Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

1 Corinthians 4:2.  Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. 

To be faithful to the Gospel is to go beyond belief. Those who have heard and believe the Gospel Paul identifies as “the called”: 

Romans 1:6. “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ”. 

This is just a first step, in what is “a walk of faith”, while abiding in the gift of the Spirit. For Jesus said this to His followers, many of whom would fall away:

Matthew 22:14.  For many are called, but few are chosen. 

Seek from the Lord a personal dispensation, and be among the elect. 

Ephesians 3:2.  if indeed you have heard of the dispensation (=stewardship) of the grace of God which was given to me for you. 

Now you will have a direction to allow your faith to be transformed to faithfulness. 

Rev 17:14.  and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. 

Jesus told Thomas, who doubted: 

John 20:27. “be not faithless; be faithful”- not ‘believing’, as with most translations.

Mark 13:27.  And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 

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

Rev 3:11.  I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 

John 1:16.  And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. 

What then is “grace for grace”?

This can be understood by these words of the Lord to His disciples:

Matthew 10:8.  “freely you have received, freely give”.

Churches are full of people every Sunday morning who have received God’s grace, as evidenced by the fact that they got out of bed. Hallelujah! The body of Christ continues to touch lives by the hands of those who give grace. Who have received grace, for grace.

The testimony of Christian maturity is found in the words of Paul: 

Philippians 1:7.  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel: you all are partakers of my grace. 

The unmerited favor of God is a theological definition of grace that is widely accepted among Christians.

2 Corinthians 9:8. 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. 

A Holy Spirit definition of grace: the all sufficiency of God that enables us to abound in every good work in service to the body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:7.  Therefore, as you abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that you abound in this grace also (charity). 

Since it is still better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), continue to freely give, for we have received of His Fullness.

What Does The Church of The Firstborn Mean

This is from a teaching website and a standard interpretation.

A link to the site is at the end.    

What Does The Church of The Firstborn Mean?

Hebrews 12:22-24 states: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

First, in the original language, the term “firstborn” is in the plural. It should be translated as “church of the firstborn ones.”                                          

Second, we must recognize that Jesus is The “Firstborn.” He was given the preeminence (superiority) by God the Father over the new creation (Colossians 1:15-20). He was also preeminent because He arose from the dead and was the first person to die no more (Revelation 1:5).                                                

Third, sinners who trust and obey the gospel of Christ (John 8:24; Acts 17:30; Romans 10:9,10; Acts 2:38) will undergo water baptism to identify with Jesus (Ephesians 1:3,12; 2:13; Acts 22:16 – His precious blood which washes away our sins), the Firstborn One, to also become firstborn ones because they have been raised from water “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3,4). They have experienced a death to the old life of sin, a burial of that old man of sin, and a spiritual resurrection of a new man by God’s grace through faith via water immersion. They also look forward if they are faithful (if they should die first) to a physical resurrection from the dead at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15) since Jesus was the first one to rise from the dead to die no more.

https://thegospelofchrist.com/knowledge-base/tgoc-kb–hwwgt

Discussion and Analysis

First, the fact that firstborn is in plural form is not Biblical interpretation, but Grade school grammar. The subject is ‘church’ which should require no explanation, as having many members. This requires the plural form in the object of the preposition, ‘firstborn.’                                                     

Second, Jesus is identified as the Firstborn, hence the church of the firstborn implies: His church, His body. This then supports the idea of ‘The Church of The Firstborn One’. Translating ‘church of the firstborn ones’ suggests to the reader that only firstborn children are allowed membership, and misrepresents the significance of the word.                                                                         

Third, and most elaborate is the explanation that sinners who are baptised in repentance become ‘firstborn ones’ by faith. No where in the New Testament are we ever instructed that we have become firstborn by grace through faith. To understand the significance of the firstborn, the seeker of Truth must look to the Law and the Prophets. 

Isaiah 8:20.  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

[Here is an analysis based on Exodus 13 and associated scriptures.]  

Memorial of the Firstborn

Exodus 13:9.  And it shall be for a sign unto you upon your hand and for a memorial before your eyes that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.                                                     

After destroying all the firstborn males of Egypt and sparing Israel, both of man and beast, the Lord claims all the firstborn males who open the womb as His own possession. To eat bread without leaven for seven days is to acknowledge what God sanctifies unto Himself as an ordinance forever. These commandments are for a memorial to the strong hand of the Lord in our life, to direct our actions in accordance with His ways, not our own ability.

Exodus 13:1-8, (abbreviated).  The Lord spoke to Moses; sanctify unto me all the firstborn…remember this day you came out of Egypt, for the Lord brought you out with a strong hand, therefore you shall not eat with leaven….for seven days…and you shall tell your son in that day “This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when he brought me out of Egypt. 

Exodus 13:14, 15.   And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, what is this? You shall say unto him, with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the house of slavery…..therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that opens the womb but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.                                 

The Lord displays His strong hand in judgment against the strength of man as a display of sovereignty.

1 Corinthians 1:25.   “For the weakness of God is stronger than men.”      

This perception of man invested in the first born male is clearly understood in the words of Jacob in his final blessing upon his sons.

Genesis 49:3.  Reuben you, my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.                                     

“The beginning of my strength” is the expression of a man’s virility.            

Psalm 105:36.  He smote all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. 

On the other hand, God displays His might and the beginning of His strength in creation:

Isaiah 40:26.  Lift up your eyes on high and behold who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one fails.                  

Moreover, this perception of the firstborn male is an expression of the pride of man. In this context, the Lord invests Israel before the witness of Pharaoh (the false man-god) with a severe warning:

Exodus 4:22&23.  And you shall say unto Pharaoh, thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I say unto you; let my son go that he may serve me, and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your son, your firstborn.      

The priesthood became exclusive to the tribe of Levi after the golden calf incident, and as a result, they took the place of the firstborn redeemed of the Lord.

Numbers 3:12 & 13.  Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that open the womb from among the children of Israel, therefore the Levites shall be mine because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast, mine shall they be: I am the Lord.                                                                                                  

The census established the number of Levite males qualified to serve with Aaron in the priesthood, the sons of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The census of the firstborn males totaled 273 souls above that of the qualified Levite males, and these were redeemed by a five shekel per man redemption price.

In modern day Israel, the government mints a five shekel coin that can be purchased for a family to commemorate a son as the firstborn, by natural childbirth. Family restrictions in some countries, birth control, abortion and cesarean birth all restrict the number of firstborn males who open the womb, and thus the church of the firstborn.

Take heed to understand that the church is not exclusive to firstborn males of natural childbirth, but the number establishes a limit to the fullness. 

God has taken for Himself the firstborn reflecting the fact that the Son of God is the firstborn of all creation, as well the firstborn from the dead.

Luke 21:24.  For Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled.                                                                                   

Romans 11:25. 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. 

Thus these prophetic scriptures apply to the gentiles, and this age has an established end.

The Great Reveal

Luke 2:3, 4. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 12:2, 3.  For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

1 Corinthians 3:13. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test and prove each one’s workmanship .

Luke 17:30.  Even so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

1 Peter 1:13-16. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former desires, in your ignorance;  but as He who called you holy, you also be holy in all conduct,  because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Jesus Christ Revealed To The Children Of God

Luke 10:21, 22. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal.

Revelation 1:1-3. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Matthew 16:17. Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Ephesians 3:3-6. How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:  that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.

The Righteousness of God Revealed

Romans 1:17.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:23.  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 

Philippians 3:15, 16. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

1 Peter 1:5. Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in every profession and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Glory Revealed

1 Peter 4:12-14. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 

1 Peter 5:1. The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.

1 Peter 1:6-9. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,  whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Romans 8:18.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 

Spiritual Wisdom By Revelation

Ephesians 1:15-20. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power  which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.

The Mind of Christ by The Revelation of The Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:10-16. God has been revealed to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolish to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no one.  For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Benediction

Romans 16:25-27. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith. And to the only wise God: Glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

FALSE PROPHETS

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.

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

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.

Mt. 24:2.  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.         

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.

Mt. 24:3.  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?     

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.

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

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:

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

He continues the discourse by elaborating on the subject of deceptions, not signs.

Mt. 24:5.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

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.

Mt. 24:5.  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. 

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.

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

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 where 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.

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

Again with the warnings and concerns over being deceived.

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

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.

2 Thessalonians 2:3  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.

This is why Jesus now says:

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

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

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

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

Romans 11:25.  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.

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.

Matthew 24:24.  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.

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 prophecy in so stating.

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

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.

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.

1 John 2:18.  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.

Now please consider what Paul is saying:

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:

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

A Parable of Faithful Ministry

The Beginning of the Gospel

According to Mark, the gospel begins with John the Baptist, the focus of our parable.

Mark 1:1-3. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: behold I send my messenger before your face which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.                                                  

We are given two scriptures, from Isaiah 40, and from Malachi 3, from which the ministry of John the Baptist draws an anointing from the Spirit of Truth. The gospel of John tells us the ministry of John the Baptist also served as a test on the hearts of all who heard his message.

.John 1:6, 7. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to testify of the Light that all through him might believe.

It is said of John that he was sent from God. Compare this to the answer Jesus gave to the question: what must we do to perform the works of God?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said: this is the work of God: that you believe the one whom He has sent.

The words of all who are sent by God become a basis for faith.

Ephesians 2:20.  Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.  

A Voice in the Wilderness

Jesus was asked by what authority he acted upon.

Matthew 21:24-27 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, did it come from heaven or of men? They answered Jesus, we cannot tell. And He said unto them, neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.  .

Because the chief priests and elders refused to acknowledge the ministry of John the Baptist as being sent from God, Jesus refused to answer their questions, though they had the authority to ask, for He answered to a Higher Authority.

 Matthew 21:32.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him.

We can see here a fulfillment of the word spoken in John 1:7, that all through him might believe. The religious leaders were denied repentance even with the witness of mighty miracles of God, because they rejected John. 

Luke 7:30.  And all the people that heard him justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves (literally ‘within themselves’), not being baptized of him.        

John 10:41, 42. And many resorted unto Him and said John did no miracles but all things that John spoke of this man were true. And many believed on Him there. 

So we see that those who received the baptism of John also remained to hear him preach. Jesus fulfilled the words spoken before by this prophet, which confirmed their faith. Those who rejected the baptism of John knew nothing of the word that he preached concerning the Christ.

The Spirit and Power of Elijah

Matthew 11:13-15.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you will receive, this is Elijah which was to come. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.

The relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah was a stumbling block for the Jews at the time that Jesus was ministering the gospel. When the authorities in Jerusalem sent emissaries to inquire into the baptism of John, he was asked point blank:

“Are you Elijah?” 

John 1:19-23.  He answered, I am not. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah.                   

John again testifies to the scriptural authority and anointing for his ministry. The Holy Spirit clarifies this by a prophecy given to Zachariah by the angel who announced the child’s conception.

Luke 1:17. He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

The angel here references a prophecy of Malachi that Jesus also alludes to in Matthew 17:11 when He said Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things.

Malachi 4:5, 6. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 

Jesus understood that anyone waiting for Messiah would expect Elijah first, and he was provided in the person of John who came in “the spirit and power of Elijah”.

The Acceptable Year of the Lord

The greater stumbling block for the Jews was that the Messiah would come twice, first as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. At the end of the age He will complete all prophecy with the day of God’s wrath. Consider how he works around this issue in Luke chapter four in the synagogue of Nazareth one Sabbath day when He was chosen to read from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61.

Luke 4:18, 19. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised.

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 

After stopping the reading abruptly, he sits back down and every eye is on Him, wondering why He has stopped. He then declares, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” So why suddenly stop reading? Because Isaiah 61:2 continued, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God”. We see the first and second coming mentioned in one verse, and Jesus declaring the fulfillment of only the acceptable year of the Lord.

So why do Bible scholars claim that the ministry of Jesus lasted three years?  In  accordance with the Law of Moses, all Jewish men were required to appear “before the Lord” for three feasts. Do we really think that Jesus came to Jerusalem three times as prescribed by the Law, worked miracles, declared Himself to be the Son of God and provoked the religious authorities by calling them a generation of vipers and then said No? Okay, I’ll try again next year for the less acceptable year of the Lord round two. Once Jesus reached the age of 30, He began His ministry and fulfilled His Father’s Will. When He comes again it will the Day of the Lord.

Receive from Heaven

John 3:22-24.  After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there He tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim , because there was much water there and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.                             

There comes a point in everyone’s ministry when they must make the right decision and abide under the anointing they received for the work they were chosen to do. Two ministries are in the Judean wilderness, both baptizing. This is an awkward situation but nothing bad has come of it yet. Ultimately questions will be asked and there will be an accountability required of us.

John 3:25-27. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes and all come to him. John answered and said a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.                                                  

This discussion raises more questions than answers and demands a serious pause for consideration. John’s ministry is quickly becoming a lesson for future disciples to draw wisdom. Why does John even still have disciples? And is he now addressed as Rabbi? Notice the way they describe the Lord as “he that was with you”. Why did he not become a disciple of Jesus with the revelation he had received concerning Him?

John 3:28.  You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah,’ but rather, I am sent before Him.

Friend of the Bridegroom

John 3-29,30. He that has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, this my joy, therefore is fulfilled. He must increase and I must decrease.

We now come to one of the more frequently quoted verses: He must increase but I must decrease. If only that were true, John would have quietly faded into the background. We would say “whatever happened to John the Baptist, he was so prominent at first and then he just seems to disappear from the narrative.”  

Oh, that makes sense, once Jesus was baptized he had fulfilled his mission. The only lingering question would be, why did he not follow Jesus? Instead he ceases to be a voice in the wilderness and goes to Jerusalem. Notice the Bible doesn’t say “and the word of the Lord then came again unto John and said, go tell that rascal Herod he can’t have his brother’s wife.”  Maybe he was just bored, but now we find him in prison, his head soon to be placed on a platter.

Matthew 11:2, 3. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him are you He that should come or do we look for another? 

This is astonishing! John was informed of God how to identify the Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descend from heaven in a bodily form and light on Jesus like a dove. He testified, this is the Son of God! And now he asks, “Do we look for another?” He is actually saying, if you are the Messiah, why am I in prison!? Aren’t you supposed to be restoring the kingdom of Israel, aren’t you supposed to restore the throne of David!?

The Least in the Kingdom

Matthew 11:4.  Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see. 

Jesus tells John’s followers that the works of Christ speak for themselves. Then he adds another critical word for us to always consider:

Matthew 11:6.  And blessed is whosoever that shall not be offended in Me.          

This was the Lord’s pointed word to John, are you offended in me? We can never allow our own expectations to distort our understanding of what God has chosen us uniquely to have as a stewardship. John and his followers were expecting a King, not a Lamb of sacrifice.

John the Baptist teaches us that we can come out from under our anointing, we can walk and speak in the flesh what we believe to be the word of God, even quoting scripture verbatim, and there will be consequences. Condemning Herod was not kingdom business, not the Gospel message that Jesus came for: “to save the world, not condemn”.

Matthew 11:11. Truly I say unto you among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.                                                   

My beloved brethren, abide in Christ, and remain among the least of these.                    Keep a good head on your shoulders!

John 1:15.  John testified about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” 

FACE TO FACE

Genesis 32:30.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”                                      

After wrestling with an angel all night, Jacob experiences being “caught up” by the Spirit of the Lord.

My Life is preserved =Nephesh Natsal. 

Nephesh is most frequently translated soul.

Barak YHVH nephesh=Psalm 103.  Bless the Lord, O my soul.                 

Natsal is most frequently translated delivered.

Shamar Nephesh Natsal=  Psalm 25:20.  O keep my soul and deliver me.     

Natsal literally means to be snatched up and carried away from danger.

The Lord Our Deliverer gives us this assurance.

John 10.   My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 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.                      

When the scribes translated Genesis 32:30 into Greek in the Septuagint, ‘my life is preserved’ is rendered  sozo ego psuche.  In apostolic writings, this expression is most likely rendered as ‘saved my soul’.  Even better is to translate, ‘my life is made whole’. 

To come face to face with God is to ‘experience’ salvation and remission from sin.

 Luke 1:77.  To give ‘knowledge of salvation’ to His people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”                                                   

Remission of sin is deliverance from the carnal nature.

Romans 7.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.                 

Romans 8.   For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.       

To ‘experience’ the ‘knowledge of salvation’ brings clarity to Romans 7, to enjoy the ‘Spirit of Liberty’ in the remission of sin described in Romans 8.

To come face to face with God is to be enraptured.

2 Corinthians 12.   I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  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.                                                             

This being ‘caught up’ in Greek: harpazo;  is used to describe the experience of Philip in Acts 8.  Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 

And ultimately, by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:  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.

The ultimate personal experience in devotion to the Lord is face to face.

Hebrew: pahneem pahneem;  Greek: prosopon pros prosopon. 

Numbers 12.  When there is a prophet I reveal Myself to in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses. He is faithful in all My house, I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles.   

Faithful to The House of God 

Hebrews 3:5, 6. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.  

Come Before His Face,=Come Into His Presence   

Hebrews 4.    Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Growing In Grace  From The Glory  

1 Corinthians 13:12.   For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known. 

2 Corinthians 3:18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (metamorpho=transfigured)  into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

A Friend of God

Exodus 33:11.  So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. 

John 15. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.                 

One True Gospel

Galatians 1:8. I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Over time many have felt the need to adapt the Gospel to a particular time and place as a strategy for outreach and church growth. Let us be clear as to why the Gospel you preach must be pure and true.

John 16:7 & 8. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. 

An evangelical presentation of the Gospel may prove effective for “winning souls”, but will only fail to gather those chosen by the Lord absent the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:9. Conviction of sin, because they believe not on me.

True conviction of sin does not occur by preaching against sin. Someone may feel ashamed if they feel called out for their behavior. They may want to be a better person, spouse, and citizen. 

There is only one Holy conviction: Jesus Christ, crucified for sin.

1 Corinthians 2:2. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Therefore, the first element of the Gospel is WHO Jesus is, not what He has become to the world. He may be our Savior, Redeemer, Lord and King, but first and foremost, He is the only begotten Son of God.

 John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (most beloved verse).

John 20:31.  But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life through his name.

Message Adaptation

The most prevalent adaptation to the Gospel is the “die and go to heaven” message. This evolved out of the myth that “good people” go to heaven when they die. This is easily debunked with the familiar verses from Paul: 

Romans 3:23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. 

Romans 6:23.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

However, the message of: accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and invite Him into your heart, and when you die you will go straight to heaven, is based on the fear of death, and is not the Gospel preached in the New Testament. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is never presented as a ‘die and go to heaven’ message, but a ‘live in holiness and righteousness in the sight of God’.

Luke 1:74, 75. To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear. In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

The Righteous Judge

The consistent apostolic message, and that of Jesus Christ himself, is that of a coming resurrection of the dead and the righteous judgment of God, to which He is appointed the only Potentate.

1 Timothy 6:15.  Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

John 5:26-30.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,  and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

The Apostolic Message

Acts 4:1, 2. And as they spake 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.

Acts 10:42. And He commanded us to proclaim to the people and to testify that He is the One ordained by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

Acts 17:30, 31. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

Overcome the World

1 John 5:4&5. For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world by our faith. Who overcomes the world? The one who confesses and believes that Jesus is the Son of God!  

When the Lord visited John on Patmos, He delivered messages for seven churches in Asia, which included a promise to each one that we may contemplate.

These promises are not offered to those who believe, but to those who overcome.

 Revelation 2:7. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

Revelation 2:11. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

Revelation 2:17. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives.

Revelation 2:26-28.  And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels, as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.

Revelation 3:5. The one who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and His angels. 

Revelation 3:12. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Revelation 3:21, 22. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Finally, at the close of the Message, we have this precious promise.

Revelation 21:7. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

John 16:33. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Victory Found In His Presence

By the covenant promise made to David and abiding in the Holy Spirit provides the discipline and correction that gives life. To live in righteousness and stand worthy at the Judgment.  We overcome by the One who overcame the world,  abiding in His Presence by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:29-34. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb,  but God raised Him from the dead.  And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: I will give you My steadfast love for David.

Hebrews 12:7-11. It is for discipline that you endure. God is treating you as sons, for what son does a father not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, something all have come to share, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Besides, we are used to having human fathers as instructors and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  Indeed, for a short time they disciplined us as seemed best to them; but He does so for our benefit, so that we may share in His holiness.  Now all discipline seems painful at the moment, not joyful. But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

1 Corinthians 11:31, 32. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

1 Timothy 5:24,25. Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.

Valedictory Victory Address

2 Timothy 4:1-8. 

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous  Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His Presence.

Amen! Halleluyah!