Against Deception

People often speak of “war and rumors of war”, as well as global disasters as being signs of the end time. I would ask you today to look with fresh eyes and consider the Lord’s heart in this regard.

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to Him to show him the buildings of the temple.                                                                                    Matthew 24:1.

At the end of a busy day, Jesus and his disciples find a quiet place, and they simply comment on the view of the temple mount. The Lord surprises them with a very precise and shocking prophecy.

And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.       Mt. 24:2.     

Jesus has mentioned a few times that He would face rejection and death in Jerusalem, but now He speaks of God’s soon judgment on the city and they immediately make a jump in their own minds that this pertains to the end of the age.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?     Mt. 24:3.

We know that most of the Lord’s followers would have lived to see the destruction of the temple, this event was not a herald of the end times. While the questions reveal what was on their hearts, only the Lord’s answers can show us His priorities.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  Mt. 24:4.

Now if we pause here in the discourse and ask the question, “what do you think was the Lord’s primary concern regarding the subject of signs and the end of the age? Your answer should be that He was concerned with deceptive teachings that would come forth in this regard. Did He not once say this concerning signs:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.     Matthew 16:4.

He continues the discourse by elaborating on the subject of deceptions, not signs. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  Mt. 2:5.

To be clear here, the Lord is not talking about anyone claiming to be the Messiah. Anyone who comes “in His name”, are claiming to be legitimate ambassadors speaking on His behalf.  The claim “I am Christ”, should be translated: “I am anointed”, because christos means anointed, and this is a claim that every false teacher, preacher and prophet is making these days. This is more than a sign of the end times, this is a caution for the wise follower to avoid being deceived.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Mt. 24:6.

These words “the end is not yet” should be enough to convince you that quoting “wars and rumors of wars” as if to imply that the end of the age is upon us is to greatly discredit your understanding.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  Mt. 24:7.
Yada, yada, yada….
All these are the beginning of sorrows.  Mt:24:8.

Now this is something to consider. This expression of early birth pangs says a lot about being misinformed. Most people know that you don’t rush to the hospital with the first contractions of birth. Couples are coached to time contractions to be sure that labor has begun. However, there are still occasions were an expectant mother is rushed to a hospital, only to return later that evening saying; “false alarm”. A good possibility is that  greater awareness avoids reacting inappropriately to the beginning of sorrows.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  Mt. 24:11.

Again with the warnings and concerns over being deceived.

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.                                      Mt. 24:12.

This verse uses the word agape for love and therefore cannot be interpreted as a state of the world we live. Only believers can know the agape love of God, and only believers can lose their “first love” and fall away due to lawlessness (iniquity) within the church.

This is why Jesus now says:

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mt. 24:13.

This may not mesh with the once saved always saved doctrine, but Jesus said it, not me.

There are two verses I will now post for consideration on this topic.

And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled. Luke 21:24.

Notice that this is the “the end of the age” for the Gentiles, and the sovereignty of Jerusalem is a legitimate point of inquiry.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should  be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25.

Again with the Gentiles in the age we now occupy. With a growing number of Jews in Israel who see the historical Jesus (Yeshua) as the Son of God and Messiah, we draw closer to a true remnant in the promised land. Another reality worthy of attention.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Matthew 24:24.

And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29.

The text of Galatians 3:29 begins “de ei hymeis christos”, and the word christos means anointed, thus “if you are anointed” (or claim to be). Compare this to Matthew 24:5: For many shall come in my name saying I am anointed (christos) and shall deceive many.

Let me speak frankly to younger readers. Years ago, few preachers claimed to be anointed or to have “the anointing”. Now, essentially everyone on television, radio or otherwise makes this claim. They are the same people who love to talk about “the signs of the end times” in Matthew 24, without realizing they are fulfilling the prophecy in so stating.
This is why Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit”, not who they claim to be as testimony of themselves. This is an antichrist spirit that had already manifested in the first century church.

Little children it is the last time and as you have heard that antichrist shall come even now are there many antichrists whereby we know that is the last time.                                 1 John 2:18.

Now please consider what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 10:7: Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is anointed let him of himself think this again, that as he is anointed even so are we anointed.

Among the first century church there already were many preaching “in that name” and claiming an anointing to do so, and yet they were contradicting what Paul and his companions were preaching!

I implore you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ:

Beloved believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.                                                                                    1 John 4:1.

Superpowers of the Millennium

In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the earth. For Adonai-Tzva’ot has blessed, saying: “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”                                                                      Isaiah 19:24&25.
The land of Assyria figured prominently throughout the Old Testament, and has emerged to play a pivotal role on the world stage. The Assyrian empire ranged from what is today eastern Turkey, across northern Syria and Iraq, into northwest Iran. This entire region, though separated geo-politically, is loosely united by the populations of ethnic Kurds that occupy the “land of Assyria”.
The Kurdish controlled areas in northern Iraq are of particular interest for the oil reserves found there. Ideally, this oil would be brought directly to the eastern Mediterranean by pipeline across the Syrian desert. Instability in this country and Lebanon currently prevent that from being accomplished. The warfare in this region will soon settle this issue, as the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon is an intolerable situation for Israel, and will soon be resolved by force of arms.

Ephraim feeds on wind, and follows after the east wind: he daily increases lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. Hosea 12:1.

To the south, Egypt has had peaceful relations with Israel for a generation, and will benefit greatly from this relationship. They will prosper from Israel’s relationship with the west, as Israel will eventually control the seaport that will become the center of global trade.

Who has taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth? The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.
Isaiah 23:8&9.

Consider the role that this city of Tyre has played in Biblical history. When Solomon built the first Temple, material support was provided from the ruler of Tyre. When Ezra built the second temple, he received material support from the ruler of Tyre also. Will they play a pivotal role at the end of the age?

And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.
Isaiah 23:17&18.

For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.                                                      Revelations 18:3.

The great Mediterranean seaports of Tyre and Sidon are included in the land of promise. The center of global trade in the time of the Phoenicians, an enabler for Solomon’s global ambitions, and soon to be the prize of a coming war in the Middle East. Sidon was the first born son of Canaan, the man cursed by  Noah. Tyre was named for the daughter of Sidon. The Bible is the only source for a true understanding of history, the present, and the future.
The main point to draw from this discourse is to avoid deception in the mind of believers. The coming war in the middle east will not be the end of the world or a sign for the return of the Son of man. This is a necessary step in man’s inglorious history to fulfill all righteousness. The time of the gentiles is the only age that is coming to a close. The three nations of God will be the center of our history going forward. Remain faithful.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelations 2:10.

Two Words, One Root

When we consider the words believe and faith, we sense intuitively that a relationship exists between them. For a belief to operate in the power of faith there must be trust, without doubt.
And whatever things you ask in prayer believing, you will receive.
Matthew 21:22.

The very thing that you put your trust in will in the end stand in judgement of you.

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust.
John 5:45.

Where you place your trust defines your hope for the future and eternity. The Greek translated trust is also almost equally translated as hope.

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For
who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we
wait with endurance.
Romans 8:24 & 25.

To express this from a negative form, faith is belief without doubt.

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Mark 11:23.

In this is our blessing:
Jesus said to him, Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
John 20:29.

So then what is the common root for both faith and believing? The answer is the primary verb “to persuade”. This word appears 17 times in the book of Acts alone.

Here are two examples of Paul converting souls by the faith of Jesus Christ.

And he was debating every Shabbat in the synagogue, trying to persuade
both Jewish and Greek people.
Acts 18:4, (TLV).

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with
persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:8, (NAB).

This is why the Gospel must be presented in the pure, original form, that those who hear are persuaded by Grace from the God of Love, as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ.

Paul expressed his intentions clearly:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

There are many other ways to persuade someone, such as this first time the word appears in the Gospel.

The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas, but to destroy Jesus.
Matthew 27:20.

This persuasion was probably accomplished through intimidation, as the people would not want to oppose the leaders who accused the Lord before Pilate. Barabbas was a thief, a murderer, and an insurrectionist who was set free on the occasion of Christ’s trial before a Gentile. This is to say that a common way for people to be persuaded is through some claim to authority. The Apostolic teachings were constantly being opposed by false teachers who claimed to have authority from Jerusalem.

In Galatia and many other Greek locations, new believers were being told that they must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses.

Here Paul opposes this doctrine in his letter to the Galatians.

Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Galatians 5:7-9.

After insisting that they not be persuaded by these instructions from those
who claim authority to add to the Message, he uses the analogy of leaven.
Even as Jesus warned His disciples to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees”.              Paul instructs us using the same imagery.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

To walk by faith is to trust exclusively in the Grace of God, without the need
for the leaven of scientific proof.

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are
sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as from ourselves, but our
sufficiency from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you always
having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8.

Memorial of Mary of Bethany

Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. Mark 14:9; Matthew 26:13.

Ironically, in these two accounts, the words are spoken on behalf of an unnamed woman who came in during a dinner with Jesus at the table. “There came a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on His head.”  The gospel of John fills in the missing pieces. Chapter 12 of his gospel identifies the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha, and Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead. Martha is serving the dinner.

This set the stage for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, for word of Lazarus having been raised from the dead had ignited the large crowds on hand for the Passover. The chief priests consulted to also see Lazarus put to death, because by reason of him many of the Jews believed in Jesus.

We are also informed by John 11:2 it was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. This account is found in           Luke 7:37-50. The Lord uses this opportunity to make a very important point: “to whom little is forgiven, loves little.

This is not to say that some people are less of a sinner and need less forgiveness, but some fail to acknowledge their condition and need for reconciliation with God. The Pharisee saw himself as having a relationship with God, while looking down on Mary as a sinner. Thus she is told; “your sins are forgiven”, and “your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

In Luke 10:38-42, we find another narrative involving Mary and Martha, with Jesus a guest in their home. Martha was busy with much serving while her sister sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. Martha exclaimed, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her to come help me.” To which Jesus replied unto her, “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things but one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

We cannot imagine wrong in someone with a heart to serve, but can see where there is a time for everyone to be still and know the Lord. However, Jesus is not just speaking to a willingness to serve.

We can see a greater concern for someone who is careful and troubled and should fully consider what the Lord is addressing.

The word translated careful here is used by Jesus repeatedly in His sermons, but the more typical translation in the KJV is “take no thought”, and means to be anxious.

Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than clothing? Take therefore no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.                                                                               Matthew 6:25,34.

Jesus also uses the same word to tell us not to worry about what we should say if our faith is put on trial, saying if we are delivered up, “take no thought how or what you shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same moment what you should speak.”                                                                   Matthew 10:19.

In His parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus describes the seed among thorns as someone who hears His word, but are choked with “cares” of riches and pleasures in life, and brings no fruit to maturity.                   Luke 8:14.

Paul tells us: “be careful” for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.                                             Philippians 4:6 & 7.

Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.                                            1 Peter 5:7.

 

A Memorial for Lazarus

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister (Mary) and Lazarus.                         John 11:5.

For a moment in time, the town of Bethany was at the center of God’s story, and these three people were at center stage in the narrative concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We know more about these three people than we do most of the apostles. This chapter in the gospel of John gives the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The story told exemplifies the work of Jesus in reconciliation, restoration, and resurrection.

After Lazarus has died and been laid to rest, Jesus returns to Bethany after informing His disciples that the glory of God is about to be revealed unto them, and the Son of God will be glorified. Martha is the first to approach Jesus and says “Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died.” Jesus tells her “your brother will rise again”, to which she replies, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day”.

Jesus tells her “I am the resurrection and life”, and then asks her if she believes in Him. She then makes the true confession of faith, showing how far she had come in receiving the Gospel. She said unto Him:

Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who would come into the world.                                                                                     John 11:27.

When Mary comes on the scene she is only able to say “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, as she continued weeping, along with those who came to comfort her; and Jesus wept with them.        John 11:35.

The witnesses exclaimed, “Behold how He loved him!” Jesus then commands them to take away the stone covering the entrance to the cave where Lazarus was laid. Martha advises Him that he has been dead four days, and expects a foul odor. Jesus then says to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe, that you would see the glory of God?” He then calls Lazarus forth from the grave.

The name Lazarus makes for a very interesting study. The name is Greek to English, for the Hebrew name Eleazar, a very prominent character throughout the Old Testament. El ‘Azar means God is helper, and is first identified as the third son of Aaron. The two older sons of Aaron are devoured by the fire of God’s presence when they make an unauthorized offering of incense before the Ark.

By the time of Aaron’s decease, Moses is instructed to strip the garments of the High Priest from Aaron and put them on his son Eleazar. During the conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua, Eleazar stood before the Ark of the Covenant and oversaw the division of land by lot for each tribe’s inheritance.

During the time of Samuel, another man named Eleazar, son of Abinadab kept the Ark of the Lord at Kirjathjearim twenty years. Later one of David’s mighty men named Eleazar, the son of Dodo the Ahohite is listed as one of the three mighty men with David, who stood against the Philistines when the army of Israel fled, and fought until his sword stuck to his hand and the Lord gave a great victory. The people only returned after to divide the spoil.

During the time of Ezra and the restoration following the Babylonian exile, one of the priests named Eleazar oversaw the return of the silver and gold vessels to the House of God, and a Levite named Eleazar was on hand during the time of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. It would seem during the greatest exploits of God’s people, a priest named Eleazar, God has helped, was always present.

In the Gospel of Matthew chapter one, in the genealogy we find Eleazar begat Mattan, and Mattan begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.                           Matthew 1:15&16.

And finally, in the Gospel of Luke chapter 16, we read an illustrative narrative given by Jesus concerning a poor beggar named Lazarus, who sat at the gate of a certain rich man, full of sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.

How far had man fallen from the place where God was his help? Was Jesus resurrecting more than just an individual when he raised Lazarus from the grave?

Continuing his narrative in Luke, Jesus goes on describe the death of the beggar and the afterlife from the biblical perspective. Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, a place of comfort. Meanwhile the rich man has also died and sees Lazarus with Abraham and cries out for mercy, for he was in a place of torment in Hades.

Unfortunately, he is admonished by Abraham, and reminded that in his lifetime he received good things while Lazarus suffered evil things, but is now comforted, and you are tormented. “Besides, there is a great gulf fixed between us that cannot be passed.”                                                           Luke 16:19-31.

This description of the afterlife is most startling. I have often wondered what the notion of people dying and going to heaven is based upon. Of course, I don’t doubt the existence of such a place, just preaching that people who are saved by confessing Jesus as their Lord and Savior can expect to go there, if they died tomorrow.

Just saying that the Gospel is never presented in that way by the apostles, and the house of God is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.                   Ephesians 2:20.

Paul says: if anyone or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any preach any other gospel unto you that that you have received, let him be accursed.                                          Galatians 1:8 & 9.

Far be it that anyone would bring a curse in preaching “another gospel”, thus we should take the greatest care to be consistent in the message.

Acts 4:1&2 says: and as they spoke unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

The focus of Jesus’s teaching always centered on the resurrection.

Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.                                                              John 5:28, 29.

At the time Jesus was saying this, he was claiming that all authority to execute judgment has been given unto him by his Father. To avoid preaching the resurrection is to avoid preaching the judgment.

From Genesis to Revelation, judgment is spoken of nearly 300 times. Paul testified before kings and queens:  “he reasoned with them of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come.”                                                            Acts 24:24, 25.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about the righteous judgment of God. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit is all about being able to live a life that will allow us to stand at the judgment.

The Message is of life everlasting; and a victorious life in the here and now. In so doing we await a new heaven and a new earth wherein abides righteousness.                                                                                                  2 Peter 3:13.