiah, new questions arose. ¬†Are they Jewish? ¬†Do they need to be circumcised? ¬†Do they need to follow the Law of Moses? ¬†In Acts 15:19-21, we see it was decided that the Gentiles needed to obey some of the Law, but were free from most of it. ¬†James, the brother of Jesus, said, “Therefore, I judge not to trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God– but to write to them to abstain from the contamination of idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what is strangled, and from blood. ¬†For Moses from ancient generations has had in every city those who proclaim him, since he is read in all the synagogues every Shabbat.” ¬†The Gentiles who were becoming believers were meeting with the Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath. ¬†It was the only way for them to learn about God the Father, and His plans. ¬†The portions of the Law that James listed as the areas to observe, were the specific things that would prevent a Jew from keeping company with them because they would have been considered unclean. ¬†By observing this short list from the Law, the believing Gentiles would be allowed into the synagogue and could study and worship alongside the Jews.

Aside from this, there is nothing in Acts or the Epistles that instructs the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament Law, with an exception, which I will get to in just a minute. ¬†In Romans 14, Paul makes it clear that the believer is to do as his conscience leads him to do. ¬†This is the passage that talks about being able to eat food offered to idols if one does not feel convicted of it as a sin. ¬†But if one does feel convicted, then it is a sin because that person has gone against his own conscience. ¬†It is also wrong to partake in such a way while in the company of someone who considers it a sin even if you don’t. ¬†The gist of this passage is that nothing in and of itself is unholy as it is made by God. ¬†It is what we do with it that makes a thing holy or unholy.

The exception to the Gentile observance of the Old Testament Law is with regard to the feasts, particularly the Passover. ¬†In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 NKJV Paul instructs the Gentile believers at Corinth in this way: ¬†“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.¬†¬†Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened¬†bread¬†of sincerity and truth” (emphasis mine). ¬†

We know that Paul continued to celebrate the Feasts. ¬†Aside from the above passage, we also see in 1 Corinthians 16:8 that he reported staying in Ephesus until Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks). ¬†And in Acts 20:6 it is reported that he sailed from Phillippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed immediately after Passover, so we can conclude that he observed both. ¬†We also know that Yeshua observed the Feasts. ¬†In Luke 22:7 He instructs his disciples to prepare the Passover. ¬†In fact, the Lord’s Supper, Communion, is a miniature Passover meal, and Yeshua’s followers are commanded to “do this in remembrance of Me.” ¬†We also see in Zechariah 14:16 that all the people of the earth during the time of the Millennial reign of Messiah will travel to Jerusalem to worship King Jesus, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

If Jesus observed the Feasts; and Paul, the disciple to the Gentiles observed the Feasts; and all believers are commanded to observe Communion, a miniature Passover; and Paul instructed Gentile believers to “keep the feast”; and the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed during the Millennium; and the Feasts are all prophecies pointing to either the first or second coming of Messiah…is there really a legitimate reason to not observe, or at the very least, recognize the 7 Feasts of Israel? ¬†There is no place that I have found that specifically says Gentile believers are exempt from observing the Feasts. ¬†Neither is there a place that¬†explicitly¬†instructs us to follow all of the Feasts. ¬†But I do believe that instruction is¬†implied. ¬†Because sacrifices have been taken care of by Yeshua, they need not be a part of our observance. ¬†It would be good to mark these dates on your calendar, though; study how God instructed them to be observed, and consider ways to observe at least some of each feast. ¬†In doing so, won’t we be continually reminded of how Jesus fulfilled God’s promises for a Savior as the Passover Lamb, and be encouraged to look forward to the promise of the fulfillment of the remaining feasts in the return of the King?

The Nearly Obsolete Church

What is the purpose of the Church?  To answer that, we need to ask, what is the purpose of Israel?  Some, or perhaps many, of you may be wondering what the connection is.  I’ll tell you.  “…and you–being a wild olive–were grafted in among them….”  Here is the whole verse.  Romans 11:17-18 – But if some of the branches were broken off and you–being a wild olive–were grafted in among them and became a partaker of the root of the olive tree with its richness, do not boast against the branches.  But if you do boast, it is not you who support the root but the root supports you.” TLV

And your point is???

Here is my point.  We, the Church, are grafted in to Israel, to be partakers in the blessings they receive from God.  First and foremost among them the Messiah.  Their Messiah is our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).  Whether all, or some of Israel have received Him or not is beside the point.  The fact is that Yeshua is their Messiah regardless of their acceptance of Him.  And He is our Messiah as well, thanks to them.  It is thanks to them because it is through them that the Messiah came.

Just as we share in their blessings as a result of the grafting in, we also share in their purpose.  Not the purpose of being the physical DNA of Yeshua.  That belongs to Israel and Israel alone.  But all through their history, they have had a purpose beyond the source of the Savior.  That being a nation that has been sanctified and made holy, to be set apart as God’s treasure.  They were to be a nation of people who, by their righteous living, pointed to the righteousness of God.  Who by their small size, yet amazing conquest, pointed to the power of God.  Who by their existence, pointed to the faithfulness of God.  And who by their  actions, pointed to the love of God.  By watching this little nation, the world was to see that Israel’s God was like no other god; that He was near to them, not afar off, in fact, that He dwelt with them.

Exodus 19:5 – “…you will be My own treasure from among all people.”

Deuteronomy 4:7-8 – “For what great nation is there that has gods so near to them, as ADONAI our God is whenever we call on Him?  What great nation is there that has statutes and ordinances that are righteous–like all of this Torah that I am setting before you today?”

Deuteronomy 4:20 – But you, ADONAI has taken…to be a people for His own inheritance….”

Deuteronomy 4:33-35 – Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard–and lived?  or has any god ever tried to come to take for himself a nation from within a nation–by trials, by signs and wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors–like all that ADONAI your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You were shown so that you might know that ADONAI is God–there is no other besides Him.

Deuteronomy 14:2 – For you are a holy people to ADONAI your God–from all the peoples on the face of the earth, ADONAI has chosen you to be His treasured people.

Deuteronomy 26:18-19 – Now today ADONAI has affirmed you as His treasured people, as He promised you; that you are to keep all His mitzvot [commandments]; that He will set you high above all the nations He has made, for praise, fame and honor; and that you are to be a holy people to ADONAI your God, as He has promised.

Deuteronomy 28:10 – Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of ADONAI and they will stand in awe of you.

Deuteronomy 33:29 – Happy are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by ADONAI, the Shield of your help and the Sword of your triumph?  Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample on their backs.

Ezekiel 37:26b-27 – I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be over them.  I will be their God and they will be My people.  Then the nations will know that I am ADONAI who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.

The purpose of Israel is to point to God; to be witnesses to who He is (Isaiah 43:10).  The purpose of the Church, as a branch grafted in to Israel, is to do the same.  Of course additional to that, we are to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8), and emissaries of Yeshua making disciples of all nations.

So we have determined the purpose of the Church, but let me ask you this question: how can we point to God, be witnesses of who He and Yeshua are, and make disciples of all nations when we look the same as every other person on the planet?

I remember when I was growing up going to church twice on Sunday and then Wednesday evening prayer service.  Then there were the other things.  There was youth group, Bible studies, choir, etc.  There were any number of ways to be involved, to keep my focus on God and His Word, and not on this world.  My family looked different from the families of my friends and neighbors because our lives revolved around God and His service, whether that was in the Church building itself, or in service to the community, or in worship and Bible study.  Whatever it was, it kept our eyes and hearts pointed in His direction.

What do our churches look like today?  Sunday morning service.  Sunday school during the school year; over the summer, that just gets in the way of family time.  Sunday evening service has been sacrificed on the alter of family time as well.  So has Wednesday evening prayer service…or maybe that was on the alter of school activities and “we are just too busy every other night of the week, so we need that night to just stay home.”  Youth group is attended as long as it doesn’t get in the way of …?  Even Sunday morning service is negotiable depending on 4H, the county fair, this trip to that place, that trip to the other place, and if we are honest, if we are not too tired from the busyness of everything else.

Busyness.  Yes, that is it.  The Church is actively being sacrificed on the alter of the god of Busyness.  I do not write this as someone who has no guilt.  In fact, I could be a lot more involved than I am.  Not that I am not involved at all, I am.  But there are things that I and my family could be involved with that we are not.  And the truth is it is because we have allowed church to have a priority level of about two.

To make matters worse, when we put church on the back burner, God tends to get pushed back there to the other back burner.  Our Bible reading and study at home slips until it is maybe once or twice a week, or not at all.

So what do our lives point to?  Who or what are they a witness of?  They point to Busyness.  They are a witness of Busyness.  Do we lead people to Christ?  No, why would we talk about Him when we barely give Him the time of day?  He’s an afterthought…oh yah!  It’s Sunday.  Maybe I should go to church.

Look at Israel!  Read through the book of Leviticus…its in the Old Testament.  Their entire lives revolved around keeping themselves righteous for God.  Being an Israelite was not just DNA, and it was more than cultural.  Being an Israelite was the definition of being set aside as a unique person for God.  They were intended to look different from everyone else.  God lived with them, and their lives revolved around Him.

Look at the Church.  The Spirit of God lives right inside each one of us!  How much more should our lives revolve around Him?  We already have righteousness through Messiah.  We have already received the salvation that they (Israel) worked for.  And yet we find it nearly impossible to set ourselves apart from the world.

How can the world see that God is worth living for if we don’t live for Him?  It is high time the Church tear down the idles of this world, and turn our faces to YAHWEH, the God of the Israelites and the God of the Church.

 

Good Friday, Easter…We Are Doing It All Wrong!

A year ago I wrote a post about Easter, Easter, the Celebration of the Fertility Goddess. In that post I explained that Easter is a false god.  The common Easter symbols that we are so accustomed to, the egg and the rabbit, are fertility symbols that are directly linked to the worship of this false god.  In fact, even the date that is chosen each year to celebrate Easter is determined according to when the celebration of the goddess Easter was celebrated, the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.  This is why there is such a great variance of dates causing the holiday to land anywhere between the end of March and the end of April.  To read more about how and why this religious combination happened, please read the post linked above.

As Christians, followers of Christ, and Yahweh, the one and only true God, we better have a problem with this. ¬†This is doing¬†exactly what the Israelites did on countless occasions, and were punished severely by God…it is mixing honor and worship of Yahweh, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, that Yahweh, with worship of a pagan god. ¬†Don’t tell me you are not doing that. ¬†Do you buy chocolate Easter bunnies? How about Peeps? ¬†I love those marshmallow bunnies and chicks! ¬† Do you decorate Easter eggs? ¬†Do you have an Easter egg hunt? ¬†Probably right before or immediately following the church service in which you celebrated the risen Savior. ¬†These symbols have absolutely NOTHING…NOT ONE…SINGLE…THING…to do with the resurrection of Messiah.

What’s more, there is¬†nowhere in the Bible where Christians are told to hold a celebration of Messiah’s resurrection. ¬†To tell you the truth, I can’t say that I have a problem specifically with celebrating it. ¬†Obviously it is something worth a celebration. ¬†However, the command given by Yeshua was to commemorate His death…”Do this in remembrance of Me.” ¬†And that command was given in connection to a very specific, already established, feast. ¬†The Passover.

The evening of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples was the beginning of Passover. ¬†Passover is every year on the same date, the 14th of Nissan, on the Jewish calendar. ¬†It begins at sunset and ends the following evening at sunset. ¬†The Last Supper was the Passover meal, the Seder. ¬†When Yeshua broke the bread, it was unleavened bread which symbolized His sinless life, and it was the bread they were commanded to eat at Passover by God when He instituted it at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. ¬†Remember, a spotless male lamb was sacrificed, and it’s blood spread on the doorposts so that the people would be saved from the angel of death. ¬†Yeshua is that spotless lamb who was sacrificed on¬†Passover, and who’s blood saved us from eternal death.

Yeshua instructed His followers to continue to observe the Passover, but after His death, to observe it in remembrance of what He did for us on the cross. 

“Do this in remembrance of Me.” ¬†Do¬†THIS. ¬†“This” is the PASSOVER. ¬†Look, what Yeshua did with his disciples was break the bread, and drink the cup, as part of the Passover feast. ¬†The Passover feast always pointed to the Savior who would one day come to save the world. ¬†It was a living prophecy of the coming Messiah. ¬†Yeshua fulfilled that prophecy that day, but He never instructed His followers to cease and desist. ¬†He¬†did instruct them to continue to observe the Passover, not as prophecy to come, but rather as prophecy fulfilled.

As I sat in church this morning, considering the coming Maundy Thursday service, and Easter to follow, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit of Christ. ¬†“This is wrong!!” beat in my heart and throbbed in my head. ¬†Passover. ¬†PASSOVER!!! ¬†That is when we are to remember the sacrifice Yeshua made for us. ¬†We have grieved the Holy Spirit by paganizing the holy celebration of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross. ¬†And now He is calling us back to Him. ¬†Do you hear His call? ¬†Leave the pagan worship of Easter behind you! ¬†Return to Me and MY ways. ¬†Who of you will stand for the Lord? ¬†Who will dare to brave the “heresy” of leaving Easter where it belongs and celebrating Christ on HIS holy day, Passover?

It is the year 2017 on the solar calendar (the year 5777 on the Jewish calendar). ¬†The 14th day of Nissan is tomorrow. ¬†I am going to lead my family in a Seder meal. ¬†It won’t ¬†be perfect because I don’t know how to do it all, and quite frankly, I’m not totally prepared. ¬†But I know we will be honoring Yeshua Messiah on the right day at the right time. ¬†We will attend Maundy and Resurrection Day services. ¬†The question for you and for me is what about next year? ¬†Will we seek courage from God to speak to our church leaders and encourage a return to God’s feast where Yeshua, and only Yeshua, will be honored? ¬†Or will we cower, and continue to mix pagan worship with Christian worship? ¬†In so doing, will we ignore God’s call to return to Him and away from pagan gods as the Israelites did? ¬†The Church has been celebrating Easter for nearly 2,000 years. ¬†Old habits die hard. ¬†Some habits need to be broken.

Here is a link to instructions for a Christian Passover written by Ann Voskamp:  Why A Christian Family Celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder

Is Your Cross Empty?

I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image‚ÄĒany likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.

Hello. I am a Christian, and I am a Hypocrite.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are either a Christian, or you are not a Christian.  If you are a Christian, chances are you read the title and thought, “Oh great.  Another wacko spouting off and making the rest of us look bad.”  If on the other hand, you are not a Christian, you probably saw this title and thought, “Finally a ‘Christian’ who will admit the truth.”

Since you are both here, allow me to explain myself.  Then you can make up your own mind about me.  Here’s the deal.  I am a Christian.  I take the liberty of claiming that because I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  Not only do I follow His teachings, but I have dedicated my life to living in complete service to Him.  I even go so far as to say that I asked Him to be my Lord, the one who has complete say over my life, and my Savior.  He is my Savior because He took the punishment God had reserved for me because of my wrong-doings (known in our circles as sin)…let me emphasize that.  Jesus took my punishment.  What I deserved, He took upon Himself.  He saved me from it.  Thus He is my Savior.

Here’s the other part of this.  I am a hypocrite.  But I’m probably not the kind of hypocrite you are expecting me to confess to.  I think we can all generally agree that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but does another, right?  I would add, though, that typically a hypocrite would be considered someone who says something and then intentionally, knowingly, does the opposite.  Wouldn’t you agree? With that definition in mind, I guess I would have to say that

                                                 I AM AN ACCIDENTAL HYPOCRITE.

I’m not really a boldfaced hypocrite as you, the non-Christian, would claim.  I don’t say that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and then intentionally break them.  You may not believe me, but I really do try to obey His commands.  The thing is that I’m not perfect.  I mess up…all the time…every single day.  I admit it.  I’m a Christian, but I’m still a sinner…at the same time.  Yes.  That is possible.  In fact, that is the reality of every single person who is a Christian.  As much as we would love to be perfect, we aren’t, and we never will be as long as we are living.

There was only one person who was perfect in the history of the world, and that was JESUS.  Jesus was perfect because He was, is, the Son of God.  He is man in the flesh, but also completely God in the Spirit, with all the power that goes with being God.  That was how He was able to take my punishment, and the punishment of every single person who ever had and whoever will live.  He deserved no punishment of His own, SO HE TOOK MINE…and yours.  Oh, I know.  You are pretty certain that because I am such a hypocrite, whether accidental or not, you are much better than me.  Here’s where I leave the political correctness stuff behind.  You aren’t any better than me.  Hold on now.  Before you flip your wig, I’m not better than you either.  I never said that I was.  When it comes to being human, we are all on the same equal playing field.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, everyone, ev-er-y single one, does wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much wrong.  One wrong is the same as a thousand wrongs when it causes us to not measure up to God’s standard of perfection.  You are guilty of it, and so am I.  Flat out.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is what it is.  You can argue it until you are blue in the face, but deep down inside there is a part of you that you are desperately trying to squash.  That part that says, “You know she is right.”  You know how I know that?  Because God built everyone of us with this thing called a conscience.  More than that, He put in each of us the innate desire to search for Him.

So if I’m a sinner, and you are a sinner, what is the difference between you and me?  I mean really.  I have already admitted to being an accidental hypocrite.  I have admitted to being no better than you or anyone else.  I admitted to doing wrong every single day.  So what is the difference?  Are you ready for it?  Here it is.  I have been forgiven.  Yep.  That is it.  I have not been forgiven because I’m so special either.  I’ve been forgiven for one simple reason:  I asked.  Oh sure, first I had to admit that I am a sinner.  If I didn’t do that, there was no point in asking for forgiveness in the first place.  After all, if I don’t think I have ever done anything wrong, then what do I need forgiveness for?  But nagging deep down inside of me is the knowledge that I have lied (even little white lies).  I never made a habit of it, but I’ve done it.  I have stolen…a piece of candy when I was a child, and time from my employer when I should have been working.  I’ve been angry and bitter.  I’ve said words I shouldn’t have said.  I have been mean to people.  I’ve been jealous.  I have been ungrateful, rude, disrespectful.  I have gossiped, put my needs before the needs of others, been self-righteous.  The list goes on and on, and is as fresh as yesterday.  I cannot deny that I have done wrong things.  It’s as plain as the nose on my face.  And so is my need for forgiveness.

Every sin is like a brick in a wall that separates us from God.  It is a wall that is built by me, but with eternal bricks that cannot be torn down by human hands or effort.  It is a wall that prevents me from having a relationship with God, and from ever getting to Heaven to live with Him.  The only one who has the power to tear that wall of eternal sin bricks down is Jesus, and He will only do it if we ask Him to.  That means getting to Heaven is our choice…we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and save us from staying on this side of the wall, staying in sin.  He then becomes our Savior.

All sin must be punished.  Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross over 2,000 years ago.  The punishment for sin is death, eternal death.  That means our bodies die, but our spirits either live for eternity in Heaven with God, or they live an eternal death in Hell separated from God and all His goodness.  When Jesus died, He took our punishment of eternity in Hell.  When He came back to life after 3 days, He demonstrated that the power over life and death are both in His hands, and He cannot be controlled by either.  We Christians say that He conquered death and Hell.  Even though we will all still die a physical death (that is a consequence of sin, as opposed to punishment for it), our spirits don’t die.  And if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He will break down that ugly (because sin is ugly if we are honest) wall of sin, and welcome us into the presence of God.  If we die with that wall still standing between us and God, then all hope is lost.  The wall remains in the spirit world, just as it was here in the physical world, and there is no way past it to get near to God.  The difference is that in the physical world, God’s Spirit is present in every Christian, and all around us.  Every person experiences the goodness of God as He provides rain for crops to grow, sunshine, love, peace…all the good things we have just a glimpse of here.  In Hell, on the other side of that wall, ALL of His goodness is gone.  None of it remains.  There is only the antithesis of everything good.  No love at all, only hatred.  No peace, only torment.  No laughter, only tears.  All the time, eternally.  And in that spirit world of life after physical death, the wall of sin has also become eternal.  There is no hope of every breaking it down.

Conversely, for those people who asked Jesus for His salvation, and allowed Him to tear that wall down, their spirits get to live surrounded by all of God’s goodness, in purest form, no longer distorted by sin and its effects, for all of eternity.  Completely pure love.  Completely whole peace.  Completely full joy.  All the time, eternally.

My ugly sin was has been torn down.  Jesus is my Savior.  I still sin, because I will never be perfect until my spirit is living in Heaven with God.  But when Jesus tore down my sin wall, He also made it impossible for it to be rebuilt.  He took my punishment once and for all.  When I sin now, I ask for forgiveness and it is given.  There are still earthly consequences for sin.  If I lie to someone, I have still hurt them and damaged our trust.  But I have confidence that Jesus will forgive me, because He promised to, and I know that lie is not going to keep me from living in Heaven.

Now, there is a burning issue that needs to be addressed.  I may be a Christian who is an accidental hypocrite, but there are definitely people who claim to be Christians and are blatant hypocrites.  What about them?  First of all, I don’t know their hearts.  I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not they actually are Christians.  Only God knows that.  What I do know is that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When people are standing on the side of a gay pride parade holding hateful placards, for example, that is not showing the love of God…and it is flaming hypocrisy.  It does not show love, it shows hatred.   The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love.  Hatred is a sin.  And I have just admitted that Christians still sin.  So how do we know what the truth is?  Are they actually Christians who are sinning and giving the rest of us a bad name?  If so, we must remember that we will never be perfect, and that God works in the heart of every Christian to make them more and more like Him.  Hopefully they will eventually recognize their sin, confess it and seek forgiveness.  However, it must also be recognized that these people may not really be Christians at all, but only think they are.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who think they are Christians just because they go to church, or try to be a good person.  Jesus said that He is the only way to be saved.  Going to church won’t save, and no one can be good enough to save themselves.  If those people are relying on something other than Jesus, they are not truly Christians, and do not have the love of God in them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  You will think what you will about me and all Christians.  You will either judge us on a case-by-case basis, or you will judge us as all the same whether you know us or not.  And I will continue to be a Christian, even with my imperfections.  But I am, and always will be, a Christian who knows without a doubt that when I die, my spirit will live with God forever, with a pile of bricks from a torn down wall far behind me.  What about you?  Will you ask Jesus to tear down your wall and be your Savior?  Or will you live eternally on the side of a wall that you can never tear down?  It’s up to you.

 

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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