Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Did the New Testament Church Observe God's Annual Festivals?

God initiated seven annual festivals and sabbaths in the Old Testament. These days represent steps in God's plan to save mankind through Jesus Christ. Ancient Israel never understood the meaning of those days, but God's Church is able to keep those days with understanding of their true meaning as ancient Israel was not able to do. Yet most of traditional Christianity has rejected God's holy days and feast days that are given in the Bible in favor of days based on the traditions of men, such as Christmas and Easter, with the fertility symbols of the evergreen tree, rabbits, and eggs so common among pagan religions in ancient times. You can look up those symbols and rituals in any encyclopedia to see where they come from. And God clearly tells us not to worship Him imitating the way pagans worship their gods, but to worship God exactly the way He tells us to worship Him (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).

In rejecting God's ordained annual festivals in favor of man-made religious festivals, man is following the same pattern of choosing the traditions of men as he has followed in substituting Sunday for God's seventh-day Sabbath.

Some ministers teach that to keep the annual holy days of God is to deny the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Is this true?

We can look to the New Testament Church of God to see what they practiced. Did the first century Church of God keep these festivals?

The New Testament Church of God kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Was it only the Jewish Christians who kept this feast? No. Paul was apostle to the gentiles, and he taught the Church of God at Corinth to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The description of this festival is in the Old Testament. Notice: "On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it" (Leviticus 23:5-8). Now notice how Paul likens leavening to sin in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, and he compares unleavened bread to sincerity and truth. Notice especially verses 6-8. After talking about the sin of sexual immorality in that congregation, he says, "Your glorying is not good. 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." This helps us understand the meaning and lesson of this feast, that is, we put leavening out of our houses for seven days and this represents the lesson that we are to put sin out of our lives, or in other words, the lesson of repentance (Acts 2:38).

Notice especially Paul's statement, "let us keep the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:8). This shows that Paul instructed and commanded the Corinthians to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, one of the seven annual feasts of God, for there is no other feast that would fit this context.

Does keeping God's annual feast days invalidate or deny the sacrifice of Christ? No, because Paul would not have instructed the Corinthians to keep the feast if that were the case.

However, since the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by the priesthood of Jesus Christ, there is no Levitical priesthood to offer animal sacrifices, so those are omitted.

For more information on this festival, see The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance.

For those who might be interested in observing this festival, but don't know the dates, the Days of Unleavened Bread in 2009 are seven days starting Thursday, April 9 through Wednesday, April 15. The first and last days are Sabbath days of rest. God counts days from sunset to sunset, so from sunset Wednesday, April 8 till sunset Thursday, April 9 I will observe a sabbath rest and likewise from sunset Tuesday, April 14 till sunset Wednesday, April 15. During the entire seven day festival I will refrain from eating any products with leavening in them (yeast, baking soda, baking powder), and I will make sure I do not have leavening or products with leavening in my house or personal space if I am living in someone else's house. I will also eat some kind of unleavened bread each of those seven days, such as matzos.

Taking the time to clean my space before these days start and making sure I get rid of any leavened products reminds me each year of my personal responsibility to examine my life and get rid of sin wherever I find it. Being careful to not forget and accidentally eat leavened products like donuts at work or anyplace during this time reminds me of the lesson that I have to be diligent to not sin by breaking God's commandments in the letter or spirit. Eating unleavened bread each day reminds me of my need to seek the righteousness that is from God and to seek God diligently each day in prayer and Bible study.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

God's Annual Holy Days and Festivals

Many Sabbath-keeping Christians are not aware that besides the weekly Sabbath day, God instituted seven annual sabbaths in the Old Testament. Just as the weekly Sabbath provides the opportunity to draw closer to God and learn more about His ways and His plan for mankind, so the annual Sabbath days and festivals help to illustrate God's plan for mankind in more detail. Here is a listing of these annual days:

- Passover (not a sabbath, but a feast day): Represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

- First Day of Unleavened Bread and Last Day of Unleavened Bread (sabbaths and feast days): Leaven is used as a symbol of sin in the New Testament - 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 - and the festival of unleavened bread represents repentance and putting sin out of our lives, an important step in becoming a Christian (Acts 2:38). Also, this verse in 1 Corinthians shows that the churches raised up by Paul among the gentiles kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because Paul said, "Therefore, let us keep the feast...".

- Pentecost (sabbath and feast day): Represents the gift of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the New Testament Church of God (Acts 2:1-4). It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in a person that makes that person a Christian (Romans 8:9-11). In the Old Testament, it is called the feast of first fruits, and reminds us that Christians today are the early harvest of what will be a far greater spiritual harvest in the future.

- The Day of Trumpets (sabbath and feast day): Represents the second coming of Christ to rule the earth and the resurrection of the saints. This happens at the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:50-57, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, Revelation 8:2, 11:15-19).

- The Day of Atonement (sabbath and a day of fasting): This represents the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but also the putting away of Satan into a condition of restraint after the return of Christ (Leviticus 16:1-34, Revelation 20:1). In the passage in Leviticus 16, the goat that is killed represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, and the goat that is released in the wilderness represents Satan and his responsibility for deceiving mankind and temping men into sin. Christ pays the penalty for our share of the responsibility for our sins, but Satan must bear his own blame for his share of the responsibility for mankind's sin. Compare Revelation 20:1-4 with Leviticus 16:21-22.

- The Feast of Tabernacles (first day is a sabbath and feast day): Represents the millenial reign of Jesus Christ and the peace, prosperity, and happiness that mankind will experience (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

- The Last Great Day (a sabbath and a feast day): Represents the general resurrection and the white throne judgment when salvation will be made available to all who have lived and died and never had the opportunity to hear and understand the true gospel before (John 7:37-38, Ezekiel 37:1-14). Compare John 7:37-38 with Ezekiel 37:12-14. The book of life will be open and men's names can be written in it (Revelation 20:11-15).

I have observed these days by resting and attending church services, and their observance has helped to teach me and remind me of God's wonderful plan for salvation of all mankind.

For more information about these days, see my section entitled The Annual Holy Days and the Plan of God in my book Preaching the Gospel. You can page down to find the particular holy day or festival you want more information about. Or you can go to the book Table of Contents for a listing of the holy days in chapter two and click on the link for the one you are interested in.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath Expresses Love Towards God

Jesus was asked, what is the great commandment of the Law.

"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). In answering, Jesus was quoting the Old Testament scriptures (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18). "The Law and the Prophets" is a reference to the Old Testament scriptures, which are composed of the "law" (the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible), the "prophets" (books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel as well as the other prophets), and the "writings" (such as Psalms). Jesus is saying that the Old Testament scriptures are based on love towards God and love towards neighbor.

The two great commandments are further defined by the ten commandments. The ten commandments fill in details about HOW to love God and love our neighbor. The first four of the ten commandments teach us how to love God, and the last six teach us how to love our neighbor. Then the whole rest of the Bible further teaches us how to practice the way of love and how to keep God's commandments in their practical application in our lives.

The fourth of the ten commandments teaches us to observe the seventh day Sabbath. As God counts days from sunset to sunset (Genesis 1:2, Leviticus 23:32), this would be from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. During this time we are to refrain from work (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12) and not pursue our own entertainment (Deuteronomy 5:13-14). This is a time for drawing closer to God and assembling with other Christians for fellowship and instruction (Leviticus 23:3).

How does observance of the seventh-day Sabbath express love towards God? By obeying the Sabbath command, we are acknowledging God as our Creator and as our Lord who has authority over us. We acknowledge God's authority by believing and obeying what He commands in the fourth commandment. "Lord" means ruler, one who has authority. Many people call God "Lord", but it is those who really strive to believe and obey what God says who are acknowledging by their actions that the true God is their Lord (Luke 6:46). The fourth commandment has been called by some a "test" commandment, because it tests our willingness to believe God and obey Him (Exodus 16:4-5, 22-30). It is also a sign between God and his people (Exodus 31:12-13). A sign identifies. The Sabbath helps to identify to Christians who the true God is, that is, the God who created the earth, because the Sabbath day is a memorial of creation (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath also identifies to God who His people are, because it is God's people who are willing to believe and obey what God says by keeping the Sabbath. Throughout the Bible, obedience to God's commandments is equated with love (John 14:21, 1 John 5:1-3).

The weekly Sabbath also illustrates the 7,000 year plan of God, for as the Sabbath follows the six days of work, so the millenial rule of Christ for 1,000 years will follow 6,000 years of man's rule over himself (2 Peter 3:8, Revelation 20:1-4, Daniel 12:4).

The Sabbath provides time for people to rest from the burdens and concerns of the week and draw closer to God in prayer and Bible study. Taking time to learn about the things of God and to draw closer to Him is also an expression of love towards God.

Keeping the Sabbath can also be a test of faith. Many people can figure out that it is wrong to murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. Even societies that do not have a culture based on the Bible can recognize that those things are wrong. But man cannot figure out on his own that it is wrong to work on the seventh day of the week. Man can only know that by believing what God says, and it takes faith to believe what God says, as Abraham did (Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Genesis 15:4-6, Isaiah 51:1-2), and faith is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In our day, it can be a test of faith for a man or woman to keep the Sabbath, especially if that man or woman has not grown up in a Sabbath-keeping tradition. Sometimes people can lose their jobs for refusing to work on the Sabbath, and it takes faith to trust God to provide.

Here is an index to some recent posts in this blog about the Sabbath:

A Question and Answer about the New Covenant

Are the Ten Commandments Part of the New Covenant?

When Was the Sabbath Made?

The Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, and Animal Sacrifices

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is Elijah in Heaven?

Is Elijah in Heaven?

The Bible says that Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. "Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11).

But the Bible also says that no man has ascended into heaven! "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Moreover, Peter said in the book of Acts that David has not ascended into heaven. "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day" (Acts 2:29). "For David did not ascend into the heavens..." (Acts 2:34). Yet David is called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). Is Elijah in heaven, but David is not in heaven? But if Elijah is in heaven, that would contradict John 3:13 which I just quoted.

Is the Bible contradicting itself?

No. The Bible cannot contradict itself. All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, the Bible is true and every part of it is true. The Bible cannot contradict itself.

Is the Bible inspired by God? Yes, and that can be proved to an open mind by fulfilled prophecy, which I have done.

A skeptic might ask, can you prove that God is not lying when He says He cannot lie? No, I cannot prove that the same way I can prove that God inspired the Bible. But faith means believing what God says and there is an element of choice involved in faith. God requires faith of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6, John 5:46-47, Romans 4:3, James 2:23). Jesus called faith one of the three weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23), and since sin is the transgression of the law ("Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" - 1 John 3:4, King James Version), this means that it is a sin to choose to disbelieve what God says. This is confirmed by the examples of ancient Israel whom God punished because they did not believe Him (Deuteronomy 9:23, Hebrews 3:18-19).

God requires that we believe what He says.

That is a choice each individual must make. I choose to believe God and to believe that God cannot contradict Himself. Some choose differently.

The Bible says that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). I believe that. Or in other words, by faith I know that is true.

So I know that the Bible cannot contract itself.

Therefore I know that there is no contradiction between 2 Kings 2:11 and John 3:13. Even if I never researched it or did not know the answer, I know by faith there is no contradiction.

Some things in the Bible seem to be contradictions. I do not claim I know the answer to all of these difficult scriptures. When I see what may seem to me to be a contradiction, I know that there can be a misunderstanding on my part or a mistranslation of some kind. I make mistakes in the way I understand scriptures or put scriptures together, and translators make mistakes in translating the Bible from the original Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic into English. But God who inspired the Bible does not contradict Himself. So when I see what appears to be a contradiction, I know that it is not really a contradiction even before I research it and before I know the answer.

In the case of Elijah going into heaven, there is actually a clear explanation.

Here is a quote from my book Preaching the Gospel. This is from chapter two, section The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ:

"Some may refer to Elijah as one who was carried into 'heaven'. But in the Bible, the term 'heaven' can refer to this earth's atmosphere, or outer space with its planets, stars, and galaxies, or the heaven that is God's throne. Notice the phrase 'birds of heaven' in Job 35:11 and Jeremiah 16:4 referring to the heaven that is this earth's atmosphere. These verses refer to birds flying in the atmosphere of the earth.

"2 Kings 2:1 says, 'And it came to pass, when the LORD was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.' Then in 2 Kings 2:11: 'Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.' But did Elijah go into the heaven that is God's throne, or just into the air to be set down someplace else where it would not be known where he was? It is clear that Elijah's work as the prophet in that area for that time was finished, and it was God's time that Elijah be removed and Elisha take Elijah's office and carry on his work (1 Kings 19:16). But was it time for Elijah to die? Or was Elijah to be taken to the heaven that is God's throne? If so, it would contradict John 3:13 which says that no man has ascended into heaven.

"Those with Elisha after Elijah ascended did not assume that Elijah went up to the heaven of God's throne. 'Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him. Then they said to him, "Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley." And he said, "You shall not send anyone." But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, "Send them!" Therefore they sent fifty men, and they searched for three days but did not find him. And when they came back to him, for he had stayed in Jericho, he said to them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not go'?" ' (2 Kings 2:15-18).

"Some time after this, a letter came from Elijah to the king of Judah, proving that Elijah was still alive and someplace on the earth. Notice that Elisha was already prophet in place of Elijah while Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was still alive. 'But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?" So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, "Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah." And Jehoshaphat said, "The word of the LORD is with him." So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him' (2 Kings 3:11-12). The fact that the servant said that Elisha 'poured' water on the hands of Elijah, past tense, shows that Elisha was not still serving Elijah. This occurred AFTER Elijah went into the atmosphere by a whirlwind and Elisha received his office. Now, AFTER Jehoshaphat died, his son Jehoram became king of Judah in his place. 'And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place' (2 Chronicles 21:1). And it was to Jehoram, AFTER Jehoshaphat died and AFTER Elijah was taken into 'heaven' by a whirlwind, that a letter came from Elijah, proving Elijah was still alive and on the earth. 'Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD' (2 Chronicles 21:5-6). 'And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus says the LORD God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself, behold, the LORD will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions; and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day' (2 Chronicles 21:12-15)."

What about the appearance of Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus that Peter, James, and John saw? It was a vision of the future. It was a vision of the Kingdom of God when the saints would be resurrected, yet in the future. It was a vision just as the prophets of the Old Testament had prophetic visions, just as the apostle John had the vision of future events which he wrote of in the book of Revelation. Notice Matthew 17:9: "Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, 'Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.'" Peter perhaps did not know it was a vision when it was happening, but he must have understood when Jesus told him it was a vision.

Elijah is not in heaven now, nor is any man who has ever lived in heaven now, except Jesus Christ. Elijah, David, and all the faithful men of God in the Bible are asleep in the grave, waiting for the return of Jesus Christ when they will be resurrected to immortality to be with Christ forever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Question and Answer about the New Covenant

In a well known account in the life of Christ, a man asked Jesus Christ a question about the New Covenant. Specifically, He asked Jesus what He had to do in order to receive eternal life. This was a New Covenant question because eternal life was never offered under the Old Covenant but is offered under the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant was a covenant between God and the physical nation of Israel and was made during the days of Moses. Israel agreed to obey God including God's law of the ten commandments, and in return God promised to bless Israel with national blessings of wealth, protection from enemies, and health (Exodus 15:25-26, 19:1-9, 20:1-17, 23:25-27, 24:3-8, Leviticus 26:3-13, Deuteronomy 28:1-14). But if you read carefully everything God promised Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant, you will not find eternal life offered. The promises under the Old Covenant included blessings in this physical life only.

But the New Covenant is based on better promises than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-8). One of those promises is forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34, especially verse 34). The penalty of sin is eternal death, but under the New Covenant, sins are forgiven and the penalty wiped out by the sacrifice of Christ, and the gift of eternal life is made available (Romans 6:23). There are a number of scriptures in the New Testament that confirm that eternal life is a promise under the terms of the New Covenant (1 John 2:24-25, John 3:16, John 6:54, John 10:27-28).

So when the man asked Jesus Christ what he had to do to obtain eternal life, he was asking a New Covenant question. Specifically, he was asking a question about the requirements of the New Covenant (Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18).

Jesus answered, "You know the commandments", and named several of the ten commandments (Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20).

In answering a question about New Covenant requirements for eternal life, Jesus pointed the man to the commandments he already knew. This was a man who was taught in the traditions of Israel and the commandments he knew since his youth were the ten commandments (Mark 10:20, Luke 18:21).

The man's question, and Jesus Christ's answer, had nothing to do with the Old Covenant. The man's question and Jesus's answer had to do with the New Covenant only. This is entirely a New Covenant doctrine.

So under the New Covenant, if you want eternal life, keep the ten commandments.

That the ten commandments are still in force after the death and resurrection of Christ is confirmed by James 2:10-11 which says that if you transgress one commandment you transgress all of them. Why? The reason James gives is important. He says, "For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder' ". In other words, it is because of WHO gave the commandments that we must obey them. Because God gave the commandments, we must obey all ten of them. It is clear that James is quoting from the ten commandments.

Are the Ten Commandments Part of the New Covenant?

It is well known in Christianity that the ten commandments are a vital part of the Old Covenant. It is also well known that Christians are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. But does this mean that Christians are not obligated to obey the ten commandments? Are the ten commandments obsolete for Christians? Or are Christians to keep the ten commandments?

Or to put it another way, are the ten commandments part of the New Covenant just as they are part of the Old Covenant? Are the ten commandments part of both covenants?

Most traditional Christians would agree that we should not murder, commit adultery, or steal. They do not have a problem with commandments against those things. But they do have a problem with the Sabbath. Many think that Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath day because the command to observe the Sabbath is in the ten commandments, and they think the ten commandments are done away. They think the ten commandments are only included in the Old Covenant and not the New Covenant.

What is the Old Covenant? The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and Israel. God promised to bless Israel if Israel obeyed God and kept His law (Exodus 19:1-9, 20:1-17, 23:25-27, 24:3-8, Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Those were the terms that God offered Israel. The ten commandments were part of the covenant because the ten commandments described God's law that the people had to obey. The Old Covenant came into existence after Israel agreed to the terms and the covenant was ratified with blood (Exodus 24:3-8).

Notice that the Old Covenant included promises God made to bless Israel. Those promises included health, economic prosperity, and protection from enemies (Exodus 15:25-26, Leviticus 26:3-13). These were national promises that applied to the nation as a whole. That was God's part. Israel's part was to keep the ten commandments and obey God in everything. But also notice here, there is no promise of eternal life under the Old Covenant, only national blessings in this physical life. There is also no promise of the Holy Spirit or of writing God's law in the people's hearts.

What is the New Covenant? It is first described in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This Old Testament scripture is quoted by the author of Hebrews in describing the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-12, 10:16-17).

Notice that there is nothing here about a different law for the New Covenant. The law is the same for both covenants. So what is the difference? The difference is in the promises. The New Covenant is based on better promises than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-8). One of those promises is given in the Old Testament. Under the New Covenant, God will write His law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). That is different from the Old Covenant in which God's law was written or engraved on stone (Exodus 24:12, Deuteronomy 27:1-8). That is important, because the writing of God's law on stone is often used to represent the Old Covenant, in contrast to the writing of God's law in our hearts under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).

Notice also there is a promise in the New Covenant of forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:34). This was never available under the Old Covenant.

Many aspects of the New Covenant are described in more detail in the New Testament.

Another promise of the New Covenant is eternal life (1 John 2:24-25, John 3:16, John 6:54, John 10:27-28, Romans 6:23). Remember, eternal life was never promised under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant promises of national blessings for Israel pertained to this temporary physical life only - read Deuteronomy 28:1-14.

Is the law of the ten commandments, including the law of the Sabbath, retained under the New Covenant?

When Jesus Christ was on earth, someone asked Him a question about the requirements of the New Covenant. A man wanted to know what he had to do to receive eternal life. This was a New Covenant question, because the Old Covenant did not promise eternal life. This question had NOTHING to do with the Old Covenant.

If this question was about the Old Covenant, the man would have asked, "what must we do to obtain national blessings of health, prosperity, and protection from our enemies?" because those were the promises of the Old Covenant. But the man asked about eternal life, which is only available under the New Covenant. So this question is 100% about the New Covenant. And the answer Jesus gave directly answers our question, is the law of the ten commandments, including the law of the Sabbath, retained under the New Covenant.

What was Jesus Christ's answer?

Jesus said, "You know the commandments" (Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20). Then Jesus named several of the ten commandments.

Now is it only the commandments that Jesus named that are required? Is it alright under the New Covenant to have other gods before the true God (first commandment), to use images in worship (second commandment), to take God's name in vain (third commandment), and to not keep the Sabbath (fourth commandment). No. Jesus named several of the ten commandments as examples, but the whole package of ten commandments is included. Why? Because Jesus started His answer by saying "you know the commandments". This man grew up in Israel and learned the ten commandments from his youth. The commandments he knew were the ten commandments, all ten of them.

So in telling the man what is required for the New Covenant promise of eternal life, Jesus told the man to keep the commandments he already knew, the ten commandments.

And that includes the Sabbath.

So Sabbath observance is a requirement under the New Covenant.

The New Testament affirms the ten commandments as a body of law that still exists. Notice what James wrote, long after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:10-11). Notice that James wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), that if you violate one point of the law, you violate the whole law and are guilty of transgression. Which law? James shows that he is talking about the ten commandments, calling each commandment a "point" of the law, because he uses two of the ten commandments as examples. James also explains WHY we are guilty of violating the whole law of God if we violate just one point. It is because of WHO gave the commandments ("For He who said..."). In other words, it is because God gave the commandments that we must obey all of them. Using that same logic, He who said "you shall not commit adultery" also said "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). That is exactly the logic that James is using.

Some people are confused by some of the things Paul wrote regarding the law. One of the principles of Bible study is that the Bible cannot contradict itself. All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2, Hebrews 6:17-18). Therefore the Bible cannot lie or contradict itself, and all scripture is true (John 17:17, Psalm 119:160). When some scriptures seem to contradict other scriptures, you let the clear scriptures interpret unclear or difficult ones. That is an important principle. You get all the scriptures on a topic, then let clear scriptures that are easy to understand interpret those that are difficult to understand. Some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand, and Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to warn about that (2 Peter 3:14-16). Paul often uses the word "law" in different ways and he uses symbols of the Old Covenant in different ways. When Paul says that we are not under the law, he can be referring to the penalty of the law (death), which is removed from hanging over us when we are forgiven our sins in Jesus Christ. He can also be referring to the Old Covenant and its regulations directly. But we can use clear scriptures such as those I have quoted from James, Mark, and Luke to understand the difficult scriptures in Paul's letters to know that he is not saying that the law of the ten commandments is obsolete.

Some people think that Jesus said that the law would be done away after He fulfilled the law by keeping it, but Jesus never said that. Notice what He said. "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18). Has heaven and earth passed away? No. Has all the law and the prophets been fulfilled? No. There are many Old Testament prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled including prophecies pertaining to the millennium after Christ returns (Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 11:1-9). All has not yet been fulfilled. Moreover, Christ never said the law would be removed after it was fulfilled, only that it would not be removed while there was yet something in the law and the prophets that was not yet fulfilled and while heaven and earth remain. He is not saying anything about what would happen after everything is completely fulfilled.

Many people think that the Sabbath was made just for Israel and that it was made at the time of the making of the Old Covenant. Neither is true. The Sabbath was made for mankind and it existed before the Old Covenant.

Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27). Jesus did not say that the Sabbath was made for Israel or for the Jew. It was made for man in general, not just Israel.

And notice, the Sabbath was made. It was created. There was a time when God brought the Sabbath into existence. Was this when the Old Covenant was made with Israel? No. The Old Covenant was made when the ten commandments were given, Israel agreed to the covenant, and it was ratified with blood. But the Sabbath existed before that. Notice that it existed before the ten commandments were given (Exodus 16:4-6, 22-30).

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made. Since the Sabbath was created for the entire human race, it would be reasonable to expect that there would be a record in the Old Testament of that event, the making of the Sabbath. There is such a record, and it is the only record of anything that can be an account of the making of the Sabbath in the entire Old Testament.

Genesis 2:2-3 says, "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." Why did God rest? Not because He was tired. He rested in order to create the Sabbath. He created that first Sabbath day by His example of resting. This is the account of the making of the Sabbath for man that Jesus talked about.

The close parallel wording between the fourth commandment ("Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" - Exodus 20:11) and the creation account ("Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" - Genesis 2:3) shows that this seventh day was a Sabbath, just as the fourth commandment describes. Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:11 are talking about exactly the same thing - the Sabbath day.

The New Covenant includes the same law of the ten commandments as the Old Covenant, including the Sabbath, but provides better promises.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone in this Age

Is God trying to save everyone now, in this age? Is this physical life the only chance a man or woman has to be saved? Traditional Christianity may teach this, but the Bible does not.

There is a future general resurrection of the dead. This is described for Israel in Ezekiel 37:1-14 and for the world in Revelation 20:11-15. At this time, all who have lived and died in this age who never had a chance for salvation will be given their first opportunity to hear the true gospel, to believe the gospel, to believe in Christ and accept Him as personal savior, and to repent and be baptized. Those who repent and accept Christ in faith will be forgiven and can receive the Holy Spirt and be converted and saved. This will include all the millions who lived and died before Christ was born who never knew about Christ and all the billions in many nations today who never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ.

If God wanted to save everyone now, He would. All things are possible for God (Luke 18:27, Luke 1:37, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26). God is fully capable of making sure that the gospel is heard by every person on earth. But He has not done that.

Is a chance for salvation necessary in a general resurrection for those who never heard of Christ to be saved? Yes.

It is those who believe in Christ who will be saved (John 6:53-58, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:8-13, 1 John 5:9-13, Galatians 2:15-16, Acts 10:36-43, Acts 4:9-12, John 20:30-31, John 6:47), and it is necessary for those being saved to hear the gospel so they can believe it (Romans 10:14-15, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Luke 8:11-15, Acts 11:13-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Acts 15:7-9). Yet billions in this life have never heard the gospel because of circumstances of birth and have had no opportunity to believe it and be saved.

In order to be saved, you must have the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 8:9-11). Notice in verse 11 that it is the Spirit of God dwelling in a Christian that gives life. It is those who are Christ's, that is, who have the Spirit of God who are raised to immortality at the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57). This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the saints (Revelation 20:4-6).

Therefore, if a man does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him at the time of his death or when Christ returns, whichever comes first, he will not be in the first resurrection at the return of Christ, the resurrection to immortality.

But to receive the Holy Spirit, you must believe the gospel, repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:13-14).

There were some who had repented and were living righteously, and were baptized into John's baptism, but had not received the Holy Spirit until they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and only then did they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6). So the general rule is, without being baptized as a symbol of the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is not given. The millions in China and elsewhere who never had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus Christ could not have been baptized in His name and therefore could not receive the Holy Spirit and therefore could not be in the first resurrection. Therefore, no matter how righteously they may live, they cannot be in the first resurrection. The only chance they will have is in the general resurrection described in Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 clearly shows that God will resurrection ancient Israelites who lived before Christ back to a second physical life on this earth and give them the opportunity to be saved. Notice, the dry bones Ezekiel sees are the whole house of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11), so this would include the men of ancient Israel who lived in Ezekiel's time and before, since they are part of the "whole" house of Israel. These people are brought back to physical life because muscle tissue is put upon the bones and breath must enter their bodies in order for them to live, according to Ezekiel 37:4-10. These are people who have died in the past and will come up out of their graves, according to Ezekiel 37:12-13. And God says He will put His Spirit in them, showing they can become converted and receive salvation (Ezekiel 37:14) because it is the Spirit of God that makes one belong to Christ (Romans 8:9, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:38).

Is it only Israel that is raised to life and given a chance for salvation? No. God does not show partiality based on nationality (Acts 10:34-35). All nations will be raised from the dead. Revelation describes this same event in Revelation 20:11-15. Notice that the book of life will be open (verse 12). Those who repent can have their names written in it.

God is love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, John 3:16-17) and God is very merciful (Exodus 34:6-8, Psalm 106:1, Luke 6:35-36, Hebrews 8:12, James 5:11). God does not want anyone to perish but for all to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-4).

This is why there will be a general resurrection as described in Ezekiel 37 and Revelation 20. God in His mercy will give every human being who has ever lived a chance to hear the gospel and understand and a chance to believe the gospel, to repent, and to be saved. Those who do not have that opportunity in this life will be resurrected and given that opportunity in the general resurrection. Those who believe and repent can be saved, and those who reject the gospel after hearing it and understanding it will not be saved. God will not force His salvation upon anyone, and He will not take away our free will, but He will make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

When Was the Sabbath Made?

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). When was it made? Some might think that the Sabbath did not exist before Moses, and they say that there is no record of the Sabbath being kept before Israel began to keep it in the wilderness.

There are two examples of Sabbath keeping in the first 30 chapters of Genesis.

There is one very specific example, directly tied to the Sabbath, and also a more general example that shows that someone was keeping the Sabbath when you put a few scriptures together.

When was the Sabbath made, and how was it made? Part of the answer to the question of HOW the Sabbath was made is given in the fourth of the ten commandments: "...Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). God made the Sabbath by blessing it and hallowing it, or in other words, putting a special honor upon it and setting it apart from other days for a special purpose.

When did this event occur? It happened at the time of creation. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:3).

God Himself observed the Sabbath when He created it, by resting on that day, setting an example for mankind (Genesis 2:1-3). He created the Sabbath by keeping it Himself as well as by blessing and sanctifying it. God often teaches by example (John 13:12-16). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, lived an entire perfect life without sin as an example of how His followers should live. God rested on the Sabbath, keeping it, for the sole purpose of making the Sabbath, creating the Sabbath day as a special day for mankind, as Jesus said (Mark 2:27-28). There was no other reason for God to rest. God did not need to rest because He was tired. He rested to create the Sabbath by His example. And He created it for mankind immediately after He created mankind, so He intended it to be kept by mankind from the beginning. He sanctified it and set it apart for a holy purpose. That was the first Sabbath. The exact parallel of wording between the commandment in Exodus 20:11 and creation of the Sabbath day in Genesis 2:3 shows that they are talking about exactly the same thing.

The second example is where God said that Abraham kept an entire body of God's law. Genesis 26:5 says, "because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." This shows that the law of God existed before Moses. It also shows that just because a law is not specifically mentioned before Moses does not mean it didn't exist or wasn't observed. The evidence that the Sabbath was included in this law is the reference to "My law" that God makes in Exodus 16:4-6 when He says that He will test Israel to see if they will keep God's law. God is not creating a new law. He is making reference to a law that already existed prior to the ten commandments and prior to the Old Covenant. This has to be the same law that Abraham obeyed. There is no record of God changing any laws from the time of the flood until Moses, and no record of God creating the Sabbath day by blessing it and sanctifying it after Genesis chapter 2. So since the Sabbath law existed before the Old Covenant, it must have been included in the same body of law that Abraham kept. The whole context of the test of Israel was their willingness to obey the Sabbath law (Exodus 16:27-30).

Notice, in the fourth commandment, God says, "...Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). The parallel wording shows that this is pointing to the seventh day of creation when God rested, "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:3). This answers the question of when God made the Sabbath day. It was made when God blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. When was that? It was at creation, because Genesis says God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. What this shows is that the seventh day of creation which God blessed was not just that one day, but the Sabbath day itself, every seventh day from that time, which is what the Sabbath is, a re-occurring day of the week. Therefore the Sabbath must have existed in Abraham's day, and since God says that Abraham obeyed God's laws, he must have kept the Sabbath.

Some Bible readers might think that because there is no record before Moses of a codified law that says, "you shall rest on the Sabbath", the law of the Sabbath did not exist before Moses. But that line of reasoning is invalidated by God's statement about Abraham's obedience. Abraham obeyed God's laws, yet those laws are not codified in Genesis. The lack of mention of the codification of those laws in Abraham's day doesn't mean they did not exist at that time. God's laws existed before they were codified with Moses. There would be no need for Moses, who wrote Genesis, to itemize all the laws that Abraham obeyed because Moses wrote those laws as God gave them to him in Exodus.

Joseph knew about God's law because he knew what sin is (Genesis 39:9). He knew that to commit adultery with his master's wife was a violation of God's commandment against adultery, the seventh commandment, and therefore was a sin against God. He knew what sin was by the commandments of God. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, King James Version). Which law? The ten commandments. Paul said that he knew that coveting was a sin because the tenth of the ten commandments said, "You shall not covet" (Romans 7:7). See also James 2:10-11.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone Now

A common belief in traditional Christianity is that God is trying to save everyone now, in this age, and that this is the only day of salvation. But this is not true. Millions in the world have never had the gospel preached to them. God is not weak. He has the power to control this world as much as He wants. Jesus said that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). If God were trying to save everyone now, He would make sure everyone has had the gospel preached to them. That has not happened.

But why?

The Bible shows that everyone will have a chance to hear and understand the gospel and be saved, and helps to show why God is not trying to save everyone now, in this life.

This post will give a summary, for those who are interested, of God's plan for offering salvation to every human ever born, from Adam to this very time, not just in this age, but in the age to come. This is just a summary, and does not give every detail. I have numbered the main points for discussion.

1) Satan is the prince of the power of the air. He is king over this earth at this time. He deceives all nations and blinds mens minds. He does this through spiritually influencing mens minds, tempting them, leading them into error and sin. The whole world is deceived that way and cannot know the truth unless God intervenes and reveals it. God is stronger than Satan and Satan can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12, Job 2:6). But God allows Satan to do his work of deception at this time.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Ephesians 2:1-3, Isaiah 14:12-15, John 12:30-32, John 14:30-31, John 16:5-11, Revelation 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Matthew 4:8-9, Luke 4:5-7, Matthew 13:18-19, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 25:7, 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, Matthew 15:13-14, Matthew 23:16-22, John 12:37-41, Romans 11:7-12, Matthew 13:13-15, Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-27, Ephesians 4:17-19, Ezekiel 28:11-16, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Hebrews 4:1-2.

2) The term "call" can be used different ways and can mean different things, depending on the context, just like the word "law". There is a sense in which the "call" goes out to everyone who hears the message, whether they understand it or not. But when I use the word "call", I am referring to the following process, which is necessary for a person to become a true Christian and receive God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39, Romans 8:9-11), which is required for salvation:

a) The person must hear the gospel preached to him.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Romans 10:8-17, Mark 16:15-16, John 20:30-31, Acts 15:7-9, Romans 1:16-17, 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Ephesians 1:13-14, Colossians 1:3-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Hebrews 4:1-2, Matthew 13:23, Luke 8:11-15, John 10:9, Acts 4:9-12, Acts 11:13-14, Acts 16:29-32, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Mark 1:14-15, John 6:47, 1 John 5:9-13.

b) God must supernaturally intervene with His Holy Spirit to open that person's mind to be able to understand and accept the truth and to be able to repent, otherwise, that person will continue to be deceived by Satan and cannot know the truth. God must do this so the person is able to understand and believe the gospel and to repent of sin, the two conditions for salvation. Also, repentance is a gift from God as well as a decision a person must make. God's Spirit works with a person before conversion to open his mind to the truth and grant repentance, then once the person repents in faith and is baptized, God grants the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the person.

FOR SCRIPTURES SHOWING THAT BELIEF AND REPENTANCE ARE CONDITIONS FOR SALVATION, SEE: Mark 1:14-15, John 6:47, Acts 2:38-39, 2 Peter 3:9, Acts 20:18-21, Hebrews 6:1-2

FOR SCRIPTURES SHOWING GOD MUST OPEN A PERSON'S MIND, SEE: John 6:43-44, Matthew 16:13-17, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Matthew 13:18-23, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 25:7, 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, Matthew 15:13-14, Matthew 23:16-22, John 12:37-41, Romans 11:7-12, Matthew 13:10-17, Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-36, Ephesians 4:17-24, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Hebrews 4:1-2, John 14:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Ephesians 2:1-3, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18.

3) This is how God calls a person. Then the person must of his own free will choose to believe the gospel and repent. If he chooses not to do this, once God's Spirit has opened His mind, he has rejected God's calling. He has had his one chance for salvation and rejected it.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Mark 16:15-16, John 3:18, Matthew 9:13, Acts 2:38-39, Acts 3:19-21, Ezekiel 18:1-32, Ezekiel 33:10-20, Hebrews 6:4-6, Mark 3:28-30.

4) When a person hears the gospel, God opens his mind to understand it, and he believes and repents, God can give the person His Holy Spirit to dwell in his mind and that person becomes a Christian. Then, provided the person continues to obey God and does not turn away from the truth in this life, he will live a life of obedience in faith and overcoming and enduring to the end, and when Christ returns he will be in the first resurrection and be raised to immortality. At that point, his salvation is complete. He will be with Christ forever.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Acts 2:38-39, John 14:16-17, John 16:5-13, Matthew 19:16-19, Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12, Hebrews 6:4-6, Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:7-8, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 20:4-6.

5) In this age of man, while Satan is deceiving the world, God only calls a few this way compared to the entire population of the world. Probably fewer than 10% of all humans who have been born on the earth have ever had the true gospel preached to them. Of those, most are still blinded even after they hear it and cannot understand it, believe it, and repent.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Luke 4:5-7, Ephesians 2:1-3, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 20:1-4, Luke 8:11-15, John 12:37-41, John 6:43-44, Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 13:10-17

Someone once asked me, why has God not called everyone at this time, in this age?

In trying to answer why God does this or that, I have to be careful because I do not necessarily know why God does everything that He does. There are clues for some of His reasons in the Bible, and some may be discerned based on Biblical principles, but I certainly cannot explain why God does everything He has done. Many of His decisions I do not understand, but I trust Him that His decisions are always based on wisdom and love. Also, even if I might correctly understand some of His reasons, that doesn't mean I know all of them. God may have ten reasons for doing a certain thing and I may only correctly discern one or two of them.

That being said, I will share what I think are some of the reasons why God has done things this way. This is based on scripture or on general principles ("God is love" - 1 John 4:8, 16) that are found in scripture.

6) When Adam chose to turn from God's standards and make up his own standards to follow, the world as a whole began to be cut off from God and to be under the influence of Satan. God allowed this for a purpose. God wants the human race to learn lessons, that Satan's ways are wrong and harmful and lead to suffering and death, and that man, apart from God, is incapable of correctly determining right from wrong and doing what is right, and that man's ways apart from God lead to bad results. That is why there is so much suffering in this world, and that suffering and death will increase to a climax at the end of this age, as described in the book of Revelation.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:11-12, Genesis 3:22-34, Luke 4:5-7, Ephesians 2:1-3, Revelation 12:9, Deuteronomy 28:1-68, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Jeremiah 2:19, Matthew 24:21-22, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Timothy 3:13, Revelation chapters 6 through 19, Romans 11:25-36.

7) God's plan is for Christ to return, put Satan away in a condition of restraint so he can no longer deceive and tempt mankind, and then Christ will rule the earth for 1,000 years. This will occur in the near future, at the end of about 6,000 years since Adam. During the 1,000 years of Christ's rule, mankind will experience peace and prosperity and happiness, as described in many prophecies in the Old Testament.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Revelation 20:1-4, Daniel 12:4, Isaiah 11:1-16, Isaiah 2:1-4, Micah 4:1-8, Isaiah 25:7

8) At the end of the 1,000 years of Christ's rule over the earth, there will be a general resurrection of mankind back to physical life. Satan will no longer be around to deceive man, and Christ will be on earth to rule and teach them. It is at that time that the billions on earth who never heard the gospel, or heard and were not able to understand because Satan blinded their minds, will for the first time hear the gospel preached to them and be able to understand it. Each person can then make his or her own free choice to believe and repent, or not. Those who believe and repent will be saved and those who do not will not be saved. But they will have the advantage of being able to look back at their past lives and compare living in Satan's present world of sin and suffering with a world of happiness living God's way under the rule of Christ. They will be able to look at the history man for 6,000 years, some of it they lived through, and compare it with the history of the 1,000 years of Christ's rule and the new life they are living God's way, and that will provide a lesson for them. They can see that God's way is better.

The whole 7,000 year plan of God is a demonstration that God's way is best. It will help those who are raised in the general resurrection to make the right choice.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 10:34-35, Revelation 20:10-13, Isaiah 25:7, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Acts 2:38-39, Ezekiel 37:14, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5

9) This is why God is not calling the majority now and why God is not trying to save the whole world now. He wants to let this world as a whole, except for a few, remain unconverted and living Satan's way so there can be an object lesson of the suffering that results from it for 6,000 years. Then everyone will have an opportunity to be saved.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-36, John 6:43-44, Isaiah 25:7, Revelation 20:1-4, Revelation 20:4-6, Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 11:1-16, Micah 4:1-8, Revelation 20:10-13, Deuteronomy 28:1-68, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5

10) The weekly cycle of six days when man does his work and a seventh day of rest when man draws closer to God in prayer, Bible study, instruction, and fellowship, in an atmosphere of peaceful rest from the burdens of working during the week, is a pattern for God's 7,000 year plan for mankind, with 6,000 years of man ruling himself under Satan's influence followed by 1,000 years of Christ's rule over the world

SEE SCRIPTURES: Exodus 20:8-11, Isaiah 58:13-14, 2 Peter 3:8, Revelation 20:2-3, Revelation 20:4-6, Daniel 12:4.

11) It is God's will that Christ will not rule alone after He returns, but will rule with the saints. So for that purpose, a small number are called and converted during the six thousand years so that they can be raised in a resurrection to immortality when Christ returns and fulfill offices of rularship under Christ. David will be king over Israel. The twelve apostles will rule over the twelve tribes. Some of the saints will rule over one city, some over ten cities, etc. Christ will be king of kings over the whole earth.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 1:4-6, Revelation 14:1-5, Revelation 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Ezekiel 37:24-28, Jeremiah 30:8-9, Matthew 19:28, Luke 19:15-19, Revelation 17:14.

12) God calls a person by having the gospel preached to them and by opening his mind so that he can understand and believe the gospel. He has not called everyone now during the 6,000 years of man because this is the time for the world as a whole to be unconverted and carnal so that the lesson can be written in human history that Satan's way does not work. But God in His love, wisdom, and fairness (and there is a scripture in the Bible where God does say that He is "fair") will provide the same opportunity for everyone to hear the gospel and be able to understand and believe it and be saved, either in this age or the age to come.

SEE SCRIPTURES: 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, John 6:43-44, Matthew 7:13-14, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, Ezekiel 18:25-29, Ezekiel 33:17-20, Acts 10:34-35.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, and Animal Sacrifices

I recently posted a comment on the The Bible In Depth blog about the Sabbath and animal sacrifices, and the writer of the original post (But I Don't Want To Go!!!!) raised a number of questions. Since the answers will be somewhat off-topic to his original post, I will answer them here.

"What is the purpose of animal sacrifices?"

The purpose of animal sacrifices is educational. God uses them to teach us about the sacrifice of Christ. They are symbolic. They are a copy and shadow of the real sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 8:3-6, Hebrews 9:23-28, Hebrews 10:1-10, Galatians 3:23-25). In these verses in Hebrews and Galatians, the term "law" in this context is referring to the law of Old Covenant animal sacrifices and rituals. It does not refer to God's spiritual law (Romans 7:13-25) or to the ten commandments (James 2:8-13). Just as today, a word can mean different things, depending on the context. The word "law" can refer to the spiritual law of God, or to the books of Moses, or in this case to the laws of the Levitical priesthood, that is, animal sacrifices.

Although animal sacrifices are not being used now in this church age, the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel from chapter 40 to the end of the book seems to show that there will be a system of animal sacrifices in the future, no doubt in the millenium. To the best of my knowledge, the conditions described in Ezekiel 47:7-12 (healing waters) have never been fulfilled in history, which is why I say this appears to be a prophecy concerning the temple in the millenium. If I am correct and if animal sacrifices are restored in the millenium, then those sacrifices can be a valuable teaching tool for teaching the people about the sacrifice of Christ.

Another indication that this prophecy has never been fulfilled in the past is the division of the land among all the tribes of Israel as described in Ezekiel 47:13-23 and Ezekiel 48:1-35. That has not occurred since the captivity of Israel by Assyria about 700 years before Christ. So this must be in the future.

"Were the 10 commandments a part of the Mosaical Law?"

Yes. The ten commandments are a summary of God's spiritual law (Romans 7:14). God's spiritual law is love (1 John 5:3). It is summarized as love towards God and love towards neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). The ten commandments further summarize God's law of love and breaks it down in more detail, with the first four commandments teaching us how to love God and the last six how to love our neighbor, and the ten commandments are still in effect (James 2:10-11). Sin is defined in the Bible as the transgression of the law (King James Version) or "lawlessness" as translated in the New King James Version (1 John 3:4).

As a summary of God's spiritual law, the ten commandments are foundational to both the old and new covenants, and it is part of the Mosaical Law as well as part of the New Covenant. The New Covenant does not replace or do away with God's spiritual law, but rather the New Covenant promises that God will write His law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 10:16). Jesus in the sermon on the mount taught that we must obey the commandments in their fullest spiritual application, not just the letter (Matthew 5:21-30).

"What was the purpose of the Sabbath?"

There can be many purposes of the Sabbath, and not all are stated because God does not explain every reason for every command, but I think we can discern some of them. The Sabbath gives man much needed rest from the burdens of working six days. The Sabbath provides time for us to draw close to God in prayer and Bible study, to receive instructions from God's ministry, and to draw closer to our brethren in Christian fellowship. I think it is evident that the weekly Sabbath pictures the 1000 year reign of Christ after 6,000 years of man's rule on this earth under the influence of Satan. It can picture the spiritual rest we have in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, there are annual Sabbaths that help to illustrate God's plan of salvation for mankind.

But there are two purposes of the Sabbath that are stated in the Bible. One, God has used, and I have no doubt He continues to use, the Sabbath as a test command to test the obedience of His people. He used it to test ancient Israel and He specifically calls it a test (Exodus 16:4-5, 25-30). Note from these verses that the Sabbath was part of God's law BEFORE the ten commandments were given and the Old Covenant made with Israel. Also, Christ indicated that the Sabbath was made for mankind (Mark 2:27). The Old Covenant was never made with mankind as a whole but only with Israel. This shows that the Sabbath is not just a ritual limited to the Old Covenant, for then it would not have been made for all mankind, only Israel. So a purpose of the Sabbath can be a test of our obedience.

Secondly, the Sabbath is a sign. It identifies to us who the true God is, that is, the creator. It also identifies who God's people are to God, that is, those who obey Him. There is a scripture that seems to indicate that the Sabbath was made a separate covenent, not part of the Old Covenant, but a different covenant, for the very purpose of serving as a sign between God and His people, in Exodus 31:12-17, especially verse 16.

"Did Jesus fulfill the law?"

Yes. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly, setting us an example. He stated that He obeyed His Father's commandments (John 15:10). Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Since Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:14-15), He must have perfectly kept God's law. He also fulfilled prophecy concerning His first coming.

"Does or can the Bible contradict itself?"


All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-3, Hebrews 6:17-18). Therefore, God cannot contradict Himself. Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34-36).

If there appears to be a contradiction, it is because there is a mistranslation or because there is something about the scripture we do not understand.

I have proved that the Bible is inspired by God by prophecies that have been fulfilled, but I choose to believe that God cannot lie, and that is a part of my faith. So by faith I know that the Bible cannot contradict itself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Stumbling Block - The Fate of the Billions Who Never Heard of Christ

A stumbling block many people have in their faith towards God has to do with the question of the fate of the billions who have lived without having an opportunity to know God or to learn about Jesus Christ. Many people have been taught that the billions who have lived and died without having the opportunity to become Christians are doomed to condemnation and will never be saved. This idea makes it seem to many that God is either unfair or is powerless to prevent this.

The Bible is clear that salvation is possible only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:9-12). And it is clear from history that most of the billions of people on the earth have never had the opportunity to learn the truth about Christ, both those who have lived before Christ was born, and those who are alive today in countries where true Christian teaching is not widely available.

Are these people condemned to the permanent loss of salvation?

Many people think this is the case. And if true, this seems to indicate to the minds of many that either God is unfair to allow this, or that God is not powerful enough to prevent it.

But God is not unfair or powerless. Every human being who has ever lived will have the opportunity for salvation. No one will be left out.

Part of the answer is given in Ezekiel chapter 37. This is also the time known as the great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15. This is a time, yet future, when all who have ever lived without an opportunity for salvation in this life will be resurrected back to physical life. At that time, they will have their first real opportunity for salvation. Everyone will be given time to live and make their choice. Those who repent and have faith in God and Christ will be given immortality in the Kingdom of God. Those who reject God and Christ will not be saved. See The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment for more details.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Has Evolution Been Proved?

One of the problems I have with the way evolution is taught is that the teachers and writers do not seem to be honest about the fact that it has never been proved.

You cannot logically prove something without looking at both sides of an issue. If you are after truth about the creation vs. evolution issue, you have to be willing to look at both possibilities without bias. But science is limited by the scientific method to only considering natural causes, not supernatural ones. That is how science operates.

This means that science is not equipped to examine supernatural causes. And since they cannot examine it, they cannot investigate and evaluate the possibility that God created life long enough to rule it out. Science rejects the idea of creation by God without examining it.

As I point out in my article Why Evolution Is a Faith ,it is not enough for science to try to prove that evolution is possible. To prove it actually happened, science has to show that supernatural invervention by God cannot explain the evidence. Science has never done that.

Themes of Preaching the Gospel

Several themes run through my book, Preaching the Gospel. One is that the Bible is God's word and we should believe God and use the Bible as our primary source for doctrine rather than the traditions we were raised in. Another is that there is a need more than ever to get the message of the Bible to the world.

Those are probably the two most important themes in the book.

The first part of the book explains how to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God, what the true gospel is, and what prophecy predicts for the United States. The second half of the book explains why it is more important than ever to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to the United States. The second half of the book also offers suggestions for preaching the true gospel effectively.

This book was originally published around March 2006 and has gone through several updates. It is in the public domain, so it is free in electronic form and can be freely emailed, copied, or printed.