Elisha ~ Part 16

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:19b-27 where we learned that Geichazi Lies to Himself, Na’aman and Elisha. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 6:1-7 were we learn that Elisha Restores a Student Ministry.

1 The guild prophets said to Elisha, “As you can see, the place where we are living in order to be with you is too small for us. 2 Please allow us to go to the Yarden; each of us will collect a log there, and we’ll build a place there for us to live.” He answered, “Go ahead.” 3 But one of them said, “Please, won’t you come with your servants?” He answered, “All right, I will”; 4 so he went with them. When they arrived at the Yarden, they cut down trees; 5 but as one was felling a tree trunk, the head of his ax fell in the water. “Oh, no!” he cried. “My master, it was a borrowed one!” 6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” He showed him the place. Then Elisha cut a stick, threw it in there, and the iron ax-head floated to the surface. 7 “Lift it out,” he said. So, he put out his hand and took it.” ~ 2 Kings 6:1-7 (CJB)

Elisha Saves the Day and 
Restores a Student Ministry

Elisha wasn’t only a traveling preacher and a miracle-working prophet, but he was also the overseer of several schools of guild prophets where young men called to ministry were trained and encouraged. We know there were schools in Gilgal, Beit-el, and Yericho (2 Kings 2:1-5) and in Samuel’s hometown of Ramah (1 Samuel 19:22-24). Both Eliyahu and Elisha were concerned that the next generation knows the Lord and understand His Word, and this is our commission today (2 Timothy 2:2).

Our passage today picks up the story from 2 Kings 4:44. God had blessed the school at Yericho, and it was necessary to enlarge their quarters. The students studied together when the prophet visited them and ate together (2 Kings 4:38-44). Likewise, we need to ensure that when God is raising a new generation of servants, we as veteran ministers of God take time to teach them.

But new growth brings new obligations, and the facilities at Jordan had to be enlarged. Schools today would do fund-raising and hire architects and contractors, but in Elisha’s day, the students did the work. Not only that, but the leader of the school went with them and encouraged the work. Elisha had a shepherd’s heart and was willing to go with his flock and share their burdens.

Iron tools were precious and scarce, which explains why the student had to borrow an ax so he could help prepare the timber. Not only were tools scarce, but they weren’t constructed with the strength and durability of our tools today. Moshe gave a special law relating to damage that might result when an ax head flew off the handle (Deuteronomy 19:4-5), so it must have happened frequently. If the law of borrowed animals also applied to borrowed tools (Exodus 22:14-15), then that poor student would have to reimburse the lender for the lost ax head, and that would probably upset the budget for weeks to come. Without the ax head, the student couldn’t work and that would add to somebody else’s burdens. All in all, the sunken ax head caused a great deal of trouble.

The student was quick enough to see where it fell and honest enough to report the accident to Elisha. The Yarden isn’t the cleanest river in the Holy Land (5:12), and it would be very difficult for anybody to see the ax head lying at the bottom. The prophet didn’t “fish out” the ax head with a pole. He threw a stick into the water at the place where the ax head sank, and the Lord raised the iron ax head so that it floated on the surface of the river and could be picked up. It was a quiet miracle from a powerful God through a compassionate servant.

There are some spiritual applications that we can learn from this incident, and perhaps the first is that whatever we have has been “borrowed.” Paul asked, “And what do you have that you did not receive as a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Whatever gifts, abilities, possessions, and opportunities we have are from God, and we will have to give an account of them when we see the Lord.

This student lost his valuable tool while he was serving the Lord. Faithful service is important, but it can also be threatening, for we might lose something valuable even as we do our work. Moshe lost his patience and meekness while providing water for the people (Numbers 20:1-13), and David lost his self-control while being kind to his neighbor (1 Samuel 25:13). God’s servants must walk carefully before the Lord and take inventory of their “tools” lest they lose something they desperately need.

The good news is that the Lord can recover what we have lost and put us back to work. He can restore us and make us efficient in His service. The important thing is to know that you have lost it, and when and where you have lost it, and honestly confess it to Him. Then get back to work again!

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we will pick up the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6:15-23 where we learn about the God Who Shows Mercy.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 9

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s confrontation with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40. In this post, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

41 Then Eliyahu said to Ach’av, “Get up, eat, and drink because I hear the sound of heavy rain.” 42 Ach’av went up to eat and drink, while Eliyahu went up to the top of the Karmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Now,” he said to his servant, “go up, and look out toward the sea.” He went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing there.” Seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 The seventh time, the servant said, “Now there’s a cloud coming up out of the sea, no bigger than a man’s hand.” Eliyahu said, “Go up, and say to Ach’av, ‘Prepare your chariot, and get down the mountain before the rain stops you!” 45 A little later, the sky grew black with clouds and wind; and heavy rain began falling; as Ach’av, riding in his chariot, made for Yizre’el [Jezreel]. 46 The hand of Adonai was on Eliyahu; he tucked up his clothing and ran ahead of Ach’av to the entrance of Yizre’el.” ~ 1 Kings 18:41-46 (CJB)

Two final miraculous events occur on this day: (1) the coming of the rain as a result of Eliyahu’s prayer and (2) Eliyahu’s supernatural strength in leaving the scene and passing Ach’av’s chariot before the storm. Typically, the act of preceding the king’s chariot could have been a friendly overture. It was an act of honor to the king and a tribute to the runner to be permitted to run before the king. But if this was Eliyahu’s intent, it was lost on Ach’av and was his word that stopped the rain and only his word could start it again (17:1). He was referring to the power of his prayers, the words that he spoke to the Lord (James 5:17-18). It had been a long and disappointing day for King Ach’av, and Eliyahu sent him to his retainers to get something to eat. Eliyahu went to the top of Carmel to pray and ask the Lord to send the much-needed rains.

Eliyahu’s unusual posture was almost a fetal position and indicated the prophet’s humility, his great concern for the people, and his burden for the glory of the Lord. Unlike the answer to the prayer at the altar, the answer to this prayer didn’t come at once. Seven times Eliyahu sent his servant to look toward the Mediterranean Sea and report any indications of a storm gathering, and six of those times the servant reported nothing.

Imagine how disappointed the servant and Eliyahu must have been.

The prophet didn’t give up but prayed a seventh time, and the servant saw a tiny cloud coming from the sea. This is an excellent example for us to follow as we “watch and pray” and continue to intercede until the Lord sends the answer. We have to be persistent in our prayers.

The little cloud wasn’t a storm, but it was the harbinger of the rains that were to come. Eliyahu commanded the king to mount his chariot and return to his palace in Yizre’el as soon as possible. We aren’t told how he broke the news to Izevel that Baal had been publicly humiliated and declared to be a false god, and that the prophets of Baal that she supported had been slain. But neither the drought nor the famine had brought Ach’av and Izevel to repentance, and it wasn’t likely that the fire from heaven or the coming of the rain would change their hearts (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:8-11). All the evidence notwithstanding, Izevel was determined to kill Eliyahu (19:1-2).

Strength for the Journey

Soon the heavens were black with clouds, and great torrents of rain began to fall on the land. The Lord not only proved that he was the true and living God, but He also put His approval on the ministry of His servant Eliyahu. Eliyahu had neither chariots nor retainers to drive them, but he did have the power of the Lord, and he ran ahead of Ach’av and reached Yizre’el ahead of the king. This was quite a feat for an older man and in itself was another sign to the people that God’s mighty hand was upon His servant.

Yizre’el was between fifteen and twenty miles from the Karmel area. This fifteen-acre site was situated at the southeastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa. It was here that Ach’av had built a winter capital. Excavations have unearthed a sizeable royal enclosure from this period occupying a significant portion of the mound. [1]

God had chastened His people with drought and famine but had cared for His special servant Eliyahu. God had sent fire from heaven to prove that He was the true and living God. Now He had answered the prayer of His prophet and had sent the rains to water the land. You would think that Eliyahu would be at his very best spiritually and able to face anything, but the next chapter records just the opposite. As great a man as Eliyahu was, he still failed the Lord and himself.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we encounter The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Eliyahu (Elijah) ~ Part 1

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the Letter to the Messianic Jews. In this post, I am starting a new series with a new format. I have never done a character study before, but I want to do one on the prophet Eliyahu (Eliyahu).

Introduction

Eliyahu ~ Who is this guy and what gives him the right to confront the King of Israel? Once you meet him, you’ll never forget him. He is best known for his confrontational leadership style and incredible spiritual victories, Eliyahu was characterized by an unwavering tenacity. Despite experiencing periods of fearfulness, hopelessness, and depression, Eliyahu remained steadfast. The result? God used him to tear down Israel’s alters and idols and change the moral and political landscape of his day. Eliyahu is one of the most unforgettable men of the Bible. On the one hand, he dared great exploits for God. On the other hand, he experienced fear, loneliness, and dark depression. Despite Eliyahu’s flaws, God used him mightily and took him to heaven before he died.

Background

We first meet Eliyahu (“I AM is my God”) in 1 Kings. Eliyahu from Tishbe, an inhabitant of Gil’ad, said to Ach’av (Ahab), ‘As Adonai the God of Isra’el lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither rain nor dew in the years ahead unless I say so.’” 1 Kings 17:1 (CJB). Other than being identified as a Tishbe from Gil’ad (Gilead), his parentage and early history are unknown. Gilead was located east of the Jordan River and settled by the tribes of Manasseh and/or Gad. Tishbe is situated near the Wadi Chorath.


Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia

Eliyahu shows up on the scene during the reign of King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel, we meet her in 1 Kings 19) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in approximately 918-908 BCE.

My fascination with Eliyahu is best summoned up by this description by Henry H. Halley:

Elijah’s rare, sudden, and brief appearances, his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his reappearance with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration make him one of the grandest characters Israel ever produced. [1]

That doesn’t include my belief that Eliyahu is one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.

Before we get into an in-depth look at Eliyahu’s ministry, I want to lay a brief background of who he was dealing with in King Ahab (Ach’av) and Queen Jezebel (Izevel). Six chapters are given to Ach’av’s reign, while most of the kings of Israel are covered in only part of one chapter. The reason is that the story of Ach’av is mostly the story of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was God’s answer to Ach’av and Izevel. God sent Eliyahu to eradicate Baalism, a cruel religion.

Ach’av

Ach’av is a good mystery, combining in himself qualities both good and evil, but, primarily evil. His life and reign include: his marriage to Izevel, a heathen princess; his alliance with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, by the marriage of his daughter Athaliah to Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, by which union the two kingdoms were brought into peaceful relations with one another for nearly eighty years; his building enterprises; his prowess and success in warfare; his attitude in the matter of Naboth and his vineyard; and his contacts with Eliyahu.

Izevels character was uniformly and consistently wicked, but Ahab’s was not. That he never abandoned the worship of God is seen in the names of some of his children: Ahaziah, ‘God supports’; Jehoram, ‘God is exalted’; Athaliah, ‘God is strong’; and in the fact that his attendant, Obadiah, was, both by name (‘worshipper of God’), and confession a servant of God. His sin was not that he forsook God for Baal, but that he tried to serve them both.

Like a football at training camp, he was tossed about between Izevel and Eliyahu, between what was wrong and what was right.

Izevel


Photo borrowed from Patrick Hawthorne from SGM.

Izevel must be reckoned among the wickedest of women; in a class with Potiphar’s wife and Lady Macbeth, and with all who have used their femininity to seduce, and to oppose and persecute truth and those who proclaim it. She was reckless, fierce, and licentious, fanatical and subtle; a proud heathen Canaanite, who, when she came into the stream of Israel’s history, cursed it beyond recovery. Her arrogance, her thirst for power and her heartless cruelty, have given her a unique place in history. So obsessed in her attempt at killing Eliyahu or other prophets, Eliyahu thought he was the only one left.

With this background information, in my next post, we will begin to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu.

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[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe Edition.

Exhortations and Warnings ~ Part 1

Messianic Jews 13:1-6
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we wrapped up with the topic of the Trust and the Believer in Messianic Jews 12 by exploring a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29. In this post, we move onto the final chapter of Messianic Jews were we study General Messianic Obligations in Messianic Jews 13:1-6.

1 Let brotherly friendship continue; 2 but don’t forget to be friendly to outsiders; for in so doing, some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels. 3 Remember those in prison and being mistreated, as if you were in prison with them and undergoing their torture yourselves. 4 Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. But God will indeed punish fornicators and adulterers. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money; and be satisfied with what you have; for God himself has said, “I will never fail you or abandon you.” 6 Therefore, we say with confidence, “Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid – what can a human being do to me?” ~ Messianic Jews 13:1-6 (CJB)

As he comes to the close of the letter, the writer to the Messianic Jews turns to practical things. Here he outlines five essential qualities of the Believer’s life.

  1. Let brotherly friendship continue. The very circumstances of the early Kehilah sometimes threatened brotherly love. The very fact that they took their religion as seriously as they did was in one sense a danger. In a Kehilah which is threatened from the outside and desperately in earnest on the inside, there are always two dangers. First, there is the danger of heresy-hunting. The very desire to keep the trust pure tends to make people eager to track down and eliminate the pagan and the person whose trust has gone astray. Second, there is the danger of stern and unsympathetic treatment of the person whose nerve and trust have failed. It is a great thing to keep the trust clean; but when the desire to do so makes us critical, harsh and unsympathetic, brotherly love is destroyed, and we are left with a situation which may be worse than the one we tried to avoid. Somehow or other we have to combine two things – an earnestness in the trust and kindness to the person who has strayed from it.
  1. There is hospitality. Some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels. This matter-of-fact statement (like those of 1:5-2:16, 12:22) takes for granted that angels exist. Do they? Science cannot answer such a question, because science doesn’t deal with metaphysics. Modern first-hand reports, of which there are many, are no more conclusive; since those inclined to disbelieve in angels explain them away and are not convinced. The writers and characters of the Bible considered angels real, reporting encounters with them as straightforwardly as we would describe driving off in a car; therefore, whoever can accept the Bible as God’s revealed Word should have no difficulty acknowledging the reality of angels.
  1. There is sympathy for those in trouble. Remember those in prison and being mistreated. It is here we see the early Kehilah at its best. It often happened that the Believer landed in jail and worse. It might be for their trust; it might be for debt, for the Believers were poor; it might be that pirates or brigands captured them. It was then that the Kehilah went into action. It was a renewal weekend where I heard other Believers visiting the prisons that I gave up and fully accepted all the Lord had for me. I thought the recent movie “Paul” depicted this quality excellently.
  1. There is purity. Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. First, the marriage bond is to be universally respected. This may mean either of two almost opposite things. (a) Some ascetics despised marriage. Some even went the length of castrating themselves to secure what they thought was purity. (b) There were those who were ever liable to relapse into immorality. The writer to the Messianic Jews uses two words. The one denotes adulterous living; the other denotes all kinds of impurity, such as unnatural vice. Into the world, the Believers brought a new ideal of purity. Even the heathen admitted that.
  1. There is contentment. The Believers must be free from the love of money. We must be content with what we have, and why should we not be for we possess the continual presence of God? Messianic Jews quote two great passages – Joshua 1:5 and Psalms 118:6 – to show that Believers need nothing more because we have the presence and the help of God. Nothing that humanity can give us can improve on that.
Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid.

In my next post, we explore the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17.

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The Fourth Seal: The Fourth Horseman

Revelation 6:7-8
The End Times

In my last post, we continued our journey in Revelation 6 as the third of the seven seals was opened.  In this post, we look at the Fourth Seal which reveals the Fourth Horseman.

The Fourth Seal 

7 When he broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living being say, “Go!”  8 I looked, and there in front of me was a pallid, sickly-looking horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Sh’ol followed behind him. They were given authority to kill one-quarter of the world by war, by famine, by plagues and with the wild animals of the earth. ~ Revelation 6:7-8 (CJB)

7 For peoples will fight each other, nations will fight each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various parts of the world. 8 all this is but the beginning of the ‘birthpains.’” ~ Matthew 24:7-8 (CJB)

The pale horse represents death, the natural result of war and famine.  When civilization collapses, the wild animals of the earth will once again regain their dominance and add to the suffering and death already experienced.

When he broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living being say, “Go!”  8 I looked, and there in front of me was a pallid, sickly-looking horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Sh’ol followed behind him. They were given authority to kill one-quarter of the world by war, by famine, by plagues and with the wild animals of the earth.  Death comes as the result of four means: war, famine, plagues, and wild animals.  The outcome of all of this will be the death of one fourth of the world’s population.  This could be as many as one and a three-quarter billion people.  Remember, these judgments are the result of conditions outlined in the little scroll, brought about by man’s rebellion and the curse of sin both on mankind and this planet.  Now, add to this the rule of the Antichrist and his part in the carnage and bloodshed by opposing God.  He does all this by trying to exterminate all Jews and any others who may believe on Yeshua.  This will become increasingly more apparent later.

These four horsemen, called into action at the very beginning of the tribulation period, are never recalled.  The blasphemous philosophy associated with the worship of a man under the white horse, the belligerent policies that lead nations into war under the red horse, the baneful blight experienced under the black horse, all culminate in the pale horse and his stirrup-rider rampaging over a quarter of earth to the very end of the tribulation.  If one fourth part of the earth is directly affected by these judgments the death toll must be very high indeed.  While the text does not state that one quarter of the population of earth will die there is no doubt that death will ride triumphantly across earth in these dark days of the tribulation.  The Lord’s solemn words come to mind: Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive; but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited” ~ Matthew 24:22 (CJB). If this is but the beginning of the ‘birthpains,’ then earth has much to endure in the night of her travail.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 6:7-8 [1]

 Historicist Approach:

Historicists date the fulfillment of this prophesy from 248 to 268 or 296 CE.  During this period of time, every province of the Roman world was afflicted by barbarous invaders and military tyrants as the Empire approached its dissolution.  As many as 5,000 persons died daily in Rome and many towns became depopulated.  Gibbon documents that half the human population of earth was killed in this period.

Preterist Approach:

Because of the internal fighting and starvation of the Jews, conditions described in this passage are reminiscent to the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE according to Preterists.  God also utilized these conditions at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE according to Ezekiel.  “For here is what Adonai Elohim says: ‘Even if I inflict my four dreadful judgments on Yerushalayim — sword, famine, wild animals and plagues — to eliminate both its humans and its animals’’’ ~ Ezekiel 14:21 (CJB).

Futurist Approach:

Futurists view these first four seals to the future Great Tribulation spoken by Yeshua in Matthew 24:21. “For at that time there will be Great Tribulation, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again!” (HCSB)

Idealist Approach:

Idealists see the first four seals as symbolically repeated throughout history with the militarism and lust of conquest displayed in a fallen world.  The reference to the authority to kill one-quarter of the world emphasizes the fact that we are not at this point yet, but only recurring instances of geographically limited judgments.

In my next post, the Fifth Seal is broken.

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[1] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

 The First Seal: The First Horseman

Revelation 6:1-2
The End Times

In my last post, we concluded our study of Revelation 5.  In this post, we begin our journey in Revelation 6 as the first six of the seven seals are opened.  As you can quickly see, we will be taking each seal individually as the Four View interpreters have much to say about each.

Chapter 6 begins the account of the events that take place on the earth during the seven years of tribulation.  Futurist interpreters believe that these events begin immediately after the rapture of the church in chapter 4.  The sequence of seals marks a progression during the tribulation period.  It is interesting to note that these signs follow in the exact same order as the signs that Yeshua speaks of in Matthew 24, where He is responding to His talmidim questions regarding the signs that will foretell His return and the end of the age. (These parallel verses from Matthew 24 will be included as we explore each seal.)

The First Seal

Next I watched as the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living beings say in a thundering voice, “Go!” 2 I looked, and there in front of me was a white horse; its rider had a bow and was given a crown; and he rode off as a conqueror to conquer.” ~ Revelation 6:1-2 (CJB) Continue reading ” The First Seal: The First Horseman”

The Throne Room Vision

Revelation 4:1-3
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a summary of the Four Views of all Seven Letters and begin to look at the Four Views of the Seven Sealed Scroll.  In this post, we begin our journey into the heavenly visions that Yochanan recorded beginning in Revelation 4.

There is an abrupt shift in setting between chapters 3 and 4, from the Seven Messianic Communities in Asia Minor to God’s Throne Room in heaven.  At the beginning of the vision of the horrible disasters to come, God reassures His people through Yochanan that He is still on the throne and in control.  Regardless of what terrible things are about to happen, the final stage is set for the redemptive work of Yeshua.

1 After these things, I looked; and there before me was a door standing open in heaven; and the voice like a trumpet which I had heard speaking with me before said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after these things.” 2 Instantly I was in the Spirit, and there before me in heaven stood a throne, and on the throne Someone was sitting. 3 The One sitting there gleamed like diamonds and rubies [1], and a rainbow shining like emerald encircled the throne.” ~ Revelation 4:1-3 (CJB)

Chapters 4 and 5 seem to detail the events that occur in heaven after the Rapture, and chapters 6-18 the events that occur on the earth after the Rapture.  It is the same event told from two different vantage points.

After these things takes us into the third section of the Revelation, as outlined by Yochanan in chapter 1.  19 So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.” Revelation 1:19 (CJB) Write down what you see chapter one; what is now chapters two and three; what will happen afterwards chapter four through the remainder of the book.

In this new division of the Book of Revelation, something most dramatic is transpiring:  the Rapture, the removal from the earth of all true Believers, The Bride of Messiah!  It is interesting that the Messianic communities are mentioned nineteen times in the first three chapters and then is completely omitted and not mentioned again until chapter 22.  16 “I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star. ~ Revelation 22:16 (CJB).  Therefore, now one of two things must have happened: either the body of Believers has been completely wiped out by Satan, or God has taken it from the world in an act that is known as the Rapture.  This is the pre-tribulation viewpoint to which I personally subscribe.

These words of Yeshua assure us:18 I also tell you this: you are Kefa,” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build my Community, and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it.” ~ Matthew 16:18 (CJB emphasis added).  Therefore, we cannot conclude that Satan has overcome it, and indeed must conclude that the Messianic Communities have been taken from the earth by God.

In deliberating the Rapture question, it would be good to consider briefly the other two views of the Second Coming of Yeshua held by some theologians. One is the mid-tribulational view and the second is the post-tribulational view. The interesting thing about these two views is that they differ only as to the time placement of the final shofar. The mid-tribulationalists place the sounding of the seventh trumpet in the middle of the tribulation, whereas the post-tribulationalists place it at the end.

Both groups make the claim that the final shofar mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and the shofar of Revelation 11:15 are synonymous.  The shofars of Revelation are different from those of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The shofars of Revelation are clearly identified with judgment, whereas the shofars of 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 signal a call to the elect of God. The shofars of Revelation are sounded by angels, but in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 it is called the God’s shofar.  John Walvoord (a Futurist) explains why understanding that these are two different shofars is so important.  Understanding this one concept alone greatly undermines the positions taken by mid-tribulationalists and post-tribulationalists:

The most damaging fact in the whole argument, however, is that the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 is, after all, not the last trumpet of Scripture.  According to Matthew 24:31, the elect will be gathered at the coming of Jesus to establish His earthly kingdom “with a great sound of a trumpet.” While post-tribulationalists hold that this is identical with the seventh trumpet, mid-tribulationalists cannot do so. In fact, it is not too much to say that this one reference alone spells the doom of mid-tribulationalists.

Note that the open door in heaven Revelation 4:1 contrasts with a closed door on earth Revelation 3:20.

Instantly I was in the Spirit, and there before me in heaven stood a throne.  As you read this, your attentions immediately drawn to the throne.  The throne is mentioned nine times in the first six verses and a total of seventeen times in chapters four and five.  It appears forty-six times throughout the book of Revelation.  The activity around the throne is one of the key themes in Revelation.

The One sitting there gleamed like diamonds and rubies, and a rainbow shining like emerald encircled the throne.  The one sitting upon the throne is God the Father.  Later, the Son approaches the throne in Revelation 5:6, and the Spirit is pictured before the throne in Revelation 4:5. A rainbow is a real event that appears even in earthly skies.  Warren Wiersbe adds to this:

The rainbow reminds us of God’s covenant with Noach (Gen. 9:11-17), symbolic of His promise that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.  God’s covenant, as we shall see, was not only with Noach, but with all of His creation. Usually, a rainbow appears after the storm; but here, we see it before the storm.

Ask yourself, how could you even begin to imagine how you would describe God’s physical appearance?  My head hurts just asking the question.  Does He even have a physical appearance or is He a spiritual entity?  Based on B’resheet 1:26 (CJB), God must have a physical appearance as He said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves…”.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 4:1-3 [2]

Historicist and Preterist Approach:

Historicist and Preterist interpreters see in chapters 4 and 5 an interlude before the appearance of the first rider (on the white horse) in chapter 6, which is the victorious Roman army on its way to Jerusalem in 67 CE.

Preterist interpreters also point out that Yochanan’s vision is very like Ezekiel’s vision in the first-half of his book.  The only major difference being the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE (Ezekiel) and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Yochanan).  In addition, they interpret the repeat of after these things at the end of the first verse to imply a first century fulfillment.  The Seven-Seale Scroll beginning in chapter 5 is God’s judgment against Jerusalem and the subsequent breaking of the first seal depicts the war between Israel and Rome from 66-70 CE.

Futurist Approach:
Futurist interpreters believe that at the end of chapter 3, the Rapture of Believers takes place: Come up here. (4:1). The period that follows, beginning with chapter 4 and ending with the Battle of Armageddon (19:19) and the 1000-year reign of Yeshua on earth (the Millennium; chap. 20), covers a terrible seven-year period at the time of the end referred to as the Great Tribulation (see 7:14and Matthew 24:21). These seven years are the same as the 70th set of seven years the prophet Daniel spoke about (see Daniel 9:27).

Idealist Approach:

After these things, does not mean this is what will happen next, but this is the vision I saw next to the Idealist interpreters. The entire church age depicted in chapters 1-3 from an earthly standpoint will now be viewed again from a heavenly viewpoint.

In my next post, we will continue to explore Revelation Chapter 4.

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[1] Other translations frequently use “jasper and carnelian or rubies.”

[2] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

Revelation 3:14-22

Letter to Laodicea
The End Times

In my last post, we examined the letter to the Messianic Community at Philadelphia.    In this post, Yeshua’s last letter to the Messianic Community at Laodicea will be examined.

Historical Setting [1]

laodecia-map

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laodecia

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Ancient Laodicea
(Pictures Courtesy of Google)

The last church to be designated is in Laodicea.  Laodicea was located in the Lycus Valley of southern Phrygia, midway between Philadelphia and Colossae. The location of Laodicea on one of the main highways of travel enabled it to become wealthy. It was a center for banking, medicine, and was known for its fine textile products. Unfortunately, this economic sufficiency lulled the church to sleep.

Laodicea was a wealthy city in Asia Minor founded by Antiochus II (261-246 BCE). It lay on one of the great Asian trade routes, which ensured its great commercial prosperity (gained, in part, at the expense of Colossae, when traffic was rerouted from that city and through Laodicea instead).  Laodicea was a leading banking center.

It was no doubt the rich banking firms that financed the reconstruction of the city after the great earthquake of 60 CE virtually destroyed it.  Laodicea refused the Roman Senate’s earthquake relief.  For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’  ~ Revelation 3:17.

The Lycus Valley produced a glossy black wool, the source of black cloaks and carpets for which the city was famous.  Laodicea was also the home of a medical school and the manufacture of collyrium, a famous eye-salve (3:17-18). The scornful imagery of the apocalyptic letter to Laodicea is obviously based on these activities.  It also has reference to the emetic [an agent that causes vomiting] qualities of the soda-laden warm water from nearby Hierapolis, whose thermal springs ran into the Maeander River. Laodicea’s water supply came from Hierapolis and most likely arrived lukewarm.  The church of Laodicea was likewise lukewarm church.  Its members were materially prosperous, but God tells them that He sees them as spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

14 “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Laodicea, write: ‘Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation: 15 “I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! 17 For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked! 18 My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eye salve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see. 19 As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins! 20 Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. 21 I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”’” ~ Revelation 3:14-22 (CJB)

Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation.  In each address Yeshua tells us something about Himself and, looking carefully, you will note that attribute also to be a characteristic of the Godhead.

  1. Rev. 2:1  ~  Omnipresent
  2. Rev. 2:8  ~  Eternal
  3. Rev. 2:12 ~ Truth
  4. Rev. 2:18 ~ Omniscient
  5. Rev. 3:1  ~  Comforter
  6. Rev. 3:7 ~  Omnipotent
  7. Rev. 3:14 ~ Creator

Each of these attributes, a post within itself, gives us a picture of the basic character of our Lord.  He is the Sovereign God of this universe.  What God must say in each of these seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor must be evaluated carefully, as they set awesome implications not only for the church named, but each and every church on this earth.

“I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!  William Newell relates: [2]

Here we have, first, their spiritual state; second, their supreme self-confidence; third, their imminent danger.  The meaning of hot is seen in Romans 12:11 where the same Greek word is used – spiritual fervor.  The word translated cold is used in Matthew 10:42, a cup of cold water; (Like cold water to a person faint from thirst… Proverbs 25:25). Either a hot drink on a cold day, or a cool one on a hot day, is acceptable and refreshing; lukewarm is neither, and disgusts. These Laodiceans were lukewarm: chiaros – a Greek word used only this one time in the Bible.  It is the last stage of the church’s existence recognized by the Lord.

What a sad commentary on the church of Laodicea as Yeshua offers no praise for this church.  He does not rebuke it for immoral practices or doctrinal error as in the case of others; His rebuke is for being lukewarm. To be lukewarm reflects compromise, loss of zeal and direction; plus love for the Savior is diminished. This church is more interested in convenience and comfort than with commitment and commission. It has gone from a church that has lost the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4), to a church that is in love with itself.

My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eye salve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see. 19 As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins!  Yeshua counsels them to make wise spiritual investments before it is too late.  He sets forth corrections that need to be made.  First, He mentions gold refined by fir. This is true unadulterated spiritual riches, eternal wealth.  Second, Yeshua mentions White clothing.  The only thing that can cover spiritual nakedness is the absolute righteousness of God.  Third, Yeshua mentions eye salve.  Only through the work of the Ruach can one’s eyes be opened to see spiritual truths.  God longs for service from His own with a proper motive.  Their testimony was so compromised that there was no difference between them and the lost people of the community.  The church could have had a doctrine of compromise because they were all practicing it. Then added to all this was the fact that they were without direction.  Five words sum it all up, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!  

Is Yeshua your Lord and Savior?  If so, He loves you and desires the very best for you.  However, to accomplish this He will discipline you when needed in order to keep you on the straight and narrow path of devoted service (see Hebrews 12:5-11).  If you are guilty of compromise in any area of your walk, the admonition is to repent.

Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.  This is the final action being taken by our Lord prior to His return for His bride (the true Church).  He is pictured on the outside of His own church.  It is a sad picture, but because of the kind of activities, programs, leadership, beliefs and conduct of the people, He is no longer welcome in the church.  Through its lukewarm condition, the church in Laodicea has shut Yeshua out. Since the church might not open the door to Him, He also appeals to individuals within the church to respond personally to Him.  Yeshua is always there to enter a personal relationship with anyone who will open the door of their heart to Him.

This is a strange picture: Yeshua Himself on the outside, asking to be let in to one of His own churches.  In measure, it is true of many churches of today, operating in the name of Yeshua but with Yeshua Himself little in evidence.

I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Yeshua promises the true Believer that he will one day (the verb will let is future tense) sit with Yeshua on His throne. Yeshua will sit on the throne of David and we shall rule and reign with Him for one thousand years (see Luke 1:32-33; Matthew 19:28).

Special Comparative Note on Chapters 3:14 ~ 22 [3]

Among Historicist and some Futurists, it is generally argued that Laodicea represents the lukewarm sector of the church in the End Times (possibly beginning near the end of the nineteenth century).  The scholarly assault on the Bible, epitomized and exacerbated by the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), put tremendous pressure on the church to conform to modern thought or lose academic respectability.  Many theologians succumbed to this pressure and began subjecting the Bible to “scientific methods” of analysis. Such analysis, though far from objective or conclusive, became fashionable in many seminaries [now I know why the call them cemeteries, the kill one’s faith] and denominations, resulting in a loss of respect for the Bible as a genuine revelation from God.  In many cases, secular psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and whatever social trend became popular secular thinking (e.g. the breakdown of Biblical models of marriage and sexuality), have displaced the Bible in its authority to dictate norms for the church.

Modern churches that have gone this route are said to be represented by this Laodicean church.  They are lukewarm and Yeshua says that they nauseate Him.  Those applying the seven church letters to eras of church history believe that both the Philadelphia and the Laodicean types of churches will exist together until the Second Coming of Yeshua.

Having considered what the Ruach had to say to each of the seven churches individually, we are prepared to proceed to the main theater, where the pageant of Heavenly scenes of later developments is presented for the edification of all seven of the churches – and, as we think, of the entire church of all times, as their symbolic number doubtless suggests.

In my next post, we will explore a summary of the Four Views of the letters in chapters 2 ~ 3 and the Seven Sealed Scroll contained beginning in chapters 4 ~ 7 of Revelation.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook: Deluxe Edition

[2] “Layman’s Commentary on Revelation” by Don Jones.

[3] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

Revelation 1:7-8

The Lord Who Is Coming

The End Times

In my last post, we began our verse-by-verse study of The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan.  In this post, we continue to unpack Chapter 1 of Revelation.

7 ”Look! He is coming with the clouds!  Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the Land will mourn him. Yes! Amen!  8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega” says Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, the One who is, who was and who is coming.” ~ Revelation 1:7-8 (CJB)

Verse 7 states the theme of the book of Revelation, The Second Coming of Yeshua the Messiah in a way that the world will be unable to ignore. When predicting His own second coming Yeshua Himself combined the same phrases from Daniel and Zechariah.  Yeshua, in paraphrasing from Zechariah 12:10-14 and Daniel 7:13-14, stated: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with tremendous power and glory.” ~ Matthew 24:30 (CJB) Those who pierced him. This taken directly from Zechariah 12:10.

Sterns writes: “… this great Messianic prophecy from the Tanakh speaks of the day when the entire Jewish people will recognize Yeshua, pierced on the execution-stake, as the Messiah and as fully identified with God, “me, whom they pierced.” [1]

In Acts 1 we’re told Yeshua “will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven ~ Acts 1:11 (CJB).   Zechariah prophesied “On that day His [Yeshua] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies to the east of Yerushalayim; and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, to make a huge valley.  Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” ~ Zechariah 14:4 (CJB)

Who is speaking in verse 8?  The expression the One who is, who was and who is coming was used by Yochanan in verse 4 to refer to God the Father.  However, the expression fits equally well with Yeshua.  The author of Hebrews writes: 8 Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever.” ~ Hebrews 13:8 (CJB).

The identification of the Alpha and the Omega is a reminder of Isaiah’s description of God the Father: “6 Thus says Adonai, Isra’el’s King and Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva’ot: ‘I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no God.’” ~ Isaiah 44:6 (CJB)

When we get to Revelation 1:17-18 the speaker identifies Himself to Yochanan as: 17 “… I am the First and the Last, 18 the Living One.  I was dead, but look! — I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol.” ~ Revelation 1:17-18 (CJB)

In the last chapter of Revelation, Yeshua self-identifies as: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” ~ Revelation 22:13 (ESV)

Yochanan, as well as other Biblical authors, ascribe to Yeshua titles that historically had only been attributed to Adonai (God the Father, literally “the Lord”) in the Tanakh.

Special Comparative Note on Revelation 1:7 [2]

Not surprisingly, the opening statement: Look! He is coming with the clouds provides fodder for the divergent views of what is meant by this statement.

Historicist Approach: See the material presented by the Futurists below.
Preterist Approach: The most elaborate argument for this phrase is expounded by some Preterist who suggest it does not predict a literal Second Coming, but a figurative description of Yeshua coming in vengeance to destroy Jerusalem, not in person, but by using the Roman armies in 70 CE.  Space & time doesn’t allow me to go in-depth on each of their arguments for each portion of verse 7, but the one that did get my attention is all the tribes of the Land will mourn him.  This alludes to a prophesy of the inhabitants of Jerusalem seen in Zechariah 10:12. This view is further supported in the fact that Israel is divisible into tribes, whereas the earth is generally divided in nations.
Futurist Approach: Futurists take this statement as somewhat literally seeing in it a prediction of Yeshua’s Second Coming in the clouds at the end of the present age.  This view is followed by most Historicists and Idealists as well.
Idealist Approach: Idealists see this simply as one of several references to The Second Coming.

Many will not find the Preterist arguments sufficient to overthrow the more dominant opinion, and the ultimate decision on the meaning of this passage will, in the final analysis, depend upon the reader’s view in total of Revelation.

In my next post, we continue in Chapter 1 on the verse-by-verse study of this fascinating prophesy.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[2] Material in this chart is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

Eternal Security ~ Part 20

Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach

In my last post, we concluded our presentation of Election that we started in Eternal Security ~ Part 2.  In this post, I want to tackle the issue of the Unpardonable Sin and Grieving the Ruach.  Once those issues are fully addressed, I will move on to the contested passages before wrapping-up this series with my own personal position.

Unpardonable Sin

What is the Unpardonable Sin?  Interestingly, that phrase is not contained in the Bible.  It has developed over the years to refer to blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh“I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Matthew 12:31.  Attributing to the Adversary the work of the Ruach can imperil the soul for eternity. “Someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin” ~ Mark 3:29. “Everyone who says something against the Son of Man will have it forgiven him; but whoever has blasphemed the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven” ~ Luke 12:10.

Recall in Eternal Security ~ Part 2: Glossary of Terms, Unger stated:

This was a specific sin possible only during the earthly life of our Lord, when He was ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit. Under those unique conditions a person who attributed to Satan the power of the Holy Spirit, so visibly and openly manifested, was guilty of this peculiar sin. For this reason, there could be no forgiveness in the age then present or in the age immediately following. Since no such conditions exist in this age, the unpardonable sin is now impossible. An unpardonable sin and the gospel of “whosoever will” cannot coexist. Were such a sin possible today, every gospel invitation would specifically shut out those who had committed such a trespass.

In both Mathew and Mark, the context for Yeshua’s pronouncement is His defense against the P’rushim’s accusation that He was driving out demons under the power of Satan, not the Ruach.  The passage in Luke is contained in several mini-teachings to the talmidim on His way to Jerusalem.

With respect to Matthew 12:31, the ESV Study Bible [1] states:

The sin is attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God, and doing this through the flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and His commands. This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.

With respect to Mark 3:29, the ESV Study Bible states:

The opponents’ accusation against Jesus is the unforgivable, eternal sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:28 emphasizes that “all sins will be forgiven,” anticipating the eternally valid, substitutionary atonement of Jesus. However, if a person persistently attributes to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God – that is, if one makes a flagrant, willful, decisive judgment that the Spirit’s testimony about Jesus is satanic – then such a person never has forgiveness.

With respect to Luke 12:10, the ESV Study Bible states:

Jesus closes this occasion of teaching his disciples with one of the most enigmatic, debated, and misunderstood sayings of His ministry. Key to understanding this passage is the distinction Jesus makes between, on one hand, the extreme case of blasphemy against “the Holy Spirit” and, on the other hand, the lesser case of speaking in a dishonorable way against “the Son of Man.” One who asks to be forgiven for disrespectful words hastily spoken against Jesus (the Son of Man) will be forgiven. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – that is, the persistent and unrepentant resistance against the work of the Holy Spirit and his message concerning Jesus – this, Jesus says, will not be forgiven. The person who persists in hardening his heart against God, against the work of the Holy Spirit, and against the provision of Christ as Savior, is outside the reach of God’s provision for forgiveness and salvation. Christians often worry that they have committed this sin, but such a concern is itself evidence of an openness to the work of the Spirit.

As we see, we have a difference of opinion between Unger and the authors of the ESV Study Bible on when the Unpardonable Sin can be committed.  Unger maintains that it was limited to when Yeshua was ministering on earth; while the ESV Study Bible it can still be committed by those unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.  While I understand Unger’s position, I can’t reconcile it with the whole of Scripture.

What if someone after Yeshua’s ascension or even today were to repent of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Is there no forgiveness for the person who repents of this sin?  Was Sha’ul sinning against the Ruach in the days when he persecuted Believers and even “trying to make them blaspheme” ~ Acts 26:11?  Evidently not!  He wrote to Timothy and stated: “I received mercy because I had acted in unbelief, not understanding what I was doing” ~ 1 Timothy 1:13.

A.W. Tozer has stated:

“I have discovered a very helpful rule in this matter. I believe it holds good throughout the whole church of God around the world. Anyone who is concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin may be sure he or she has not!” [2]

Grieving the Ruach

The concept of grieving the Ruach is found in Ephesians 4:30: “Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption.”   That the Ruach can be saddened or grieved points to the personality of the Ruach. The Ruach is a person who can be saddened by the way we live. Sha’ul has already explained that the Ruach’s power within gives new life to believers. While we continue to battle with our sinful nature, we should be living for Yeshua each day. To refuse to do so, to constantly give in to lying, anger, stealing, and foul talk is to grieve the Ruach of God. Because the Ruach controls and guides speech, praise, prophecy, and tongues, we offend him when we use them improperly.

Sha’ul reminded the readers that the Ruach within them gives both a privilege and a responsibility. Their responsibility is to not disappoint Him by the way they live; their privilege is their promised future, for through the presence of the Ruach, they were stamped until the day of redemption. The seal of the Ruach upon a Believer marks that Believer as God’s property until the day he or she is completely redeemed.

For further study, be sure to check out my friend Michael’s blog at Altruistico on “What Is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?” and “What is the Unpardonable or Unforgiveable Sin?”

In my next post, I will begin to examine several of the contested passages we have encountered along our journey.

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[1]  In my personal devotion time this year, I have been using the English Standard Study Bible as I re-read through the Brit Hadashah, Psalms and Proverbs.

[2] “Jesus, Author of Our Faith” by A.W. Tozer