Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2 Thessalonians 2:7 Who Is The "Restrainer"?

Biblegems #95
Question: Will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the world during the Tribulation?

This question arises from a common misinterpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, which reads:
         And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.

The one who “holds back” (“hinders” — KJV) or restrains the Antichrist is neither the Holy Spirit nor human government.  The restrainer is Michael the archangel, God’s appointed protector of His covenant people, Israel. Daniel is told:        
         Dan. 12:1 At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.

This time of “great distress” is the Great Tribulation mentioned by Jesus, who uses almost exactly the same words:
         Matt. 24:21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

This unprecedented period of “great distress” (“great tribulation” — KJV) is also called the “time of Jacob’s trouble” by the prophet Jeremiah, a time when the Antichrist will seek to annihilate the Jewish people:
         Jer. 30:7 How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.

Daniel prophesied that this would occur at the time when the Antichrist establishes his capitol between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea in Jerusalem:
         Dan. 11:45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.  

According to Rev. 12:7-15, Michael and his angels permanently force Satan out of heaven in a great war in the spiritual realm. In response, Satan and his demonic horde persecute Israel, seeking to destroy her. This fierce persecution takes place during the 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:13-15).

The biblical evidence is clear: the archangel Michael has been assigned by God as Israel’s angelic bodyguard (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9).

But Michael will be “taken out of the way” by God at the time of the Great Tribulation, when the Antichrist is headquartered at the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. At that time, the Antichrist will set himself up to be worshiped as God (2 Thess. 2:4). The Jewish people who once trusted him and hailed him as a hero, will be disgusted and repulsed by this “abomination,” and will flee Jerusalem, leaving the temple and the city desolate (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). The Antichrist will be enraged and will seek to destroy Israel, and will nearly succeed (Jer. 30:7). But Israel will be rescued and the Antichrist will be overthrown at the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ (2 Thess 2:8). 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Bible & Slavery

Biblegems #94
Question: What is the Bible’s teaching about slavery?

Much of what the Old and New Testaments have to say regarding slavery is descriptive. Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world. That is not to excuse it, but to recognize that when we use the term “slavery” we may have images in mind that reflect 18th century America rather than slavery in biblical times. I encourage you to read Bible Gems #13, “Hired Hand Or Bond Slave.”

What the Bible teaches about slavery falls into three broad categories:
         • Proper relations between masters and slaves
         • Slavery as a spiritual symbol
         • A Christ-like attitude toward slavery

Proper relations between masters and slaves
When the Hebrews left their 400-year period of slavery in Egypt Moses established a system of regulations concerning slavery. Remember, God had not given any special revelation that slavery was wrong and should be discontinued. Instead, as with many institutions of this world, God chose to teach His people how to live righteously in unrighteous situations.

So, for example, if a convicted thief could not pay back his victims, the thief could be sold as a slave and the money used as restitution to the victims:
         Ex. 22:3 …A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.

Slavery in Israel was largely aimed at providing a way for someone in debt to clear his name and start fresh once the debt was paid. Such servitude was  limited to six years:
         Ex. 21:2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.

Slavery as a spiritual symbol
Jesus used the image of slavery to illustrate the power that sin has over a person—like a master over a slave—and how freedom from slavery of any kind except slavery to Christ is desireable:
         John 8:34-5 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

The apostle Paul drew on this symbol as well:
         Rom. 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

A Christ-like attitude toward slavery
The New Testament clearly depicts slavery and the slave trade as a despicable practice:
         1Tim. 1:10adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

         Believers already enslaved should seek freedom, if at all possible:
         1Cor. 7:21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

But believers need to recognize that freedom, ultimately, is not a matter of circumstance but of the heart:
         1Cor. 7:22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What Jesus Didn't Know

Biblegems #93
Question: If Jesus is God, why did Jesus not know the "day and the hour" of His Return, even though God did? Matt. 24:36

Why Jesus didn’t know the day or hour, even though God did, is a fair question. After all, God is omniscient (He knows all things), therefore Jesus—if He is God— would also be expected to be omniscient. Right?

No, not exactly.

The Scripture is clear that Jesus and God are one being:
         John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
         John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
         John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

The Scripture also makes it clear that within that unity God exists in three persons—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and that there is a one-another relationship, love and deference that goes on continually between these three persons in One God. The very verse in John that declares that Jesus (the Word) “was God” also says that “the Word was with God.” Likewise, when Jesus says in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one,” He is stating that the “One” being who is God is also a relationship between persons—the Father and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is also portrayed by Jesus as sharing in this divine union. Notice in John 14:18, when Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit, He claims to be that Spirit:
         John 14:16-18 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

When Jesus entered the human race He intentionally deprived Himself of certain divine attributes, such as omniscience and omnipresence. It was necessary that the Savior of mankind come in the sinless purity of His God nature, while at the same time be perfectly human, yet without sin.
         Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Jesus did not know the day or the hour of His Return because He intentionally surrendered His ability to know all things in order to become like us and have to depend upon God for everything. He yielded His position of equality with God so that He could identify completely with us and offer His life in exchange for sinful mankind, a perfect sacrifice:
         Phil. 2:5b-8  Christ Jesus: Who, 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. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Eating Pork

Biblegems #92
Question: Why does the OT prohibit eating pork, and how does that apply to Christians today?

The commandment prohibiting the eating of pork is found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy:
         Lev. 11:7-8 And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you (Dt. 14:6-19).        

This prohibition became a matter of ceremonial law for the Hebrew people under Moses’ leadership. It was part of a much broader classification of “clean” and “unclean” animals, as far as their potential food value was concerned.
         Lev. 11:1-3 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.

The passage goes on to give several examples of unclean anaimals (the camel, badger, rabbit and pig), and then gives similar instructions regarding clean and unclean fish and birds. God gave these dietary laws to Moses for the purpose of protecting the emerging Jewish nation from serious diseases often associated with eating the meat of animals from the “unclean” list.

Rabbits, for example, were a prime source of the tularemia disease, (rabbit fever) which spread like a plague in ancient Canaan in the 18th and 11th centuries B.C. Trichinosis (round worm) is a common malady associated with poorly cooked pork.

This division of meat products into clean and unclean categories also provided a valuable object lesson on the spiritual plane. Meats from the clean category were healthy, just as a healthy person was considered clean and an unhealthy person was considered unclean (eg. Lev. 13:8). Even so, cleanliness became a symbol of spiritual health, while sin and wickedness were identified with the spiritually unclean:
         Ps. 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Prov. 20:9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?

This idea eventually extended to seeing the Gentiles as unclean:
         Ezra 6:21 So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel.

The ceremonial laws were binding upon the nation of Israel. So when the apostle Peter had his vision on the rooftop where God commanded him to eat ceremonially unclean food, Peter’s response was understandable:
         Acts 10:14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

But the Lord used this to teach Peter, and all Christians for all time, that neither pigs, rabbits or Gentiles were to be considered ceremonially unclean anymore:
         Acts 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.

Christians are free to eat pork and, more importantly, free to eat and associate with the unsaved—as Jesus did.