Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OT Sacrifices Under The New Covenant

Biblegems #68
Question: How much of the Old Testament are we held to regarding the sacrifices and the Ten Commandments?

Paul and Barnabas brought this very issue before the apostles in Jerusalem because many Jewish believers in Jesus insisted that Gentile believers had to conform to Jewish laws and customs (Acts 15). Should Gentile males be circumcised when they come to Christ? Should Gentile believers offer sacrifices and worship on the Sabbath?

Here is the decision by the apostles in Jerusalem, confirmed by the Holy Spirit: 
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them [the Gentiles] by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:8-11).

So the rule for all believers in Jesus is that we are not bound by the law of Moses. As the Scripture says:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

This idea of the sacrificial system, Sabbath day observance and celebration of religious holidays as being “shadows” of the reality found in Christ runs throughout the New Testament:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship (Heb. 10:1).

Even when it comes to the Ten Commandments, followers of Jesus Christ are not under the law written upon stone, but under Jesus’ new commandment to love one another (John 13:34). As Paul says in Romans:
         The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9).

But here is the crux of the matter: The law, sacrifices and ceremonies are not bad; they are just incapable of changing a sinful heart into a loving heart. Only Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit can transform a person from the inside out. Then, keeping the Ten Commandments becomes a desire, not a law.
         So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law (Gal. 3:24-25). The law, which highlighted our sin and condemned us, has been replaced in the life of the believer by the grace of God, who pardons our sins and transforms our sinful nature into a holy nature.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Jewish Temple In The Last Days?

Biblegems #67
Question: Will there be a new temple built by Jews in the Last Days? If so, will the ark of the covenant be in it?

According to Daniel 9:27, a new Jewish temple will have already been in existence, complete with animal sacrifices, by the middle of the seven year reign of the Antichrist. In fact, the verse tells us that the Antichrist will shut down the animal sacrifices after 31/2 years and that on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation.”

Jesus refers to that “abomination that causes desolation” as something “standing” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14); and the apostle Paul very specifically states that the Antichrist will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4).

So the Antichrist will set himself up to be worshiped, or a statue of himself, on a wing of the newly rebuilt temple approximately 31/2 years into his 7 year reign.

The prophet Isaiah also refers to this temple, and makes it clear that it will be constructed by the Jewish people, not as a result of God’s leading but out of their own self-will. Isaiah 66:3-4 reads:
But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in them, so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.

God is not pleased with the construction of the new temple and views the sacrifices which He has not ordained as contemptible as murder. Therefore, He allows the Antichrist to stop the sacrifices and set himself up as a god to be worshiped. This “abomination” results in the Jews revolting against the Antichrist and leaving the temple. Thus, “the abomination that causes desolation.”

As far as the ark of the covenant being re-instated in the new, or third, temple—it is highly unlikely. The ark has probably been destroyed. The reader should see Biblegems article # 16, “Where Is The Ark Of The Covenant”? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revelation 3:10 & The Rapture

Biblegems # 66

Question: Does Revelation 3:10 refer to the rapture of the Church before the Great Tribulation?

Rev. 3:10 reads, Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

This verse has been called “the watershed in the debate over the timing of the rapture.”1 I have underlined the portions that are key to its interpretation.

Rev. 3:10 is addressed to the Church of Philadelphia. The promise given is specifically to the church of Philadelphia. However, the promise makes no sense unless the Philadelphian church is seen as a type of the future Church at the time of this predicted “hour of trial” because those of John’s day would not live long enough to see that period.

The promise is conditional: “Since” you have patiently endured, then (implied) I will keep you from the hour of global trial. Those who have endured are the Philadelphian Christians. No such promise is given to the other churches in Revelation 5. In other words, not all Christians will be ‘kept from the hour of trial,’ but only that remnant that has “patiently endured.”

The word “endurance” (Gk. hupomonais) means standing firm through trouble and adversity. So the idea is that standing firm through trouble and adversity now will result in God’s keeping you from “the hour of trial” in the future.

The “hour of trial” clearly refers to a specific period of time in the future. It will be world-wide, therefore the principal of divine protection promised to the Philadelphian church would apply to the church universal at the time of this world-wide “trial.” The “hour” actually describes the beginning of the Great Tribulation, which according to Daniel 12, begins 31/2 years into the reign of the antichrist.

The word “trial” (Gk. Peirasmoun) means “testing,” which aptly describes the Tribulation, but not the Day of the Lord’s Wrath, where testing is replaced by judgment. The two events should not be confused as one.

So the expectation of the Church as it approaches the time of the Great Tribulation, based on the cause and effect promise given to the church of Philadelphia, is that some believers, those who “patiently endure” the period just prior to the Tribulation (i.e., the first 31/2 years of the antichrist’s 7 year reign), will be kept from that “hour of trial.” They will be “kept” by God from experiencing that last 31/2 years known as the Great Tribulation.

This is not the Rapture, because it does not include the whole Church, but represents God’s protection of a remnant within His Church. Remember Jesus’ warning to those believers who are alive during the Tribulation to hide in the mountains when the antichrist sets up his image in the temple at Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15-21). Those who have been anticipating this terrible climax of human history and flee into hiding when they see the antichrist set himself up as a god may be among those whom God keeps “from the hour of trial.” They have been watching, enduring and preparing for that very day.

1 Rosenthal, Marvin. The Pre-Wrath Rapture Of The Church, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. 1990, pg. 238

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Explaining The Trinity

Biblegems #65

Question: How can the concept of the Trinity be explained in a way that is both clear and biblically sound?

What a great Christmas season question!

Explaining the Trinity has vexed the Church from the beginning, not because it is unbiblical but because it is too easy to misrepresent the Trinity by using poor examples and analogies.

The Bible clearly states that there is one God (Dt. 6:4) who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all share the same divine nature, yet they are three distinct persons who communicate with each other:
         Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness

Jesus is one with the Father, yet a distinct person:
         John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

The Spirit is a person and one with God in His holy nature:
         John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Examples of misrepresenting the Trinity incude:
• God the Father created Jesus; the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force or power.
• The Trinity is actually three separate Gods.
• God took on the role of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. An example sometimes used is that of water taking on the alternate forms of ice or steam.
• God and Jesus are the same person, just perceived sometimes as the Son and other times as the Father.

Perhaps the best analogy for the Trinity has been supplied by God Himself in the creation of man as a triune being. It is still not a perfect analogy, but then again, there is nothing else in all existence that perfectly compares to God. According to the Bible, man was created in the image of God as a three-fold being: body, soul and spirit. The soul is conscious life that animates the body (Gen. 2:7); the spirit gives him understanding and a connection to God beyond that of other living beings:
Job 32:8 But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.

I can point to my face and say, “This is me; my name is Paul.” I am carrying out the action of a living soul, pointing to the body inhabited by that soul and expressing a basic spiritual understanding of my existence in the world. My body, soul and spirit all belong to my one nature (human being), yet are also three distinct entities in that one nature.

God in His essential nature has no body. He is, by definition, spirit (Jn. 4:24). The miracle of Christmas is that —
Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with
God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking
the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
(Phil 2:6-7).