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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jesus and the Jews - Part III

In Part I of this series, I addressed the Pope’s decision to alter a traditional Catholic prayer for Good Friday that speaks of the blindness of the Jews. Part II dealt with how that blindness came about, and Part III will demonstrate why the blindness was necessary and why God chose Rome to reveal this mystery to.

The Apostle Paul first addressed the blindness of Israel in his letter to the Church at Rome. This letter is significant, because it confronts the ethnic bias that the Jews in Rome experienced. While Rome was embracing its own brand of Apartheid, the letter from Apostle Paul was written as a handbook against Antisemitism. Roman-Jewish relations had gotten so bad in Acts 18, that Caesar forced the Jewish residents out of the city – 1. After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2. And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them (Acts 18:1-2).

It was no coincidence that God gave the great revelation of Romans 11 to a church which was grappling with its own perceived superiority over the Jews. He chose Rome to unfold one of the great secrets of redemption – that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all of Israel shall be saved. Apostle Paul used the book of Romans to demonstrate the position of honor given to the Jews by God:

  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16);
  • But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (Romans 2:10); and,

  • 28. For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2:28-29).[1]

Romans 11 provides us with a springboard to understand why the Jews rejected Christ and called for his crucifixion; however, we must dig a little deeper to discover why the plan of redemption required the blindness of the Jews.

The blindness of Israel goes beyond God creating a fertile environment to have Christ crucified, although that was one of the consequences. Hypothetically speaking, if we could have examined a summary of the redemption plan in advance of Christ's death, we would have recognized a potential problem: Jesus was married to Israel in the Old Testament - 14. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you (Jeremiah 3:14a) – but he intended to marry the Gentile Church in the New Testament. Without legally separating himself from his marriage, he could not have married another woman, without being considered an adulterer. He was bound by the oath of marriage that had been the tradition of men and women since the beginning – “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do us part,” or some similar variation.

When organizing his first evangelistic campaign, Jesus cautioned his disciples to steer clear of the Gentiles – 5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10: 5,6). This directive was not because the Gentiles were unrighteous, given the fact that Jesus came to redeem lost souls. It was because he was married and could not demonstrate affection towards another woman.

Interestingly enough, Paul described the power that the Law held over marriages in the same letter that he described how God blinded his bride –1. Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband (Romans 7:1-2).

In the case of Jesus, when he hung his head and yielded up the ghost, not only did his death change time to AD; not only did it give him the legal authority to go into hell and take the keys of death and hell from Satan; but it legally severed his marriage to Israel. After his death and subsequent resurrection and ascension, Jesus was entitled to marry his New Testament bride without being a polygamist and being charged with adultery.

Praise God for his wonderful plan of salvation!

[1] See Romans chapters 4 and 9-11 for more on the blessed position of the Jew.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jesus and the Jews - Part II

There has been a curious question regarding the fact that if the Jews are God’s chosen people, then why is it that they do not embrace the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The short answer to this is that God purposely blinded them according to Romans 11, which we discussed briefly in Part I of this series. Verse 25 of this chapter reveals for the first time a mystery that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles is completed - 25. For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Romans 11:25).

God has revealed that the mystery of Israel’s blindness is the redemption of the human soul – 31. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief… 32. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:30, 32). And as this revelation is unfolding to the Apostle Paul, he writes one of the most elegant tributes to God in the Scripture:

33. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? 35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Apostle Paul understood the revelation of the mystery regarding redemption and the blindness of the Jews: Their blindness was our salvation, but conversely, inherent in verse 31 is the question of what would have happened if they had not been blinded by the hand of God. It is a challenge to speculate on how God’s plan of redemption would have unfolded if things transpired differently, because certainly God would have simply altered his plan to accommodate the different events. However; hypothetically speaking in this instance, it would appear that if the Jews had not been blinded, the cascading events that led to the death of Jesus and ultimately redemption would not have happened, because the Jews would have embraced their savior and never demanded for his death.

In fact, Pilot, who may not have known that Jesus was the savior, understood that he was a just man. Consequently, he manipulated his sentencing to persuade the hostile crowd clamoring for his death to have Jesus released:

15. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18. For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. 19. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas (Matthew 27: 15-21).

In Pilot’s mind, he deduced that surely the crowd would commute Jesus’ sentence if the choice was between him and a murderer. Therefore, instead of giving them the choice between Jesus, Barabbas and the two thieves, who were ultimately crucified next to Christ, he only gave them a choice between the so called blasphemer, Jesus, and Barabbas the murderer. After the crowd inexplicably demanded that Jesus be crucified and Barrabas be released, Pilot still advocated on Jesus’ behalf, not knowing that this was the plan of God:

22. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified (Matthew 27: 22-26).

Pilot withheld offering the thieves to the people, because he figured the crowd would select one of them to be released, but after seeing that they chose a murderer over Jesus, he washed his hands of his innocent blood.

The most famous trial in world history ended with the capital punishment of an innocent man; however, the death of Christ triggered a far more vastly important event than Pilot could ever imagine – the redemption of humanity.

…to be continued

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jesus and the Jews - Part I

The ultimate query of human existence is “Where did we come from?” and until science began to develop the tools over the last century to explore this imponderable, philosophers and theologians had a monopoly on the explanation. Although there has never been a consensus on humanity’s origin, most explanations fell in one of three categories: 1) an unapproachable, omnipotent Supreme Being created the universe and everything in it; 2) existence was the result of a spontaneous, unexplainable event, to which many philosophers subscribe and more recently has occupied a branch of science called evolution and the big bang; and 3) an object of affection that one can see and touch, better known as an idol, created humans and the universe for his/her pleasure.

Perhaps my faith in the first explanation, notwithstanding that our early ancestors could not approach God, has made me cynical towards explanations two and three above. It would appear that 15 minutes of deep contemplation by reasonably intelligent people would at a minimum resolve the issue of the existence of a Supreme Being. We can debate later on just who this Supreme Being is, but to believe that life was the result of a mind bending, highly improbable, logistical coincidence that resulted in the big bang and subsequently evolution is as preposterous as the notion that a spontaneous explosion in a laboratory would result in the creation of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. And frankly the notion of an idol god creating our vast, complex universe doesn’t merit discussion.

Science may one day discover that the origin of mankind lies in Genesis chapter one – God’s spoken word. However, until it can examine this phenomenon and then prove it through a series of physics’ experiments, then this discipline will continue to arrive at unproven conjecture. I speculated in the article titled God’s Word and the Unified Field Theory that String Theory appears to be a promising hypothesis for science to come face-to-face with God Almighty. But even if science one day makes the discovery that there was an Intelligent Being behind the creation of the universe, my faith in human nature tells me that it would become the “holy grail” of closely guarded secrets in our time.

A wicked world is not prepared to promote the notion that the Holy God of Heaven is the progenitor of the human race. This would rewrite the history books and turn the world’s notion of good and evil on its head; basically the ultimate constitutional crisis.

It is easy to understand why so many are confused about who God is, because there are so many different belief systems: One religion says refrain from eating cow’s meat; another says that no female flesh should be displayed in public; another says that those who profane the Sabbath shall be cast into Hell; one worships Jesus Christ as Lord; another pays homage to Jehovah; another is devoted to Allah and still others pray to many gods. According to Religious Tolerance, a group of Canadian consultants on religious tolerance, more than half of the world’s population claim allegiance to Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. This leaves plenty of room for a confused world regarding the existence of God and his identity.

Wars have been fought over the identity of God. In fact, according to a theory developed by Harvard Professor, Samuel P. Huntington, the current conflict in the Middle East is a war over Islam’s and Western Christendom’s religious identity. In other words, it is over the identity of God. Conflicting views of who God is have dominated the religious landscape for centuries. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI decided to revise a controversial Good Friday prayer regarding Jewish conversion. When the Pope issued a declaration urging broader use of the prayer, he was criticized by the Jewish community, who claims it is offensive because it refers to the "blindness" of the Jewish people and asks that they come to acknowledge Christ and "be delivered from their darkness."

The Catholic prayer is not altogether incorrect, because the Apostle Paul advises that Israel as a nation will be blinded during the Church Dispensation:

25. For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes (Romans 11:25-28).

The timing of the Pope’s decision to alter the prayer is curious, since it has been a part of the Good Friday service since 1962. Perhaps it has as much to do with his desire to develop cordial relations with the Jewish community as it does with the influence of the Jewish lobby. Regardless whether the prayer is changed to eliminate any reference to Israel’s inability to see Jesus, the Scripture is true that Israel suffers from partial blindness.

This is one of the more profound teachings in the Scripture, because according to the Apostle Paul, it is shrouded in a mystery, and in order to comprehend it, one must receive a revelation from the Spirit of God. In the age of satellite television, Internet webcasts, MP3 downloads onto iPods and other devices, one can easily replace and mistake a daily word from one of thousands of sources for personal Bible study. However, the absolute only way to develop a deep understanding of God’s Word is to study it for yourself; that’s, of course, if you’re interested in a deep understanding of the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul discovered something commendable about the Bereans when he visited them in Acts 17: 10. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:10-11). In essence what Paul said was that it was permissible to listen to a webcast or a cable program or an MP3 download, but in addition to these convenient methods of hearing God’s Word, study the Scripture for yourself.

…to be continued

Friday, January 18, 2008

God's Word and the Unified Field Theory

In the beginning when God uttered the simple phrase “Let there be light,” he initiated a sequence of events that after six days resulted in the creation of the progenitors of the human race, Adam and Eve, along with the universe. It is easy for some to take for granted that God spoke English during creation; however, “Let there be light was not what came forth from the mouth of God. This is only an English translation of whatever it is that he said. But whatever the actual decree, it was a set of instructions that created light and gave it the characteristics that Albert Einstein discovered in the Theory of Relativity. His instruction-laden decrees resulted in the formation of the complex world we live in.

Since the dawn of civilization, medicine men, soothsayers, astrologers, philosophers, theologians and more recently, medical researchers and scientists have tried to make sense of it all. These disciplines have assaulted two fronts in their effort to discover the ‘buried treasure’ of God’s creation instruction manual: On one front, researchers have peered thousands of light years into space for clues on the origins of the universe, and on the other front, medical science has tried to unlock the secrets of the origin of human existence and other biological life-forms. Researchers have made great strides in their pursuit of understanding where humans and the world we live in came from.

In the early 1950s, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered deoxyribonucleic acid, more commonly known as DNA. This discovery gave researchers a roadmap to later understand the instructions that were laden in God’s words, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness;” and allowed them to listen to the language of God. For the first time, medical science was able to pry open God’s human creation manual and review the instructions that were used to create man. Wow!!!!!

For the twenty-five years before his death, Einstein searched for the Unified Field Theory, or the physics law that would unify all the laws of the universe. He died in 1955, at the age of 76, never achieving his final quest. Although I believe that physicists are inching toward the day when they discover that all of creation is the result of God’s spoken word, Hebrews 11 confirms our faith in Genesis – Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (Hebrews 11:3). Perhaps Einstein did not realize that the spoken word of the Almighty God unites all of the laws of physics; however, his successors may one day achieve his goal.

It may sound ridiculous to some to suggest that researchers are within grasp of discovering the physics equivalent of DNA and uncovering God’s instruction manual for the universe. However, five hundred years ago, a professor would have thought that one was bordering on insanity to suggest that humans would one day ride a mechanical ship to the moon, or be able to transplant human organs, or be able to hold a conversation with someone thousands of miles away, or any number of human discoveries and inventions over the last 100 years. A friend once told me that today’s miracles are tomorrow’s scientific discoveries.

Perhaps one day in the not to distant future, physicists will discover the illusive Unified Field Theory. And that day may be sooner than one may think with the current research that is being conducted in the field of String Theory. String Theory says that everything in the universe, all force and matter, is made from one single ingredient: groups of tiny vibrating energy known as strings. If this is so, researchers may be at the threshold of discovering that these tiny vibrating strings are the remnants of God’s voice during the creation sequence. If we consider that speech is simply vibrating sound from one’s mouth, String Theory seems like a plausible, scientific approach. However, only time will determine if this is the path towards a physics discovery that God’s word is the single ingredient for the creation of the universe.

I certainly do not mean trivialize one hundred years of scientific research by asserting that God=s spoken word is the Unified Field Theory. However, all physics laws, including those that we have yet to discover, are the offspring of the words that God spoke during the six days of creation. It is the fundamental building block of the universe. Just as Einstein=s e=mc2 unleashed the power of atomic energy, the spoken word of God unleashed the awesome creative power of God. And most importantly, He spoke the Word that manufactured the human body for our savior to occupy during his stay on earth, and thus, he wrought salvation through it. Halleluiah!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dinosaurs and the Bible

Is the creation account described in Genesis chapter 1 the basis for human existence or did we evolve in an incredible sequence of mutations as described by Charles Darwin in his Theory of Evolution? The Theory of Evolution rests on the assertion that an explosion, known as the Big Bang, occurred billions of years ago that left a few particles in the atmosphere that would over time mutate into a highly complex biological specimen that we call human. While conversely, the Genesis account rests on the fact that in the beginning God said, let there be light, and this declaration was the trigger point for six days of creation. According to the book of Hebrews, we accept this by faith – Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (Hebrews 11:3) – because there is currently no scientific method to verify Genesis 1. In fact, those who subscribe to the Big Bang must accept this on faith as well, because there is also no scientific method to prove it.

Although there are some scientific subjects that are counterintuitive, Darwinism simply does not pass the laugh-test. To believe that a primordial explosion initiated a logistical process that eventually resulted in the creation of the universes and life as we know it, would force one to believe in the blind-watchmaker. I mean the odds of a Big Bang causing life to form would be exponentially greater than the odds of an explosion in a laboratory creating the Oxford unabridged dictionary. Any reasonable scholar should understand that there is intelligence behind the design of our universe.

The reason I believe that the Big Bang and Evolution have such traction in our society is that it does provide a certain comfortable buffer between God and those who refuse to believe in him. It is a type of denial. In other words; to reject the only scientifically plausible theory that attempts to explain human existence, it would leave scientists with no explanation for existence other than Genesis chapter 1. Consequently, it is not surprising that researchers continue to view the fossil record from a traditional Darwinism perspective. Therefore, the recent discovery of a mummified dinosaur in North Dakota is hailed as a great leap forward in science’s effort to confirm that humans really did evolve from dinosaurs.

According to evolutionists, dinosaurs inhabited the earth between 248 million and 65 million years ago and eventually died out as the result of a cataclysmic event, such as an asteroid colliding with the earth. However, this logic is a challenge for Bible believers, because if one added the ages of the family members in the lineage from Adam to Jesus Christ, they’ll come up with roughly 4,000 years. And approximately 2,000 years have passed since the birth of Christ, which would put the earth at about 6,000 years.

Some Bible scholars estimate the earth to be about 12,000 – 13,000 years old with their interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8 which says, But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. It is believed by some that this scripture means that each day of creation in Genesis 1 would be the equivalent of 1,000 years. I do not subscribe to this interpretation, but it’s safe to say that whether the earth is 6,000 or 13,000 years old, according to most Christians’ belief in the Bible, the Theory of Evolution does not fit in either time frame.

Let there be light, not the Big Bang, initiated the creation sequence, which was not a mindless set of highly improbable coincidences, as the evolutionists claim. It was a perfect design where God stood at strategic points and furthered his creation objective with each succeeding declaration. Similar in scope to a self extracting computer program, each declaration unleashed a specific set of instructions which culminated into an environment which would allow intelligent life to exist on the earth.

Well if the earth is only 6,000 to 13,000 years old, then why is it that scientists claim that it is billions of years old and dinosaurs roamed it nearly 250 million ago?

This question has baffled scientists for years. Although the creation sequence took place approximately six thousand years ago, much of what God spoke into existence has the appearance of being much older than six thousand years. We can examine the creation of Adam to bring this into clearer focus: When God created Adam, he was created with the physical maturity of a young adult. I’ll arbitrarily say that Adam had the appearance of someone who was 25 years old, but 24 hours after his creation he was only one day old, and 364 days later he was one year old. This logic can also be applied to the apparent age of light, the earth and the stars: these elements of God's creation have the physical appearance of being billions of years old; notwithstanding, their actual age is approximately six thousand years old. Consequently, God created a fossil record that has the remains of what we call dinosaurs today. Did they ever live on the earth? I believe the answer is an emphatic no! Their remains simply help establish the maturity of the earth.

It is difficult to speculate why God created the universe with the appearance of being much older than it is. It is my theory that he fused millions of secrets into creation to challenge the human mind to use the processes of imagination that is innate in all of us. It is apparent to me that the purveyors of our modern society have been successful in numbing, or should I say “dumbing” our mind so that we do not use it to its full potential. The anesthesia that has been injected into our thinking has prevented many from using the greatest tool that God placed in the earth – the human mind. No wonder the great thinkers of our time pay homage to monkeys, birds and four footed beasts as being the forerunners of humans.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22).

NOTE: I have done some research on String Theory, and String Theory seems to hold promise that one day science will be able to prove that God’s word is the basis for human existence. I plan to post an article on this intriguing subject soon.