February 23, 2015
Generally, in each letter, Jesus gives the church a commendation and an area for improvement. He tells them how they will be judged if they don’t improve, and ends the letter with a promise of reward to the “overcomers”. When examined in the order presented, I believe the letters outline the history of the Church in advance.
We looked at the first two letters last time, and noted how Satan unsuccessfully attempted to destroy Christianity through intimidation, false doctrine, and physical persecution. These two letters conform with the first 300 years of Christianity – from the time of Jesus’ Resurrection, through the 3rd century A.D. In this post, we will examine the third letter that was sent to the church in Pergamos and see how Satan used the next weapon in his arsenal – the Mystics.
In the letter, Jesus commended the church for “holding fast to His name” even though they were in close proximity to Satan’s earthly seat of power. However, he noted that some of them embraced the “doctrine of Balaam”. Balaam was a prophet during the time of the Law who betrayed God and compromised with the world for money and power.
Jesus also accused them of holding the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (who we identified in the last post as Mystics). It looks like the false prophets that were rejected by the Ephesian church in the first letter were embraced by Pergamos.
So it would seem that the problem Pergamos had was compromise with Mystics. Interestingly, the name Pergamos is translated as “undesirable marriage”. Pergamos is the church that “married” the world. Historically, Pergamos corresponds with the “Medieval Church” – from the 4th century through the 9th century A.D.
How did the Church go from being the object of persecution by the world to being its partner? It all started with and very interesting Roman Emperor named Constantine.
The Roman Empire reached its zenith during the second century, after which it began to decline due to internal corruption, a lack of national cohesion due to an influx of disparate cultures, an unsustainable economy, over taxation, bloated government bureaucracy, and external threats from barbaric zealots in other countries who despised the Romans for their lavish lifestyle. All the while, the Roman citizens were too intoxicated by their largess, entertainment, and perceived invincibility to care. (Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?)
In 312 AD, before the Battle of Milvian Bridge where Constantine would stage his final campaign against a rival emperor, Constantine claimed the he saw the sign of the Cross and the words “in this sign conquer”. He won the battle, united the empire, and consolidated his power.
This event allegedly led to Constantine becoming a Christian. As such, he enacted several unprecedented reforms. He legalized Christianity and ended the persecutions. He favored Christians at court, gave Christian leaders prominent positions in the government, and convened the Council of Nicaea. He also forbade work on Sundays (which was a big deal for the many slaves in the empire,) and had many significant church edifices built – including the “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” at the purported site of Jesus’ tomb.
Additionally (and significantly) Constantine named himself the head of the Church as its chief pontiff (priest) or “Pontifex Maximus” (emperors are not generally known for their humility).
The reign of Constantine definitely brought a great deal of relief to the early Church and drastically improved their lives, but there are valid reasons to question the veracity of his conversion.
Constantine didn’t just legalize Christianity; he legalized ALL the religions of the various cultures in Rome. Also, the title of Pontifex Maximus was claimed by previous Roman Emperors not only as the head of the pagan priesthood, but as a “god” above all the other gods!
Many historians (Christian and secular) believe that Constantine was a very savvy politician who saw religious tolerance as a way to ease the tensions and bring unity to the fractured empire. He likely found Christianity to be the most tolerable and least offensive faith to openly embrace due to the piety and humility of its followers – and the fact that the population of Christians in the empire was growing rapidly.
Whatever his reasons, Constantine’s rule allowed Christians to come out of the catacombs and enjoy a heretofore unprecedented level of social acceptance. Unfortunately, the seeds of compromise had been sowed and would quickly grow into corruption.
In the letter to Pergamos, Jesus said they dwelled where “Satan’s throne” was. As we’ve seen before, Satan and his minions are the spiritual force behind the world’s governments, and Pergamos was briefly the Roman capital in Asia Minor. And wherever Satan’s seat of power happens to be (or any seat of power for that matter), you can be sure to find the Mystics.
Mystics always follow the power. Semaramis first cultivated the mystics when Nimrod ruled the world in the 3rd Dispensation. They created the original pagan pantheon of “gods” – Nimrod, Semaramis, and their son Tammuz.
When the power moved to the Egyptian Empire, so did the Mystics, and the pantheon was renamed Osiris, Isis, and Horus to fit the culture. When Assyria, Babylon, and Persia took power, the Mystics went there and the pantheon took on the names Dagon, Baal, Molech, Astarte, Ishtar, Zororaster, etc. With the Greek empire, the migrating Mystics changed the pantheon to Zeus, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and others. When the Mystics followed the power to Rome, the gods became Jupiter, Venus, and the Roman pantheon.
In each case, the Mystics would absorb some of the native mythology and culture into their dogma, but they would always keep and promote some version of the king/father (Nimrod), the queen/mother-goddess (Semaramis), and their divine offspring (Tammuz) as a key part of their doctrine.
After Constantine died, his immediate successors went back and forth between embracing his edicts on Christianity and trying to overturn them. But it was his fourth successor Theodosius who made the marriage between the Church and the world complete.
In 380 AD, Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of Rome and outlawed all pagan worship as heretical. This presented the Church leaders with opportunities and problems. After centuries of being persecuted outcasts, the church now had the power of the Roman throne behind them!
However Theodosius’ decrees resulted in church buildings being flooded with throngs of unrepentant pagans and mystics who were forced to tacitly accept Christianity under penalty of law.
How would church leaders deal with their new “members”, many of whom were openly hostile to Christianity and had no desire to give up paganism? As expected, the Mystics used this situation as a means to ingratiate themselves with the new, powerful Church through religious compromise.
The Mystics advised the church leaders to simply adopt their operational method of assimilation – nominally merging Christianity with paganism by clothing the pagan gods and practices in Christian trappings!
The idea was that this would make the transition to Christianity easier for the pagans. And eventually, as they became true converts and fully adopted Christianity, the pagan elements could be eliminated.
Thus Nimrod, Semaramis, and Tammuz became the primary “Christian” pantheon of “God the father”, “The Virgin Mary” (the holy mother), and “Jesus” the divine son!
The various and sundry pagan gods of harvest, luck, strength, love, protection, and whatnot, became “saints”, such as Peter, Paul, John, Thomas, and whoever else the Mystics decided to throw in.
The various pagan ceremonies and festivals were also “Christianized”. One such festival that exemplifies this merger is the celebration we call Christmas, which is a Christianized version of the popular pagan holiday centered on the sun god who was contemporarily known as “Sol Invictus” (basically Nimrod again).
At the time of the winter solstice (December 21st) the Sun was at its lowest point in the daytime sky. It would stay at this low level for three more days, and then began to rise gradually until it reached it highest point at the summer solstice. The pagan tradition is that the sun “died” on the 21st, stayed dead for three days, then “god’s sun” was reborn on December 25th.
Its pretty easy to see how this was adopted by the church by replacing “Sun” with “Son”. And the celebration became a mass for Christ (or Christ-mass). One popular pagan tradition from this celebration was to take a large log called the Yule (the ancient Chaldean word for “child”) and burn it in a fireplace on December 21st, let the ashes lay there for three days, and then replace the log with an evergreen tree decked with gold and silver to celebrate life (sound familiar?). Here’s what God thinks of that practice. And as expected, many of our other Christmas traditions such as mistletoe, wreaths, gift exchanges, etc. are also from paganism.
Never mind that Christians were never told to commemorate Jesus’ birth, and He clearly was not born in December (He would have frozen to death in a barn in the middle of winter in Judea).
For some festivals, they didn’t even bother changing the name. The spring sex and fertility rites of Ishtar (Semaramis), complete with the fertility symbols of rabbits and eggs, were grafted in to the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection. Easter is the slightly transliterated name of Ishtar.
But why would the church leaders voluntarily go along with such a blatant corruption of their faith? They became comfortable with their new position!
They enjoyed not being persecuted (who wouldn’t), but more pertinently, they began to love and covet their newly gained power and were willing to compromise themselves to avoid losing it!
The reason that the church grew and flourished during the persecutions is because they were forced by circumstance to rely completely on God for their day to day survival and sustenance. They didn’t cling to their earthly lives, because there was nothing appealing about it. So they focused on God and the true Meaning of Life. However as they gained status in the empire, they no longer needed God’s constant protection and provision, and their earthly lives became pleasurable.
Man’s nature and tendency toward comparative thinking eventually led the Church away from God and into the waiting arms of the Mystics. The Mystics enthralled the Church leaders into playing a game in which they were thoroughly outmatched. Over the centuries, the Mystics had perfected the art and strategy of conquest through infiltration. The church leaders didn’t stand a chance.
There is no compromise with evil that can result in good. The Mystics knew this. The Christians didn’t. The Mystics knew that once introduced, the corruption wouldn’t be eliminated; just the opposite – it would fester and grow until it infected the very fabric of Church doctrine and became entrenched in church tradition (raise your hand if you put up a Christmas tree last year).
As is their method, once the Mystics gained a foothold in the Church, they began to dominate it. The pagan mystics of Rome became the priests, bishops, and cardinals of the church. Sure they replaced some of their pagan symbols with crosses, nominal invoked the name of Jesus in their rituals, and put halos and angel’s wings on their idols, but for all intents and purposes they essentially continued practicing the mysticism of ancient Babel as they had done since the days of Nimrod and Semaramis.
And thus “Christianity” became a religion. In case it hasn’t become clear, the religion I am referring to is what became known as Roman Catholicism.
Catholicism is the blend of Christian doctrine and pagan practices that began with Constantine and endures to this day. The religion of Catholicism pretty much epitomizes everything I’ve written about Religion and Mystics in this blog (I told you this post would be controversial!)
The Church at Pergamos was commended for holding on to Christ in spite of their proximity to Satan’s throne. But the corruption that had taken hold in the Church grew exponentially until it became the gargantuan, mystic-driven, pseudo-Christian theocracy that would come to dominate most of the world for over a millennium.
In the next post, we will look at the fourth letter from Jesus written to the Church at Thyatira, which chronicles the rule of the “Christian Mystics”. We will explore the far reaching impact on the world and the Church, and why this organization will endure through the end of the 6th Dispensation… and is promised a terrible fate. Next time.
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
January 30, 2015
In this post, we begin looking at the history of the Church from a very special perspective.
In the 6th Dispensation, the Church is being sanctified in order to be a worthy bride. A big part of that sanctification is living by grace.
In addition to direct influence of the Holy Spirit, a significant aspect of Grace is the guidance that the Church gets from the Bible itself – particularly the epistles (or letters) written by the Apostles (those who had direct physical contact with Jesus) that comprise most of what we call the New Testament.
Seven of the most interesting and impactful “epistles” are found in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. These short epistles stand out for two significant reasons.
The first (and most important) is that they come from Jesus Himself! (It would make sense that Jesus would provide direct guidance for since He has a vested interest in the sanctification of His Bride).
The first thing he was told to write was the seven letters to seven Churches in seven cities is Asia Minor (present day Turkey).
The letters are addressed to the first century churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
These were actual cities that existed during John’s time, and they each had unique challenges and opportunities which Jesus addressed in each of His letters to them. In each letter, Jesus told the Church:
- What they were doing well (if anything)
- Where they needed to improve
- How they will be judged if they don’t improve
- How they will be rewarded if they either improve, or continue to do well
The second reason that the letters are so provocative is because if viewed in the order written, they outline the entire history of the church in advance! From the Apostolic age to the end of the 6th dispensation!
This is the perspective from which we will examine Church history over the next few posts.
In His letter to the Ephesian Church, Jesus commends their hard work in His name, their intolerance of evil, and their adherence to Biblical doctrine in the face of false teachers.
Historically, this letter signifies the “Apostolic Church” – the Church that existed immediately after the advent of the Redeemer in the 1st and 2nd centuries.
When Jesus ascended to Heaven after the resurrection, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit down to empower his disciples to do His work – and He did, in a BIG way!
The things they said, did, and wrote formed much of the basis of Christian doctrine, discipleship, and worldview which endured to this day.
Of course Satan wasn’t very pleased with this development since his goal was to thwart Christianity. So he went to his usual bag of tricks in an attempt to stop the growth of the nascent Church
He started by trying to eliminate the Apostles through the same Jewish leaders who conspired against Jesus during His earthly ministry.
But their plans thoroughly backfired. The strife they caused only made the Church grow faster and the Apostle grow bolder.
Worse yet, one of the more preeminent young Pharisees of the day became arguably the most influential Apostle of them all!
After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, persecuter of Christians, became Paul the Apostle, and used his incredible intellectual prowess to pen profound doctrinal treatise that came to make up most of the New Testament.
With this failure, Satan tuned to his next traditional tactic, corruption and compromise.
Almost immediately after Christianity began to take hold. False doctrines were introduced to corrupt the message of Jesus and Salvation. Several of the Apostolic Epistles were written for the primary purpose of correcting heretical teachings that had crept into the Churches, such as the idea that Christians were still bound by the Law, or the blending of Christianity and pagan mysticism.
Interestingly, Paul warned the Church at Ephesus about the advent of those who would bring corrupt doctrine into the Church some 40 years before Jesus’ letter in Revelation.
Apparently the Ephesians took Paul’s warning to heart because Jesus told them that they did a great job of sussing out false teachers! However, Jesus admonished the early Church for “leaving their first love”. He instructed them to remember, repent, and do the “first works”.
The term “first love” in this context refers to the emotion and exuberance we feel when we first “fall in love”. The first and greatest commandment is to love God completely. Also the primary command of Jesus to the Apostles was to go and make disciples of all men.
It would seem that the issue Jesus had with the Ephesians was that they were so focused on fighting evil and getting doctrine right that they neglected devotional time with God and worship of God, as well as disciple new Christians.
Or as one Bible commentator put is, “they were so busy doing the business of the King, they made no time for the King!”
The next letter was to the Church as Smyrna. Jesus commended them for enduring persecution and poverty. He had no admonishments for them, but warned them that their suffering would continue. However if they remained faithful, they would be rewarded.
Historically, this is the Church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Thus the 2nd and 3rd centuries were a time of intense physical persecution for the Church as successive Roman Emperors attempted to exterminate Christianity and its claim to One True God (as opposed to the many gods of pagan Rome – including the deified Emperors themselves!)
Christians were denied citizenship and any type of legal protection. Their very existence was a violation of law and they were subjected to brutal torture and death if they refused to denounce their faith.
But even when driven underground into the catacombs of Rome and the wilderness on the outskirts of the empire, Christianity continued to grow. In fact, the more furious the persecution, the faster the Church grew as they were forced to focus more and more on God for daily provision and survival!
It got to the point that the population of the Church was so large, persecution and imprisonment became impractical for the empire!
There is one more thing we need to cover before we move on to the next letter. As a postscript to the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus commends them for rejecting the hated doctrine of the “Nicolaitans”. The Nicolaitans are something of a mystery since the term does not seem to be a formal name as much as a description.
The root words in the Greek imply “those who rule over the people”. It’s been theorized that this referred to false teachers who used their religious influence to dominate the lives of their followers “in the name of Jesus”.
If true, then the Nicolaitans were probably “Gnostics”. Gnostics were local mystics who (in typical fashion) claimed to have special, hidden knowledge that God gave only to them. This knowledge consisted of a variety of odd, often contradictory doctrines consisting of denying the physical incarnation of Jesus (He was basically a holy hologram), worshiping angels, teaching that Jesus was just a man who father a bunch of children, and completely rejecting the material world (not sure how you effectively do that, short of suicide or becoming an environmentalist).
They also claim to have “found” hidden epistles that contradicted the Bible, allegedly written by assorted disciples and followers such as Thomas, Philip, Judas, and Mary Magdalene. Never mind the fact all of these “epistles” have been dated several decades after the death of the author. The fact that they claim one was written by Judas – who betrayed Jesus and killed himself immediately after – demonstrates a special level of lunacy.
Again, to their credit, the early church for the most part rejected this nonsense, but it’s important to bring it up here because subsequent letters show that later churches would accept and embrace the Nicolaitans, giving mystics an irrevocable foothold in the Church. Speaking of which…
With the failure of the Mystics of Force, Satan turned to the Mystics of Spirit to defeat the Church. In the next post, we will explore the next phase of Church history and learn how the Mystics of Spirit were MUCH more effective than their counterparts in damaging and corrupting the Church, and have in fact proven to be a dominant force in the ultimate failure of the 6th Dispensation.
The next two posts will hit close to home for many and will probably be the most controversial and inflammatory entires on this blog. I can hardly wait…
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
January 5, 2015
In the 6th Dispensation, those who choose to accept the gift of Salvation are given a new heart which can be influenced and guided by the Holy Spirit to be always and completely right and just. This influence is called Grace. The group of people who intentionally strive to live by grace are referred to in the Bible as “The Church”.
The term “Church” is first used by Jesus (in the future tense) as something He would build on the “rock” (or foundation) of declared belief in Him as the Redeemer. “Church” is translated from the Greek term “ecclesia”, which means to be “called out” [chosen and separated for a special purpose].
The Church is referred to as a “mystery” by the Apostle Paul (who wrote most of the New Testament). But not in the sense in which we currently use the term (something that is unknown). The Greek term used by Paul is “mustérion” which is a reference to something previously hidden that is being divinely revealed.
From the standpoint of the Dispensations, the overarching “mystery” is the seed plot of history – that God literally planted the seed that would result in His plan being fulfilled as a part of the judgments rendered after the failure of the 1st Dispensation. When God said that the “seed of the woman” would be the undoing of Satan’s claim on humanity, He gave the first hints of that mystery which has been carried through the entire Biblical narrative of redemption.
So what specifically is the “mystery” about the Church that was able to be revealed after the Redeemer completed His work? And what is it “called out” to be?
Paul makes it clear in the above referenced verse that the mystery he’s revealing is that marriage is a reflection of the Meaning of Life, and that the Church is the Bride of Christ! This essentially completes the loop I started when I first mentioned that the Meaning of Life is marriage!
The institution of marriage is vitally important to God because it is the divine dress rehearsal for the eternity that He intended for man to have with Him.
Unfortunately, the current process and institution of marriage bears little to no resemblance to the one originally ordained by God (and in some cases, its not even close). As such, it would be extremely useful and revelatory to take a look at the ancient Jewish wedding process and see how it relates to the Church.
The following is an excerpt from the Koinonia House website:
The first step, the Ketubah, or Betrothal, was the establishment of the marriage covenant, usually when the prospective bridegroom took the initiative and negotiated the price (mohair) he must pay to purchase her.
Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified – set apart – exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the father of the groom arranged gifts to be given to the bride which was symbolic of a promise providing a legal tie between the two.
After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father’s house, where he remained separated from his bride for approximately 12 months. This afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and prepare for married life.
During this period of separation, the groom prepared a dwelling place in his father’s house to which he would later bring his bride. At the end of the period of separation, the bridegroom came – usually at night – to take his bride to live with him… Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming. As a result, the groom’s arrival was preceded by a shout, which announced her imminent departure to be gathered with him.
There are several more stages in the wedding process that relate to Christ and the Church on the above referenced web site, and we will explore them as we get closer to a discussion of the 7th Dispensation, but for now, let’s look at how the above relates to the Church.
But like any bride, the populace of the 6th Dispensation must agree to accept the Bridegroom’s “proposal”. (and that proposal is available to EVERYONE).
The Church is referred to as being in a state of sanctification (set aside and being prepared to the Groom). Once salvation is accepted, the Holy Spirit endows every believer with spiritual gifts that are meant to edify the church and further enhance the sanctification (I’m pretty sure my gift is flippancy).
This is the PRIMARY purpose of the Church’s existence in the world – to grow in grace, and become more right and just. Why? Because it is essentially training for what the Church will do for eternity in Heaven, AND it earns us rewards!
This topic is important enough to merit some additional exposition:
If you break it down, Jesus had two primary messages when He addressed people while on earth: salvation and reward. Reward statements are generally in an “if-then” format – If you do this, then that will happen.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ first and longest teaching. The sermon is a thorough exposition on the Law – explaining the “whys” behind the commandments. It also addresses all the different types of reward messages. Jesus spoke of how to get good rewards, how to maximize good rewards, how spiritual rewards are better than earthly ones, how to avoid bad rewards, and how not to lose your reward.
If you look as Jesus’ subsequent public teachings (parables etc.) they are all centered on reward (value and profitability), or salvation (life, everlasting life). It’s important to keep in mind that while these two messages are related, they are distinct in very important ways. The good works that you do to earn rewards do NOT save you – Jesus never equates them with salvation/everlasting life, but they increase the amount of value the you will have in heaven.
Why did Jesus focus on these two topics? Because to Him, spiritual inheritance (getting everlasting life in Heaven and the reward when we get there) are far more important than our physical predicaments on earth!
The few decades we spend in these mortal bodies are inconsequential when compared to eternity, so of course Jesus would spend most of His time teaching about them! Thus it also makes sense that people who consider earth to be their main home would interpret Jesus’ message in a way that makes transitory earthly matters of primary importance (love, tolerance, social justice etc). Jesus only concerned Himself with earthly matters to the degree that they increased the value we would have in Heaven (rewards).
Lastly, Jesus made it clear that when He departed for Heaven after the resurrection, He was going to His “Father’s House” to prepare a dwelling place for the Church, and at some point in the future, He will return (unexpectedly) to take his bride with Him. The idea of Christ sudden and unexpected return for His bride comprises perhaps the most controversial (and frankly preposterous) doctrine in Christianity – “the Rapture”. In fact, the only thing it has going for it is that it’s clearly promised in the Bible, so its absolutely true!
Will examine the Rapture when we look at the end of this dispensation, but before we do that, we need to take a more detailed look at the sanctification process. The vast majority of the New Testament (the epistles of Paul and the Apostles) give in-depth teaching to edify and sanctify the Church. But there are seven short and very impactful “epistles” that are often and tragically overlooked. Tragic because they are authored by Jesus Himself AND because they give us an outline of the entire 2000-plus year history of the Church!
Beginning with the next post, we will examine the history of the Church with the “Epistles of Jesus” as our guide.
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
December 15, 2014
The dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for man is right, by allowing mankind the opportunity to choose to be Godly on their own. In the first three dispensations God allow men fairly free reign during periods of complete innocence, vast knowledge, and full cooperation. Each time mankind chose themselves over God by thinking comparatively. Furthermore, each dispensation resulted in men becoming more evil!
In the 4th and 5th Dispensations, God provided progressive guidance though earthly representatives and by giving them His Law, culminating in the advent of a divine Redeemer. Again men choose themselves over God by rejecting (and ignoring) the guidance.
Since in the previous two dispensations God gave men guidance through external sources, the next just and logical step would be to make that guidance intimate and internal.
The 6th Dispensation asks the question: What if God’s presence was housed inside us, and gave us day by day guidance on how to be like Him? Would we choose God over ourselves?
Its an intriguing proposition, and its one of the many ways that this dispensation is so special and unique. But how would this work? How does God presence get “inside” us (and how much space does He need?)
It all starts with Salvation.
When a person’s “gets saved”, it’s not a one-way proposition. When the decision to accept the gift of redemption is made, God doesn’t just give a wink and a thumbs-up. God begins the work of actively changing your entire life!
Like the brain, the physical heart has neural connections that make it function like a “mini-brain”. Your heart has its own independent nervous system consisting of over 30,000 neurons.. Like the unconscious brain, the heart is part of the body that can respond and make decisions based on intuition and feelings.
But its effects on us are more primal and less influenced by the things that can affect our conscious minds. The heart is much more binary. You can fake all kinds of things with your conscious brain, but you can’t fool the heart. Whatever is true about you flows from your heart. That’s why in salvation, God is much more concerned with what you believe in your heart than in your mind.
The problem is that before salvation, man’s heart is evil! It reflects the fact that man is not always and completely right and just. That heart rejects the Godly thought process (contrastive thinking and growth) and embraces destructive thoughts (comparative thinking and comfort). Fortunately man has free will and can choose to act outside of his nature.
Accepting redemption is an act of free will. But even with that acceptance God knows that is would be a losing battle to try to influence through our old heart, and He certainly can’t dwell there – so He gives us a new one!
Of course I’m not speaking of replacing the physical organ (becoming a Christina does not require major surgery), I’m speaking of the spiritual housing of the heart – the part that affects and is affected by our thought process. This new heart can hear from God and can be influenced by God
This is the definition of grace – the Divine influence on the heart and its reflection in life.
The 6th Dispensation is unique in that it is a direct conduit to the meaning of life. How is it connected to the meaning of life? Remember, in order to be with God, we have to be like God. The only “man” who has ever managed to be like God is Jesus during his earthly incarnation. How? He lived by grace! He ONLY did what God told him to do. This is how he was fully man and fully God. The sixth dispensation gives us all that same opportunity!
The Problem is we get all kinds of inner notions and urges influencing us constantly. Sure we get a new heart through salvation, but the rest of us (specifically our minds) are still under Adam’s curse. We are still not always and completely right and just in our nature. So how do you know if it’s God’s influence that we are hearing?
Unsaved man is influenced by three sources, the “World”, the “Flesh”, and the “Devil. Two are external (world and devil) the other is internal (flesh). All three sources have two things in common – they all oppose God, and they are all “loud” (they all influence us aggressively).
The “voice” of the World focuses you on the pursuit of external things to replace God in your life. The World steers you toward comfort, self-justification, religion, and conformity. The World is the system that wants to deny uniqueness and get you to embrace a Godless Eden.
The Flesh is the enemy within. Is our human nature that is the polar opposite of Godly thinking. The Flesh wants us to be comparative, which is the source of pride, fear, and evil.
The Devil is the demonic influence (“devil” is from the Greek “diabolos” which means “one who hurls thing at you” In the Biblical context, it is translated as “Accuser”). The Devil’s goal is destruction in long term. The devil works in the opposite manner to God. The Devil is constantly hurling seductive/destructive thoughts at your Flesh (as opposed to the heart), which you must make the moment-by-moment choice to accept or reject. Whenever an evil, destructive thought enters you mind and you think “where did that come from?” It was probably the Devil.
But, when you get saved a fourth influence is added – the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would live in the hearts of believers! The influence of the Spirit is focused on growth and faith, through contrastive thinking. The voice of the Spirit is the most difficult to hear. The Spirit speaks in a quiet, still, small voice. If the world pulls at you, the flesh yells at you, and the devil jabs you; the Spirit gives you a gentle nudge.
But why does God, the most powerful force of them all, choose to be so subtle?
Because he wants us to choose him! He wants us to love him – and that takes effort! Unlike the other influences that bombard us constantly and consistently, we have to be intentional to hear from God. We have to actively seek Him and intentionally block out the other voices. We have to pursue God. He wants us to love him enough to sacrifice our comforts, our lusts, and our natural desire to prosper without him.
1. Its a reasonable response to the sacrifice of redemption. Salvation is offered freely, but it wasn’t free. Jesus paid the price, and to live the redemptive life justly requires effort on our part.
2. The meaning of life requires it! Remember, the meaning of life is marriage. Jesus didn’t just come to save mankind, he came to redeem a bride! And he naturally wants a bride who wants Him and loves Him enough to be conformed to His image. His bride must be like Him – always and completely right and just.
And that’s the whole purpose of the 6th Dispensation, to find a bride for Christ!
This Bride consists of a group of people who are willing to accept His redemption, and intentionally and consistently allow themselves to be conformed to His image by heeding the voice of grace and be transformed into unique individuals who flourish in their individual greatness, adding the value of that greatness to the overall body of believers, thus creating a Bride worthy of God’s Son.
(Grace is personal, the guidance given to each person while always and completely right and just, also guides them to be the royal image bearer that was lost when Adam fell.)
This group of believers who are to be the Bride is called “the Church”.
If the 6th Dispensation were to be a success, the Church would be completely sanctified and conformed to Christ by obeying the voice of the Spirit completely.
However, logically, we know that this dispensation will fail like all the rest. But since we’re still in it, we don’t have the benefit of history to tell us exactly how and when it will end as we had with the other dispensations.
However we have enough knowledge of the dispensational pattern to take a theoretical stab at it. If success is tied to the Church hearing and obeying God’s voice, then failure would be the opposite -to ignore His voice.
But it has to be more than that. Dispensational failure means choosing ourselves over God. So then, in line with that pattern, this dispensation will fail when the Church chooses to be guided by ITS OWN voice instead of God’s!
I’ll address HOW this can happen in an upcoming post. As to WHEN this failure happens. . . I would contend that it ALREADY HAS!
Obviously that is a VERY provocative position that I’ll need to back up, and I will do that in an upcoming post as well.
But before we go there, we need to take a deeper look at this unique and mysterious entity called the Church. What is it? What are its origins? What is its purpose? Why does Jesus consider it his Bride? And what has it been doing the last 2000 years? We begin examining these questions next time.
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
November 24, 2014
The 5th Dispensation failed because the Jewish leadership failed to recognize and accept Jesus as their Messiah, despite the enormous evidence that that proved Jesus was the ONLY person who could be the Redeemer.
As with the previous dispensations, the failure was due to the people choosing themselves over God – specifically, they chose the version of the Messiah that THEY wanted, as opposed to the one God actually sent.
But what if the Jews HAD accepted Jesus? This question is interesting for a couple reasons. First, the aftermath of a successful 5th Dispensation would have been unique due to the promises God made to Israel. And secondly, the end of this dispensation will greatly impact the future, as we’ll see later in this post.
Before we get to the answer, we need to revisit some background information. In the 4th Dispensation, God made an unconditional, unbreakable promise to Abraham (the father of the Jews and Israel) that He would make them a great nation and that all the nations of the world would be blessed through them.
That promise was amplified later in the 5th Dispensation through Old Testament prophets who foretold that the Messiah would set up a world-wide kingdom and would rule the nations from Jerusalem.
But this Kingdom would be preceded by God judging, punishing, and generally going all “Old Testament” on the enemies of Israel (I acknowledge that this may be the first appropriate usage of that term).
And this is what the Pharisees were looking for from their Messiah – a Jewish Super hero who would make all their jingoistic fantasies a reality. And their desires weren’t illegitimate! Just ill timed.
In fact, Jesus began His ministry by quoting this Messianic prophesy from Isaiah 6:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me, To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God;
Except He stopped at the last comma and closed the book. He left off the part about “The day of vengeance of our God”! Or more accurately, He postponed it since the first part of His ministry was to fulfill the law and die unjustly to redeem mankind.
So what would have happened if the Jewish leadership had been contrastive and recognized their Messiah?
First of all, they would have accepted Him as King when He presented Himself as such on the exact day prophesized. His unjust execution would then have likely been initiated by the Romans (who wouldn’t have looked favorably on someone elevating Himself above Caesar) instead of the Jews.
And while they would have been distraught by the brutality of His death, they would have anxiously awaited His resurrection on the third day. The risen Jesus would have presented Himself in the Temple for all of Israel to see (the people would have still been in Jerusalem for spring feasts), and the Jews would have believed on Him and accepted salvation.
Then the entire gentile world would have likely heard this voice coming from heaven. Followed by righteous Judgment raining down upon the enemies of Israel, as well as Satan and his minions for 7 years.
Finally, the long awaited Kingdom would commence with the Jews ruling alongside Jesus.
But as we know, this didn’t happen. Worse, by rejecting their Messiah, the Jews opened themselves up to the curses that God pronounced would occur if they ultimately rejected Him. Jesus cried in despair for His people knowing the horrors and misfortunes that they would have to endure throughout their history as a result of their failure to recognize the Redeemer
Moreover, because they intentionally refused to see the evidence that was staring them in the face for hundreds of years, God justly blinded them to the knowledge they rejected.
[Note: the blindness pronounced by Jesus was a “corporate” curse on national Israel. Individual Jews could obviously be saved since the Jews were almost exclusively the only Christians for several years after Jesus’ resurrection.]
But while the failure of the 5th Dispensation was a tragedy for first-century Israel, it was a boon to the rest of us, because we have the opportunity to fill in the gap. What “gap” you ask?
Allow me to explain:
You see, the aforementioned prophesy in Daniel 9: 24-27 not only gave the exact date of Jesus’ presentation as the Redeemer, it gives timing of the end of the reign of sin and evil in the world!
The prophesy basically said that everything would be wrapped up in 490 years (70 “weeks of years”). As we’ve seen, Jesus presented Himself as Redeemer/Messiah/King after 483 years (69 “weeks of years”). That just leaves 7 years (one week of years) yet to be fulfilled.
But Daniel 9:26 shows that there is an indeterminate gap of time between the 69th week and the 70th week, wherein certain things happened including the crucifixion and resurrection, as well as the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. (so we know the gap was at least 40 years since the 69th week ended around 30 A.D.)
Now, if the 5th Dispensation had been successful, the gap would have been much shorter – primarily encompassing Christ’s death and resurrection (and probably not the destruction of the temple). However because that dispensation failed, God had to move on to the 6th Dispensation.
But what about those final 7 years?
THEY HAVEN’T HAPPENED YET!!
That’s right, the entire 6th Dispensation occurs in the gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel’s prophesy! That a 2000 year (and counting) gap of time!
This gap of time benefits us because everyone reading this blog was born during the 6th Dispensation and has the opportunity to receive the salvation and redemption offered by Jesus and rejected by first century Israel!
This idea obviously has a ton of implications for us that we will begin to explore in the next post, but before we go there, we need to address a couple of burning questions left over from the end of the 5th Dispensation – namely, what happens with the final 7 years, and what’s to become of Israel?
Here’s the thing, as with all the dispensations, God knew the 5th would fail. But since He is Righteous, He had to be contrastive and give Israel the opportunity to succeed. And since He is Just, He had to judge them with blindness because of their failure.
But remember, the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants are unconditional and unbreakable! Those promises HAVE to be fulfilled. That means that God is NOT done with Israel!
There are still 7 years left to account for and those 7 years WILL happen. In fact, those 7 years are among the most documented periods of time in Bible Prophesy! After the gap (the 6th Dispensation), the 5th Dispensation will come back! The blindness WILL be lifted from the eyes of Israel. God WILL judge their enemies. There WILL be a worldwide Kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital.
We will delve into the 70th week of Daniel later, but in the next post we will begin to explore the Dispensation that is the most meaningful to us (because we currently live in it). What is the 6th Dispensation? Why is it unique? And how (and when) will it end? Next time…
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
November 2, 2014
In the last few posts, we’ve been looking at the myths created and/or promoted by Satan and the Mystics in order to lead people away from salvation. But how do they succeed and misrepresenting someone who known or acknowledged by most of the worlds population? You’d think the fact that Jesus is such publicly known figure would make this difficult, but its actually just the opposite.
The problem with being a familiar icon in culture is that people take for granted that they know the truth about Jesus as opposed to actually seeking out the truth. This – along with comparative thinking and man’s desire to make God in to his image instead of being conformed to God’s desire, allows Satan and the mystics to use deception to alter, de-emphasize, or eliminate the true message and mission of Jesus.
Let’s look at some of the more popular myths about Jesus’ mission and message.
Jesus came to preach Love and tolerance
Love is the chief attribute ascribed to Jesus, not only by believers, but by secularists and mystics. While believers look at Christ’s redemptive work as the exemplar of His love, the secular world uses the “love” of Jesus to promote the idea that He is universally tolerant and accepting of anything and everything we do.
The problem is that Jesus (and the Bible) do not use “love” as the ill-defined, ambiguous set of emotions and urges that constitute the popular modern notion of the word. Jesus never espoused this kind of love. Biblical love is about commitment and sacrifice – an act of the will, not a feeling. The command to love your enemy (one of the most mis-applied of Jesus’ teachings) () would be contradictory if love was a feeling or emotion. You cannot manufacture an emotion. Emotion is a reaction to stimuli. It is the effect of a cause. The law of cause and effect states that an effect cannot be independently created and Jesus cannot command us to do the impossible. Thus loving your enemy can only be an act initiated by your will.
As far as Jesus being the epitome of tolerance and acceptance – I’m afraid that is total fabrication. A widely pervasive fabrication, but a fabrication none the less. Jesus didn’t say we could enter heaven by being “just the way we are”. He said we have to be perfect! (which we can’t manage on our own, hence the need for a Redeemer). He doesn’t say “a little sin is ok”. He said to stop sinning period. He said that getting into Heaven is going to be difficult and that most of us won’t make it! And (brace yourself) He gave a clear definition of marriage. If Jesus walked the earth today, He’d be ostracized as an intolerant extremist!
He came to teach morality and enlighten all men
Many people want to see Jesus as some kind of cosmic guru who came down to give man instructions on how to live an optimal life. And while that idea is promoted by secular and religious mystics alike, it doesn’t match reality. As we see above (and in the last post), many Jesus’ teachings were inflammatory, difficult, and divisive. Furthermore, there was a point in His ministry after which Jesus deliberately concealed His message from the masses!
Despite the common thinking that Jesus used parables to make His message easier to understand, in truth, the opposite was true! He used parables so that only the chosen few would understand Him.
He came to preach “social justice”.
“Social Justice” is the latest marketing term used by the mystics who want to put a positive spin on their long term goal of decreasing individuality by taking what you’ve earned and giving it to someone who has not earned it (thus making sure everyone is equally poor). They try to make Jesus their spokesperson by using His advocacy to help the less fortunes as proof He was some kind of Social Justice revolutionary (like a first century Che Guevara).
This claim has no real Biblical support Jesus does speak about the merits of voluntarily giving to the poor, but He never said or implied that the Government should forcibly take from some and give to others in order to create “equality”. Furthermore, there is no record of Jesus ever taking anyone out of poverty during His time on earth. Moreover, He stated that the poverty would always be prevalent in this age.
In spite of efforts to the contrary, an honest look at Jesus words and deeds show that his mission was clear – He came to fulfill the law, to redeem man, and…to bring forth the Kingdom of God on earth (more on that in a moment).
Jesus stayed “on mission” during His entire ministry and constantly reiterated it to all who would listen. The world resists looking at His mission holistically because of the parts that they find offensive . Instead they pick out their favorite personal characteristics of Jesus or their favorite euphemisms regarding Him and try to make those things His mission. But an truthful and contextual examination of the scriptures does not allow that.
I brought up the idea of the “Kingdom of God on earth” above. That is a part of Jesus’ mission that I didn’t address before because:
- It didn’t happen during the 5th dispensation due to the Jews rejection of their Christ.
- I plan to detail it much more when we get to the 7th dispensation.
However, in the next post, we will wrap up our examination of the 5th Dispensation with a “tease” of the Kingdom by looking at what would have happened if the Jews didn’t reject their Messiah 2000 years ago…
September 19, 2014
In the last two posts, we looked at some of the myths surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The final resurrection myth was actually the one accepted by most Christians – the idea that Jesus rose from the dead looking the same (if not better) as He did before His death; bearing relatively minor evidence of the traumatic torture He endured (namely the nail and spear marks).
On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. After all, the Bible doesn’t dwell much on Jesus physical appearance before or after His death. So why should we?
The truth is we shouldn’t. But the problem is that we do!
It’s in our nature to want to “humanize” God. Making God into the epitome of the human ideal makes us more comfortable with Him. However anything that does not conform to reality can ultimately lead to deception. This post will explore the implications of this.
Believe it or not, many Christians today are guilty of worshiping an idol. What’s even more shocking is that the worship of this idol is not done in secret or behind closed doors; no, this idol is openly and brazenly worshiped in Christian churches! His likeness is painted on the walls, and his image takes a prominent place in our minds. We sing songs to this idol and pray in his name. Church leaders tell us we should strive to be more like the idol in our everyday lives.
We call this idol “Jesus”, but the Jesus that has been popularized by contemporary culture (and much of the contemporary church) is not necessarily the Jesus of the Bible.
When you close your eyes and imagine Jesus. What do you see? If you are like most Christians, you see a tall, thin, handsome Caucasian man with a beard and long brown hair dressed in a white robe and sandals. Guess what? You’ve just pictured the false idol!
Why do I make this claim? Well, while we do not know exactly what Jesus looked like when He was on earth, we can be sure that He looked nothing like the image derived from European medieval and renaissance art.
Jesus was obviously not Caucasian. He was a middle-eastern Jew and would thus have had the skin tone and ethnic features of a middle-eastern Jew. We have no information about His height, but it is very doubtful that He was thin. Jesus was a carpenter by trade. He probably spent the better pat of 25 years working with His legal father Joseph learning his craft; which included cutting and lifting heavy planks of wood and stone. That kind of life does not lead to a slight build. Long hair on a male was not acceptable in that culture , and we know from the Bible that Jesus was not handsome.
Imagine instead, a stout, fairly muscular middle-eastern man with average to below-average looks, short think black hair and a beard. Now put him side by side with the “Jesus” you previously imagined. What a contrast! But as I said before, His physical appearance is only a minor and superficial aspect of the idolatry. The more damaging aspect is what many imagine the nature of Jesus to be.
The “Jesus” that is usually worshiped in church is warm and fuzzy magic human teddy-bear. He is gentle, harmless, and kind. He is cajoling, forgiving, and accepting. He is mild-mannered, passionless, and bland. He is weak, abused, and impotent. Isn’t this what we are told He is; “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”?
Yet in the scriptures we see a Man who commands the respect of rough-hewed fishermen; whose very presence leads them to give up their lives and follow Him . We see a Man who boldly walked into holy buildings and claimed He was ushering in the Kingdom of God . He viciously insulted religious leaders , and claimed He knew their doctrine better than they did .
He taught many with the authority of God , but deliberately denied others access to key knowledge . We see a Man who physically assaulted thieves in the temple, threatened to drown anyone who harms a child, and knocked down soldiers with the force of His voice.
We see a Man who loses His patience, gets exasperated with His friends. He insults a woman who has a sick daughter and she has to ask repeatedly before He will heal her. He lets a good friend die to prove point . He tells us that His presence will cause division in our lives; that following Him will make you hated and despised. He promises suffering and tells followers they may be killed for serving Him. He taught about Hell and punishment twice as much as He taught about Heaven. He is a Man who loved tough, fought fiercely, cared deeply, and died passionately.
This is the real Jesus. He is complex. He is hard to deal with. He sometimes makes us uncomfortable. He’s a little scary. He’s rarely seen in modern churches, and most Christians scarcely know who He is.
How did this happen? Why has the Jesus presented in the scriptures been sanitized, sterilized, neutered, de-clawed, and emasculated?
Many Christians have made the same mistake the Pharisees made. They’ve embraced the aspects of Jesus that they liked (love, peace, compassion, kindness), and ignored the parts that make them uncomfortable (passion, judgment, holiness, exclusivity, wrath, accountability).
All that is left is an artificially sweetened shell of the real thing; the milquetoast hippie served up to many Christians on Sunday morning.
But why is it so important that Christians see Jesus as He really was? If one accepts the death and resurrection that leads to salvation, does it really matter how accurate our view of Jesus time on earth is?
Absolutely! The spiritual landscape post-resurrection is not a passive one. The Great Invasion may have ended with Jesus being ultimately victorious; But Satan has not stopped fighting! Although there is nothing he can do change the outcome of Jesus’ work, as we saw in the previous two posts, he can still do damage by preventing as many people as possible from receiving salvation and being discipled as Jesus commanded. And deception about Jesus is an effective way to do it.
The reason is that a false idol leads to a false world view, and when the harsh reality of the real world meets the false expectations of that imitation worldview, can result in a failure of faith.
As Jesus promised, the Christian life is not easy. Christians will have to endure all manner of despair, frustrations, ordeals and calamities.
If a person is led to believe that salvation leads to a life filled with nothing but sweetness and joy, what will happen when a conflict arises that tries their faith? Their world will shatter! They will feel helpless and lost.
Satan can step in and lead them to doubt God. He asks them “if Christians are wrong about God’s “goodness”, what else they are wrong about? Is there even a God at all? Satan can take up residence in those doubts and lead them down the road to ultimate rejection of God and His plan.
On the other hand if we are willing to accept the reality that Jesus said that life would be difficult, then when those difficulties actually arise, there will be no crisis of faith because expectations match reality!
Most importantly, Jesus holds Christians accountable to know Him as He really is! The bible is clear that when all is said and done, only those who have a relationship with the real Jesus will take part in the meaning of life. Those who intentionally followed a false Christ will be left out.
In the next two posts we will take a contrastive look at the real mission and message of Jesus versus the version that is popularized by the secular and “spiritual” world
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
August 8, 2014
We’ve been examining some of the more popular myths and theories used by Satan and his minions in an attempt to discredit and/or deny the resurrection of Jesus. However since these myths are in blatant opposition to the truth and the historical evidence of the resurrection, they tend to be improbable at best or ludicrous at worse.
We looked at two of them in the last post. This time we will examine one of the silliest, followed by one that could eventually prove to be the most dangerous of all.
Myth 3: The Swoon Theory
This one is my favorites – primarily because it’s the most ridiculous. This myth purports that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, because Jesus never actually died! The “Swoon Theory” states that Jesus didn’t DIE on the cross; He just fainted (swooned) due to the extreme pain. Because He was so weak and brutalized, the Romans mistook His fainting spell for death and plopped Him into the tomb. Therein, the cool air of the tomb revived Him. He then walked out of the tomb, retired from the ministry, shacked up with Mary Magdalene, and sired a whole bunch of children who went on to be the progenitors of the royal families of Europe.
No, I’m not making this up. My imagination is not that fertile.
So let’s look at all the things that are wrong with this idiotic theory. First of all, the Romans didn’t just start crucifying people the week before they hung Jesus on the cross. They were EXPERTS in this form of execution and they knew how to tell if their victim was dead. When a person dies, their blood separates into the red cell platelets and the relatively clear plasma. The soldier who stuck a spear in Jesus’ side at the end of the crucifixion wasn’t being sadistic; he was making sure Jesus was dead! When blood and “water” (plasma) came out, it proved His death.
As we saw a couple posts back, crucifixion has a devastating effect on the human body. The nerves in the hands and feet are irreparably damaged, the lungs fill with fluid, most of the major organs fail, and the heart ruptures. According to the Swoon Theory, not only did these injuries NOT kill Jesus, it only took the “cool air” of the tomb to heal him enough to hop out of His burial clothes. Then He managed to hobble over to entrance of the tomb on unusable feet, push the boulder out of the way with useable hands, sneak past the aforementioned Roman Guard, and go stud Himself off to Mary Magdalene.
It looks like people have been wasting their time in spas and clinics all these years. Apparently nothing heals and refreshes like cool tomb air!
So does anyone actually take this nonsense seriously? Believe it or not the answer is yes! In fact variations of the “Jesus wasn’t dead when they took him off the cross” variant is the prevailing theory in academia (and Islam) and has been popularized in such mainstream books as Holy Blood Holy Grail, and Da Vinci Code. And if that isn’t proof that contrastive thinking leads to brain damage, I don’t know what is.
Myth 4: The Pristine Corpse
This last myth is actually quite a bit different from the others. It is the most inconspicuous, and seemingly innocuous – but it has the potential to be the most harmful. It’s not a direct assault on the truth of the resurrection, and I’m not even certain that it comes from Satan (although he can and does make use of it where possible).
This myth is tacitly endorsed and encouraged by Christians, which likely makes it the most controversial and uncomfortable. In fact, I’ve never presented it to a Christian who did not find it disturbing if not offensive. It will be especially repulsive to any reader who is religious. The best way to present it is to examine a few post-resurrection narratives from the Bible:
As I wrote earlier, when Jesus rose from the dead, the first person to encounter Him was Mary Magdalene who had come to the cemetery to tend to the body. When she first encountered Jesus, she mistook him for the gardener and only seemed to know who He was when she fully recognized His voice. Later the disciples were out fishing when Jesus called them to shore for breakfast. They seemed to discern His identity only (apparently) because he miraculously produced fish for them, which is something he had done before. On another occasion, Jesus joined two of His followers on a 7 mile walk, and they just assumed He was a stranger visiting the area. It was only after they invited Jesus in for dinner and he broke the bread, did they know who He was (presumably because they saw the nail prints in His hands). Lastly, in the famous “Doubting Thomas” incident, Jesus abruptly appeared in a room full of disciples who thought He was a ghost! Only after He submitted to Thomas’ request to examine His hands and feet did they know it was Jesus.
Are you noticing a pattern here? It seems that after the resurrection, people have a difficult time recognizing Jesus. Why is that?
The popular theory is that the resurrected Jesus had such a “glorious” form, that even His closest companions were blinded by His heavenly appearance. This idea partially stems from our human tendency to disproportionately value physical appearance (which has its roots in comparative thinking).
But why would Mary mistake this “heavenly” figure for a cemetery gardener? The Jewish laws against touching dead things would relegate that job to only the lowliest of people. And why would a “glorious” Jesus scare the crap out of the disciples when he appeared?
While the “glorious” resurrection visage may be a possibility, I’m going to argue against it by looking at a couple verses that describe what Jesus suffered during the crucifixion.
The prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus would have his beard torn off by His torturers. If you’ve ever known anyone who had a full beard and shaved it off, you know that they look quite different than before. In an even more disturbing prophesy, Isaiah, wrote that the beatings Jesus received during the crucifixion were so brutal that his face no longer looked human!
And now we come to the myth. The common assumption about Jesus’ appearance after the resurrection is that the only physical evidence that He retained from the crucifixion are the nail scars on His hands and feet, and the scar from the spear He took in His side. Other than that, He looked exactly the way He looked before Calvary (if not better).
But the reason for that assumption is NOT because the Bible says or implies that those are the only scars Jesus retained, but because those are the SPECIFIC wounds that Thomas required as evidence!
There is no logical or Biblical reason to think that Jesus didn’t retain ALL the scars from His suffering – Including the massive scar tissue from having his beard ripped off and some degree of facial deformity and additional scarring from the beatings.
If this is true, it would explain the reactions of His followers. It would make sense that Mary would think a disfigured man in a cemetery would be the gardener, and someone would such aesthetics would understandably make the disciples drop a brick in their robes if he suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And while part of the reason the men on the Emmaus road invited Him to dinner may have been a matter of middle-eastern hospitality, they also may have been taking pity on what they thought was an unfortunate stranger.
But why would Jesus choose to retain ANY physical evidence of His horrific death, let alone such disturbing ones? The answer may come from a story I once heard:
There was a little girl whose mother would drop her off for school every morning. However, the other school children would tease the girl about her mother, because the mother’s face had been badly burned.
One day the little girl asked her mother if she would start dropping her off a couple blocks from the school so that the children would not see the mother and the girl would be spared their teasing.
“I’ve never told you the reason I look like this have I?” The mother responded. “The accident that caused my burns happened when you were a baby, but I think you’re old enough to know now.”
“One day, after you had fallen asleep in your crib, I went outside to do some gardening. After a while, I smelled smoke. I looked up and noticed that the house was on fire! It turned out that there was an electrical surge near your bedroom that caused it, and it was burning out of control.”
“I rushed into the house in a panic. I could hear you crying so I knew you were still alive, but there was a wall of flames between me and your room. I covered myself a best I could and charged in. It was very difficult to get to you and my coverings and clothes began to catch on fire.
“When I finally got to you, I covered you as best I could and shielded you with my body as I ran out. I could barely see due to the smoke so I had to keep my face uncovered. By the time I made it outside, I had third degree burns over most of my body, especially my face. But it didn’t matter, because you were safe. Saving you was all that mattered.
From that point on, the little girl was no longer ashamed of her mother’s looks. In fact, they became a point or pride and comfort. Because now, every time she looked at her mother’s face, she saw the evidence of how much she was loved, and how much someone was willing to sacrifice to save her.
It could be same for that those who choose Salvation and the Meaning of Life. If so, they may spend eternity looking at the face that shows evidence of how much they are loved and how much was sacrificed for their redemption.
But why do I consider this myth so dangerous? On the surface, the worst outcome would simply be the fact that we embrace an incorrect physical image. The problem is that any level of delusion, especially in regards to Jesus and the importance of His redemptive work, can open the door to Satan’s favorite tactic – deception!
In this case, it’s the deception of idolatry – a deception that could eventually cause the LOSS of the Meaning of Life! I’ll explain more in the next post…
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
July 28, 2014
The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in Christian history. The Apostle Paul himself states that if the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christians are even bigger fools than atheists think we are.
Fortunately for Christianity, there is a great deal of documented evidence of the resurrection from eye witnesses, historians, and even from the enemies of Jesus. Christ’s victorious death and resurrection are a matter of historical and spiritual fact. Satan can’t change that. The Meaning of Life WILL happen. The only thing he can do is try to keep as many people as possible from accepting salvation.
Satan and his assorted Mystics throughout the ages have engaged in great feats of logical acrobatics in futile attempts to convince the world that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Their alternate theories to explain away the empty tomb range from the improbably to the downright silly. We’ll look at a couple of them and this post, and two more next time.
Myth 1: Jesus’ Disciples Stole the Body
This myth states that the distraught disciples wanted to save face and/or comfort Jesus’ other followers after His death, so they faked the resurrection by stealing Jesus’ body after it was buried. They then spread the rumor that Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead. Supposedly, this “lie” became so popular and pervasive that is spawned the movement we call Christianity.
The seeds of this myth were actually started by the local mystics (Pharisees) before Jesus was even buried. They knew Jesus said He would rise again three days after His death (something the disciples themselves seemed a little slow to pick up on) and they figured the disciples would try something sneaky so they encouraged Pilate to set up a Roman Guard to watch over the tomb.
This is where this myth falls apart. A Roman guard is no joke. It consists of 16 soldiers who sleep in shifts of four. So at any time, Jesus’ tomb was guarded by 12 very alert, well trained, well-armed military men. Furthermore, since the tomb was under Roman guard, the 2 ton stone that would have sealed the tomb would have had a roman seal in the crease. If that seal was broken (by someone moving the stone), the penalty was death for the perpetrator. Moreover, if the guards failed in their duty, ALL of them would be executed!
So the proponents of this myth would have us believe that a group of 11 distraught fishermen (and a tax collector) managed to sneak by 16 of the best trained soldiers on the planet (who were motivated by the death penalty to do their job), roll away a gigantic stone – the act of which would mean their execution – and abscond with Jesus’ dead body, thus accidentally causing the spread of the greatest spiritual movement in history.
Sound feasible to you? Me neither, but the Pharisees didn’t let something as irrelevant as “logic” get in the way of a good myth.
Myth 2: The Disciples Made the Whole Thing Up
This theory picks up on the one above but goes to the extreme of virtually denying the Jesus of the Bible. This view was embraced by secular academics beginning around the time of the “Age of Enlightenment” in the 17th century and is still taught to some degree today. The theory states that there was probably no historical person called Jesus of Nazareth. And even IF there was such a person, he bears no resemblance to the guy in the Bible.
In all likelihood, “Jesus” was just one of many itinerant backwoods preachers wandering ancient Judea futility speaking out against the lapsed morality of the Jews and corruption of the clergy. He was little more than a first century version of the crazy guy on the corner holding a “The End is Near!” sign.
It was his disciples that invented the “Son of God” mythology. They created or greatly embellished the narratives of Jesus’ life, mission, miracles, and divinity.
Why would they do this? Fame and fortune of course!
They knew that there are few better ways to gain wealth and power than by inventing a nutty religious cult, get the masses to buy into it, and set yourself up at the top of the spiritual pyramid! (Basically the disciples were L. Ron Hubbard’s inspiration).
But this myth has some very serious problems. First of all, Jesus’ life is one of the most well documented in history. Not just by the Bible, but contemporary secular sources as well. Flavius Josephus, the official regional historian in the first century appointed by the Roman Empire, wrote extensively about Jesus – including His supernatural attributes. Rome was antagonistic to early Christians (that antagonism expressed through three centuries of persecution), so there was no benefit in them sanctioning the documentation of the “myth”. Same with the Babylonian Talmud, another contemporary historical document, this one written by orthodox Jews (who shared Rome’s position on Christianity) that confirmed the life of Jesus.
Secondly, if the disciples made up the narrative of Jesus in the Bible to convince people to join a fraudulent religion, they seem to have gone out of their way to make it a tough sell. I mean if you want people to follow a religion, it’s probably not a good idea to tell them it will make their lives more difficult, that it will alienate them from their families, that it will make them hated everywhere they go, and they’ll probably get killed for it.
Also, if you are going to spread a story about a guy improbably rising from the dead, it’s probably best not to say that a woman was the first eyewitness (women were not allowed to be legal witnesses at the time). It’s also pretty convenient that EVERYONE who saw Him post-resurrection happened to be His close followers.
Lastly, if the disciples WERE just con-men looking to make a quick buck off a fake religion, they were REALLY bad at it. None of them became wealthy, and any fame they gained was not what they’d have wanted. The Jewish leadership (and later the Romans) persecuted Christians furiously in the first century and beyond. But all disciples they had to do to avoid imprisonment, torture and death was simply deny Christianity. If they just said “Hey, sorry folks, we made the whole thing up”, they could have lived. Yet all the disciples willingly endured persecution, and all (with the possible exception of John) were gruesomely executed by beheadings, stoning, being boiled in oil, and even crucified upside down! Why would con-men be willing die for something they knew wasn’t true?
The obvious answer is – they wouldn’t.
The sad thing is that the two myths above are actually the most “reasonable” counter arguments against the resurrection. The rest are even more preposterous. We’ll look at one of the more ludicrous theories in the next post, as well as one of the most subtle and insidious ones – a resurrection myth so seemingly innocuous that it is almost universally accepted and endorsed by Christians! Next time…
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published
July 6, 2014
Having failed to prevent the advent of Jesus as the Redeemer and meeting defeat when he tried physical and spiritual tactics to defeat his enemy, Satan turned to his pet Mystics as a second line of defense against the Great Invasion. But after they were met with utter defeat, Satan and his minions finally turned to the ultimate evil – they sought to kill Jesus.
The narrative of Jesus’ arrest, trials, and execution is a familiar one. First Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas -who, despite being an eye witness to three years of the most profound teaching and amazing supernatural feats in history – sold Jesus out for what in today’s money would be the equivalent of an iPad (worst student EVER!). He was then arrested by the temple soldiers, subjected to three illegal Jewish trials, and was finally sentenced by the Roman Governor to a brutal beating and execution by the most torturous method known to man at the time.
All in all it seemed like a very dark time for the good guys, and it appeared that Satan may finally have gotten his long awaited victory.
Yet, as has been the case every time the former light bearer has seemed poised to win, his supposed victory is just the precursor to a devastating defeat.
Even in the narrative of Jesus’ execution, we can already see signs that something’s amiss.
If we do a close examination of the events, it becomes clear that in spite of appearances to the contrary, it’s actually Jesus who is in control of the situation, and He is the one directing everyone’s actions!
Jesus is the one who commands Judas to complete the act of betraying Him! Thus it is Jesus who is in control of when and where He would be arrested.
When the temple soldiers arrived to take Him, Jesus questioned THEM! He made them state their will that they were sent to arrest Him, and when He identified himself, His words made the soldiers fall to the ground! He then commanded them to take Him and leave His disciples alone, and they obeyed!
The Mystics shuffled Jesus around to three different Jewish trials because He kept exposing the fact that they had no valid reason for arresting Him! Jesus forced them to logically defend THEIR rationale for their actions (and there’s nothing brain damaged people hate more than logic and reason).
When the Mystics went to Pilate to try to get Rome to do their dirty work, Jesus let the Governor know who really had the power in that situation.
It’s clear that Jesus was not the helpless victim of Satan’s clever machinations to have him killed.
Moreover, it was Jesus’ mission to be executed for man’s sake. His unjust death wasn’t a cruel surprise, or an unfortunate tragedy. It was the planned end-game that had been strategized by the Trinity from the beginning. Everything that was done to Jesus was according to scripture, down to the exact details of the death process. Among other things,
(There are a bunch more in this post)
Most incredible of all, the Bible gives a detailed description (in first person) of the crucifixion 200 years before crucifixion was even invented by the Persians! (and 500 years before the Romans perfected it). This is more proof that God transcends time and knows the end from the beginning.
But even with all that said, it doesn’t take anything away from the magnitude of the suffering Jesus endured. Crucifixion is possibly the most agonizing form of execution ever invented. In fact, the Latin word for it, “crux”, is the root from which we get the English work “Excruciating”.
The effects of crucifixion on the human body are truly devastating. The nails in the hands and feet irreparably deform the limbs, and the position that the victim is forced into results in catastrophic system wide organ failures. The cardiac stress of the ordeal eventually causes the victim’s heart muscle to rupture!
Thus as He hung on a cross, being mock and ridiculed by the very people He came to redeem, Jesus of Nazareth literally died of a broken heart.
Jesus’ mission on earth had all lead up to this. As I wrote earlier, His death was part of the end game that had been planned from the beginning. It was a major key to fulfilling the Meaning of Life.
But how did Jesus’ death redeem man? How did His death allow us to have eternal life?
It all comes down to justice!
Of all the men who ever (and would ever) live, Jesus was the only man who NEVER deserved to die!
Like Adam, Jesus was born alive (connected to God). But unlike Adam, He never did anything to lose that connection. Jesus never sinned, thus he should never have lost his life – so His death was unjust!
However since God is always and completely right and just, He had to do several things to balance the scales of righteousness and justice.
- Jesus had to be “repaired”. Life is the ability to repair. Jesus’ life was taken unjustly. Justice demanded that His physical life be restored/repaired.
- Jesus had to be resurrected in a form that was no longer subject to physical death. Not only did Jesus not sin, he proved that He would NEVER sin. Satan tempted Him at ALL points and He didn’t succumb, so Satan gave up! Then human Mystics gave it their best shot and failed so miserably that they stated their will that they wouldn’t try anymore! Having overcome the worst that His enemies could throw at Him, Jesus showed that He was beyond external influence to sin and since He only did what God told Him to do, He was beyond internal influence all well. So He justly deserved a body beyond physical death.
- Jesus had to be given everlasting life. Since Jesus proved that He would never deserve death, He technically should live forever. He has infinite (everlasting) life. Since He possesses an infinite amount of “life”, He could grant it to whomever He wanted without ever running out. He could offer all men everlasting life!
And that is what “Salvation” is all about!
God loved man so much that He sacrificed Himself and died in our place so that we could justly have access to the infinite/everlasting life that He currently possesses, and we could choose to be with Him and take part in the Meaning of Life!
This is how God is able to get what He wants despite the fact that we are not born with His nature. If we choose to accept this gift, we are given a new heart. We become reconnected spiritually to God. We become spiritually alive eternally. And like Jesus, when we die physically, we will be resurrected with incorruptible bodies. But unlike Jesus we don’t have to live a perfect life (He did that for us and any vain attempt to do it on our own is religion). All we have to do is choose this gift ourselves. This is salvation.
When Jesus walked out of His tomb, He had all power over death (infinite life) and all power over evil (infinite repair of destruction).
WE choose whether or not to accept the gift of Salvation. WE choose whether we are going to live or die eternally. WE choose between everlasting life and everlasting destruction. WE choose whether we will be Redeemed or perish.
We are going to examine the ramifications of Redemption when we look at the 6th Dispensation, but we will begin our wrap up of the 5th Dispensation with a series on some of the many myths surrounding Jesus’ life and mission- beginning with the resurrection – next time
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published