Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Day

There are primarily three views among professing Christians concerning the observance of Christmas Day. 
1) A holy day that should be faithfully observed  
2) A pagan festival that should be faithfully rejected (Catholic system is full of paganism) 
3) A cultural tradition that is harmless so long as it is not observed in a way that dishonors God and His word. In other words it is an issue of personal liberty. I personally view it as a great opportunity to witness (tell people WHY He came) and spend quality time with family. It is not a religious day for me. I esteem every day alike. 

God gave Israel various holy days in the Law (Christmas wasn’t one of them) but He did not give the Body of Christ any holy days under grace (Col. 2:8-17). So, what about all the professing Christians that esteem days like Sunday, Christmas, and Easter above other days. There is a difference between those who are weak in the faith and therefore do not fully understand and appreciate their liberty in Christ (Rom. 14:1-12) and those who are trusting religious observances to be right with God (Gal. 4:8-11).  

Christians should love and stand for the TRUTH. Our Savior is THE TRUTH and the word of God is TRUTH. We should NEVER choose the traditions of men over the truth of God. Was Christ born on December 25th? Is that truth or tradition? Well, the Bible does not give us the date of Christ’s birth, but there things in the Bible that indicate He was not born in December. The Bible does not always just plainly STATE things for us. There are many things that require STUDY if we are going learn the truth about them. I believe God wrote the Bible in such a way that we must search it to learn His truth. 

Read Luke 2:1-20
1. It is very unlikely that the Roman Emperor would have tried to enforce a taxing on the people at the most inconvenient and inclement season of the year. It would have been asking for an uproar and revolt among the people who were already hostile toward the Roman authorities. The fall would have been the best time because the agricultural round of the year was complete and many Jews were traveling anyway to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. 
2. How could Mary, being great with child, have undertaken the 70 mile journey through a hill district averaging 3,000 feet above sea level in the dead of winter? 
3. Shepherds and their flocks would not have been abiding in the open fields at night in December. There would have been no pasturage for the flocks during that time of year. The custom was to withdraw the flocks and house them for winter. 

Read Luke 1:5-31
Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. So, if we can know about the time that Elizabeth conceived John, we can add sixth months and have a good idea of when Jesus was born. It is clear that Elizabeth conceived very soon after her husband arrived home from fulfilling his course in the temple. 

King David divided the priests into 24 courses to work in the temple. The course of Abia was the 8th course (1 Chron. 24:10). Each course began on the sabbath and lasted a week. The priests fulfilled two courses a year plus they all worked during the three great feasts (Deut. 16:16). Israel had a lunar calendar and their sacred year began with the month of Passover (Nisan, our April). According to Dr. Bullinger, the two ministrations of the course of Abia would have been Sivan (June) 12-18 and Chisleu (December 6-12). Because we don’t know which ministration Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, we can’t be sure when Elizabeth conceived John.  But based on either one, Christ wouldn’t have been born in December. 

If Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in June, he would have made it home around the 21st or 22nd (would not have traveled on the Sabbath and would have taken a day or two to get home) and it is reasonable to assume Elizabeth conceived John on the 23rd or 24th. That would put the birth of John around the end of March. Adding in the 6 months would put the conception of Jesus at the end of December and His birth at the end of September. It would be fitting for the Word to be made flesh on the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16; Lk. 2:10). 

We don’t know the exact date that Christ was born but we know that He was. Likewise, we don’t know the exact date He is coming again, but we know that He will! I believe God had very good reasons for not revealing the date for either advent. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Woe to the World! Christ is Coming Again

Revelation 19:11-21

The Son of God was born into this world about 2,000 years ago in literal fulfillment of prophecy. The prophecies became more and more specific as God progressively revealed His plan. He foretold that the coming Redeemer would be:

1. Of the human race (Gen. 3:15)
2. From a section of that race- Shem (Gen. 9:26)
3. From a nation of that section- Hebrew (Gen. 12:3)
4. From a tribe of that nation- Judah (Gen. 49:10)
5. From a family of that tribe- David (2 Sam. 7:16)
6. Born of a member of that family- virgin woman (Isa. 7:14)
7. Born in a village of that family- Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2)

And there are MANY more prophecies about the first coming of Christ into the world (His life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension). Isaiah 53 contains about 30 prophecies of Christ in just 12 verses! His crucifixion was described in detail about a 1,000 years in advance in Psalm 22. Prophecy proves the inspiration of scripture (2 Pet. 1:19-21; Isa. 46:9-10).

Jesus Christ, who is the truth and cannot lie, promised His disciples, “I will come again”. The writer of Hebrews said that Christ will “appear the second time” (Heb. 9:28). There are much more prophecies of His second coming in glory than of His first coming in humiliation. The prophecies of His second coming will be just as literally and exactly fulfilled as were the prophecies of His first coming. The world acknowledges that Jesus was born but most do not know the truth about who He is and why He came. He was born of a virgin and was God in the flesh. He was the king of the Jews but His own nation rejected Him. He willingly laid down His sinless life on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for the sin of the world. He arose bodily the third day and then ascended up to Heaven. He is coming again in glory to rule and reign on the earth. The world can tolerate baby Jesus in the manger but they scoff at the prophecies of His coming again in glory. The world is not looking forward to this event but God is! It is the most anticipated event in scripture.

This present age was a mystery God planned before the world began but kept secret until he revealed it through Paul after the fall of Israel. The mystery of the body of Christ and our rapture to heaven is only found in Paul’s epistles. This age began with a glorious appearing of Christ as recorded in Acts 9 when the message of grace came down to Paul and it will conclude with a glorious appearing of Christ when the body of Christ goes up to meet Him in the air. After that rapture God will resume His dealings with Israel and fulfill the final seven of the 490 years prophesied in Dan. 9. It is AFTER the seven year tribulation period that Christ returns visibly to the earth to establish His righteous kingdom.

The theme of Revelation is stated in its introduction (1:7). The bulk of the book is about the judgments that will come on the earth before Christ returns. But throughout Revelation we are given several glimpses of His return. In chapter 19 we finally come to the actual event. At this point in the book the climax of the revelation has been reached with the presentation of Jesus Christ as the glorified King of kings and Lord of lords. All which precedes this passage is in a sense introductory and that which follows is an epilogue.

I. The Advent of Christ (vs.11-13)
This is the second white horse rider in Revelation. He stands in stark contrast with the first white horse rider who came at the beginning of the tribulation (6:2), the antichrist.
A) His powerful entry (“I saw heaven opened”) – sudden, unexpected, public, visible, glorious, terrifying descent from heaven to earth (Matt. 24:27-30). There is a marked out path He takes into Jerusalem.
B) His names:
1. Faithful and True – in contrast with antichrist who was unfaithful (broke covenant) and false. No man is faithful and true in his flesh. Faithful to His promises and true to His person. He is who He says He is and will do what he says He will do!
2. No man knew – He receives a new name (3:12; 2:17; 19:7), describing His deity, no man knows but He knows. W
3. The Word of God – The scripture refers to Christ as "the Word" seven times. As the Word He reveals and declares the Father. In this passage the Creator redeems His creation (Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 18)
4. King of kings and Lord of lords – His title as the Son of Man, the kingdoms of the world become His kingdoms, therefore He has many crowns
C) His description (contrast with first coming). He comes:1. Not on a donkey but a fiery white charger
2. Not with His eyes filled with tears but as a flame of fire
3. Not called a blasphemer and deceiver, but called Faithful and True
4. Not wearing a crown of thorns but many crowns
5. Not wearing purple robe stained with His blood but His vesture dipped in the blood of His enemies
6. Not forsaken by His followers but with His armies following Him in conquest
7. Not with a mouth speaking words of grace but of judgment
8. Not to bear the wrath of God on the cross but to tread the winepress of the wrath of God
D) His purpose – He is coming to judge and make war with His enemies (“man of war” Ex. 15:3; Isa. 42:13-14; Zech. 14:3). Contrast with this age: grace and peace!

II. The Armies of Christ (v.14)
The word “armies” implies different groups return with Christ to the earth. He comes with angels (Matt. 25:31; 2 Thess. 2:7-9). One angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! He comes with His saints (Zech. 14:5; Jude 14-15). This is primarily about the saints of Israel. The remnant of Israel still on earth when Christ comes will be raptured into the land.

III. The Authority of Christ (vs.15-16)The government of the world will now be on His shoulders (Isa. 9:6-7; Zechariah. 14:9). Ps. 2; Isa. 11:1-9; 63:1-6
A) He smites – sword of His mouth (2 Thess. 2:8; 1:16; 2:16; 19:21)
B) He rules – rod of iron, forced subjection (1 Cor. 15:24-25)
C) He treads – all His enemies will be under His feet

IV. The Avenging of Christ (vs.17-21)
This is the battle of Armageddon (14:17-20; 16:12-16). Armageddon means the mount of Megiddo. The valley there is a great battlefield. Napoleon called it the most natural battlefield in the world. It was there that Deborah and Barak destroyed Sisera and his host (Judg. 5:19) and King Josiah was overthrown by Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29). Slaughter and lamentation are associated with Megiddo (Zech. 12:11). It is a real locality, and the battle yet to take place there will be just as real. Many prophecies (Isa. 34; Zech. 14).

This supper is in contrast with the marriage supper. One is of joy and the other of judgment. BOTH take place upon the return of Christ to earth: (Isa. 63:4)
A) Destruction of His enemies (Ezek. 39:17-22) – “flesh” 6 times, they chose the flesh and now their flesh is devoured. God will use the fowls to eat the carcases in order to cleanse the land and prevent pestilence.
B) Deliverance of His people – permanently joined to His people, they to their land ("Beulah")

It may seem that evil will prevail in this world. But, we know how it will end! God’s word is absolutely SURE (Matt. 24:35).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Problem and the Solution

After God made the "heavens and the earth, which are now" (2 Pet. 3:7), He "saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). But as we look at the world around us we see MANY things that are very bad. The world is full of trouble, suffering, sorrow, and death. What happened? Who's to blame? 

The Devil (that name means slanderer) wants man to blame God for his problems. After all, if God was so loving why would He allow all this suffering? Have you ever noticed the stark contrast in the way the book of Genesis opens and closes? It opens with a man walking with God in paradise but the last verse of the book refers to a dead man in a coffin in Egypt (Gen. 50:26)! How did that happen? The third chapter of Genesis reveals the answer. Suffering and death are the results of SIN (Rom. 6:23) and sin entered the world through MAN (Rom. 5:12). Man is to blame. 

The failure to believe the pure word of God brought about the fall of man. After casting doubt on what God said the serpent added just one word to what God said ("ye shall NOT surely die") and that LIAR (Prov. 30:5-6) decieved the woman who in turn tempted the man and he willing disobeyed the word of God. But God, in amazing grace, has provided a way of salvation and He has revealed it in His word. 

As by one man came death, so by one man comes life (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49). The first Adam brought ruin through disobedience. The last Adam brought redemption through obedience. The last Adam was tempted while fasting in a wilderness (contrast with the first Adam in the garden surrounded by food). Satan also tampered with the word of God when he tempted Christ (misquoted Ps. 91:11-12). What audacity to tempt the Word of God (Rev. 19:13) with a misquote and misapplication of the word of God! Thank God the Lord Jesus was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! He perfectly accomplished what the Father sent Him to do. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection God offers salvation as free gift to any sinner that will simply BELIEVE the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). We are instantly and permanently justified by "the faith of Christ" (Gal. 2:16). The faith of Christ is perfect and proven. We become children of God by our faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26). 

So, just as the fall came by unbelief, so salvation comes through believing God (Rom. 3:22). Faith is believing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) and as Christians we are to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). We must grow spiritually by feeding on the pure word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While our outward man is perishing our inward man can be renewed day by day through the word of God (2 Cor. 4:16). The Bible is not everything that God knows but it is everything He wants us to know and that we need to know. God has a great plan for the ages and it is revealed in His word. As we learn the Bible and believe the Bible we can walk by faith in this fallen world with a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The word of God reveals reasons that God allows His people to suffer in this life "which is but for a moment". We are "more than conquerors" in the suffering that we must face (Rom. 8:35-39) and we know the best is yet to come (Rom. 8:26-34). The "sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). Thank God for the "comfort of the scriptures" (Rom. 15:4)!

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