I think most people agree that the devil has played his part in religion since the early stages of earth’s history. “And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?” (Genesis 4:2-6 KJV).
After Satan convinced Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, Satan went after Adam and Eve’s eldest son. It seems Cain didn’t come with an owners manual. Adam and Eve had to learn with not much more than on the job training. We can see by a few simple text that God was still there with Adam, Eve, and Cain. God personally talked with Cain. God voiced his concern with Cain. But for some reason, Cain had his own ideas. Now we have to ask the obvious question. Did Cain invent a new system of worship on his own, or did Cain have help? Let’s look at the obvious facts. Satan and a third of the angels in Heaven were banished to this world. Their only past time, recreation, and goal was to work on two people, Adam and Eve, and convince them that their system and ideas were better than God’s. The devil and his army were bent on separating Adam and Eve from God and join their forces. When Cain came along, he must have looked like an easy target. Now Satan had a pupil he could teach his way. So Satan and billions of angels worked on Cain every minute seven days a week. What chance did Cain have? Of course by the Bible text we can see Cain still had God to talk to. We can’t imagine what life must have been like for Cain. He had direct contact with God and the devil. Cain had to make a decision. Maybe Cain was only testing God. Maybe the devil promised Cain riches, wealth, power, and glory. But over what? After a few years, Cain had a little brother. A brother he should have been watching over. Able choose to follow God and the few simple commandments he was given. Just follow the rules. Simple. But was it all that simple? Cain’s crops grew. Cain had no idea how he could plant seed in the ground, water it, and a new plant would sprout and grow. Later more seeds sprang from that one seed. He could eat those seeds and fruit to survive. God’s sun and rain made those plants grow. They were all working together as a team. Cain could have asked God how He designed those seeds and what made them grow. Cain had direct access to God and infinite knowledge. On the other hand, Satan also had direct access to Cain and who knows what Satan promised, or what lies Satan filled Cain’s head with. In the long run, Cain choose to follow one of Satan’s suggestions.
It seems Able had a much closer relationship with God. Maybe Adam and Eve saw the mistakes they made with Cain and adjusted their parenting skills to do a much better job with Able. But when you consider the fact Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able all had equal access to God, what could have went wrong? Maybe Satan discovered something new to work with. Was it pride, jealousy, or a lethal combination of the two? At any rate, Satan and his army were on their way to honing their skills in deception.
As time marched on, the population increased. And so did sin. It is sad to think the first son born to Adam and Eve, the first baby born into this world killed his younger brother. That broke God’s sixth commandment. Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). But when we look at those commandments, we see another command Cain broke. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 KJV). There must have been a written set of laws before Cain broke them. Cain had to know about those laws before God could judge him guilty and pass a sentence on Cain. “And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” (Genesis 4:10-14 RSVA).
There has to be a law to break before a judge can sentence a man. But here we only see the charge of murder brought against Cain. And we see something else. Cain was afraid of two penalties. Leaving behind the ground he worked on and cared for, and loosing contact with God. Did Cain loose contact with God at that point? Was God not only sending Cain into the wilderness, but into territory controlled by Satan?
We all know that God never changes. We know that God is always the same. We also know God is trying His best to reach each and every individual in this world. When we look at the text we see that it was Cain’s mind that told him, God would no longer be there for him. Is that what sin does to us? Was Satan telling Cain something that wasn’t true? Sure sin has a way of separating us from God. But is that God’s choice, or our choice? Is God still there for us, but our pride and ignorance create a void? Maybe Satan’s way of reaching Cain was to convince him that if God wasn’t there, his laws would also go away. Did Satan tell Cain, “you didn’t do anything wrong. The problem is that law. If you eliminate God, you eliminate His laws.” Isn’t that something sinners dwell on?
It seems that is what the world had in mind. Get away from God and his laws. But something had to replace God and His laws. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 RSVA). Satan replaced God’s laws with wickedness and evil. We are not given a list of every sin involved, but we can imagine. People broke every one of God’s commands. They created new religions, new gods, they murdered, stole, committed adultery, and took what they wanted. Sin took over so quickly, it broke God’s heart to see His creation break down in Satan’s hands. Of course this was the first world Satan tried to run. So he made a lot of mistakes. His main excuse was that, men just wouldn’t listen to him or follow orders. Satan wanted to be free of God’s commands and convinced this world they didn’t need any laws. That plan didn’t work. It didn’t take long for Satan to loose control of this world. God had to destroy sin, and unfortunately give Satan a second change to test his theory. God took Noah and his family, put them on a boat, and killed every breathing creature on this planet. With the exception of the animals that joined Noah inside the ark. That boat represented God’s saving grace in all the storms and troubles this world can bring.
When Noah got off that boat, he offered sacrifices to God. This world had eight human beings willing and able to follow God and His laws. Satan also gained a fresh chance. Satan saw where the elimination of all law led. He wasn’t about to try that again. This time Satan had to introduce a new system with new laws. His laws. What better way to control people than through religion? Instead of eliminating God’s laws and trying to get people to follow his directions, Satan needed to copy a few things from God, make a few minor adjustments, and see how that would work.
Building a new city and a new monument dedicated to showing how they could not trust God’s word was one of Satan’s first moves. “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:5-9 RSVA).
Even though God promised never to destroy the earth in a flood, men got together to build a tower, just in case God broker His promise. The tower served two purposes. A few people could climb to the top just in case another flood came long. It also served to display their outlook on God. Because sin separated them from God, the new religion Satan introduced placed God and His kingdom in the clouds. It was a rather silly concept, but a concept that is still widely taught and accepted in some Christian religions. Men were convinced that by building a tower, they could be like God. Today we see similar beliefs. Build a bigger church to get God’s attention. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work today.
For some reason God gave those people many different languages. There may have been thousands or millions of people in that city at that time. So what did those mixed languages solve? It got the people to move and spread out. Today millions of people speak the same language. More people than the number that were scatted from that city. So what are all those languages pointing to? How many religions do we have in this world today? At least thousands. There are well over three hundred different Christian denominations scattered all over the world. Other major religions all have their differences, splinter groups, and off shoots. No one has any idea how many people die each year because of differences in religious beliefs. What does that have to do with different languages? Well maybe nothing. But those different languages do point to a misunderstanding on a larger scale. And a unified belief in the wrong religion did spawn the break up of a one world language.
So now the world had hundreds of different languages and dialects. Which of course broke in countless forms of religion. After some time, God had one person to call on, Abram. That marked the beginning of a new nation destined to follow God.
Most of us know how that worked out. Abram decided to listen to his wife instead of God. Abram’s first son came from an Egyptian slave. How is that for a turn about. Abram owned a slave from Egypt, and years later the nation of Israel served as slaves in Egypt.
Today Abram’s first son Ismael is given credit to spawning a number of nations and religions. “Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.” Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:16-19 NLTse).
If nothing else, we can still see how God watched over Hagar and communicated with her. Where has that communication gone?
We can see the fracturing and divisions among religions throughout the Bible. We know how every religion has its own rules, regulations, and doctrines. We have seen on the news how war breaks out between religious factions. We don’t know what those differences are. And most people doing the fighting and killing have no idea why they are killing other human beings. Did Cain know why he killed Able? It was over some religious dispute. Cain could have asked God to solve the dispute, but he chose to rely on his own judgment.
It’s no big secret that Satan uses religions to gain a toe hold in peoples lives. He has been doing that for a rather long time and has come up with some rather bizarre religions to control people. Today we only have to watch or read the news to see how wars are fought over religious differences. Religious genocide is still a part of this world and a tool Satan still pulls out of his work shed. What are those religious differences? Books have been written about those differences. Studies have been done on those differences. Government reports have been written about those differences. Billions of dollars have been spent trying to solve those differences as well as fight over those differences. Millions of lives have been lost over those differences. But no one has bothered to look at the obvious solution. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 KJV). The only solution is God. To honor God as the one true living God. The examples we looked at in this chapter have shown how God was always there to talk to people. And have shown how Cain and others decided to give Satan’s ideas a chance. None of those ideas or concepts have worked. We are still living in a world that believes mankind can somehow solve all those problems. This world still believes we are on our own and it is up to us to find solutions. But the world will not admit, Satan has a stronger influence over our decisions making capabilities. Satan controls minds. Satan controls leaders, decisions, laws, and wars. We are not in this world alone. Satan prefers to hide behind a mask, and make people think their ideas, concepts, laws, and actions are a product of their imagination and experience. But Satan has more experience than all the leaders in this world put together. Religious or otherwise, Satan has control over those leaders and is not giving up that control without a fight.
Romans 9:1-5 NLTse With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. (2) My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief (3) for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed–cut off from Christ!–if that would save them. (4) They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. (5) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
How do people confirm that messages are indeed from the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit supposed to be our witness? It seems to me, when we are on the same team, there is a way to support one another in all facets of life. How do we get that ball rolling? Is it as simple as we hear in church, or on the Internet?
Let’s face it. Most messages we hear come from someone’s imagination. What spirit influenced that person? When we ask questions, we usually receive the standard answer. “Of course I prayed.” Or they may be defending their leaders by saying, “of course they prayed.” Then what was the answer? How did the Holy Spirit communicate with that person, group, or committee? If they received a direct communication from God, I doubt if it would quickly be forgotten. On the other hand, if the message came from human resources, I could see how a standardized answer would be offered.
David wrote a list of Psalms telling us, he prayed, and how he received answers. All of the prophets in the Bible did the exact same thing. Moses wrote about how he first met God, and a series of communications with God after that. Some times God would speak directly with Moses. As was true in most cases. Moses has a special relationship with God. On the other hand, David’s story contained another twist. As a boy, David had a great relationship with God. In the fields, David had no trouble hearing God’s voice. David found it a little strange to find other people lacked that communication with God. But something happened. Influences inside Saul’s palace, an endless stream of wars, battles, a marriage, and other factors drew David away from God to a degree. David had to leave, get out on his own for a while, get back to nature, and back to God. That began a retraining process for David that started with one priest, and a set of stones that answered yes and no questions. David eventually grew back into a relationship with God, that was on and off to say the least. There were times David listened to God, sought out God’s advice, and went to God as a type or refuge. And there were times David didn’t think he needed God’s advice on a subject. David was human.
Daniel wrote a book that is one of the best sources of information about how God communicates with us. Daniel heard God in prayer, visions, dreams, and through messengers. Daniel played the part of a messenger, telling people what God thought about subjects, what their dreams were, and of course, all those messages about the future. Which brings up a good point to examine. All of the information written in Daniels books came from a direct revelation from God. No one can argue with that point. David’s book is the focus of study for many preachers, pastors, and teachers these days. If every word they are quoting is a direct revelation from God, shouldn’t each and every one of their explanations also be a direct revelation from God? If that was the case, wouldn’t each of their messages identify how and when God communicated with them? Why doesn’t that simple concept spread throughout the Bible seem to apply to the world today?
Paul is simply attempting to deliver a simple message, God loves the Jews and wants them to remain as His children. To deliver that message, Paul went out of his way to make sure the Jews knew the message was from God. If such a simple message in scripture required so much clarification, than why not other messages?
It seems that some of the Jews felt as if God abandoned them, because the priests and Pharisees killed God’s Son. It may seem rather difficult for us to share that type of guilt. If religious leaders committed a sin, would the entire congregation share in the guilt? And why, or why not? Maybe some of the Jews were more like Paul than what we generally considered. Maybe more Jews support Jesus’ death, and the persecution of His followers. Then in their own way, met Jesus while traveling their own roads. If it happened to Paul, it could happen to others. While Paul was blind, Jesus sent him to a Christian home to heal. There had to be a reason. That act of kindness and trust had to make an impression on Paul. When we look at the Gospels, we can’t argue the point, there were a number of Jews who called for Jesus’ death. People from all over the world were standing in Pilot’s courtyard. It was one of the most important Passovers in history.
There is no doubt Satan and his angels were in that courtyard on the day Jesus was sentenced to the cross. Demons influenced people. Many of them from distant parts of the world knew little about Jesus, or what was going on. All they did was follow the crowd. Of course they were prompted on by demons. Those people may have heard a story or two about Jesus. But how accurate were those stories? Were they first hand accounts, second, third hand, or nothing more than rumors? Were those stories from Jesus’ supporters, followers, friends, or foes? How well did those people know Jesus?
There is a ton of information we would have to examine to get to the truth about every Jew Paul wrote to in Rome. People don’t think about actual events and how they shaped lives and beliefs in Paul’s day. People don’t stop long enough to consider how modern day events effect people today. We could learn so much from the letters Paul wrote, if we stopped long enough to consider how one of the world’s most important events shaped lives, effected people, and changed them in one way or another.
Paul had to send the Jews in Rome all the way back to Abraham so they could see how God chose one man to begin a whole new movement on earth. Jews should have known that history. Christians should also know that part of scripture. Paul took that line from Abraham all the way up to Jesus. Jesus was a Jew. For the most part Jesus was rejected by the Jews. Which was one of the points Paul was trying to make. Why should the Jews continue to reject Christians, or certain Christians?
How Does God Choose
Romans 9:6-16 NLTse Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! (7) Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. (8) This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children. (9) For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (10) This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. (11) But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; (12) he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” (13) In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” (14) Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! (15) For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” (16) So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
Paul dropped a bomb on the Israelites. Telling them, not all of them were God’s children, may have been blaspheme in the eyes of some of those Jews. That was not at all what they have been taught. Some Jews believed, they were born into God’s family based on their family line, which was traced all the way back to Abraham. There was nothing that could change that. But with that family line came responsibilities. They had to bring their sacrifices. The most important being the animal sacrifices. There was also the temple tax, first fruits from whatever business they ran, and a host of other donations to keep the temple up and running, and the priests employed. Along side the priests were a host of other people to interpret the laws, write books, explain just about every question people may have on scripture, and of course, enforce the laws, and provide security for the temple. The process required a huge amount of funds. Providing for those operations was part of being a Jew.
We should look back and read the entire story whenever an inspired author records a small part of scripture. The Christian mentality may be, that was only for the Jews, or they may think they know the scriptures so well, there is no need to review. But there is. As we’ve already reviewed, God’s Spirit communicates in various ways. Scripture may be the most important, and for many people, the first door to a lasting relationship with God. Be honest. Ask yourself, “was the Spirit really with me the last time I read that story?” Of course you may answer, “yes,” to that question. But consider this. Was the Spirit with you in the frame of mind Paul is trying to establish? God’s Word is a living word. Admit it. You open up the Bible, read a little bit, and there is little or no impressions on your mind. A few days or weeks later, you open the Bible, read the same passage, and guess what. Suddenly the story comes alive, and seems to center on your life at that particular moment. It is like you and God are in the same room, and He understands every detail in your life. Now why would you deny the Holy Spirit the chance to set the stage for a new and exciting lesson? Does the Bible always have to be about you, or are there dimensions you have been missing?
The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael–the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar–making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” (Genesis 21:1-10 NLTse).
I just inserted a small part of the story. I would never deny you the opportunity to spend some quality time with the Holy Spirit, to see what He has in store for you. Based on what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 9, this story shows us how Sara rejected Ismael and his mother. Did God reject Ismael? Only to a degree. God actually blessed Ismael and his sons. Sara was the one who started all the trouble. Ismael was to grow up to be the leader of a nation, and his sons would be given nations to lead. Sara demanded that Ismael leave. How different things may have tuned out if Ismael had a real father figure in his life. Especially a father figure like Abraham.
Was that the point Paul was trying to make? When we get back to Romans, we can see how family, and God the Father is a larger than life figure in the story. Isn’t Paul trying to explain how one child from Abraham grew up without the benefit of a kind and loving father? How does that apply to our lives with God? Do we really have the influence of a kind and loving Heavenly Father in our lives?
See how the Spirit can influence the way we perceive simple ideas, concepts, and lessons in scripture? One day we have no idea that lesson was in the story. The next day, we are asking why we never way that before. It happens all the time when you invite to Spirit to study with you, and when you learn how to let the Spirit lead in your studies.
As Paul gets into the story about Isaac, he sends us back to another story in scripture. Once again we have another story to relate to in ways we have never seen before.
But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked. And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins! The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born. (Genesis 25:22-26 NLTse).
Imagine children in competition before they were born. There has to be a lesson in that. And how does it relate to the world today? All of us live in different places, have different jobs, environments, issues to deal with, and of course, follow different faiths at different levels. In certain parts of the world people are greatly effected by Ismael’s descendants. Some may be effected by Esau’s descendants. We will all view this story and its lessons in different ways. Sticking with the subject of the father, and his influence on his children, we can see how children can and will cling to certain aspects of their parents, be influenced by the world around them, and make good and poor choices. That is something we see in this world all the time.
Another aspect of this lesson is, how the events listed, and all the events that stemmed from the birth of Ismael and Esau effected this world. But the main point still remains, how the birth and death of God’s Son effected this world. With the help of the Spirit, we can have a look at how they effected the world immediately following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.
Paul faced a group of Jews in Rome he had to remind about the origin of God’s children on this planet. Paul had to encourage those people to go back and review those stories. Not in the way they have been taught those stories, but examine them in the new light they received. Of course that light came in varying degrees to different people. Some people left Jesus. Some people followed Jesus for years. Some people saw and listened to Jesus for only a day. Some people witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. Some people were in fact healed by Jesus. Because few people in Rome actually saw any of those events, the Book of Romans gives us in in-depth look at how one inspired writer teamed up with the Spirit to reach a small number of people in the world capital.
Imagine the influences Rome had on people. It was a republic led by an emperor. Quite a strange combination showing how man made governments don’t work, and won’t last. How was Rome as a whole effected by Ismael and Esau? To my knowledge, not very much. I could be wrong, but I am not using history books to bring out the essence of the Bible. The question should be, how did the children of Ismael and Esau effect individuals? Did any of those children down the lines of either of the two spawn the gods found in Rome after Jesus’ resurrection? They may have had more influence than we can imagine. The facts are not important. The main message is, not all of those people associated with Abraham had a good influence on this world. They were not a part of God’s family. As a matter of fact, they often stood against God’s children.
There has always been a division between God’s actual children, those who choose to follow Him, and those who choose to follow their own paths. It began with Cain and Able, and continues today. The Lord started over with Noah. Then over again with Abraham. Finally God took a group out of Egypt. This world never seems to get the simple message. Paul sent the Romans back to another story to review.
One day Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest–everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me–on me and on your people–if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” The LORD replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The LORD continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” (Exodus 33:12-23 NLTse).
What did we learn from that part of the story, and how does it relate to Romans? There is one line that should draw our attention. God’s presence is what sets His people apart from the rest of this world? Isn’t that what Paul has been teaching in this chapter?
There was no doubt Moses shared a special relationship with God. They were close to each other. Moses moved as close to God as he could get. That was what that story was all about. But that wasn’t the same for every Israelite. For the most part, those people were descendants of Abraham. They should have known God and talked to God like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But did they? Did they miss that aspect of being with God? What happened to it?
For well over 1000 years the world has wondered about what is generally referred to as, “the mark of the beast.” What is it? If nothing else the term has evolved over the years. One thing has been consistent over the past 1000 years. The world has turned to science as its interpreter. That, “mark,” had evolved from tattoos, to fashion, jewelry, computers, names deciphered by Roman Numerals, to microchips, and a number of other best guesses keeping up with the advance sciences the world has to offer. Why so many guesses? And why has mankind continued to rely on science as its interpreter and god?
Thousands of years before mankind began applying their best guesses upon that mark, God had Ezekiel record the reason why Satan was banished from Heaven.
Your conduct was perfect from the day you were created until you began to do evil. You were busy buying and selling, and this led you to violence and sin. So I forced you to leave my holy mountain, and the angel who guarded you drove you away from the sparkling gems. (Ezekiel 28:15-16 GNB).
For lack of a better term, all we had to do is follow the money. In plain words Ezekiel tells us, Satan introduced his system of buying and selling in Heaven. Money was never part of God’s system. But God allowed Satan to try his system of buying and selling in Heaven for a time. Until that system showed how corrupt it is. Satan refused to give up his system. He insisted his system of buying and selling allowed superior angels to elevate themselves above others.
How can that system of money work in Heaven where everything is created by God and equally shared? It was God’s wish to provide every need for His created beings. But that was not good enough for Satan who wanted more. Yes, your wisdom has made you very rich, and your riches have made you very proud. (Ezekiel 28:5 NLTse).
Pride controlled Satan’s thoughts and actions. He promised to elevate the angels who supported him. His only goal was to elevate himself. “Son of man, give the prince of Tyre this message from the Sovereign LORD: “In your great pride you claim, ‘I am a god! I sit on a divine throne in the heart of the sea.’ But you are only a man and not a god, though you boast that you are a god. “Son of man, sing this funeral song for the king of Tyre. Give him this message from the Sovereign LORD: “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone– red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper, blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald– all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were created. I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. “You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. (Ezekiel 28:2 NLTse), (Ezekiel 28:12-15 NLTse).
Satan was allowed to walk this earth to spread his ideas so the Universe could see once and for all where those concepts would lead. We’ve seen how Satan’s agents took what was given to them. Like Satan, his agents never had enough. We see it in the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar was given the world. God gave Nebuchadnezzar the world, until he placed all the credit upon himself. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. (Daniel 4:30-31 NLTse). Satan introduced that thought.
The same exact thing happened with Hitler, who set his eyes on conquering the world. Stalin, Lenin, and others followed the exact same route. Riches were for the few on top, and everything is never enough.
A few years ago the world had millionaires. Then billionaires. Today we have trillionaires who are not satisfied. It never seems to be enough for them. Today we see billion dollar companies backing of all things, the overthrow of the United States government including the end of capitalism, and a full submission to communist ideas. Do we really believe politicians will end free enterprise and replace it with a marxist society? We only need to look at how some communist countries are run. A few like Po Pot closed down factories and went to an agricultural society. Millions stared to death or were assassinated in the process. Socialists like Hitler took over hundreds of companies while allowing a few choice companies to operate as if nothing had changed. Except for granting multi-million dollar military contracts. All paid for by taxpayers. We can see that is the concept discussed in backroom meetings today.
Pride has been embraced in many forms throughout the world. Pride in home ownership, pride in fashion, lawns, wealth, and materials. But pride has taken a dangerous turn in many forms. One of which is boasted as gay pride. Few people stand against one’s sexual orientation. They live with the motto of, “you live your life the way you want, allow me live my life the way I want.” As with the devil and his followers, equality is never enough for radicals in the gay community. After winning gay rights in many parts of this world, radicals felt a deep need to push their agenda. They want the right to teach their life styles on others. They claim they cannot feel secure until their lifestyles are taught in schools. They claim they cannot feel whole unless everyone practices their life styles. Like dictators of the past, they possess a deep seeded need to force their beliefs upon the world.
This shouldn’t surprise people. Although Hitler and Stalin outlawed homosexual activities, others rallied and sometimes participated in the acts. The fear Stalin had was that homosexuals were often pedophiles. Which is still true today. But most modern dictators choose to overlook that analysis and embrace the homosexual life style as a way of advancing their numbers. Which we see today.
Protests in Poland leading up to the 2020 presidential election included demands to legalize pedophilia, free those in prison, and allow minors to undergo sex change operations. Much of this is now bubbling to the surface here in the US. The majority of radical protesters arrested reveal long arrest records for pedophilia. Radical groups are joined by radical members of the gay community. District attorneys on the far left have released pedophiles no matter what the circumstance of their charges were.
This combination of lust for money, power, and freedom to perform every sexual practice without restraint is the foundation of the far left movement today. Why is this so profound today? The Bible contains one explanation covering a few short verses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NLTse).
There has been way too much speculation on the mark of the beast to take an objective open view showing how the Bible has always explained what the mark of the beast is and exactly when it can be seen. But here we will follow through a few key verses to show how turning a single page reveals the mark of the beast.
Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. (Revelation 14:18-20 NLTse).
In essence, this is a simple process of following the story to the end of the chapter where the end of the judgment process is clearly described. Almost every religion believes in a judgment process. There are over a dozen major Christian beliefs on the judgment process. But here is what the Bible says about that judgment process and what happens immediately after the judgment process draws to a close. Turn the page and the Bible tells us exactly what will happen next.
Then I saw in heaven another marvelous event of great significance. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion. (Revelation 15:1 NLTse).
Immediately after the judgment process in Heaven ends, another event follows. That event is the seven last plagues. The first plague explains what the mark of the beast actually is.
Then I heard a mighty voice from the Temple say to the seven angels, “Go your ways and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing God’s wrath.” So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. (Revelation 16:1-2 NLTse).
For the first time the entire world can see who is saved and who is lost. Before the world ends, every person alive on the earth at that time will know if they are saved or lost. People will see the difference and know the difference. There will be no doubt in anyone’s mind.
We need to share this information today because it is the the only warning this world will ever receive about the judgment of the living in. Before Satan and his angels could be tossed out of Heaven, Satan’s followers had to be judged. God’s angels had to know who stayed in Heaven and who had to go. Somehow Satan’s followers were identified. Satan’s followers were marked with the original mark of the beast.
When we follow political news around the world today, we see something rather unexpected and bizarre. We see radial and moderate communists coming out of the closet. We see them protesting in the streets, making speeches, revealing their goals and demands, we see them openly censoring people, the media, and every opinion that is not inline with their agenda. We are seeing things happening we never expected to see. We see an ex-vice president running for president who barely won the nomination from an open communist. We see an ex-vice president publicly embrace socialist concepts and ideals. We see his running mate who forged a political carried from the bodies of aborted babies. And is proud of the deaths she is responsible for. We see a wannabe vice president who associates with and protects satanists, and claims she is a woman of faith. We see people who started multi-billion dollar businesses from their parents garage with the belief, billions of dollars is never enough. We see groups of people easily controlled, easily manipulated into believing, everything bad that happened in their lives was someone’s fault, but they bear no responsibility for their own actions. We see the devil’s influence over lives coming to the surface.
We can look back over history in the Bible and beyond what the Bible has recorded. We can pick any date in time and see the same implications. People were always driven by pride and greed. Some always blamed short comings on others. But today seems different. Today seems more open. As if some unseen force has united radical factions who never seemed to get along suddenly join forces as if this was planned in basements or secret meetings throughout the world. No one can deny the actions we see today are coordinated, planned, and executed with near military precision. When we take a step back to look at the full picture we can see people, leaders, and organizations behind the mess this world is in today and the battles that lie ahead. But for years, we all knew there was little chance all those radical factions would ever unite. They never trusted one another. They never agreed on major topics. Their overall plan was to reduce many of those factions to rubble. But something united those factions. Something brought radical factions together for a time. No one could have pulled that off without being clearly identified. No one except the devil.
When we look at what we see today, no one can deny the fact, it is getting easier to tell the difference between those who will be saved and those who will be lost for eternity. There still remains a host of gray areas. No one should ever judge another. That is a Christian attitude still shared by many. But that basic attitude is being eroded. Chipped away with every news story, and every new, unexpected event we see unfold in 2020.
The left intentionally targets actions to provoke conservatives into violent reactions. As we watch those events unfold, we can’t help but be surprised at how restrained most people are. It enrages some to see their statues toppled and monuments desecrated. People see their churches burned, their saints disgraced, their priests and pastors murdered for what they teach, and endure calls to abolish their history. The left pushes from every imaginable direction. The left threatens civil war, social disobedience, blames conservatives for every imaginable problem, and pushes at Christians like poking a tiger in a cage. But there is no response, no retaliation. Step back and witness God’s power over His people telling them to wait. God is reminding people, “vengeance is the LORD’s.” World wide, people grasp onto that promise and believe it.
When we take an objective look at both sides we see nothing short of a supernatural, unseen intervention. We see people being restrained from acts of vengeance on a divine level. We also acts beyond normal protests, actions go beyond that of attracting attention to a situation. We see devilish actions perpetrated in attempts to provoke physical responses. But retaliation has been restrained. We see God’s hand on his people and the devil moving his pawns around, willing to sacrifice as many as necessary to gain what? What are the devil’s plans at this point? We know the outcome. At the end of those last seven plagues the devil gathers his army under one banner.
“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” (Revelation 16:15-17 NLTse).
Today we can see the armies gathering. When we look at communist countries, not one trusts the other. Every single one of them is either prepared to defend themselves against other communist threats, or preparing to conquer other countries. There is no trust among communist. Not when world conquest flows through their veins. But for some reason we see normally warring, untrusting factions gathering in the streets to over throw the US government and other democratic governments throughout the world. Exactly what united those forces at this time? It could be none other than the devil himself. Known for working in the shadows for over 6000 years.
The question, who judges this world should be a hot topic in any religion, Christian and otherwise. It seems every religion has its groups of saved and lost people. Some religions have stages in between. We are not here to discuss that.
In the Christian realm, Jesus is accepted as the judge of this world. Jesus came to this world, lived in this world, experienced this world, was condemned and slain by this world, and rose from a grave in this world. No one has the experience to judge that Jesus has. No other person has earned the right to judge. Only Jesus was given the right to judge, because He is the only one who earned that right. Judging is a right and a responsibility. We will look at one popular story in the Bible about that subject.
John 5:19-30 RSVA Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (25) “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (26) For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, (27) and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. (28) Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice (29) and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (30) “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
It is rather difficult to break the judgment process into sections so one detail at a time can be covered and explained. The judgment process is better understood as a whole. But some Christians think one part of the judgment process is the whole. This is a good place to begin, by looking at the question, who judges. Once we look at that answer, we can go unto other aspects of the subject.
As we see in John chapter 5, God gave Jesus authority to Judge. Most Christians will agree with that. Then there may be some with another concept. And of course there are other judgment processes at different times. We will cover those in a later chapter.
For now it is important to understand, God gave Jesus the authority to judge. Jesus and God are on the same page. We have to agree, perfection has the same mind, motives, process, and timing. Everything is perfect between God and Jesus. Who can ague with that? On the other hand, we have to admit our short comings. We are not perfect. We have no chance of joining that meeting of the minds shared by God and Jesus. The point being, we have to rely on the Bible and Jesus to understand information about the judgment process that is open to us. Along with that is the fact, certain information will be revealed to this world at the proper time. We looked at how the beginning of the judgment process was neither understood nor revealed until after the process in Heaven began. I would think God will follow the same pattern with other facets of the judgment process.
I have no idea why William Miler was able to find the date when Jesus entered the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the judgment process, but not understand exactly what that date pointed to. But that should show us, God is in control. God only reveals what is necessary, when it is necessary, and we have to be obedient and wait. That missing detail also shows us, no person has all the answers. It will be much easier to be misled than to find the truth. We should also learn the fact that when God does reveal details, He supplies confirmation. Those are the lessons we have to learn. And like those Bible Study Rules William Miller recorded, we have to look at the set of rules God follows, but may not be included in any list.
Believing and honoring both the Son and the Father is important. Notice how that detail is repeated in this story as well as other stories and books in the Bible. That’s why it makes me wonder why people like the argue about the entity and make up of God and His Son. Some people like to sweat the details and for lack of a better term, miss the forest for the trees. Why is it important to honor and believe in both the Father and the Son? We have to remember, John was writing to a predominantly Jewish community. John and other apostles had the job of convincing Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Son. Jesus tried to teach about that relationship. When we read those accounts, we seldom look at the details involved. When we take a little time and focus on a particular subject like the judgment, details begin to pop out. That’s what makes Bible Study so interesting. When we focus on a particular subject, we see details we never saw before. Of course God and Jesus know all of those details. They know how some details are mixed together, and how interacting subjects help bring details to the surface.
We only have to look at a few aspects of this story to move on in our study of the judgment process. We need to accept Jesus as our Savior. That is the only way to avoid the judgment process that leads only to condemnation. We also learned, we have to also honor God because the Father and Son are one.
There is another judgment we have to look at. Another judgment process Jesus talked about and taught. That second judgment process may seem a little confusing to some people. Since Jesus introduced the subject, we should look into it.
Matthew 19:28 KJV And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Luke 22:28-34 KJV Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. (29) And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (30) That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (31) And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (32) But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (33) And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (34) And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
Here we have two authors recording Jesus’ words. Jesus told His disciples, they will one day sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes f Israel. Do those 12 tribes represent the world? In all likelihood they do. When will this take place? After Jesus receives His throne. When will that happen? To answer that question we have to get a little ahead in this book and look at a few details on the God’s timeline.
Most Christians know, Jesus will sit on a throne in Heaven. But when? Some may think Jesus occupied a throne long before this world was created. That may be true. But there is a time when God will give a throne to Jesus. That is not so much a symbol as it is a show of love. A lesson for us to learn from.
Christians talk about the love Jesus had for this planet. The vast majority of Christians tell people, “Jesus loves you.” But what does that mean, and what examples can we use to help express that love? Many people only use the example of Jesus dying for us, along with a few choice text. Other examples exist. Some people point out the good Jesus did in a person’s life. How prayers were answered, the unexpected happened, and some of the really good things about this planet. But how many people look at what God did for His Son? God gave Jesus a throne. That was such a selfless act, God had no choice but to follow with whatever act could help draw attention to Jesus’ sacrifice. Not equal the act Jesus did for this planet, but another act to build upon it and help to draw attention to it.
Acts 7:54-56 RSVA Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. (55) But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; (56) and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”
Stephen saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Why would Jesus be standing? Maybe certain criteria was not yet fulfilled. Maybe something had to be finished. Jesus already died and was raised from the grave. What else had to be done?
Romans 8:34 RSVA who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?
Paul didn’t place Jesus on a throne next to God, but only pointed out, Jesus was on God’s right side. Jesus was once asked a question. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:21-23 RSVA).
After looking into the subject we can see why Jesus told His disciples that it was up to God to choose who will sit next to Jesus. We can see the disciples had one idea. But we are not totally clear on that idea. Based on the fact James’ and John’s mother asked Jesus to assign the seat to His right and left to her two sons shows us, she had no idea Jesus would be on God’s right side. Would Jesus ever place anyone between Himself and His Father. No! So why would she ask Jesus to place one of her sons in that position. That doesn’t seem to make much sense. So we have to assume she didn’t have much of an idea what role Jesus would play in Heaven. The point being, when we see the mistakes people in the Bible made and how those mistakes were recorded, we have to take another step back and reconsider our view on the Bible.
Colossians 3:1-2 RSVA If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
In Colossions, Paul places Jesus on God’s right side again. But this time Jesus is seated. Does that make a difference? It could to some people.
Some people place Jesus on God’s throne. Some people insist God and Jesus are the same person. So there would only be a single throne. Maybe that was the train of though Jame’s and John’s mother had when she asked Jesus her question. Maybe James and John had the same belief. Some people think God will give His throne to Jesus. More than likely there are dozens of other beliefs. What do we do with all those beliefs? Are they worth considering? Are they worth studying? Those details may seem interesting when we run across them during our personal studies. But are they details worth sharing with other people? I guess that can be a personal choice. It’s not uncommon for people to get stuck on one detail or another and find a way of working it into just about any and every conversation.
When we look at the twelve thrones the disciples will occupy, we are not given the location. Will those throne be in the Heavenly Sanctuary? Where will they be? Does it really matter? If you were promised one of those thrones, would it matter where it was located?
I guess there are more questions than answers. We can look at the Bible all day long and not run out of new questions to ask. When did Jesus take His place on God’s right side? Why is Jesus standing in one story and sitting in another? If nothing else that makes Jesus a bit more human. A bit more approachable. Isn’t that what Jesus wants to achieve? As a matter of fact why not pray about those questions? By pray, I mean ask Jesus those questions. To me it seems like this book and the questions we are looking at will achieve one thing. They will give us more reasons to approach Jesus. No matter where He is, or what He is doing.
Matthew 8:18-22 MKJV And seeing great crowds, Jesus gave orders to depart to the other side. (19) And a certain scribe came and said to him, Master, I will follow You wherever You go. (20) And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. (21) And another of His disciples said to him, Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father. (22) But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.
After healing every person who came to Him, Jesus turned to His disciples and told them to make ready to sail to the other side of the sea. As John and James prepared the humble craft for the evening voyage Jesus looked upon the crowd pondering the seeds which had just been planted. He looked to His left where a small group of priests and scribes stood witnessing the miracles.
They moved forward as a group approaching the Son of God. Knowing they had questions Jesus prayed for guidance from the Spirit. The group stopped a short distance away while one of the scribes continued on his course. Standing in front of Jesus the Scribe spoke, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” One of the priests commented, “foxes come in the night to steal our chickens much like this man comes to steal from our flock.” His tone was intentionally loud making certain all within hearing distance knew his thoughts. Jesus pondered the response for a moment, while praying for guidance.
A few moments later John proclaimed the craft worthy and ready for the short journey. As Jesus turned toward the shore one of his disciples came between Him and the priests, asking Jesus, “allow me first to go and bury my father.” Making eye contact with the boastful priest Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Without another word, Jesus entered the ship with His disciples.
John 14:1-31 NLTse “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.Trust in God, and trust also in me. (2) There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? (3) When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) “No, we don’t know,Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (6) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (7) If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (8) Philip said, “Lord,show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (9) Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (10) Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. (11) Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. (12) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (13) You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. (14) Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! (15) “If you love me, obey my commandments. (16) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. (17) He is the HolySpirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. (18) No, I will not abandon you as orphans–I will come to you. (19) Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. (20) When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (21) Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (22) Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” (23) Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. (24) Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. (25) I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. (26) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the HolySpirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. (27) “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (28) Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. (29) I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe. (30) “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, (31) but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.
This is the beginning of three of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Jesus told His disciples about God, His Kingdom, the disciples role, and how God’s Spirit will help them. Those chapters also tell about Jesus’ love for this world in greater detail than any other story in the Bible.
We’ve seen how John can get into details. He surpassed himself in those three chapters. I have no idea why other authors didn’t record any of those details, but they seem to be the focus of John’s book.
Jesus got right to the point. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” Jesus doesn’t want us to worry. If we can’t physically see Him, we can be sure we are on His mind. The symbol of building a home shows how much He cares. It used to be a tradition for a man to build a new home for His wife to be. It was a pledge to his future wife as well as a form of security to her parents. This was Jesus’ way of introducing the concept of an engagement and with it comes a commitment. We all know how Jesus feels about divorce. Because an engagement involved such a commitment, it was viewed much like a marriage. Look back at Jesus’ conception. Mary wasn’t married when she became pregnant, but since the engagement was set, Joseph would have to go through the same process as a divorce to put her away.
We don’t have to worry about any divorce. As long as we remain committed to Jesus, He remains committed to us. Those who wonder away aren’t necessarily put out of His mind, memory, or concern. He will do anything to get them back. Hence the parable of the lost sheep, and other parables.
Did you ever talk to Jesus about the house He is building for you? Did you every talk about the layout, features, and colors? I’m not sure of the layout, but I asked for jasper with the ability to change colors. Can you imagine crystal walls with all kinds of different colors? Why is Jesus building a home for you?
When everything is ready, Jesus promises to come and take us all home. Just think, no more mortgage or rent to pay. No more taxes, electric bills, phone bills, freezing cold and unbearable heat will be a thing of the past. No more food bills. We can walk out the door to a feast of fresh fruits, nuts, and can you imagine your garden? God planted one for Adam and Eve. We’ll all have one. Can you imagine the taste with no fertilizers or pesticides. I don’t know about you, but I want to go home soon.
The best part is, we can talk with Jesus and other people we’ve read about in the Bible. I don’t know about you, but I have about a million questions. I hope I remember all of them. I’m not worried, I’ll have an eternity to think about those questions.
Jesus said we should know where He is going. What does He mean by that? Jesus doesn’t just mean the destination, He means the details He wants to tell you about now. He doesn’t want us to wait to hear the details. He is as excited about sharing those details as I am excited about being there. I hope you are to.
“No, we don’t know,Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” It seems strange to see Thomas didn’t know what Jesus was talking about, where He was going, or how to get there. Jesus had to remind them. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
I guess that answered the question. Do you understand now? If your a little foggy on the subject, your not the only one. Philip said, “Lord,show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Those two disciples showed the misunderstanding many in this world will have in every generation. It’s rare to read or hear about visions of Heaven. What are those preachers doing if they don’t have enough time to spend a few minutes with Jesus to talk about Heaven? I’m not sure what their priorities are, but I hope they get them straightened out.
Jesus couldn’t figure out why His disciples couldn’t understand. Weren’t they listening? Didn’t they care? Were they happier on this world? What was the problem? Jesus had to resort to the same method He used with the Pharisees. Jesus began repeating Himself. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
I don’t comprehend why the disciples didn’t understand. It doesn’t make sense. When I look at the gospels, I see time frames in between the stories. What did Jesus talk to them about during those periods? There must have been times Jesus reminisced about home. Didn’t they see a vision of Heaven in the day to day events and blessing while they were with Jesus? They always had food. God provided everything they needed. They saw a bit of Heaven when Jesus fed thousands. They experienced the joy of Heaven when they saw Jesus heal people. How many times did they witness the love from Heaven? After seeing all of that, His disciples said they didn’t know. What about all the things Jesus told them?
“The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.” Jesus had to remind them. He paused for a long time giving them time to think. Jesus knew He didn’t have to explain everything. Then it was time to get to work.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” Sounds simple enough. If we need anything to do work for God, all we need to to is ask. I can tell you for a fact, I am trying that right now. I’d like nothing more than to retire, write all day, and do a full time ministry teaching people how to get closer to God. But I guess Jesus is already Taking care of that.
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the HolySpirit, who leads into all truth.” That shouldn’t be to difficult. But why aren’t any of us able to keep all the commandments? We can try, but we always seem to fail. Maybe that’s why we don’t get everything we ask for.
This is one of my favorite parts. The promise about God’s Spirit. Imagine a full time guide, friend, and protector. That is when we listen. Listening can be as difficult as keeping all the commandments. Has anyone been able to get a perfect score on both for an entire day? I doubt it.
Before we get too far into this chapter, let’s look at how John led into this chapter. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter–before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me. (John 13:34-38 NLTse).
John ended the previous chapter with the same theme in this chapter. Love each other. Then Jesus told about how Peter would deny Him. We see that theme continued here when Jesus’ disciples didn’t know where Jesus was going, or how to get there. Imagine, Jesus was going be in this world as a mortal man for a few more hours and His disciples still don’t understand.
Did the disciples know more about God’s Spirit than they knew about where He was going? What is God’s Spirit? Is it a manifestation or extension of God? It is God’s way of communicating with us? Is the Holy Spirit brought to us by God’s angels, those Nathaniel was told he would see going up and down from Heaven? Or is God’s Spirit a combination of all of them? If it’s one thing I’ve learned is not to guess at details we cannot be sure of. And never to claim to know everything about an Infinite God.
Jesus told us, the first role of God’s Spirit is to guide. He leads us into all truth. A guide is not a teacher. I’ve seen too many people confuse the definition and purpose of the two. Jesus claimed and fulfilled the role of teacher. Even though Jesus received His instructions from God, Jesus has been and will continue to be our Teacher. Principals and school board leaders don’t teach. They may be administrators. They may determine what classes are offered and to a great degree determine how subjects are taught, but teachers have direct contact with students and are responsible for results and failures. Jesus is the only one who came here, experienced and suffered through life in this world, and the only one equipped to teach us. Jesus has a special bond with us and is a conduit between us and God.
What does it mean to guide? If you study the Bible on your own, you should know that answer because you’ve heard the whisper in your ear to look back a few verses, compare another verse, look up the definition of a word, and the many other instructions God’s Spirit uses to guide. But it is still Jesus and His experience that teaches. Why do you think He gave His disciples the instructions, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. (Luke 24:44-48 NLTse). Jesus pointed them back to the experiences recorded about Him. Jesus had more to teach about God’s Spirit.
The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. God’s Spirit covers the world like water covered the world before creation. His Spirit is everywhere, but can’t reach everyone. Not everyone will accept God’s Spirit who only guides, but will not force people to follow. Jesus’ sheep follow Him because the hear His voice, but Jesus doesn’t force them to follow.
How do we … I’m not sure of the proper words except to say, work with those conditions? I know the answer is not, tell people your doctrine and tell them they’re lost if they don’t believe. Belief has nothing to do with man made doctrines, no matter how many proof texts they collect. Jesus never provided a list of doctrines or told anyone to believe in anything more than God, Himself, God’s Spirit, God’s Kingdom, and eternal life. There may be a few others, but that covers the majority of the list. Jesus also told His disciples and all of us to follow God’s commandments. But Jesus didn’t make a doctrine out of it because that is part of His teaching job. Not our job. That is another role people are confused about. They confuse the gift of teaching with the authority to teach. We can or should only teach what God’s Spirit has guided us to, Jesus and His Word has taught us, and God has verified. Here again, one out of three in the process is not good enough.
Jesus made a promise not to abandon anyone. He also told them this world won’t see Him much longer. That’s why He promised to send God’s Spirit. He wants us to know He is with God. Then Jesus said something hard to understand, “and you are in me, and I am in you.” Jesus is in us now, not some time in the future. Some people want to wait. I’m wondering what they’re waiting for. Most people know Jesus is within us. A lot of people say Jesus is in their hearts, but really don’t know what that means. All they do is repeat what they’ve been told, but don’t know the love it takes to hold Jesus in their heart, or share that love.
The other part of that statement is the difficult part to understand. We are in Jesus. Not many people preach this, or know what it means. I can’t really be sure, except to point to Hebrews 10 where it shows how Jesus died to open a direct path to God’s throne. Spiritually we are meant to be with Jesus. All I can say is, that is a personal experience. I can include a short list of steps I take to approach God’s throne.
Pray to Jesus in the evening and the morning and throughout the day.
Pray out loud whenever you can.
Night time is time to rest and get away from this world.
Take this time to reconnect with God.
God can reach you through His Word.
Read scripture in the evening and in the morning.
Keep in contact with God like a friend.
God communicates through a series of events.
Look for patterns in His Word, your life, and world events.
Pay attention to conversations with people. God also communicates through people.
Approach God’s throne by praying to Jesus to cleanse you with His blood.
Lay your sins in front of Jesus.
Listen to what He has to say.
Ask Jesus to purify you and place you at the foot of God’s throne.
Ask about a few subjects one at a time and wait for an answer.
Ask God about scripture you are studying.
Listen to scripture that comes to mind.
Pay attention to parallel themes.
Pay attention to parallel events in your life and the world related to the subject your studying.
Learn to identify and suppress distractions while in prayer.
Don’t let your mind wonder.
Repeat the details you learned.
Write to keep a record.
Other details will come out while writing.
Learn to share.
When Jesus talked about love, He included the commandments and obeying.
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.
All who love me will do what I say.
Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.
Jesus also explained the direct connection between loving Him and His Father. They come as a package deal. If we love Jesus, He will love us and so will His Father. This shows the love Jesus and His Father share. A love we have to go to Him to learn about. We have to give up a lot to learn about and experience that love. It is the most expensive purchase you will ever make. You have to give greed, envy, contempt, hatred, and of course fear. Don’t take that list as a complete list. I’m sure once you talk to Jesus, He will have more details to add. Listening to Jesus is the most important aspect of a relationship with him.
I wonder why one of the disciples asked the question he did. Jesus just explained the love relationship between Himself and His Father. Jesus also explained their love for us. Then one of His disciples asked, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” What would you have asked Jesus if you were there?
If Jesus was talking about love, I would have asked Him to tell more about that love. What it really is. How we receive it. How we share it. How do we experience the fullness if that love? How do we make sure we never loose it? There are so many questions. I doubt if I would of asked why much of the world can’t see that love.
I think Jesus viewed that question much the same way. Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.” We see Jesus repeating Himself again. That tells us how important this subject is. There is no subject more important than love. When we consider the love from Jesus and God, we have to see, it is what made the air we breath, water we drink, the sun that warms us, food we eat, everything in this world. Love is what makes the world rotate. Love is what keeps God from destroying sinners who cause many of us so much pain and sorrow. Love is what gives thieves, adulterers, and those who force people into slavery and prostitution one more day to live. Love is what brings a man and wife together in an emotional and spiritual state we are meant to live. Love is what sent Jesus to the cross.
I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the HolySpirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Here we see God’s Spirit in the role of teacher. We have to look at what He is teaching. In this example the Spirit is reminding them about what Jesus told them. It is more of a role of a substitute teacher reviewing what has already been taught. Of course there is more to His guiding and teaching role. There is a lot of individual guidance required in your life. Questions to be answered, problems and defects to straighten out, people to guide you to, and messages to deliver. All of those things are details of a personal nature between you and Jesus.
Jesus wanted His disciples to be happy He was going back to His Father. At that time they didn’t know where Jesus was going. But we do now. And we should rejoice in it by learning more about what Jesus is doing in Heaven right now. How else can we share in His joy and what He is experiencing? But when Jesus was telling them this, He still had a major trial to face, and He knew what the enemy was planning. “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.”This was only the beginning of Jesus’ lesson and His introduction to God and His Spirit.
I think this is a good chapter to introduce another rule of context known as the Five W’s, Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
This is one Bible Study method many people are familiar with. It is refereed to as the 5 – W’s of Bible Study. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Each question is listed and answered. Make sure you stick to information in the Bible and do not add in outside reference material. Think of using this method to place God’s Word on trial. Think of yourself as cross examining God’s Word. Anything outside the Bible is circumstantial evidence and not allowed. This can take some digging, but as a general rule, answers are found by looking back a chapter or two. References can also be used from other books in the Bible.
If you ever searched the Internet looking for information on Inductive Bible study, you have seen rules of the five “W’s” Who, What, When, Where and Why. Has anyone explained how to draw information from Scripture in a manner you can understand and apply? We will dwell on each of these points in an effort to provide an example you can understand.
I prefer to use the term personality. In this example the major who is easily answered Jesus. There are three of His disciples we should also examine. But where do the names get you? There is another important rule to follow. The rule of context. To understand the texts you have to answer each question, who, what, when, where and why in context. What does that mean? When answering the question who, we have to determine at least a few very important details. Where is the person on their spiritual walk? What events led to the circumstance or event being studied? What lesson did the person in the story learn? How did the lesson make them stronger? How does the lesson apply to their spiritual walk and yours?
In this case, where is Jesus as the spiritual leader and the disciples are His pupils as the name implies?
This may be the most difficult to explain. Look at what is happening. Jesus is teaching His disciples.
The question of when is closely related to who. Many studies concentrate on the date. The date is what? A value set by the world. A date is fine if you are studying a president, king, or general, but Bible study should center on the spiritual lesson. In this example when is answered in in the previous chapter.
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. (John 13:1 NLTse).
The physical location is easy to find. It’s found in the previous chapter in verse 2. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. (John 13:2 NLTse). In this case, John blended a strange fact with the location. John wanted us to understand what the disciples were up against and how Jesus was threatened. Remember, a Bible study will always look for the spiritual lesson being taught. There is a reason God went to great lengths to record specific locations. More of the spiritual lesson is understood when the story is studied as a whole.
This question can only be answered by reviewing previous texts, which brings up another important detail of Bible study. The context of the chapter is found in the first and last few verses of the chapter. Because we had to look back at the previous chapter to gather details, we can see Jesus having an intimate dinner with His disciples while Satan was present.
We can begin by reviewing a few details about Jesus. Because the time and location drew us back to chapter 13, we have to consider details introduced during that dinner. One was Judas possessed by the devil. Jesus introduced the symbol of wine, blood, bread, and His body. Those were reminders of what Jesus taught them. Jesus also washed their feet, a new tradition Jesus introduced to remind how He served them and how they are to serve each other.
Jesus also reminded them, God gave Jesus His authority and He wouldn’t be with them much longer. Jesus also told them, the world will know them by their love for each other.
Judas is one of the disciples introduced. He was the one with the devil in him. Judas is the one who turned Jesus over to the religious leaders. He did it for money. Jesus used the sign of eating together to identify the traitor, showing how someone close to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean they know Him. When Judas left, the other disciples assumed he went out to give money to the poor. In fact, Judas was taking away the greatest treasure those poor people would ever see with their own eyes. Through God’s grace and plan, they would receive the greatest reward anyone could receive.
Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. He thought it would be to embarrassing. After Jesus explained, Peter wanted Jesus to wash his hands and head. He wanted more than the other disciples were getting. Later, after Jesus told them He was leaving and they couldn’t follow, Peter insisted he would follow Him even onto death. That’s when Jesus told Peter he was going to deny Him three times.
It may seem strange why chapter13 ended with Jesus telling Peter he will deny Him three times, but when we get to the what and why, we can look at the reason behind why this story is arranged like this. At this point you should be noticing why it is important to look at those chapters as one story. After all, John wrote a book, and books have chapters that all relate to the same story line. Many books finish chapters with one sort of climax or another, leading to the next event in the story.
After Peter, Thomas told Jesus, he wanted to know where Jesus was going. Thomas also asked the way. Jesus’ explanation was simple. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
The next disciple we see in this story is Philip. He wanted Jesus to show Him the Father. Remember, Jesus told Philip’s brother, he would see a stairway between Heaven and earth with angels going up and down.
We also have to take a look at Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name). He wanted to know why Jesus was only going to reveal Himself to them and not the whole world.
Much of the what has already been explained when I listed the names. I’m sorry for getting ahead of myself in this lesson, but now you can see how exciting it is to get into the details. If your not ready to jump in with both feet, your not connected with God’s Spirit.
What was Jesus doing? What He does best, teaching. What was He teaching? All kinds of spiritual details and lessons. Remember Jesus was teaching a group of people. Some caught onto some parts of the lessons, other people understood other details. Jesus taught about humility, helping each other, and that He was soon going away. Jesus also taught about His love and connection with God and how they both shared the same love with this world.
It was during a dinner the day before the Passover. I can’t be sure if it was the Passover dinner, or a preparation for it. Some people say it was the Passover, but Jesus actually died the next day on the Passover. Some say Jewish custom celebrated the Passover a day early when it fell on the Sabbath so there wouldn’t be a conflict between the celebration and Sabbath. That’s not an important detail. What is important is, this is what Jesus was teaching a few hour before He was arrested. Jesus was putting a summation on His ministry with His disciples.
This scene took place around a dinner table. This draws us all the way back to the Tabernacle with the table set as an invitation. That table in the Tabernacle was a symbol of not only that dinner, but Jesus’ invitation to share meals with us.
I could add another nine pages to why. But like we’ve seen, Jesus taught a series of topics to reach each person in a different way at different times. As we can see when we read the story, the disciples didn’t understand.
We can see Judas didn’t understand a whole lot. He ignored what Jesus taught because he already had his mind made up. That’ why the devil inside Judas was introduced at the beginning of the story. The devil could have influenced any of those disciples. He would have had his way with Jesus if there was an opening. We can see different degrees of influence the devil had on some of those disciples. It’s easy to see how Judas didn’t listen. If we look at little closer we can see how other disciples had a difficult time listening.
Peter was mentioned in a few parts of the story. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet because he didn’t understand the lesson. Jesus had to remind him, feet are something that can get dirty very fast. Jesus washing their feet was a spiritual lesson. A spiritual cleansing.
Peter was also told he would deny Jesus. Looking back a few verses we see why. Jesus just told them, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35 NLTse). Jesus tells them to love each other. He not only tells them, He commanded them. Suddenly Peter jumped in and asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” (John 13:36 NLTse). Jesus gave a new commandment about love, and Peter asked a question about what Jesus was talking about a few sentences ago. This showed how Peter’s mind was working a little slow. It also showed how all the disciples and we think on different levels and at different speeds.
Why may be the most difficult answer to look into. It does require to most amount of prayer. It takes Jesus to open up a vision to His life and ministry. It takes a prayerful and open heart to see why Jesus was at that dinner.
Why would Jesus leave His throne in Heaven to be at that dinner? Why would God’s Son listen to people doubt Him? Why would He stand there while people argued with Him? When we look back, we see those religious leaders and all kinds pf people arguing with Jesus, doubting Him, and leaving Him.
We have to look back to see Jesus sitting on His throne in Heaven. His Father and Him created a vast universe. Together they ruled and stayed in constant contact with all their creation through their Spirit. Jesus knew everything that was going on. Jesus had a relationship with all those created beings in the universe they created. Then God decided to create one more world. God simply spoke everything into existence and it appeared just the way He wanted it. Everything was perfect. In this new world, God knelt down to form a new creature from the dust. He fashioned every detail by hand. When it was completed He called this new creature man and named Him Adam.
God showed all of His new creation to Adam. Although Adam only knew God for a few hours, God gave everything in this new world to Adam. After a while, Adam noticed there wasn’t any creature like himself. Something wasn’t complete. He didn’t have a mate. God took a rib from Adam and used it to form him a new wife named Eve. Adam gave everything he received from God to Eve and she returned all of it to him. All she wanted was to be by his side, where she came from. To be there and complete Adam as a creation of God.
It didn’t take long for Eve to stray, make one mistake, then another. This world was far different than the others when sin set in. Blame was the first negative effect. The universe watched in horror as God sacrificed the first animals to make coats for Adam and Eve. Why didn’t God just create coats like He did everything else? What did they need thick heavy coats for? No one else in the universe needed them. Sin changed this entire world. Everything from man to the elements suffered.
Jesus could have ended it all right there. One word, one thought could have cast this planet into the cold darkness of space or towards the sun. This world would have melted quicker than a single snow flake drifting into a raging fire. Why was this planet allowed to exist after that first sin?
Jesus tried to explain why. Every time He explained a portion of the subject, one disciple or another would change the subject, or ask a question about something Jesus previously explained. Just like those religious leaders and other people who walked away from Jesus, His own disciples questioned Him. They just weren’t questioning Jesus, they were questioning His love for them.
John 13:34-38 NLTse (34) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (35) Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (36) Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” (37) “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” (38) Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter–before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
John 14:1-31 NLTse “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.Trust in God, and trust also in me. (2) There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? (3) When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) “No, we don’t know,Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (6) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (7) If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (8) Philip said, “Lord,show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (9) Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (10) Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.
John 14:20-24 NLTse (20) When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (21) Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (22) Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” (23) Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. (24) Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
To understand why, we have to look at the pattern. We have to understand who asked the questions, what those questions were, when they asked the questions, what was the the response, and why. Peter of course had a habit of trying to be the first to ask a question or offer an answer. We have to look at what Peter said and when.
Jesus gave them a new commandment: Love each other. Jesus used His love for them as an example. That love was proof they were Jesus’ examples. What would you have asked Jesus? Wouldn’t you ask Him to explain every detail of that love? Wouldn’t you do everything to learn more about a love that created and looked over a universe? Wouldn’t you want to learn about a love that brought Jesus to this world instead of destroying it and starting over again? But what was Peter’s response to the love Jesus wanted to teach them? Peter asked where Jesus was going? Wasn’t that reaction a little selfish? Wasn’t it a little out of context?
Peter didn’t have the love Jesus talked about. He tried to prove his love in a different way, his own way. Peter told Jesus he would die for him. Of course Jesus knew better. Now we can see when Jesus met with Peter after His resurrection, He asked Peter if he loved Him, not once, but three times. Jesus had to teach Peter not only how to think about love, but how to pray about it.
Immediately after Jesus told Peter how he was going to deny he knew Him, Jesus told them not to worry. Jesus told them about a place He is going to personally prepare for them. “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” At that point Thomas had to tell Jesus, he had no idea where Jesus was going nor did they know the way. Once again, how would you have reacted? If they really believed Jesus is God’s Son, wouldn’t a more appropriate response be centered on details about that new home? Imagine the God who created the universe building a new home for you. That sparks a thousand question in me. Is Jesus going to speak it into existence or build it by hand? How will it look? Where will it be? What about the rooms, the view, the yard? Who is gong to be my neighbor? Think of a thousand other question about the plants and animals around the house. But Thomas asked which way Jesus was going. His response seems as out of place as Peter’s question.
Jesus wondered why they didn’t understand. Why they could see how He was, “the way.” Did they miss something in the parable about those sheep following the good shepherd? Sheep don’t ask questions, they just follow.
Jesus didn’t let the interruption slow Him down or knock Him off course. Jesus only had a few more hours to explain those details. He told them about knowing His Father. “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.” This confused Philip. His response was also out of place. “Lord,show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
What had Jesus been showing them over the past few years? Why did He leave Heaven to talk to those people, perform all those miracles, freeze in the cold, sweat in the summer, face threats, and live like one of the poor people on this planet? Jesus did all of that and more. But they still couldn’t understand. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?”
Jesus only told them a few details about what was going to happen in a few hours. Then He got right to the point. “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” It was pretty simple. We show Jesus we love Him by keeping His commandments. Jesus already pointed them to God’s commandments, and there was no need or time to repeat Himself on the subject. That’s when Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
Was this question also out of place? Did Jesus leave Heaven to come here and teach only a few people? Did Jesus intend on showing only a few people God and His love? Why was Judas out of place? Why were those disciples out of place? Did they have trouble hearing or understanding?
Let’s look at this short sequence of events from Jesus’ perspective. He taught them about the love between Him and His Father, and the love the two have for those disciples, and all of us of course. Then Jesus talked about knowing His Father. If they knew Jesus, they knew God. Knowing someone has a lot to do with loving them. How can you love someone if you don’t know them?
Jesus wanted to show how much He loved them. He told them He was going away to build a new home for them. This should have drawn them back to creation when God formed Adam by hand. Jesus continued to teach them about seeing God’s personality and know all about His personality from what they’ve learned and the type of life He led. Also the way He washed their feet a few hours ago.
Finally Jesus told them the connection between God and His law and the connection between His love and His law. Jesus began with love and finished with love. In between Jesus explained how we can see God’s love and what He will do for each of them and us.
I would suggest you do what Jesus wanted them to do. If you can’t see God through what has been recorded about Jesus’ life and ministry, you should be praying, talking to Him, and listening to what He has to say. All I can tell you is, Jesus is waiting to share details about His love you can’t imagine. I’ve seen more. A few I’ve been able to explain. There is so much more words cannot properly explain. And a special type of love the world is not ready to accept. This world is not ready to understand. I have no idea what you’re ready for. But I know Jesus knows exactly what you are ready to listen to and except. So far this story has shown us how Jesus’ disciples weren’t ready to accept that love. I can tell you, John didn’t include all the details. There is much more. And we’re not done this this story yet. There are a few chapters that follow.
Isaiah 58:6-12 Your Salvation Will Come Like the Dawn
Isaiah 58:6-12 NLTse “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. (7) Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (8) “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. (9) Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! (10) Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (11) The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. (12) Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
Luke 6:20-38 NLTse Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Godblesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. (21) Godblesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. Godblesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. (22) What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. (23) When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. (24) “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. (25) What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. (26) What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. (27) “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. (28) Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (29) If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. (30) Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. (31) Do to others as you would like them to do to you. (32) “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinnerslove those who love them! (33) And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! (34) And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. (35) “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. (36) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (37) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (38) Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Okay, I can see your all thinking – if this prophecy about helping the poor and depressed, which is a major part of our commission was fulfilled or taught by Jesus on His sermon on the mountain, than why not use Matthew? Well Matthew is spread out over three chapters and we need to follow the general rule of Bible Study — the introductions and summations have to agree. As we can see, Isaiah sets the tone for the prophecy and Jesus explained details. I would suggest you read Isaiah 58 and Matthew’s detailed account together. This will give God’s Spirit the time He needs with you to explain more details than found in this study. And of course, the goal is to get you to a point of learning to work on your own with God’s Spirit to understand His Word.
I have to admit, I had a bit of trouble locating parallel chapters to this prophecy. Looking at the key words, the first word I used to search was oppressed. That didn’t lead to any parallel chapters with matching introductions and summations. I went onto the next choice, hungry, which led to a number of interesting chapters. Luke 6 was the best match when comparing the introduction and summation.
Isaiah introduces a concept not exactly new to the Bible. Moses told Israel a set of concepts to live by known as the Law of Moses. Maybe that’s why that list of common sense guides showing how to live peacefully in this world has always been difficult to follow. Man has never been known for following laws viewed more like suggestions. Before God gave Moses that set of laws, Israel was of course freed from bondage in Egypt. Now do you see why this sequence of studies follows a particular pattern? One thing Israel’s release from bondage represented is found in their attitude towards the law. Living in an environment where every moment of their lives, following rules and regulations, they left a bad taste in their mouths. The last thing any of those Israelites wanted was a new set of rules. Isaiah did nothing more than repeat those concepts of how to live together. Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Do any of those laws seem too difficult to live by?
Although those seem like simple guidelines to follow, this world has a difficult time living by them. Is it so hard to treat people with justice, lighten burdens of people who work for you, and share what you have with those in need? It must be a difficult thing to do because Moses laid down the law, Isaiah reminded them, and Jesus repeated it with details so plain no one had an excuse to ignore them. Jesus told us, God will bless those who follow His command and help others. Isaiah tells us a part of the blessing. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” Why does Isaiah link helping others, treating them with justice and dignity with salvation? Doesn’t most of the world think all you have to do is claim Jesus’ sacrifice as your own to receive forgiveness for all your sins? If that’s true, than what about the learning process mentioned throughout the Bible? What about Jesus telling His disciples to take up their cross? Why did His disciples have to suffer and die for God’s Word if all they had to do was claim Jesus’ death to be saved? Let’s admit it, nothing but Jesus’ sacrifice can provide forgiveness for all the sins we committed. Without His sacrifice we would be lost. But as Paul tells us, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6 NLTse). Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLTse).
Maybe this is why the world has so much trouble listening to God’s voice. Isaiah tells us if we follow God’s simple instructions, “Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” What is the connection? Does the Bible explain the answer or is the explanation basically common sense like those laws Moses recorded?
The main theme in Isaiah’s prophecy, although explained in detail by Jesus, seems to escape many Christians. I remember years ago in a study class with about 30 adults capable of repeating every interpretation to their coveted future prophecies could not answer a simple question that came up in the preprinted class study guide. The question was, “how do you share the love of Jesus?” The teacher read and skipped over the question. I raised my hand and asked, “how do you share Jesus’ love?” The teacher answered, “you share the love of Jesus by teaching about Jesus.” I asked, “what do we teach about Jesus?” The teacher answered, “the love of Jesus.” I asked, “what are we supposed to teach about Jesus’ love?” Not one person in that class had an answer. None of them had any type of relationship with Jesus. They were like those Pharisees who thought they knew all the prophecies but didn’t know a thing. So they rejected any type of relationship with Jesus who stood in front of them. Since that time I’ve asked that same question in many churches when the opportunity came up. No one was able to answer the question. No one seems to have studied Isaiah 58 or any of the New Testament chapters adding more details on the subject of Jesus’ love or how we are supposed to act towards one another.
What kind of end time church are they in when they don’t know anything about Jesus’ love, but claim to be the chosen church based on their doctrine? Pride tells them they are the only church able to accurately interpret future prophecy. To them, those interpretations and doctrines out weight common sense, the ability to love, and the ability to communicate with Jesus.
Isaiah was pretty vague. What does it mean to lighten burdens, let the oppressed go free, and remove chains binding people? My guess is people’s minds become confused because they drift back into Isaiah’s time, then convince themselves we don’t have those problems any more. They relate Isaiah’s theme to slavery, and since not many Christians today are involved in slavery, consider this message obsolete. Well they’re wrong. Don’t you feel oppressed at work some times? Don’t you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again at work then suddenly one day you have an idea how to ease your burden? When you take your idea to management, what was the reply? If your a manager, do you allow pride to shoot down every idea from the people your in charge of? Do you think Satan stopped using oppression to distract people? What do you think Satan is trying to achieve with oppression? Are you hearing sermons with a shallow view on oppression, summing it up with a vague explanation? Let’s look at what Satan plans on accomplishing with oppression. For one the oppressor is drawn away from God by power, prestige, and wealth. What about people who are oppressed? It forces them to take a new look at God. Some people may draw closer to God while other people will question Him and His existence.
What about big business? They oppress just about everyone with high energy prices and other costs like health care. Then there’s taxes. The Bible tells us about high taxes Solomon imposed that were increased by his son. Taxes continued as kings collected more money from everyone, especially the poor. They collected taxes for all their projects. Solomon built houses for his wives, the women he was in bed with. Today we pay taxes to support businesses government officials are in bed with. Those kings claimed high taxes were necessary for a proper military. But when invading armies posed a threat, everyone important person was called into the city and those gates locked out the majority of people paying those high taxes. Has anything changed?
It’s one thing to identify oppression, quite another to learn how to alleviate it. How well would you score? Do you talk to people in line at the store and comfort them when God’s Spirit puts you in position to bless others? When the cashier just faced the customer from hell, do you pray to find a way to cheer her up and remind her the whole world is not like the customer no one can never please? What about the parking lot? Do you help the old woman load her bags into the car? Do you let rude drivers pass you so they can pester the next driver, or recognize your act as a blessing? How does helping one another work at home? Do you assign tasks then help? Do you plan little surprises for your spouse? Do you email or text them little messages during the day to let them know you care? When you hear someone request prayer, do you stop everything and pray for them so they can see love and concern in action? Most people only promise to pray. It’s been said so many times, the words, “I’ll pray for you,” have become only a cliché. How many chances do you have to change the world around you? How many of those chances do you let slip by? In a way neglecting those opportunities puts a burden upon you. Those missed opportunities are either softening your heart or hardened it. You know there is a reason people share bad news with you. Admit it, there is a reason you share your burdens with people. Now that you know these secrets, learn how to treat people the way you want to be treated.
There’s a reason Jesus reworded Isaiah the way He did. Jesus wanted to make it personal. God blesses those who are poor, hungry, and weep. How do you think God blesses them? Did you ever hear of God making money, food, or a tender word suddenly appear out of thin air to help people? Come on you know the answer. God uses His people to reach out and help those people. That’s the way the world is supposed to work. But too often people calling themselves Christians are too scared to leave their fox holes. They want to remain as secluded as they can. They are afraid to reach out to help people with the gifts and blessings God gave them to share. For a great reward awaits you in heaven.
Most Christians heard this line, but how many actually know what it means? “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” Why do most sermons stop at the first sentence but don’t dwell on the rest of what Jesus said? Is it because He provided the answer and preachers like to impress you with their stories? Is it because they don’t understand the answer? Or is it because they think those people listening to them aren’t ready to understand or accept the simple answer? “Do good to them.” Ask that question about how to love Jesus and see what answer you receive, if any. People aren’t sure how to do good. Why not? There are two types of love. One is from Heaven while the other is an earthly fabrication. You guessed it. Love from this world is a compromise. Loving like the world teaches is not showing your a child of Heaven.
Every once in a while I see people breaking up in what they call a love affair by posting updates on Facebook. They post all those worldly concepts about love, something like, “deceptions are easy but truth is hard to find. Trust is easily broken. Lies are soon revealed. You never know what you had until its gone.” You can see the pattern. People speak from emotions inherited from the world. None of those sayings will ever accomplish anything. Wisdom from this world will never show you what true love is. All it will do is provide a moment of comfort followed be a deeper need to seek real love. But few will ever find true love. They search with their eyes but they are blind. They listen with their ears but they’re deaf. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Let’s face it, people get involved in relationships based on what they can get out of them. Relationships seeded in greed can only sprout thistles and thorns that will eventually sting. I’ve seen the effects. I think we’ve all seen the effects of those thorns. So where do we learn about the love that only comes from Heaven? The key word is learn. Did you miss it? Did it slip by? Here it is again. Now pay attention. “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinnerslove those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.” “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.”
Now do you get it? Love doesn’t drop out of the sky when the right person comes along. Love has to be learned before it can be experienced. You have to learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide before you can do algebra or calculus which reveals the wonders of mathematics. You have to work on love like working out. Body building takes time. No one walks into a gym, does a few bench presses and walks out built like an athlete. Why would love be any different? You have to build up everything else in this world – your vocabulary, the ability to write, a knowledge of science, geography, stamina, muscles, everything. Why should love be any different? Our problem is we want to fall in love when everything else in the world has to be built up and conditioned. So we convince ourselves all we need to do is wait for the right person who we think will make us whole and for a while everything seems so much better. That’s the concept of love in this world. Like the toxic weeds Satan developed, that kind of love is like a drug. It’ll give you a great high for a while but coming down is a pain. Yep – love from this world is like a drug. It’ll cost you some money. It’s easy to take. Then it lets you down and leaves you looking for more of the same.
Now look at Jesus’ solution. He is saying your not ready until you’ve learned to love your enemies. Jesus doesn’t want to send you out into this cruel world until you’re ready. God is like a Father. He doesn’t want to see you hurt. His advise is to be ready. Work out your love until it is so muscle bound the world can’t help but take notice. Develop your intellect to a degree you are ready to solve any problem the world can throw at you. If that sounds impossible it is. You’ll never be prepared for every problem, but God is. Before your ready for love you have to first learn to love God who will show you how to love your enemies. Then you’ll be ready for the one love God has prepared for you. You don’t want God to send them a product half assembled? Think about it. Two lives with missing pieces will not make a whole. But that’s exactly what the world wants you to believe.
Sure there will be learning curves. Satan doesn’t want you learning how to leave this world behind. He feels safe when you rely on him. He feels threatened when he sees you going to God. Satan feels like he lost and he is a sore looser. But trials make us stronger. But watch out. Don’t dwell on set backs. As we’ve seen, oppression leads to distraction, which leads to wasting time, which leads to spending less time with God. If we dwell on set backs it delays our learning process. It’s the same with any relationship. If only one person dwells on negative aspects it will rob you of time together and what you can accomplish. When it comes to a relationship with God, He is never the one that dwells on problems. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Together these two chapters teach us about the love coming only from Heaven. Time to begin the lesson.
Isaiah 58:1-5 NLTse “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! (2) Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. (3) ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. (4) What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. (5) You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?
Isaiah’s introduction reminds me why I had to leave the organized church. All I saw was people bragging about what they knew. Everything was centered about their interpretations on future prophecies and those doctrines and traditions they coveted and defended so vehemently — as if their salvation depended on it. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes– so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”
(Matthew 15:8-9, 13:15-17 NLTse). Isn’t it time to listen?
Preachers today have given up on love, substituting man made knowledge for one of the greatest gifts from Heaven. Piety has taken the place of God’s voice. Obedience is given to a stone church and its leaders – while it is being withheld from God our Creator. They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. Like the Pharisees, preachers today place knowledge of the law in place of knowing its Author. Generations separated Isaiah from Jesus but nothing separated that attitude from those religious leaders.
Luke 6:1-12 NLTse One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples broke off heads of grain, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grain. (2) But some Pharisees said, “Why are you breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” (3) Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? (4) He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests can eat. He also gave some to his companions.” (5) And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.” (6) On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. (7) The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. (8) But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. (9) Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” (10) He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! (11) At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him. (12) One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
Jesus pointed those religious leaders back to David and of course scripture. We’ve already looked at this text in a number of studies. But general Bible Study rules tell us to look at texts and the chapter to see a far deeper lesson Jesus is pointing to.
1 Samuel 21:1-6 NLTse David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?” (2) “The king has sent me on a private matter,” David said. “He told me not to tell anyone why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later. (3) Now, what is there to eat? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.” (4) “We don’t have any regular bread,” the priest replied. “But there is the holy bread, which you can have if your young men have not slept with any women recently.” (5) “Don’t worry,” David replied. “I never allow my men to be with women when they are on a campaign. And since they stay clean even on ordinary trips, how much more on this one!” (6) Since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread–the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the LORD in the Tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread.
Because the texts Jesus is pointing to is located in the introduction of a chapter, we also have to look at the summary and look for the related theme.
1 Samuel 21:10-15 NLTse (10) So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. (11) But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (12) David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. (13) So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. (14) Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? (15) We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”
Notice the theme? David lied to a priest than a king. See the spiritual lesson hidden in the texts? Why did David lie? David was running away from Saul who wanted to kill him. What’s your first reaction to a problem? You try to solve it yourself. In David’s case he resorted to lies in an instant. Jesus sent us back to scripture to gather more knowledge, so let’s take a look back to see how the author led into the story. At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name. The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town. (1 Samuel 20:42 NLTse). Notice the important point, “the LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Now we look ahead to see what those events led to. So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming–men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented–until David was the captain of about 400 men. (1 Samuel 22:1-2 NLTse). See the connection and progression? David’s responsibility is growing. As a boy he only had to worry about his father’s flocks and a giant. Working for Saul, David was in command of a company of soldiers. God was teaching David lessons about leadership. Remember how lessons about love have to be learned? Here is an example containing lessons related to love and leadership. Jesus’ disciples had a problem with both those subjects. They wanted leadership roles before they learned how to love like Jesus. They didn’t see how love and leadership had to intertwine and grow together.
When we look ahead we see those events led to another serious point to consider. A point we would miss if we weren’t looking at the progression in the story and of course praying. One day the prophet Gad told David, “Leave the stronghold and return to the land of Judah.” So David went to the forest of Hereth. (1 Samuel 22:5 NLTse). See what happened? David was relying on himself so God sent a prophet. Why? David forgot to pray. Don’t you think David prayed before he ran off after a that lion or that bear? Don’t you think David prayed before he went after that giant? What about those battles he fought for Saul? When we look at David’s progression we see two things. His increased reliance on God and increased knowledge. The two are connected. David’s responsibilities increased parallel to his communication with God. That’s what people saw in David and trusted in. People trusted more in David’s relationship with God than they trusted in David the man. They believed David was God’s anointed king because they could see David’s relationship with God. Think about how that relates to the lesson on love.
David’s life teaches us positive aspects of following God, but like all of us, David had a history of drawing close to God then drifting away. When times look good we all have the tendency of making decisions on our own. Like children who only call their parents when they need help, we only pray from the heart when we’re in trouble. When David become comfortable, things changed. One time he sent his army out to fight without him. While the people he was supposed to be serving, protecting, and teaching were off fighting a war, David stayed behind to run the country. One night he looked across the street and saw a woman. David already had more wives than any of us care to count, but to David, this one was different. While his men were off fighting a battle, David pursued a conquest of his own. David knew the woman was married. Having drawn away from God and making his own decisions it didn’t seem to matter to David. He invited her over for a fling. After all, who would know? Once wasn’t enough for the king. After a while the woman gets pregnant, so David does what he got used to doing. David comes up with a new sure fire plan. After all, when he lied to a priest and king God still protected him?
David’s momentary lack of communication with God destroyed his common sense. David had that woman’s husband killed and married her. David made her the queen of Israel. God had enough. David refused to listen so God sent the prophet in. So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” David was furious. “As surely as the LORD lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. (2 Samuel 12:1-10 NLTse).
You might ask why after so many sins, God still loved David and called him a man after His own heart. It’s because David repented after seeing his sins. David repented of his sins as well as his lack of communication with God. As soon as David saw how far he drifted away from God, he prayed to restore that connection. David fell to the ground and prayed for the child as well as the mother and himself. David re-connection with God was so deep, his advisers could not understand it. That’s another point David missed. He neglected to explain that connection to people, not even his closest friends. After the child died, David got up to eat. After talking with God and listening… David knew he had a son waiting for him in Heaven. David knew when we get there he would receive the little child and raise him in the perfect environment of Heaven. David also knew God was concerned about him and wanted him to take care of himself. So David got up to eat. There is one detail we have to learn from David’s prayers. David remained focused on the subject at hand. David’s Psalms are an example of prayer. Notice how he always concentrated on one subject?
Psalms 11:1-7 NLTse
(1) I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!
(2) The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right.
(3) The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”
(4) But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.
(5) The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.
(6) He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds.
(7) For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.
David learned to pray in order. Many of his prayers share the same structure. David praised God, told God his problem, then let God know he had confidence God knew the right answer. The only thing we don’t see in David’s prayers is how God answered them. David’s prayers should be studied. David recorded some of his conversations with God when Saul was chasing after him. But let’s stick to the details at hand. David prayed on one subject at a time. You never see David praying like we see people pray today which consists of a list of items to drop in God’s lap like we expect God to solve all those problems without any further participation on our part. When God sent a prophet to David there was a major lesson to learn. Today we see little if any listening when we pray. We may as well write out a prayer list and E-mail or text it to God. “Here God this is what we want you to do today. Let me know when you finish.” Does the pot tell the potter what to do? Then why do we give God orders then hang up the phone? Prayer has become much like ordering a pizza and waiting for it to be delivered. When David laid on that stone floor for hours, he listened to God. When David prayed to God while on the run from Saul, David listened to God. The first time God answered through a prophet. As David honed his listening skills, God personally spoke to David.
My favorite Psalms are those where David praised God, presented his petition, then praised God at the end of his prayer by telling God he knew God would do the right thing. The main point is, David stuck to one point in his prayer and didn’t jump around from subject to subject like we do today. I’ve read a number of books on prayer. Not one of them teaches people how to listen. I’ve talked to many people about how they listen to God and I hear the same answer over and overt again. When they try listening to God their minds are filled with a hundred details and they can’t concentrate. We’ve been conditioned by the world to write a prayer list then run through the whole thing in one sitting. Is there one verse of Biblical proof showing that’s how we should pray? None that I can find. All the examples in Psalms show us to concentrate on one subject at a time. A prayer list is okay, but shooting it up to God like a shotgun blast doesn’t hit the target. How are we supposed to listen when we pass on a long list to God and sever the prayer connection? Prayer was never meant to be a one sided connection. Study those Psalms and look for a prayer pattern you like and use it. Try a couple of different styles. But remember to stick to one subject at a time and spend time listening to God’s reply which is infinitely more important than your list. By the way, God already knew what was on your prayer list long before you wrote it. That is one detail you may want to praise Him for when you begin praying. “LORD I thank you for knowing what is on my prayer list and I come to you today to discuss one matter. I really want to know what you want to do about this subject. Jesus cleanse me with your blood, remove all my sins, make me pure, and especially purge me of all those worldly thoughts and preconceived ideas about you and what you are capable of. Jesus place me at the foot of your Father’s throne and let me learn from His infinite wisdom.” Then sit quietly and listen to God’s answer on that one subject of prayer.
So what do prayer skills have to do with the introductions to Isaiah 58 and Luke 6? Everything! Look at the introduction to Isaiah 58. “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!” How are you supposed to know what to shout if the message doesn’t come from God? Prayer is everything. It is communication with God. Read between the lines. “Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” Those people didn’t listen to God so they drifted away. The only way to stay close to God is listen to Him. The trend continued past those religious leaders who questioned Jesus when His disciples ate grain on the Sabbath. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.” And who would complain about healing a suffering man on the Sabbath? If they knew how to pray and listen to God, those religious leaders never would have questioned Jesus. Notice they watched Jesus, but we can see they didn’t listen to what He taught.
We all have trouble listening to God. David had his problems. One time the king of Tyre came to David. He wanted to learn about the God David served. But David didn’t think a Pagan king would have any interest in God. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies was with him. Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5:10-12 NLTse). We can see how David let the distractions of this world stop him from performing his duty to God. After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters. (2 Samuel 5:13 NLTse). David fell victim to one of Satan’s greatest deceptions – success and power. Doesn’t that happen to all of us? Things are going well and we forget God or put our relationship with Him on the back shelf? No wonder Peter told us to welcome trials. Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad–for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 NLTse).
What could have happened if David or Solomon witnessed to Hiram? He was the king of Tyre, the world trade center at the time. Hiram believed in staying out of religion to the extent of allowing every religion to freely practice within his kingdom. To Hiram it was the only way to increase trade through Tyre’s port, keep peace, and reduce the chance of an invasion. During his reign no one would dare attack Tyre because of its relationship with other kingdoms, both economical and religious. Having contact with all the worldly religions peaked Hiram’s search for the one true God. It’s strange to think the man anointed king and given the gifts, ability, and responsibility to tell the world about God missed the opportunity of a life time. If David had shared God with Hiram and told Hiram how God’s Spirit communicates with us, it would have opened streets and avenues within the world trade center no one could have imagined. Hiram could have reached people from all over the world from every religion. God doesn’t need more people hiding in fox holes. God needs people able to step out to face those giants, no matter what form they come in.
Keeping the gospel away from people goes way beyond David. When Jesus wanted to heal the man with that deformed hand in the synagogue those religious leaders used the Sabbath as an excuse to withhold one of God’s blessings. Don’t you think that giant David slew made an impression on the whole nation of Israel? Those religious leaders didn’t stop to think about how healing one man could have impressed all those people in the synagogue and beyond. Those religious leaders didn’t think of how one gift would glorify God. They were only thinking about themselves. “At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.” What was Jesus’ reaction? “One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” Jesus didn’t rely on what He learned in the past or felt at the moment. Jesus went back to DAD to discuss the situation. Jesus didn’t know how to explain the Sabbath to those religious leaders who thought they knew everything. Jesus knew He had to be patient and wait for God’s Spirit to set up the right circumstances to reach those people. It’s amazing to see a part of that answer is in this chapter of Isaiah.
Isaiah 58:13-14 NLTse “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. (14) Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Those religious leaders were concerned only about their own interests. They followed their own desires and idle talk. Now you can see how Jesus answered more than their initial question. When Jesus referred to Isaiah 58, He included scripture around that lesson about helping the poor and depressed. We see the same result when we study other texts Jesus quoted. Now we can see why Jesus prayed. Answers He received were for questions before anyone asked them. Imagine the impact this had on Jesus’ faith. It could have had the same effect on other people if they spent time to look back into God’s Word. Jesus also taught lessons using parables like He did in the summation for Luke 6.
Luke 6:43-49 NLTse “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. (44) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on bramblebushes. (45) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (46) “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (47) I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. (48) It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. (49) But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Jesus presents a choice. Good and evil are the only choices. There is no middle ground. Those priests made a carrier out of middle ground. Their religion was based on sitting in the middle trying to work their way up to God’s grace. Anyone who didn’t agree with them was deemed to far away to be saved. Unless of course you got back in line with their doctrines which takes your eyes off God placing your faith in man made doctrines. We have the same circumstances today. Of course every religion claims they got it right this time. But what about their fruit. When they produce members condemning the rest of the world are they producing good fruit or brambles? If they preach isolation are they spreading good seeds or weeds? When they make salvation a one step process, are they showing their good fruit or is their tree bear?
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” There is a direct relationship between Isaiah 58 and Luke 6 when you compare the introduction of Isaiah with the summation in Luke 6. This may seem unusual, but God has a way of teaching through repetition. We have to be prepared to notice and contemplate. As long as we compare the same parallel chapters we know we are learning the same theme. I remember my dad would always say, “don’t complain unless you have a better idea.” I think that was the best advise a father could give a son. Jesus also gave that advise, in His own way. Jesus told us how to worship God. “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
Let’s face it, it’s never easy to turn a large ship around in a storm. If your waiting for your local or national church to turn around, you’ve got a long wait ahead of you. With God change has always been and will always be an individual effort. Jesus fed masses but healed individuals. Are we feeding people or healing them? The answer is both, but face the facts. When Jesus fed people they carelessly left baskets of bread lying on the ground. You have to expect that when you begin your ministry feeding people. But healing is another matter. Like Jesus we can heal. Like Jesus we have to place people in the capable hands of God’s Spirit to let them work it out together. We really can’t expect to accomplish more than Jesus did even though He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLTse).
Time for you to experience some of those greater works. Matthew 27 is another chapter explaining how Isaiah 58 was fulfilled. Take your time, highlight those repeated words, give time for God’s Spirit to work with you. Look up the Old Testament scripture Jesus quoted. Look back and look ahead. Hone the skills you are learning – the most important being – draw closer to God and learn more about His Son Jesus.
Matthew 27:32-43 NLTse Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (33) And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). (34) The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. (35) After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. (36) Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. (37) A sign was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (38) Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (39) The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. (40) “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (41) The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. (42) “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! (43) He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
Matthew 27:1-10 NLTse Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. (2) Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. (3) When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. (4) “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” (5) Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (6) The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” (7) After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. (8) That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. (9) This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says, “They took the thirty pieces of silver– the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel, (10) and purchased the potter’s field, as the LORD directed.”
Matthew 27:61-66 NLTse Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching. (62) The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. (63) They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ (64) So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” (65) Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” (66) So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
We all know the whore sitting on that beast will be judged. We all think we know why and how. But when will that whore be judged. And who or what does that whore include?
Revelation 17:1-6 RSVA Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, (2) with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” (3) And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. (4) The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; (5) and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” (6) And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
When we look at the judgment of the whore, or harlot in this translation, we can see that woman was a symbol. Water is a symbol, drunk, blood, and the beast are all symbols. There is a general rule in Bible Study that tells us when our study begins at the beginning of a chapter, we can’t help but admit, we don’t stand a chance of understanding this chapter until we review the end of the previous chapter.
That simple rule takes us back to the end of the last seven plagues. An angel announces the end with the simple words, “it is done.” The world ends with an earthquake and hailstones of fire falling from Heaven. But are those also symbols?
When we look back, we also have to question if those sores on people and water turning to blood are also symbols. They are so easy to accept as physical attributes because they were physical plagues in Egypt. But was the exodus as a whole one giant symbol pointing to something far greater?
When we consider those sores as a symbol, we have to also allow scripture to define the symbol. What clues and definitions does the Bible provide? The sores are only on the people who received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. That gives us only one clue. A clue that will aline itself with the end of the chapter.
And I heard the angel of water say, “Just art thou in these thy judgments, thou who art and wast, O Holy One. For men have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink. It is their due!” And I heard the altar cry, “Yea, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are thy judgments!” (Revelation 16:5-7 RSVA).
Something happened between the first and second plagues that caught the angel’s attention. The people with the mark of the beast showed the angel, God’s judgment was accurate beyond question. When we look at those sores, we look at them as an identifying mark that sort of takes the place of the mark of the beast, or joins it. In a way amplifies the mark of the beast. We know the mark of the beast exists today. And we know it is not a physical, but a spiritual mark. It represents what people actually worship, how they worship, and why they worship what they worship.
As we progress to the plague that turns water into blood, the same must be true. The blood must be a symbol. But representing what? Everything in the water died. In other parts of the Bible, water repents people. And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. (Revelation 17:15 RSVA). The Bible identified the waters as people later in the story when one of the angels explained the vision to John.
We have to realize one thing. When an angel explains a symbol they typically back up in earth’s history to a point John can relate to. When we go back to John’s time, we can see how not only he, but thousands of other Christians were persecuted. Satan lost his battle with Christ when He rose from the grave. Satan had no other thought than to annihilate every Christian in the world and eliminate every influence Christ left behind. But Satan failed at that. So he altered his plan. If he couldn’t eliminate the Christians, he could at least mislead them. So he introduced every false form of worship from his bag of tricks. Hence the mark of the beast was born. It is a combination of what Christ taught mixed in with a measure of the false gods and forms of worship Satan was able to introduce over the years.
The blood represented all those Christians who Satan killed from Steven up to the Christians who Satan had slaughtered during those last plagues. They killed the Christians, partied in their blood, and now they were given a taste of their own medicine.
Now let’s go back a bit further to the judgment period when Christ will judge the living. Have you given that any thought? What will it be like when your name is called? We can’t write an accurate account of every detail during that trial, but we know enough facts that we can piece together an idea of how that trial will proceed.
A name is called. If the person follows Christ, what will happen? Will Christ offer His blood to cleanse that person, cover the law, and make that person acceptable in God’s eyes? Will that person be found innocent with no evidence presented? Is Jesus’ word all that is required, or does Jesus have to present witnesses and evidence? Will angels come forward to tell stories about how they were able to help that person, and how that person gave all the glory to God? Will angels tell how that person remained humble throughout the entire process? Will angels tell God how that person was thankful and wanted to return the favor in any way they could? Will angels tell God about the messages they gave to that person and how they faithfully delivered those messages without adding to them, or subtracting from them? Will angels tell God about the people that person was able to reach, and how that person was able to turn souls to God?
What about a person who is judged guilty? What would their trial look like? Would angels present evidence of how they tried to reach that person, but all their attempts were rejected? Would angels tell God how they tried to direct their way through scripture, but those people decided to look to human sources for information? Would angels tell God how those people always took the easy way out accepting one or two sentences out of a story in scripture and never reading the entire story? Will angles tell how preachers and teachers were able to substitute old wives tales for the truth, and they accepted those tales without question? Will angels tell God how they tried to give that person simple messages to deliver, but they delivered messages hatched in boardroom meetings? What will God’s decision be when He sees someone who tried a little bit, but never really applied themselves? They never seemed to have the time or will power to take one additional step towards His Son. All that person knew was, Jesus died for their sins. But they never knew what that meant. They never searched out the meaning, or a personal relationship with Jesus. How will Jesus answer when God asks, “did you know this person?” What will be the decision in that trial?
Revelation 17 deals with the judgment of their leader, the devil. To understand chapter 17, we have to see how chapter 16 ended.
The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and great hailstones, heavy as a hundred-weight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague. (Revelation 16:17-21 RSVA).
When we look at the two chapters together, we can’t help but notice the connection between the harlot and Babylon. Most scholars agree the harlot and Babylon represent the same thing. Then the differences arise. Some insist they represent Satan. Others insist Babylon and the harlot represent some earthly entity or great religious power. Either way, that entity is controlled by Satan. Or at least Satan has a great influence over them. The question should be, is it only one entity, a collection of entities, or the total sum of how that one entity was able to spread its influence over the Christian world?
I would vote for the later case. When Rome got involved in the Christian religion, of course the emperor had to merge in his own brand of religion with Christianity. That was not much different that what Paul and Peter recorded when Jews wanted to merge their Jewish beliefs with the Christian faith. Paul said it was wrong. Peter agreed with Paul. Both had messages from God telling us what would happen. A few hundred years later Rome wedges their way on the scene. Rome was a republic that survived by accepting every general religion. So it seemed normal to blend a little from each of those religions into what the emperor wanted to turn into a new, nationalized religion. A fool could have seen what was happening. Satan had his foot in the door and was not going to give up. Once that door was opened, a flood of idols and false ideas came in and set up housekeeping. A new religion was born and in the eyes of the world, it was exactly what they needed.
Most of us know how that went. A new sort of world religious order was created. A religion who claimed they were serving God, but distanced themselves far away from what Christ came here to establish. In fact, most of that was preserved in scripture was lost. The words in scripture didn’t change, but how they were viewed was changed for what seems like forever. Or almost forever.
The new church developed structure, placed people in charge, gave them credentials, developed centers and levels of learning, and of course decided to develop their own methods of Bible Study. One of the first and their favorite is commonly referred to as proof text.
The proof text method of Bible Study took one or two sentences out of scripture and placed in in the hands of one of their appointed Cardinals or Bishops for interpretation. The context didn’t matter. Their leaders were given authority over God’s Word, and their decision was final. A new interpretation was reviewed, voted on, and then made into a law in their established church. This kept common people away from scripture, and voided any claims the Holy Spirit was our appointed Guide and Teacher.
That type of thinking has been around for generations. Some people may think, only a gifted few hear God’s voice or have any connection with the Spirit. Others think God has somehow left this planet. But that was not what Jesus promised. Jesus said, when He went away, He would send the Spirit to take His place. As far as I know that promise is still valid and in force. God does not give into popular belief. Especially when that belief harms His people or stands in the way of His relationship with them.
There is no doubt that Jesus identified the dragon in the vision He showed John. The dragon represents Satan. But how many preachers take the extra moment to show you how the vision identified the symbols it contains? How many preachers show you how Revelation was designed to teach you how to read and understand that book? Not many. Let’s not forget the fact, Satan introduced the monetary system this world uses and depends on. That is the key. The world depends more on the monetary system Satan invented than on the Creator of this world. And Satan knows how to use that money system to control and manipulate people. Especially when they have no idea who is manipulating them, how, or why. That’s why we have to be extra cautious. That’s why it is a lot safer for us to study on our own at Jesus’ feet. We have to learn to put away those worldly sources of information and learn to rely on Heaven for all the answers. One other detail we have to consider. Satan wants nothing more than to hide, remain in the back ground, and not be seen, or identified. So his army of battle horses is gong to flood this earth with lies, half lies, false leads, and empty hope. And he is doing a rather fine job of it.
Revelation 12:7-9 NLTse (7) Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. (8) And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. (9) This great dragon–the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world–was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
We have to realize, Satan was kicked out of Heaven and sentenced to this world where he spends the rest of his life trying to deceive everyone. Satan has more experience than we could imagine. But Satan does not have the Holy Spirit. When Satan interprets scripture he is only guessing. That should help to identify close to 2/3 of the teachers you need to avoid. Guessing at symbols is a sure sign of a distance or void between that person and God’s throne.
Satan was able to deceive a third of the angels in Heaven. Angels who saw God, worshiped God, and talked with God. Angels who saw a perfect Heaven, and understood every letter of God’s law. You may think you are safe with the odds in your favor at 2:1. But you have no idea how often you reject God and His angels. When you reject God and His angels, who do you think steps in to take their place?
Satan has more experience deceiving people than anyone on this planet. We have no idea how many years Satan was allowed to deceive the angels in Heaven. That’s another factor we have to keep on mind. Especially when we hear those theories and watch those movies about a few people out witting the devil after he ceases world power. Based on scripture, that is impossible.
Since we stumbled upon the devil, we should look at a few details about him. But I do not want to enter into a full study about the devil. I have seen far too many people lead downhill with such an obsession.
Isaiah 14:12-21 NLTse “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. (13) For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. (14) I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ (15) Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. (16) Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble? (17) Is this the one who destroyed the world and made it into a wasteland? Is this the king who demolished the world’s greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?’ (18) “The kings of the nations lie in stately glory, each in his own tomb, (19) but you will be thrown out of your grave like a worthless branch. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will be dumped into a mass grave with those killed in battle. You will descend to the pit. (20) You will not be given a proper burial, for you have destroyed your nation and slaughtered your people. The descendants of such an evil person will never again receive honor. (21) Kill this man’s children! Let them die because of their father’s sins! They must not rise and conquer the earth, filling the world with their cities.”
Isaiah was told to record this description of Satan for a reason. Once we see how close Satan was to God, we can see how we have no chance against him on our own. We also see how high Satan had his sights set. He wanted to take God’s throne. No wonder there was a battle in Heaven. Jesus stepped up to defend His Father. That’s what every good son should do. But Jesus defended God by coming to this world to die at Satan’s hands. The Universe had to be shown how far Satan would go. If Satan wanted God’s throne, murder was not out of the question. We can see how Satan loves to destroy nations and all the people in them. There is more.
Revelation 12:10-12 NLTse (10) Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last– salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth– the one who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (12) Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
We can see how John and Isaiah reflected each other’s views on the devil. He is sentenced to this planet and has his sights set on destroying everyone and everything. If Satan can’t rule Heaven, he can at least rule this world. With that in mind, we can see how we have to deal with his distorted idea of power. The more people he can get to follow that distorted version of power, the better he feels about himself. People follow that distorted idea of power without realizing where that idea originated. They don’t read scripture with the Spirit who can explain those details. God uses His power to teach people in this world. Satan uses his power to hide and distort that information.
We also see how Jesus had to use His own blood to defeat Satan. That is far from a normal way of winning a war in this world. In this world wars are won by making more people on the other side shed blood. That is not the case in this war between Jesus and Satan.
When we see how different this war between Christ and Satan is, we can see how important it is study the details we are given. It is also important to listen to Jesus, who sees everything happening behind the scenes. What chance do we have against an enemy we can’t see, feel, our touch? We are all but helpless. If we ever plan on winning a single battle, we have no alternative than to take orders from the One who has already defeated the enemy.
When Satan was thrown down to the earth, it was a sign showing how he lost the battle and war in Heaven. For the time being Satan is allowed to torment this world. He will spread out grief and suffering. His main focus will be on those who witness for Jesus. Satan can tell the difference between those who witness based on their own ideas and concepts, and those like John who witness for Jesus based on their visits to Heaven and the information Jesus shared with them. Satan uses man made ideas and flaws to his advantage. Satan finds it easy to plant seeds in the minds of people who don’t believe God and the Holy Spirit communicate with this world. Satan can introduce, formulate, and manipulate ideas. Look what happened in the dark ages when laws were passed telling the world only a select few were capable of reading and understanding scripture. Satan loved those days and would like nothing more than to brings those days back to one degree or another.
What about Jesus’ victory? We have a collection of stories about Jesus’ life and His sacrifices here on this planet. But do we study them enough? The Old Testament is filled with over three hundred prophecies about Jesus and His ministry. What kind of general publishes books about His plans hundreds of years before He puts them into action? Not any General from this planet. Imagine that. Place your plans in a number of books, then enter into a new phase of the war with your greatest enemy. Why did Jesus do that? Was that to impress us or send us a message? How often have you studied those battle plans? How often have you heard people preach about those battle plans? One thing is certain, Jesus’ followers know something about those battle plans and the lessons they teach.
We know very little about that war in Heaven. There are no casualty reports like other stories in the Bible. We have no reports about numbers in the two armies. But we do know Satan had one third of the angles on his side. Jesus must have gathered every other angel in Heaven for that war. No one was neutral. Everyone dedicated their time and effort to the war. We also know God spoke everything into existence in this world. Why was there a physical war in Heaven when God could have put an end to Satan and his followers in a second? There are a number of spiritual weapons mentioned in scripture. Did the angels use weapons? We have no way of knowing. Statues have been made with angels carrying swords. But that information was conjured up by man’s imagination. We know little about Heaven and less about that war that was once fought there. Even placing a date on that war is difficult. Was that war fought before or after Jesus’ sacrifice on this planet? Many details point to after Jesus’ sacrifice and ascension. Wars consist of battles. There may have been a series of battles to win before the final victory was achieved. Revelation offers us some comfort by telling us that Satan and all his followers will be utterly destroyed in the future. That will end sin in the Universe.
There has to be a reason why sin was able to rage in Heaven for a time. Satan was able to build forces to stand against God. To plan on taking God’s throne. Why? Based on accounts in Eden, Satan has a history of promising more. Satan cannot create. There is no account or record of any angel creating anything. Only God and Jesus have been credited with creation. Satan may be able to manipulate what he was given. Which is this world. Scientists have been able to come up with a variety of new and specialized creatures by cross breeding, and more recently, genetics. Was Satan able to manipulate life forms through genetics? Where did weeds, thorns, thistles, and mosquitoes come from? When were insects given the ability to carry diseases? We have seen some manipulations in our generation. Did Satan work through human agencies or is he able to manipulate life forms on his own? We don’t know. At this point we don’t have the answers. We do know it is possible. Look at genetic manipulation on the Internet. Men have been experimenting with that science for years. Some times the results can be beneficial. Sometimes the results are hazardous. There are a number of highly funded research projects in the field of military genetics. It makes sense on the human side to develop super soldiers. But is Satan using that research to one day develop a line of super angels to defend himself and defeat God? Think about that. God waited until Satan gathered one third of the angels in Heaven. If God would have waited any longer, the odds may have turned in Satan’s favor. Of course God could have ended everything with one word or thought. But what if Satan is working on a new plan to manipulate angels and humans? Satan is not giving up until he turns to ashes in that lake of fire. What might we see in the future that points to the last moments before those last seven plagues begin hitting the earth? At least one branch of science may not be too far from the truth.
Revelation 12:13-18 NLTse (13) When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (14) But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time. (15) Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. (16) But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. (17) And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children–all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. (18) Then the dragon took his stand on the shore beside the sea.
Based on the information John provided, our best guess can be that Satan was thrown down to earth after Jesus rose from the grave.
She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne.
Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon–the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world–was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last– salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth– the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (Revelation 12:5 NLTse), (Revelation 12:7-11 NLTse)
When we look at the sequence of events, we see a few details that become relevant. Jesus defeated the devil with His blood. That could be taken in the physical sense, but at what time, and what is the exact repercussion for the devil? Satan may have been restricted from Heaven before Christ died. Jesus’ blood may be a sign pointing to the final defeat of Satan, or the evidence God needed to pass a final verdict in Satan’s trial.
From the Book of Job we can see how Satan was allowed to pass between this world and God’s throne for a time. When and if that privilege ended, we have no way of knowing. We do know that God can and will restrict Satan. Why does Satan obey those restrictions? Does Satan understand that he could be destroyed with a single word from God? That would mean that Satan feels fear and has to deal with it. Satan knows his time is coming, but he clings onto life as long as he can. In some ways, Satan has human attributes.
What if God destroyed Satan? What if Satan crossed the line and lost his life? Would this world change? There are a million concepts on temptation. Some believe temptation comes from the devil like we all have a good angel and evil angel telling us what to do, and what not to do. If Satan was destroyed, would that put an end to sin? Or is sin ingrained in men’s minds, and they will continue to sin without the influence of outside sources?
There seems to be a change in symbolism here. At first the woman appears to be a physical woman delivering a physical child through birth. If we compared stories in the Gospels, the woman would have to be Mary giving birth to Jesus. That is physical in nature. But after Jesus returned to Heaven, the symbolism seems to turn take on more of a spiritual tone. Are there other examples of this in Scripture? Of course there are. Moses was a physical man. Moses was also a type of symbol pointing to Christ. So was David and others in the Bible. The same with cities and other locations such as Jerusalem, Babylon, and others. Why not this woman in Revelation?
There is another factor we cannot over look. “When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27 NLTse). In this scene Jesus not only assigned John the task of taking care of His mother, but also made John part of His family. Joseph had sons from a previous marriage and the Bible does mention the fact, Jesus had brothers who could have taken care of Mary. But Jesus had a good reason for making this request. On the spiritual side, John became the son of the woman that was persecuted by the dragon. And John experienced that persecution first hand. John was a disciple, then an apostle. John worked hard to bring more disciples and apostles to Christ. In essence, John was a living symbol of the people who the dragon waged war against.
I know there is a lot of date setting and details other people read into this section about the dragon pursuing the woman and her offspring. I also know there are a number of churches who take a few words out of this story in Revelation and use them to place a label on their faith and identify themselves as God’s one and only remnant church. But John never wrote a word about a remnant church.
As for those 1260 days. That same number was mentioned in the previous chapter. We can take a look at it to see what details we can find there.
Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” (Revelation 11:1-3 NLTse).
In Revelation chapter 12 the woman was protected for 1260 days. God sent down two witnesses for the exact same time period. Is that a coincidence, or are they related? Since the two witnesses represent the Old and New Testament, how are they used to protect the woman? Isn’t the entire book of Revelation written to protect Jesus’ followers? Those who have God’s seal upon them. When we put those two stories together in the sequence they were presented, we can finally make sense of all the conjecture and guesses this world has been feeding Christianity as a whole. The book of Revelation mentions a limited number of symbols and physical items assigned to protect God’s people who are sealed. The alter is a one of those symbols. Being at God’s throne is another location mentioned a number of times in Revelation. Jesus’ blood, is another. Knowledge is a large part of that protection plan. Where we get that knowledge is covered in a number of chapters in Revelation. Chapter 11 identified the Old and New Testament as one of those protective measures. But no where does John write about an institution. Common sense would tells us that churches manipulate God’s Word to attract people. To call them into their church. We know the definition of a church is to call people out. When we look at how a few words have been manipulated and for what purpose, a few questions should cross our minds. If we compare those actions to what we’ve learned while reading Revelation like a book, like it has been written, we can see a cross section of Satan’s forces at work. Take a few words out of Revelation. Tell people how difficult it is to understand a book about prophecy. Give people with advanced training the task of unraveling those prophecies. Make it sound like it takes years of training to understand more than three words in Revelation. Satan does his best to place his own seals on Revelation and the rest of the Bible. Satan never earned the right nor was given the authority to remove a single seal from the book John described in Revelation. That angered Satan. So he created ways of placing his own seals upon the entire book of Revelation. But each of Satan’s seals are fake. Those who have God’s seal can and will see how fake those seals are. They will be like John. God’s seal comes with an angel to stand next to you and explain each and every word, symbol, and event in every one of those stories and visions in Revelation. If those warnings apply to you, you will hear and understand those warnings. If those events coincide with a message you need to deliver, you will understand each and every one of those symbols, the events, and how that event relates to the world around you. Compare Revelation to the other books John has written. John’s Gospel told us about how the Holy Spirit worked behind the scenes in Jesus’ ministry on earth. John’s letters talk about Jesus’ love and concern for this planet. Revelation is no different. It is a combination of Jesus’ love and the Holy Spirit working in your ministry. When your ministry in this world parallels Jesus’ ministry in Heaven, you will know it. You will feel it. You will know Jesus’ true witnesses in a heartbeat. All the doubts and confusion about Revelation will disappear. You will hear God’s voice and feel His seal upon you.
I felt I had to take a break from Revelation to add in a sort of educational chapter. After reading and writing about Revelation chapter 4, I asked a number of people if it was still possible to approach God’s throne. For the most part, people didn’t want to answer, or didn’t know the answer. But a few did.
Approaching God’s throne is a personal matter. Each person has their own unique way of approaching God’s throne. Some people skip God’s throne while still meeting personally with Jesus while others grasp onto the theme in Hebrews chapter 4 telling us to, “boldly stand before God’s throne.” Let’s face it, personally talking with God and Jesus have been a rather obscure subject to say the least. Either people will agree or disagree. Few people will look at the subject of approaching God’s throne and a learning opportunity. There are a few, but that is a minority of people. An even smaller minority are those who want to share their moments at God’s throne. Those people are few and far between.
When it comes to direct communication with God, doubters go as far back as Moses. No one heard God’s voice for about 400 years. Then one day this well known figure, who could have, and should have done something about slavery in Egypt when he was next to Pharaoh’s throne shows up dressed like a common shepherd. What happened Moses? You were a prince then disappeared. Now your back here telling us God is going to free us from slavery. Why didn’t you do something about it when you were a prince?
It seems God placed Moses in a tight spot. Moses could have taken action when he was next to Pharaoh’s throne. In a sense, Moses did take action by killing a single Egyptian. That didn’t solve anything. Moses had no idea about the big picture. Maybe God had a plan to use Moses when he was in Pharaoh’s court. We have no way of knowing if Moses altered God’s plan to a certain degree. That will be interesting to find out when we get to Heaven. In the long run, God had a plan that worked. In hindsight, Moses placed himself in a tight spot.
No Israelite in Egypt heard God’s voice for over 400 years. Of course they prayed. If you were a slave, you would be praying to. But God didn’t answer. So when Moses showed up and said he talked with God, people doubted. We are still plagued with that mentality. Try sharing something new with someone who thinks they have a direct line with God. Some people have the attitude, “if God didn’t go through them with a message, that message must have come from the other side.” I’ve run into that mentality many times. I ask them how they communicate with God, and they normally shot back with a few verses about false prophets, which has nothing to do with the subject at hand. But those verses about false prophets is their man made defense mechanism they use for every circumstance they don’t agree with.
It took a few choice miracles or plagues, depending on their point of view to convince people, Moses was meeting with God and delivering messages from God. And then there was Pharaoh. The guy who knew each and every one of those Egyptian gods were fake. He thought he was in control and that God Moses talked about was as fake as the gods Pharaoh and his family made up. Pharaoh was a tough nut to crack. In his world everything outside his control was fake. People still have that mentality today.
Eventually God got Israel out of Egypt and into an environment they could mellow out and think. One day God decided to show Himself to Israel so they could believe He was real and could talk to them. Of course every Israelite that left Egypt with Moses saw all those plagues. They saw Egyptian crops being ruined as their crops flourished. They saw Egyptian cattle dying when not one of their cows or sheep showed any signs of being sick. They saw water turn to blood, hail from from the sky, frogs, locusts, and other bugs controlled by God. They should have had a firm belief in God. Something went wrong. After spending their entire lives learning how to fear every god from A to Z, that fear clung onto Israel like the chains that kept them as slaves. Since they were used to someone telling them what the gods demanded, they asked Moses to play that part as a go between themselves and God.
God offered the priesthood to every Israelite that came out of Egypt. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:6 KJV). They turned down that offer.
We see the same pattern repeated when Jesus began His ministry. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, (Luke 4:28-30 KJV).
No one seemed to hear God’s voice for a few hundred years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Once again God was silent for a time, and people just thought that pattern would continue. Or they invented new ways to make people think, God spoke to a select few in some mysterious way. So don’t ask for details, just follow their lead.
After the apostles, the same thing happened. No one seemed to hear God’s voice. It seemed the contact with the Holy Spirit Jesus promised was meant for a few choice people, and when they died, this world was left to figure things out on their own. The world grew dark and it seemed it needed a new religious leader. So a group of people got together and selected the most likely candidates God would eventually speak to. One after another was set in solitude to see if they heard God’s voice. After a number of attempts, one man came out of the room and told the committee, he heard God’s voice. That was good enough for that pious committee. They made that man their new leader and created a new religion based on the belief that God talks to one man here in earth, and the rest of the world has to follow dictates from that single man for God to bless this earth. That concept has stuck with this world ever since, and people who don’t fall in line are looked upon as outcasts or part of a cult. The devil won. He convinced the majority of this world that concept of one man between themselves and God was the only choice this world had. For some reason people read the Bible, and instead of taking God’s Word, and following God’s instructions, they decided to take the word of slaves. They decided that the choice that group of slaves made was the only choice. Scholars sipped right over God’s offer to be a nation of priests and clung onto the decision that Israel made. They convinced themselves and much of this world that Israel’s decision was somehow inspired. Reading that story the way it was written shows how Israel rebelled against God. But Satan took out the few words he needed to form a new religion, and had his agents spread it all over the world. Satan thought he had his prison door shut and locked. But God has always been at His best when it came to reaching people in prison.
Today it is rare to find people who approach God’s throne. It is rare to find people who know anything about approaching God’s throne. Or are open minded enough to learn anything about approaching God’s throne. Why is that? We just covered a few of the concepts the devil found to be effective. There are more. Take out a few choice lines in the Old Testament, add in a long speech about how God chose a few choice prophets to talk to, and you have a theology that forges the same chains that one man concept created. In the long run, the devil doesn’t want anyone to approach God’s throne, talk to Jesus, work with the Holy Spirit, or read scripture. Those are a few things the devil fears the most.
As soon as you enter God’s presence, you are in a place the devil can’t touch you. His influence is gone, and you are opening yourself to total, untainted truth. The thing is, you have to learn to put away so many thing this world has taught you. But when you approach God’s throne, you take the first step to separating truth from fiction.
I’ve talked to a number of people over the past week to get their view points on approaching God’s throne. It’s good to know God still has a number of people who will talk to Him. It may seem rather strange to think of God as feeling lonely or rejected. After all, God has billions or requests to deal with from billions of people everyday. God hears their prayers. People ask for favors, blessings, and ask God to deal with countless situations every second of every day. God knows how to deal with each of those situations. If you ever approached God’s throne, you know how God will tell you how to deal with your situation. God will give you step by step instructions you can’t argue with. If you follow those instructions, the problem is solved. The problem is, the devil is watching, and launches a hundred more attacks.
At times God will take you back a few steps to remind you how you got yourself into that mess. God is also a Teacher and Father who never wants you to repeat your mistakes. Correction from God may be a little difficult for some people to accept. That is one reason some people avoid God’s throne. You just have to learn to get over your pride.
I have may own way of approaching God’s throne. It may not be right for you, but at least you have something to think about. I look at Jesus as a way to God’s throne. To me it makes sense to cleanse myself, to make myself pure enough to approach God’s throne. After all, Aaron the high priest had to wash himself and dress in the proper way to enter the Tabernacle and to offer a sacrifice. I ask Jesus to be forgiven for my sins and to be cleansed. Then I find myself in God’s presence. Not so much to make requests, but to listen and learn. I may ask one question, then another. I may go through three or four questions before I hear a response. When I do hear a response, I know it is God’s voice. I could never second guess or argue with any of the answers God offers. They make total sense. God backs them up with stories from scripture. God’s answers are often verified by real life events that confirm His answers and messages.
There are of course as many ways to approach God’s throne as there are people. We all have our own unique personalities. One person may see God’s throne as this, another as that. When we approach God’s throne, we have respect for other people and their stories about being at God’s throne. There is no doubt about that.
The thing about books like Revelation is, people tend to get caught up with trying to figure out the future. That’s something the devil has planted in our brains. The devil wants people to believe, if they can figure out the future, that somehow draws them closer to God. That could not be further from the truth. Common sense tells us, God knows everything about the future. So why would anyone think, God wants us to figure out the future, then tell God what the future holds? That is reverse thinking. It is actually insane. All God wants is people to go to Him for answers. But this world has been trained to go to every other source but God. People have been convinced, God doesn’t talk to this world. But David tells us different story.
The one thing I ask of the LORD– the thing I seek most– is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music. Hear me as I pray, O LORD. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” (Psalms 27:4-8 NLTse).
If David could enter God’s Sanctuary, why not us? If God protected David, why not us? God does not play favorites. God can’t love one person more than another. So why does the world teach us, God favors some people over others? That doesn’t make sense when we take the Bible as a whole. It’s time to make a decision. Is your view of God based on what the world wants you to think, what the devil wants you to believe, or direct contact and communication with God? What is our source of information?