Stereotyping the 7 churches of Asia in Revelation.

Comments on the 7 churches:

  1. Ephesus. Sound doctrine but they had left their first love.
    History. Acts 19. Then Paul met with elders of Ephesus at Miletus (too dangerous to return to Ephesus). Warned of grievous wolves, even wolf elders. Apparently they took him seriously and made sound doctrine a focal point of church.
    But they left their first love. How? By being so harsh on false teachers and false apostles that they became sectarian and judgmental of anyone who disagreed with them, no longer teaching the truth in love (Eph 4:16)? By being so focused on sound doctrine that they lost the emphasis on love among the members and love in general?
    Does that sound like a lot of coc churches?
  2. Smyrna. The poor (but rich), suffering church.
    This must represent the 3rd world poor, suffering Christians around the world, b/c it sure doesn’t match the rich church in the U.S. (neither poor nor suffering). Some suffering about to come on them (mello) but outcome sounds like death, not just temporary suffering. Could this match the period of Nero’s persecution of Christians in 64 AD in Rome which spread to other cities?
  3. Pergamum. Faithful under persecution but allowing false teaches who promote immorality.
    Many temples to the gods and even one to emperor Augustus. Faithful under testing, even at a time when witnesses like Antipas (one of their number) were being put to death (they might be killed also). So, a strong faith church, never denying Christ under persecution. But a few things? Apparently they “tolerated” or continued to fellowship some false teachers of the Nicolaitan persuasion who taught open immorality like that encouraged by Balaam at Peor (Numbers 25). I know of some churches that I really admire overall, but I notice they are becoming more accepting of open adultery, even homosexuality, among members. Study 1 Cor 5 as Paul dealt with the church being too lenient on immorality.
  4. Thyatira. Slow start, better lately, but tolerating false prophets.
    This is the post-modern church of the future. Maybe a slow start, but revitalized lately with a post-modern benevolent concern for others and for good causes (the poor, etc.). Actually doing a lot of good works (soup kitchens, etc.) but also easily led astray by false teachers, even false prophets who claim to have direct revelation from God. This led many in Tyatira into immorality. Today, it would be the homosexual immorality tolerated by many post-modern churches. The Methodist church barely voted to stay with the traditional view of marriage (53-47 %), but with large help from their conservative African brothers who have yet to lose faith in the inspiration of Paul.
  5. Sardis. The dead, and still dying church. Strengthen what remains.
    This church became well known among the brotherhood for a long time for its faith, good works, sound doctrine, etc. It still had a name that is alive. You hear the name of the church mentioned, and think, “great church”, when really it is now dead. It still have a few good things going, and a few good members who are still alive, but the things that remain are even dying. Why did this church die? We might think this is about the size of the church, but it is not. A lot of factors might cause a church to grow large, but then become smaller in the future. Location, demographics, urban flight, members moving, etc. But that church, now smaller, could still be alive. The Sardis church apparently died because they lost their faith, zeal, etc. Maybe they became very materialistic and just lost their priorities. Maybe a split or two along the way due to church politics and inward squabbling. There is still hope. A core of concerned members and a few good things that remain. Focus on strengthening what remains.
  6. Philadelphia. The little church that could, and did.
    Totally positive for this church. To whom more is given more will be expected. Give, and God will give you more so you can give more. 2 Corinthians 9 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. Seed for the sower. God can use churches and individuals who are good stewards to do great things for Him. He will open new doors of opportunities. One church I know of made their motto: “God, show us the opportunities and good works that you want us to do”. Instead of giving to meet the budget and busy work involving the church business, that church gave as needs arose and got involved in good deeds away from the building. That might mean dismantling the business and budget, and most churches won’t do that. The Lord could show them a new need and they would say, “Sorry Lord, it’s not in the budget!”
  7. Laodicea. The lukewarm church.
    This church will always be known as the lukewarm church. Neither hot nor cold. Business as usual. Routine. Duty. All the items and ministries in their budget are getting done. But no zeal or enthusiasm. Everyone taking their turn to carry on the business. Still sound doctrinally. Probably a well paid staff and local preacher. Many charter members who aren’t excited about the church, but who wouldn’t leave it. They probably have a building paid for and cash to change the carpet and make renovations. They have a large, steady contribution. They think of themselves as a very good church, but God says they are blind to their real spiritual condition. We tend to judge churches by their size and budget. On a positive note, at least the church is not dead, like Sardis. It is not zealous, like Philadelphia, but maybe with a lot of prayer, repentance, and honest self-analysis this church could become hot. Notice that God is knocking at the door. He offers them eye salve so they can see their condition. He hasn’t written them off. If they don’t change, He will spew them out of His mouth.

So which of these, if any, is your church?
Many think that the number of churches chosen by John to send the letter to is a special number, 7, that would represent all churches. I don’t know about that. Surely this letter was circulated to more than the 7 churches in Asia. Surely other churches read it and thought, “we are just like Sardis, etc.”. Surely other churches read the warnings and knew that those warnings could apply to their church also. Rev 1:3 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and [b]heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Of course, that specifically applied to the 7 churches of Asia concerning things that were “about to” happen (that word Mello is used several times) to them. But in a secondary sense, surely anyone else back then or even today who read and took heed to the warnings would be blessed.

And what about me individually as a member of my church? Have I become complacent? Am I so preoccupied with worldly stuff that the spiritual status of my church doesn’t bother me? Do I just go to church as routine, duty? Have I lost my zeal and enthusiasm? Have I lost my first love? Do I now love the world more than I love Jesus and God? Have I taken a back seat and left the leadership of the church to others?

The church will only be as good and strong as the individual members. I pray that God will use the comments by John to the 7 churches to motivate us as needed.

The “Church” Business

This rambling article probably profits little, but deals with something I heard a brother talking about recently. He was questioning the way his church operates.

The church, of course, is the spiritual body of Christ. It is a spiritual kingdom made up of believers all over the world. Period. They may be part of different denominations, but that is a man made thing. They may meet in homes, as they did in the first century, or they may meet in church buildings. They may have big exciting assemblies or they may have simple old country church assemblies. They may have wonderful, harmonious, growing congregations or they may have a lot of problems, as did the Corinthian church. They may have suffering from their governments, as in China and many Muslim countries, or they may have very little suffering, if any, like in our churches in the U.S.

But notice that we usually end up thinking about church as the congregations or assemblies that we attend. Church has become a business of sorts. As a matter of fact, it is officially a non-profit organization recognized by the government, with trustees and by-laws. Where do you read about the church being like that in the New Testament. It owns property, has a budget, pays FICA and does W2’s for employees, has paid staff and secretaries, etc. The New Testament church did none of those things.

So is that bad? I suppose not, but I wonder if it is really a good thing. More importantly, is it the way Jesus would want his church to operate? If we can borrow enough money to build multi-million dollar buildings, would He want us to do that? Or would He want us to use that money to dig wells for clean water in 3rd world countries, to take care of AIDS orphans, to rescue child soldiers and child prostitutes, to fight human trafficking, to take care of widows and orphans all over the world, to print Bibles in the major languages of the world so that everyone can read the Bible in their own language, etc. You get the idea. Did Jesus ever want His church to buy any property? Or hire full time local preachers? I know churches do a lot of good things and raise money for a lot of the things I mentioned above, but usually it is a small portion of their contribution.

Not only that, a lot of the churches aren’t even loyal to the teachings of the New Testament anymore. Many of them deny the miracles and Deity of Jesus. Many of them have homosexual priests and endorse homosexual marriages. Many of them no longer believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the scriptures. Yet they have their hierarchy of paid professionals and collect millions of dollars to operate. The paid professional clergy system has led to many sex scandals among the clergy. If Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, I wonder what He would do if He visited some of these churches.

On the other hand, maybe I am just being too critical. Churches do a lot of good works. The main purpose of the assemblies was for edification, and churches do a lot of edification in their assemblies, their preaching and teaching, their small groups, etc. I mean, surely our Christian liberty would allow us to build a building in order to do the Lord’s work, wouldn’t it? I mean, many preachers are overpaid, but some of them teach and edify a lot of people. Paul did say in 1 Corinthians 9 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share [g]from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. Of course, in the first century that meant helping traveling evangelists with food and a place to stay, but they did not have paid local full time preachers. Of course, Paul also said that he would not take money from the congregation that he was working with even though he had a right to do so.

So is there a better way to do it? Maybe go back to house churches like in the New Testament? That certainly is a lot simpler and cheaper. Then those house churches could take their individual tithes and decide where to donate their money instead of paying for a building, utilities, staff, and secretaries! They could collect money for special causes among their members or those in need. Each house church would have one or more shepherds to care for that flock. They could have very good Bible study without a paid preacher preaching a sermon to them. They could teach their children in some little classes if they wanted to, or just make it a family type environment.

So why don’t we do it that way? I think that churches in church buildings is just the way we were raised and are accustomed to. Yes, in bigger churches you get to see a lot more people than in just a house church. You have a wider variety of gifts to be used for edification of the flock. But you can do both of those things without having churches like we have today. Also notice that most church growth is taking members from one church to another. We simply swap members for the most part.

Maybe we need to study the house churches in China. They suffer for their faith, just like in the first century. They are hungry for the word and for fellowship with other Christians. They meet in houses for the most part, in small groups. They use what little money they have to help each other and those in need. Sounds like the first century church doesn’t it? It has been estimated that 2/3 of Chinese Christians meet in house churches as opposed to the government controlled churches. Of course, many of those “house churches” have membership in the hundreds and rent space in commercial buildings, so that is more than a house church meeting in someone’s home. So maybe it is good to start as a house church in a home and then grow to hundreds of members and look for a place to rent.

So I don’t know the answer. It just seems like the “church business” is not what the Lord would want, but I don’t know for sure what the Lord wants. BTW I am involved hosting a house church on Wednesday nights and a shepherd in a church building church on Sundays, so I guess I can accept both types of “church”. Just some thoughts on a rainy day. I wonder who will even read them.

The theme of 1,2 Chronicles: King David was a type of the Messianic King Jesus has great short (7-8 minute) summaries of all the OT books in drawings and sketches that really keep your attention. The one on 1,2 Chronicles has some interesting points. They do a great job of giving the main themes and not just telling facts. They said the theme of the 2 books was to give hope for a Messianic King in the future who would be the anti-type of King David. I think they are correct.

The genealogies at the start of 1 Chronicles focus on the tribe of Judah from whom the Messiah and the kings will come. Genesis 49:10

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
[k]Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The life of King David is emphasized, but the negative stories about his adultery and murder are omitted. Purposely? Maybe. Maybe the Spirit wants to leave a totally positive image of David because he is a type of the perfect Messiah? The book does mention his sin of numbering the people, however. The video mentions an important truth. When several of the OT prophets predict the coming of the Messiah and the Messianic Age, they predict that “David” will be king, shepherd, and prince during that Messianic Age. Ezekiel 37 24 “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25 They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. Ezekiel 34 23 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.Jeremiah 30 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. Most scholars believe that this prediction is fulfilled in Jesus as a type of King David from the lineage of David. Thus it is figurative language and does not mean David himself will be king in the Messianic Age. Some scholars actually expect David to be raised and co-reign with Jesus on the “millenial throne”. This is similar to the prediction that Elijah would come before the coming of the Messiah and judgement of the Jews. Malachi 4 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Of course, Jesus told us this was fulfilled in John the Baptist, and not in Elijah himself coming. Matthew 17 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did [d]to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer [e]at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

I always amazed when scholars tell us that the OT Messianic kingdom predictions must be interpreted “literally” when it is obvious that is just not the case as seen from these 2 examples (David and Elijah). They will interpret Messianic predictions about Israel being restored to their land as literal, and look for that to be fulfilled. Usually, they say it was fulfilled in 1948 when Israel was given statehood as a nation and given a large portion of the Holy Land that they occupy today. Two big mistakes. One, the promises of returning to the land was made to the remnant of Jews who believed in the Messiah, and not to the nation as a whole. Paul makes this point in Romans 9 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel. He quotes Isaiah on the remnant: 27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved. God never promised to save the whole nation in the Messianic Age. AS a matter of fact, he sent the Romans to destroy the unbelieving Jews in 70 AD. He took the kingdom from the Jews and gave it to His spiritual nation, the church, made up of Jew and Gentile believers only. Matthew 21 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a [m]people, producing the fruit of it. Paul argues that all of God’s Messianic predictions and promises for Israel were fulfilled in the spiritual blessings received by the remnant of believing Jews in his time. Two, the promises to the remnant were not fulfilled literally, as in actually getting the land they once possessed as a nation. Jesus had said that his kingdom was not of this world. It is a spiritual kingdom, the church, and not a physical kingdom as in the days of David. The Jews expected the Messiah to “restore all things” to them as a nation, giving them the power over all other nations as they had in the days of David, but God never intended that. Sure, the prophets said that Israel would be “restored to their land and never lose that land again”, but that was fulfilled spiritually and had nothing to do with physical land anywhere. I know that sounds strange to many, but so would the prophecies about David and Elijah! So how was the remnant restored to their land? The kingdom of God is spiritual, and its land is the whole reign of God, a spiritual reign over the whole earth. We reign with Jesus over this spiritual realm as sons of God.

Other OT Messianic Age predictions illustrate this point. Jeremiah 33 14 ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘[g]David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 [h]and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices [i]continually.’” God had promised David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever. That was fulfilled in Jesus, and thus “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne”. But also the Levitcal priests shall never lack a man offer burnt offerings and sacrifices. That is a prediction for the new covenant, and yet we know that animal sacrifices were taken away under the new covenant. We know that the Levitical priests were supplanted by Jesus our high priest after the order of Melchizadek, not Levi (Hebrews 7) and that all Christians are priests, not Levites. So this obviously is a figurative predictiion fulfilled figuratively, not literally. Yet some demand literal interpretation of some of the OT Messianic predictions, and surely they would not think that in the Messianic Age that we will go back to animal sacrifices and Levitical priests, would they?

I hope this summary of 1,2 Chronicles has been helpful. I hope this discussion of the fulfillment of figurative OT Messianic predictions helps also.

Revelation 20: the 1000 years was actually only 40 years!

Yes, that was a teaser title. If you haven’t considered me crazy and stopped reading, then I will try to show why I believe the title is actually true. The majority of evangelicals believe that Jesus will return some day, set up an earthly kingdom, and reign on earth for 1000 years based on Revelation 20. I believe the 1000 years in Revelation was only a 40 year period that happened between 30-70 AD. BTW, there have been scholars who took that position, but I’m sure I am in the minority! Hear me out.

Before we begin, I encourage you to go to this site: Read the many passages where the number 1,000 is obviously symbolic of a long period or a great number, but not literal. Yes, it is also used as a literal number. So the context must determine in the 1000 year reign in Revelation 20 is symbolic or literal. The book of Revelation is filled with symbolic numbers and figures, so why would we be surprised if the 1000 year reign is symbolic, not literal? And that is what I hope to show.

First, what does it say? Satan will be bound for 1000 years, and after that 1000 years he would be released for a short time. Revelation 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain [a]in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Now, if we can determine what happens after he is released, that will help us determine what the 1000 years are. Revelation 20 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the [c]seashore. And they came up on the [d]broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the [e]saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and [f]brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released, Gog and Magog surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Now, most would say this is the battle of Armageddon and that battle is still in our future. Here is where my view of what the book of Revelation is about comes to play. Please read my blog articles 1) Revelations was written before 70 AD, and 2) The keys to understanding Revelation. Condensed version: Rev 17 tells us the book was written during the reign of the 6th emperor of Rome, Nero (54-68 AD), and thus before 70 AD. This, and other, internal evidence far outweighs the statement of Irenaeus in 180 AD upon which many date the writing of the book to be 96 AD. The harlot woman is Jerusalem, but is also the great city, Babylon, which is destroyed (11:6; 17:18), burned with fire, by the sea beast, Rome (13:1-3; 17:16). Babylon is not Rome, as many think. The theme of the book is “the avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints” (18:20,24; 19:2). Jerusalem had persecuted and killed the prophets God sent them during their entire history, and they would kill apostles (Acts 12), and the Jewish Christians (as Paul did, Acts 9,22; 1 Thessalonians 2:12-14). This matches exactly what Jesus predicted in Matthew 23:29-39). He then foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that would happen within the generation of those he was speaking to (Matthew 24:34). The book of Revelation is the detailed fulfillment of what Jesus predicted in Matthew 23, 24: the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. After all, John opens and closes the book saying that the things that were going to happen were to “shortly come to pass” , “soon”, “near” (1:1-3; 22:6), and “don’t seal up the words” (22:10). I know many say those words can be “soon in God’s time”, which could be thousands of years, but it is obvious that the words apply to the time frame of those he is writing to. Otherwise, it would be like someone telling us that America is going to fall soon, and it doesn’t happen. We would call them a false prophet. Also, all the internal evidence points to a date of writing before 70 AD, and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD fits exactly what John predicted would happen soon after the time of writing. Case closed.

I needed to say all that before further discussion of the 1000 years. The key is 20:9. This army of Gog and Magog, gathered by Satan, surround the “beloved city” at the end of the 1000 years. If the book is about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this has to be the final siege of the city in 70 AD (it lasted 5 months to be precise) before destroying the city and the temple. Gog and Magog would be the Romans. Why Gog and Magog? Ezekiel predicted this in Ezekiel 38, 39. He predicts an army, Gog and Magog, will attack Israel and Jerusalem. He says that army had already been predicted to do this by other prophets before him. Ezekiel 38: 17 17 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them?” Indeed, if this is Rome attacking Jerusalem in 70 AD, then indeed other prophets had predicted that (Joel 3; Zechariah 14; Isaiah 65,66; Deuteronomy 32; Daniel 7, 8,9,12). He also says this will happen in their “latter years” (38:8). That phrase “latter years” of Israel always refers to the “last days” of Israel, that last period from 30-70 AD. He also says this will happen during the time in which He will pour out His Spirit on the remnant: Ezekiel 39 29 I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God.” That OT prediction, just as in Joel 2 and other places, always refers to the miraculous outpouring of the Spirit during the period from 30-70 AD (Acts 2:16-21 where Peter says that period is the fulfillment of Joel 2).

So Ezekiel 38, 39 was actually predicting Rome attacking Jerusalem and Israel, and Rev 20:9 is the fulfillment of that prediction when Rome surrounded the “beloved city” in 70 AD and destroyed it. Surely, everyone would agree that the “beloved city” is Jerusalem. I did read one commentary that said the beloved city was the church, i.e. the “new Jerusalem”, but the new Jerusalem doesn’t come down out of heaven until Revelation 21, so it can’t be the new Jerusalem yet. So the end of the 1000 years is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The beginning of the 1000 years is when Satan was bound. When was that? I believe that was 30 AD. But wasn’t he free from 30-70 AD? Yes, but the binding of Satan for 1000 years in Rev 20 was a specific, limited, binding, i.e. he was not allowed to destroy the temple until the end of the 1000 years. My conclusion: the 1000 years is actually the 40 years period from 30-70 AD.

So the number 1000 is used in a figurative sense. But I thought we were supposed to take everything literal in the Bible. Not so. Much of the Bible language is figurative, like when we say “it is raining cats and dogs” (really?). Revelation is full of figurative numbers: the 666 mark of the beast, the 144,000 (exactly 12,000 of every tribe of Israel), the 24 elders, the number 7 (lamps, trumpets, etc.). God said “the cattle of a thousand hills is mine” (Psalm 50:10). Did He not own the cattle on the rest of the hills? The number 1000 there is obviously figurative. The number 10 is viewed as the perfect number, made up of 4 (the number of the physical creation, as in the 4 directions, 4 corners of the earth), and 6 (the number of man, as used probably in 666). As such, 10 signifies testimony, law, responsibility and the completeness of order. There were 10 commandments, the Day of Atonement was on the 10th day of the 7th month, the sea beast in Rev 13, 17 had 10 horns, etc. 1000 is 10 X 10 X 10, the number 10 magnified to the 3rd power! So why would that 40 year period from 30-70 AD be represented figuratively by the number 1000? Maybe because that 40 year period is the final, perfect, complete wrap up of God’s eternal plan. Rev 10:7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He [b]preached to His servants the prophets.” After Satan is released and deceives Rome into attacking Jerusalem, he is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. Rev 20 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and [f]brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Satan thinks he is binging a final end to the worship of the one true God by getting Rome to destroy the temple and holy city, but He is playing right into God’s hand! Rev 17:17 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His [i]purpose [j]by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.” Satan was doing God’s plan in destroying the temple and didn’t even realize it. Once God was finished using him to do that, God cast Satan into the fire, along with the sea beast Rome, and the false prophet (the earth beast of Rev 13). This is not some physical destruction of Rome in 70 AD. Jesus had said to Pilate in John 18:36 “My kingdom [k]is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [l]of this realm.” God’s eternal kingdom of Daniel 2:44, Mark 1:15;9:1 is a spiritual kingdom, the church over which He and Jesus reign forever. His plan was never for the church kingdom to physically destroy kingdoms on earth, like Rome. But in 70 AD, there was a complete finality to God’s redemptive plan. How so? All the prophecies of the OT were fulfilled. Luke 21:22 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.: The last enemy, death, was conquered (1 Corinthians 15:26). 1 Corinthians 15 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” The law had to be completely removed to take away the power of sin to kill spiritually. After 70 AD, the temple has never been rebuilt, the priesthood cannot be restored or practice because the Romans destroyed the genealogical tables, animal sacrifices cannot be offered in the temple any longer, etc. God Himself took away the law. Hebrews 9:The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the [i]outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. This is why Hebrews 8 :13 said, “But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is [j]ready to disappear”, speaking of the removal of the law in 70 AD just a few years after Hebrews was written. 70 AD was the removal of the “old heavens and earth” (another blog for that one!) and replacing it with the “new heavens and earth” (i.e. the new Messianic order of things of the “age to come”). It was the removal of the old Jerusalem, replacing it with the new Jerusalem, ie. the church. Revelation 21:1-2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” Remember, John had said all these things in Revelation were to happen soon, shortly, the time is near, don’t seal up the words, etc. That must include ch 20-22 also or he is a false prophet. Many want to make ch 20-22 to still be in out future, unfulfilled predictions, but that contradicts what John said about the time for them to be fulfilled.

So, at least after reading this article, I hope you don’t think I am completely crazy. Some things only seem crazy because they contradict the traditional way they have been taught for centuries. The 1000 year reign on earth as a future event has been taught so long and so vehemently that, like the theory of evolution, it is just accepted as fact. The very idea of any reign of Jesus over a physical kingdom on earth contradicts John 18:36 “my kingdom is not of this world” and Mark 9:1 (his kingdom would be established before some whom he was speaking to would die). Those expecting Jesus to establish a physical kingdom some day and reign over it (for 1000 years or however long) are making the same mistake the Jews made, i.e. looking for a physical kingdom, the physical restoration of Israel, that caused them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. Of course, those advocating the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth in a physical kingdom aren’t rejecting Jesus as the Jews did, but their teaching will diminish the glory of the church kingdom and can cause believers to be distracted from simple faith. Look how many believers are caught up in what is going on in Israel because they expect Israel to be involved in some “last days” coming of Jesus to set up his kingdom. Some even tell us to send money to Israel. Jesus was very clear in Matthew 21 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (i.e. the Jews) and given to a [m]people, producing the fruit of it.” Israel continued as a people, but no longer the people of God in any special way, no longer a part of His plans to redeem man in any way. He took the kingdom from them and gave it to the church, made up of Jew and Gentile believers in Jesus. He loves Israel, just like He loves all nations, but their hope is in becoming Christians and members of the church.


The keys to understanding Revelation! Revelation 17,18

Please read my blog article “Revelation was written before 70 AD” before reading any more of this article. From that previous article: 1) From ch 17, the “5 kings have fallen” are the 1st 5 kings of Rome, starting with Julius whom Josephus clearly says was the first (living in the first century, he should know who was considered the first). The “one is” is the 6th emperor, Nero (54-68 AD) who was reigning at the time the book was written. This is undeniable internal evidence that the book was written before 70 AD. It gets a little tricky figuring out the next statement: Rev 17 11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. I think the 8th king is Titus, who actually destroys the city and temple in 70 AD. He is not an emperor yet, but will be later. That is why Daniel 7 and 8 call him the “little horn” that comes up after the first 10 horns or emperors of Rome. Nero was the 6th. The next 3 reign only a few months each and are basically ignored in Rev 17. Vespasian becomes the 10th emperor in 69 AD and sends his son Titus to destroy Jerusalem, which he does. Vespasian could thus be considered the 7th and Titus the 8th. But for sure, the first 6 identify when the book was written.

2) The woman harlot was drunk with the blood of the saints and witnesses of Jesus. Why are these two groups separated since witnesses of Jesus (martyrs) would also be considered saints? The “saints” here must be those OT saints in Revelation 6 who are waiting for their blood to be avenged: When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O [k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. The “witnesses of Jesus” would be NT martyrs. The woman is a harlot. She is riding on the beast that has 7 heads and 10 horns. The 7 heads are both the 7 hills on which the beast sits and 7 kings of the beast. This beast is Rome. In Rev 13:1-3 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been [b]slain, and his fatal wound was healed. Daniel’s vision of the 4 empires in Daniel 7 and 8 (Babylon, Medo Persian, Greece, and Rome) are symbolized by these same animals: leopard, bear, lion. The 4th empire was the iron one, Rome, during whose empire God would set up his kingdom which would never be desstroyed (Daniel 2:44). Jesus and John the Baptist both came saying “the kingdom is at hand” during the Roman Empire, so that also identifies the 4th beast as Rome. In Rev 13:1 the sea beast has the 7 heads and 10 horns, the same as in Rev 17. The woman is riding on the beast, so there is no conflict at first between the two. But then the beast turns on the woman and burns her with fire. Rev 17 16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His [i]purpose [j]by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which [k]reigns over the kings of the earth.” So who is the woman? She is the great city. What is the great city? The great city is the city where Jesus was crucified, i.e. Jerusalem. Rev 11 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which [f]mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” Thus the woman is the same as the great city which is Jerusalem. Indeed, at first Rome allowed the Jews to worship their God Jehovah and the Jews offered a daily sacrifice in honor of the emperor. But when the Jews rebelled in 66 AD, that began the Wars of the Jews (Josephus) and then in 70 AD Rome destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple, just as Rev 17 predicted. For those who say the “great city is Rome: how do you explain the beast (which they also say is Rome) burning the great city (which they say is Rome)?

The woman has the name Babylon on her forehead. Rev 18 describes the fall of Babylon, the great city: 18:21 “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.” The nation had become so corrupt that she would be compared to pagan Babylon of the OT. The woman is a harlot because she has committed spiritual adultery on God by worshiping other gods. The figure of Israel being called a harlot is used by Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Many of the Jews had even worshiped the beast Rome. Here is where the “earth beast” of Rev 13 comes in. 11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast [j]in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform [k]in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life. ” The word “earth” can mean land which can denote Palestine, the holy land. The signs that the earth beast does tell us that the earth beast is the false prophets who denied Jesus as the Messiah and who kept the Jews offering sacrifices to the emperor up to 66 AD. They are the ones Jesus predicted in Matthew 24 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the [l]Christ,’ or ‘[m]There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will [n]show great [o]signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the [p]elect.” These false prophets and false Christs would arise within the generation of those He was speaking to. Matthew 24 34 Truly I say to you, this [x]generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Those who worshiped the beast Rome would receive the dreaded mark of the beast, 666 (Rev 13:18) and would not be allowed to buy and sell without that mark. Of course, all that changed in 66 AD when even those who paid homage to Rome rebelled against Rome. They stopped the daily sacrifice to the emperor, which Josephus says was the event that started the war with the Romans. So the woman harlot is Jerusalem and she is the great city also. She is also called Babylon. All those terms refer to Jerusalem, not Rome. Many say Babylon is Rome, but if the things written in Revelation were to “shortly come to pass”, then how do they explain the fact that Rome is not destroyed until the 5th century, almost 400 years later?

This brings us to the theme of the book: “the avenging of the blood of the prophets, apostles, and saints”. Rev 18 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you [ah]saints and apostles and prophets, because God has [ai]pronounced judgment for you against her.”24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of [ak]saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” Rev 19:1-2 “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants [al]on her.” Rev 6 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O [k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” This matches Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 23 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are [x]sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how [y]will you escape the [z]sentence of [aa]hell? 34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [ab]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” God made Israel his chosen nation. He continually sent prophets to get them to turn from their worship of foreign gods and to obey him, but they continually rejected the true prophets, even killing them. They would kill apostles, as Herod beheaded the apostle James in Acts 12. They would kill Jewish Christians as Saul did before he converted and became the apostle Paul. BTW, Rome never killed the prophets. Many say that the theme of the book is the victory of Christians over persecution. That is not the main theme of the book. Yes, Daniel and Jesus both predicted a great “tribulation” on the Jewish nation, and Jewish Christians would suffer during that tribulation to some degree, although they had been warned by Jesus to get out of the city when they had the chance, and they did. Yes, Jew and Gentile Christians would suffer during the Neronian Persecution when he blamed the Christians for burning Rome, and when he killed Peter and Paul. That persecution was primarily in Rome, but you know it spread to other cities in the empire. The Greek word “mello”, which means “about to happen”, is used of the suffering they are about to go through. The word is used several times in Revelation. Write . . . the things that are about (mello, present indicative) to come after these things (1:19). Be not afraid of the things that thou art about (mello, same) to suffer (2:10). Strengthen the rest of the things that are about (mello, imperfect indicative) to die (3:2). The hour of the trial that is about (mello, present participle) to come upon all the world (3:10). Their brethren, who are about (mello, present participle) to be killed—even as they (6:31). The three messengers who are about (mello, same) to sound (8:13). I was about (mello, imperfect indicative) to write (10:4). When he may be about (mello, subjunctive) to sound (10:7). The beast . . . is about (mello, present indicative) to come up out of the abyss (17:8). Yes, great promises are made to those who do not worship the beast, who die as martyrs. Rev 12 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even [e]when faced with death. Rev 7 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I [a]said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. But the main theme is the avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints.

I think all these points are the keys to understanding Revelation. It is foolish to try to determine the details of a crime without understanding the main plot, characters, motives, and time the crime occurred. Once we understand these keys, a lot of the details make more sense, even though they are often described in figurative language.


My Favorite Psalm and a tribute to my parents

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your [a]years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The Lord performs [b]righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who [c]fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who [d]fear Him.
14 For He Himself knows [e]our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
17 But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who [f]fear Him,
And His [g]righteousness to children’s children,
18 To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.

19 The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His [h]sovereignty rules over [i]all.
20 Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
22 Bless the Lord, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Well, the Lord bailed me out again, at least it seems unless the unexpected happens today. I was on that verge of panic and desperation yesterday, about to put myself into afib again stressing out over something dumb that I did the night before and I was worried about the consequences of it. Woke up 2AM worrying about it. I keep quoting Paul in Philippians 4: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” but it doesn’t remove the dark cloud hanging over me. I tell myself that the potential problem is not even serious, and is fixable even the worst occurs, but that doesn’t help either. I was expecting another fretful night before I could find out the consequences, but the Lord gave me relief yesterday out of the blue.

He has done that so many times! I usually think of this Psalm after each time. I think of verse 4: “He redeems me from the pit”. I don’t know what pit David was referring to. The commentaries say that the word means “destruction, the grave, the pit of corruption (Ps 16:10)” and would refer to the many times God rescued David from potential death. I apply the verse to any danger or problem, big or small, that the Lord delivers me from. Thank you Lord, for rescuing me again!

But then I start reading the whole Psalm. Even on my worst day, the Lord has blessed me with so many blessings, but I “forget his benefits”. Usually we think of “benefits” like those offered at my job: health insurance and a retirement plan. I get those benefits every month and I take them for granted. I do that with God unfortunately. David lists several benefits. Forgiveness . Physical healing. Love and compassion. Good things. Renewal of strength. I get all those every day. Thank you Lord.

David cites what God told Moses in Exodus 34 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and [d]truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses wanted more intimate knowledge of God to help him with the burden of leading the rebellious Israelites. God told him to get behind a rock, and the Lord passed by while giving Moses this summary of His attributes. Moses only saw his “back side”, some glory brightness no doubt, but not the full glory of God which no man can see. David seems to be thinking about these attributes when he says that the Lord has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. East and west are simply directions that extend indefinitely. Since they go in opposite directions, the distance between them can’t even be defined as it is infinite. I can’t think of an illustration of infinity any better than that! I am such a sinner, and yet the grace of God forgives me each day. Thank you Lord.

He has compassion on s as a father has for his children. A good, loving father will always have compassion on his children even when they don’t deserve it. A father will bail his drug addicted son out over and over, trying to rescue him. He will sympathize with and help his irresponsible daughter who messes up in life over and over. He grieves over bad things in the lives of his children, even if they bring those things on themselves due to bad behavior. Can you think of a better illustration of compassion than that? I can’t. He knows our frame, out physical weaknesses, because He knows that He made us as weak, imperfect humans. He formed us in our mother’s womb and we are his offspring. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. He even came to earth in His Son Jesus to share those same temptations, to empathize with us. When I am struggling with stress, I wish I could just relax in His love and compassion, casting my anxiety over to Him, let my mind be at peace and at ease. With the help of the Spirit, I’m sure that I could. So why don’t I quit trying to control things and surrender control to God. Why don’t I quit relying on the flesh and rely on the Spirit?

David closes pointing out the sovereignty of God over the whole world. He calls on all the angels and all creation to serve Him and bless Him. Our days are passing quickly ,like the flowers in a field. As I get older, I think how quickly time has flown. It seems like yesterday that my wife and I were getting on a plane to go do mission work in Trinidad, West Indies, but that was 45 years ago. My parents are dead (but alive in eternity where they will never die), and my wife’s parents are in their 90″s with failing health and alzheimers (her did). It seems like yesterday that I could drop by my mom’s apartment here in town and watch TV with her for a whle. No matter what she was watching, she would hand me the channel changer and tell me to change the station to what I wanted to watch. She put my needs and wants above her own all my life (which maybe explains why I am so selfish). She was so proud of my accomplishments. I still have her scrap book where she would save newspaper or church bulletin clippings about our mission work. She thought I was the best preacher in the world and the best Bible scholar in the world. She lifted herself out of the poverty of her childhood and the depression, got her teaching degree, became one of the best 1st grade teachers in Alabama for 50 years back when teachers got about $7,000 per year. She would cook us a full breakfast, drive 40 minutes to her school, drive home, cook us a full supper (we never ate out), and keep the house clean. She was a Type A workaholic, which is where I get mine from. She could paint several rooms in a house in no time. When we would visit, she would jump up and within 30 minutes or so have a full wonderful meal ready. When she retired, she was able to do her first love which is study the Bible. She knew the Old Testament better than any preacher I have ever known. She would write copious notes on what she was studying (I still have a lot of her “studies” she wrote up with her pen). She had an amazing memory. She loved her grandchildren, great grans, and great great grans. She kept in touch with them constantly.

It seems like yesterday that my dad got a lung disease at age 72 (lived 2 years after that) and we would visit him. He knew nothing but hard work all his life at minimum pay, but worked overtime hours to support his family. He was forever helping people fix something. When he died, about 600 people signed the register at the funeral home. He never led a prayer in church, only knew one prayer at home (God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food), and we never talked about spiritual things or prayed together, but I knew he loved me. He never missed one of my baseball games. When I had problems working as a principal in a Christian school, I would fret and worry until I called him and he would say, “we’ll fix it in the morning”, and I could sleep that night- and he would get up in the morning with a plan and fix it! I miss just watching him ride on his ’62 Ford tractor (he was raised in the country during the depression, picking cotton and planting crops and he loved his tractor more than anything he owned, including his modest house). I still have that tractor. Some guys at church got it running for me and they cut 5 acres of church wild grass with it, and that makes me happy. He loved to fish, and we had great experiences fishing that I will never forget. Fishing is to me like shopping is to my wife. I can remember catching a 7 pound bass and a 3 pound crappie at Smith Lake when I was 17 years old (50 years ago) like it was yesterday.

Pardon me for getting personal with these tributes to my parents. But that is another one of the great blessings God has given me. And now He has blessed my wife and I with 3 godly children whom I am very proud of. My parents never said, “I love you” or hugged, but I know they did love me. It is still hard for me to express love, but I am so blessed: all 3 of my children end every conversation with “I love you”. I am surrounded with the lovingkindness of God and the love of family and friends. I don’t know why I am so grumpy, but I kinda enjoy it. The end.

How can we improve our church building assemblies?

First of all, this is just a discussion with a lot of opinion, so don’t think that I am saying that I have the exact correct formula for doing church. What would “doing church” even mean? We Christians are the church, so I guess it should be about “being church”. But “doing church” must mean how we run the church business that it has become, how we do assemblies, how we are organized, etc.

First, the church is those saved by grace through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. In Acts 2, Peter preached the first full gospel sermon (Jesus had just died and been raised 50 days before). 3,000 repented and were baptized that day and received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). They thus became the church that Jesus promised to build in Matthew 16 18 I also say to you that you are [l]Peter, and upon this [m]rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Peter had indeed used those “keys” and opened the door for them to enter the church kingdom of God. So what did they do as a church after that. Acts 2 44 And all those who had believed [ar]were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread [as]from house to house, they were taking their [at]meals together with gladness and [au]sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding [av]to their number day by day those who were being saved. The temple was still Jewish and they were not having church services in the temple. No doubt they were just sharing their new faith among themselves and those who would listen in the temple courts when they could, but probably not very openly. But notice they shared their possessions and they shared their meals. No doubt, sharing meals was in the homes where they would probably meet for house churches. So, in gneral what did they do? Acts 2:42 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and [ao]to prayer.That is such a simple formula of 4 things. The apostles’ inspired teachings, which would be new additions to the OT, became their main study. Fellowship is koinonia, a sharing, and they now shared a common salvation and Father. The breaking of bread would probably include both common meals and the Lord’s Supper. 1 Cor 11 indicates that they took the Lord’s Supper during a meal called a “love feast”. Probably they took the Lord’s Supper often when they gathered in a home.

The Lord’s Supper as described in the Didache (about 100 AD) is summarized in H J DeJonge, The Early History of the Lord’s Supper. He says that the early church met on Sunday evening (Roman time and our time) to take the agape love feast meal and Lord’s Supper jointly, as in 1 Cor 11. After all, until Constantine made Sunday a holy day, most Christians would have worked on Sunday and would have met for assemblies in homes on Sunday night in honor of Jesus being raised on the first day of the week. In the period from AD 30-70, the early mainly Jewish church would have meet on Saturday evening because their first day of the week would begin at dark on Saturday evening. As time went on and after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the church tried to separate itself from Judaism and moved services to Sunday evening, Roman time (and our time). Then later Sunday became a more holy day and they could meet on Sunday mornings as we do today. No doubt they took the Lord’s Supper when they met on Sunday mornings every week. But did they take the Supper more often than that? From DeJonge: “The introduction of the eucharist in the morning Services occurred not later than the end of the Second Century. Obviously, many Christians felt that one eucharist a week was not enough. Out of sheer desire for the community with the Lord and fellow Christians, they began to celebrate it twice or more times a week early in the mornmg. Hippolytus’ Traditio Apostolica records eucharistic services on all days of the week (including Sundays), before working hours.” By the 3rd century, the agape love feast is separated from the Lord’s Supper and taken at different times. I read where one of the church councils forbade taking the agape feast because it was causing problems as in 1 Cor 11.

I would prefer to take the Supper, or Eucharist, every Sunday morning since that’s when our church assembles. But I would not be opposed if our home study groups took the Supper when they met in homes, such as my group does on Wednesday night. Did Jesus not say, “as oft as you do this”? It appears that the early church took the Supper when they met on the first day of the week, but why would that example bind us to do it that way and no other way? We must be very careful when we make apostolic example the only way to do something. A lot of “inference” gets into the discussion. So, the early church probably met in homes as often as they could and took the Supper often when they met in homes, and of course, on Sunday when they could all come together in some central location of probably a wealthier member in town. In Caraccas, Venezuela, for a time the church did that. The various house churches that met in different parts of the city would come together once a month to a central rented hall location for a joint fellowship of all the Christians in the city. I guess we kinda do that when we have small groups meeting in homes during the week but then we come together on Sunday for our big assemblies.

It is interesting to observe the difference between the “big assemblies” at the “church building” and the assemblies in the homes. The key to both should be edification of the church. 1 Corinthians 14 26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Of course, those were all “miraculous” gifts given to different members for edifying one another, which was especially important back then since they did not have the completed NT. In our house group, it is pretty simple. We practice Acts 2:42: study of the word, fellowship, a meal (we don’t do the Supper but we could), and prayer. We don’t have “miraculous” gifts, but we do have different members with different gifts and talents and we use those gifts to edify one another. I “moderate” Bible study, the ladies cook and serve a meal, and we encourage and edify one another. No one gift dominates. I do not preach a 30 minute sermon. We don’t have a praise team. The women can talk, share, and even teach truths to us although they respect the role of male leadership in the group. I can’t imagine our house group deciding to hire a preacher for the group or having a praise team. Everyone is a participant, some more than others.

Now look at the difference when we move that house church group to a church building and add other groups. It is much harder to do what we do on Wed night with a much bigger group on Sunday morning. We can’t expect it to have the same simplicity. But notice: we pay a preacher to give us a 30 minute sermon with no discussion of the points (and he is not inspired like the miraculous teachers in the first century so he is just giving us his opinions and philosophy). He might be very good (or not) but we no longer have the mutual edification using many gifts. 1 Cor 14 even comments on this: 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets”. Why would the Spirit tell one of his Spirit inspired prophets to quit speaking, sit down, and give his time to the next prophet? Apparently, the first prophet had gone past the Spirit message he had been given, and it was time to let the 2nd prophet give his Spirit message. Again, the idea was mutual edification using many gifts, and not one gift dominating the time and importance. But that’s what happens in most church building assemblies. The church comes to rely on the preacher instead of using its many gifted individuals.

How could we do the church building assembly for better mutual edification? It’s hard. Some suggestions. 1) Maybe you do need a praise team to help the bigger group learn and sing songs and parts. 2)Some really talented singers could even do a solo, quartet, etc. that would really edify the group. Of course, if you aren’t opposed to using musical instruments, you could use gifted musicians also. 3) You could have a time set aside for prayers. Even bring up those who need special prayer to the front and let the big group know what to pray for. Those who choose to could come up front and join that person in praying for them. 4) You could have 5-10 minutes of “meet and greet” time. That would be totally unnecessary in our Wed night group as we have already been meeting and greeting for an hour while we eat before we start our formal Bible study, but it might be very appropriate for a big church building group with visitors and members that you don’t know very well, a chance to fellowship outside of your small group. 5) You could have a regular schedule of reading through the Bible with the passages on the screen. 1 Timothy 4 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Some churches have a brief Bible reading before the sermon, and that is good. But we probably should make the reading a lot longer and the sermon a lot shorter. 6) A really good teacher could give a brief teaching from some passage in the reading (that’s what the Jews did in their synagogue worship), explaining the text (correctly, I hope) and suggesting ways to apply the text to our lives. But keep it brief. Save the long Bible study for the Bible classes we usual do before or after the assembly. 7) One of the shepherds could share things from his particular shepherding group or ministry that would exhort others and help members to know what is going on in other groups and ministries. 8) You can bring the children up to the front and do a little something with them. That makes them feel like part of the assembly because usually they are told to just sit quietly and they don’t get anything out of most of what we do in the assembly. 9) You can, of course, do the Lord’s Supper. It would be great to do it as part of a love feast, but that is difficult for a big church. I know we have a meal after the assembly every week, and we could do the Supper as part of that meal, but we haven’t come to that practice yet. So we do the cracker and juice thing like the Catholic mass without the transubstantiation (i.e. the bread becomes the body of Jesus and the wine becomes the blood of Jesus). We try to say a few comments before the Supper to get us in the right state of mind, but the whole process is flawed. 1 Corinthians 10 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the [e]bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one [f]bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one [g]bread. The Supper should give us the same feeling of sharing a common love that a happy family meal does at home, but too often it becomes just a ritual with emphasis on what it does for me only. 10) Lastly, someone pointed out to me that edification should involve emotion! Emotion on the part of those leading or using their gifts, and emotion of the part of those being edified. The mutual edification should stir us up, move us to empathize and sympathize, excite us, encourage us, rebuke us, correct us, make us happy, make us cry, stimulate our thinking, stimulate us to good works, etc. Hebrews 10 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Admittedly, it is difficult to do all these suggestions if you have a church of 800 members! But we must try. A lot of churches are losing members to the more “exciting” churches, which tells us that our traditional assemblies might not be as edifying as in the past. That doesn’t mean they are bad. It just means that we maybe need to get more in touch with what edifies our members since the main goal of assemblies is edification.

Revelation was written before 70 AD!

First, the only evidence for the 96 AD date of writing of Revelation is from a statement from Irenaeus in about 180 AD. The statement supposedly says that John saw the revelation vision in the latter part of the reign of the emperor Domitian (about 96 AD). It is unclear from the Greek words if he was saying that John saw the vision at that time or if John was seen at that time, so the statement in untrustworthy right off the bat. Plus he is relying on a childhood memory of what Policarp, a disciple of John, told him, so how reliable can that be? Plus, he had a “chiliasm” view of Revelation, believing that Jesus would come to reign on earth for a thousand years, which I do not believe is correct, as you will see later in this article. Point is, his false interpretation of the book could have influenced him against accepting an early before 70 AD date of writing. Plus, Robert Young (the Young’s Analytical Concordance Robert Young) said that part of Nero’s name was Domitius and that Irenaeus could have actually been referring to Nero and not Domitian. We can’t answer all these doubts, but dating the book from a dubious statement he made is not very convincing if there is plenty of internal evidence that contradicts that date, and there is. Many of the church fathers after him took the 96 AD date based on his statement without any other supporting evidence. They were simply relying on what Irenaeus said. Also the late date proponents talk a lot about the persecution of Christians under Domitian, but there is scant evidence, if any, of such persecution. But, as I will show later, the persecution of Christians is not the main theme of the book, although it is included.

So what evidence do we have for the date of writing before 70 AD? Plenty. We can’t rely on what church fathers thought about the date (we have shown that we don’t trust Irenaeus) but there were early church fathers who dated the book before 70 AD in the reign of Nero. Among them were Epiphanes (315-403 AD), Andreas of Capadocia (500 AD), Arethas (540 AD), and others. Kenneth Gentry lists 145 scholars who advocate an early dating of Revelation, including the great church historian Philip Schaff, and others such as F.F.Bruce, Alfred Edersheim, and Milton Terry (late 1800’s). James Stewart Russell in The Parousia (late 1800’s) takes the early date (read this book online if you haven’t; it is a great book, the primer for preterism).

One of the most interesting evidences is the Muratorian Canon of 170 AD. In chapter 3 of the Muratorian fragment, it says, ” Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name, in this order:” and then names the 7 churches Paul wrote to. That is, John wrote to the 7 churches in Asia (Revelation 2 and 3), and Paul, whether intentionally or not, wrote to 7 churches (and the fragment names them) just like John did. Revelation would have to have been written before Paul finished writing to his 7 churches for this to be true (and Paul died in 68 AD so Revelation had to be written before 68 AD), which is what the Muratorian fragment is saying. This gives us an external dating of the book before 70 AD that offsets the 180 AD statement of Irenaeus.

Read this article: Research insights into the Date of Revelation By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir for some of these points. One amazing evidence to me is the translation of the NT canon into the Syriac languages. Most of these early translations were written in the late first century or the 2nd century. The “Syriac version” of the New Testament, which dates back to the slate first century AD or second century A.D., states that Revelation was written during the reign of Nero making a date of 64-68 A.D. the date of writing. Also, the “Aramaic Peshitta” version has a remark that places its date prior to 70 A.D. In that translation the title page of Revelation states this work of John was written right after the reign of Nero.

A quote, attributed to Papius (130 AD), states that John the Apostle was martyred before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This quote is very important. He says that the brothers James and John both suffered martyrdom, just like Jesus predicted in Mark 10 39 And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.” The “baptism” was a baptism of death by martyrdom. We know James was beheaded by Herod in 62 AD (Acts 12) but we trust Jesus that John was also martyred at some time. Papias affirms this no later than 130 AD. We don’t know what he knew about the death of John, but he says that John died a martyr at the hands of the Jews. We can easily see that happening before 70 AD, but it would be hard to see that happening around 100 AD if John indeed lived that long. The Catholic tradition is that John lived till about 100 AD in Ephesus and died a peaceful death! That totally contradicts what Jesus said. I would prefer to believe what Papias said! Thus, John died before 70 AD and obviously wrote Revelation before 70 AD. That also tells us why John did not write any inspired books after 70 AD. I have always wondered why, if he lived till 100 AD, that he did not write a follow up letter talking about how Jesus’ predictions were fulfilled in 70 AD and how the temple was destroyed, but of course this explains why. He was dead by 70 AD. BTW Jesus did say: John 21 22 Jesus *said to him (Peter), “If I want him (John) to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple (John) would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” If Jesus’ 2nd coming was in 70 AD, then that makes sense that John lived right up to that 2nd coming in 70 AD but died a martyr at the hands of the Jews around that time before they lost all their power. BTW, if John wrote Revelation in 96 AD, why did he not mention the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem that would have happened 26 years earlier? Surely, he would have talked about that momentous event! Actually the whole book is about that event, but in the book he is predicting the event to be in the near future, not past. Also, in Revelation it claims that Jesus is coming “quickly. If the book was written in 96 AD, how did Jesus come quickly after that date. If the book was written before 70 AD, then He did come quickly after that date, i.e. in 70 AD. Of course, some say “quickly” just means suddenly, but read the context. He says the things in the book will happen shortly, and follows that up with “Jesus is coming quickly”. Also, he tells some of the churches to repent or else “Jesus is coming quickly” to punish them. What relevance would that have to them if it did not mean that He was coming shortly in their time frame. Those who take the early date who are not preterists would still have trouble dealing with this “coming quickly” statement, but it fits the preterist view perfectly.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) makes an interesting comment: “the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos.  The problem is determining who he was referring to as the “tyrant”. Many of the early historians and church fathers referred to Nero as the tyrant. Clement also said “for the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, end with Nero.” This seems to indicate that Nero believed that the inspired writings of the apostles ended by the end of Nero’s reign which ended in 68 AD. I agree that all 27 of the NT books were written before 70 AD.

Another interesting thing I read. in the article by Krejcir: “Nero Caesar exiled John on the island of Patmos. Nero died in 68 AD, and according to Roman law, those banned by a prior Caesar would be released by the succeeding Caesar. Thus, John would have been released from Patmos around 68 AD. ” (John himself mentions he was at Patmos when he received the Revelation). I haven’t seen this law verified but it sure fits John being released from Patmos and the Jews killing him (as Jesus predicted) within the next 2 years after he was released.

But the most impressive evidence for the early date is the internal evidence. 1) Rev 17 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The woman harlot, drunk with the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints, is riding on the beast (Rome). The beast has 7 kings: 5 had fallen or died at the time of writing, and “one is” (that would be the emperor reigning at the time of writing). There is debate over who was considered the first king or emperor. Josephus several times in Antiquities clearly calls Augustus the 2nd emperor, which means he considered Julius Caesar the first emperor. Other much later historians said Augustus was the first emperor, but I will trust what Josephus said because he lived in the first century and he would know who everyone, including John, considered to be the first emperor, which was Julius. With Julius as the first, Claudius would be the fifth and last of the dead emperors who had “fallen”, and Nero would be the “one is”, the 6th emperor or king, i.e. the emperor reigning at the time of writing. Nero died in 68 AD, so that dates the book before 68 AD. The one would would reign for a “little while” would be the 7th emperor Galba who only reigned a few months. As a matter of fact, Galba, Otho, and Vitelleus all 3 only reigned a few months each in 69 AD before Vespasian, the 10th emperor started reigning in 69 AD and reigned till 79 AD. The beast in Rev 17 had 10 horns, and that would be the first 10 emperors of Rome, i.e. Julius through Vespasian. That also corresponds with the 10 horns of the iron beast in Daniel 7, which was Rome. Then there was a little horn after those 10, which would be Titus who was sent by Vespasian his father to siege and destroy Jerusalem and the temple, which he did in 70 AD. He was called a “little horn” because he would be an emperor later (79-81 AD) but was not an emperor when he destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

2) The identity of the “great city” and the harlot woman with the name Babylon on her forehead is important. Rev 17 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city. I.e., the woman riding on the beast Rome. She is also called a harlot. Also Rev 17 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the [d]saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. So the woman is the great city who is Babylon. Rev 11And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which [f]mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. That tells us that the great city, Babylon, was Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. Thus the great city is not Rome, although one could see why many would think that with Rome being the capital of the empire. In Rev 17, the woman harlot first comes out riding on the beast, but by the end of the chapter, the beast (Rome) turns on the harlot (Jerusalem) and burns her with fire. That is exactly what Rome did in 70 AD. Up until the 60’s AD, Rome did not persecute the church. The main persecution of the early Jewish church was from non-believing Jews. But when the Jews rebelled against Rome in about 66 AD, that began the wars of the Jews as recorded by Josephus. So, the woman = the harlot = the great city = Babylon = Jerusalem (where the Lord was crucified). The great city Babylon (Jerusalem) is destroyed (70 AD) and there is a great celebration over her fall in ch 18.

3) The theme of the book of Revelation is the “avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints”. Rev 18 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you [w]saints and apostles and prophets, because God has [x]pronounced judgment for you against her.” Some say the theme is victory of the Christians over persecution, but usually that it because they think it was written in 96 AD during some Domitian persecution of the church. But since it was written before 70 AD, that changes everything on the theme. And then we read about the great city harlot Babylon woman Jerusalem being destroyed in the book, and we read Rev 18:20 and the theme becomes very clear. This theme in Rev 18:20 is the same thing Jesus said in Matthew 23 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [ab]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the [ab]temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. The following chapter in Matthew is the famous Olivet Discourse in ch 24 about the destruction of Jerusalem that would happen within the generation of those he was speaking to. Matthew 24 34 Truly I say to you, this [x]generation will not pass away until all these things take place. The Jews had persecuted and killed the prophets during their entire history as a nation, for the most part. They would then kill the apostles, as in Acts 12 when Herod beheaded James. They killed the saints, as Paul did before he became a Christian. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, Josephus says that a million Jews died in the city, and another 200,000 were enslaved. Truly, God used the Romans to avenge the blood of the prophets, apostles, and saints that they had shed. The harlot woman of Rev 17 who was drunk with that blood would be burned, destroyed. That is the real theme of the book.

I am firmly convinced that the internal evidence gives an early date of writing and far outweighs the statement by Irenaeus. When we correctly understand the theme of the book and date, the book becomes a neat conclusion to the entire Bible. Jesus said in Luke 21 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then [l]recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of [m]the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter [n]the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. There are no prophetic predictions in the OT or the NT that were to be fulfilled after 70 AD. Revelation 10 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He [b]preached to His servants the prophets. The mystery is the unknown plan of God as to how He is going to saved sinners. That mystery would be revealed to the inspired apostles. Ephesians 3 4 [a]By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight [b]into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets [c]in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Colossians 1 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His [ak]saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. One of the greatest passages is found in Romans 16 25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. Rev 10:7 says that this mystery was finished in 70 AD when the last predicted events of Revelation were fulfilled.

Freedom Of Choice!

God created man in the Garden with the freedom to choose whether to eat from the forbidden tree or not. God wanted his creation to have that ability to choose rather than be robots programmed to be perfect. He wanted his creation to be free to choose to love him or not. I always compare this to my 3 children. They can choose to love me or not. It means something to me when they choose to love me, and they have chosen that. If they were robots programmed to love me, it would mean nothing.

Let’s dispel Calvinism quickly. TULIP. The “I” is irresistible grace”, i.e. the grace that saves a person cannot be resisted. The whole emphasis of the reformer Calvin’s Calvinism was to magnify the grace of God in salvation as opposed to the works system of salvation of Catholicism. According to Calvinism, man is born “T”, totally depraved in the inherited sin of Adam. Salvation does not depend on man’s choices or works or else it is not by grace. So, “U”, God unconditionally elects certain ones arbitrarily to be saved. The idea is that, if a man had to meet certain conditions to be saved, then it is not totally up to grace. Thus, “L”, limited atonement: since only certain ones are chosen, then Christ only died for that limited number, the elect. Those not of the elect are simply not able to choose to be saved since they are so totally depraved. What if they did want to choose to be saved? I guess Calvinism would say their depraved nature doesn’t even allow them to be able to do that. God has to send His Spirit to change the heart of the elect so they are able to choose to be saved. Even the elect can’t choose on their own. When God sends His Spirit on them to save them, they can’t resist. Thus “I”. Usually, this would be manifested by some Spirit given signs, feelings, etc. as proof that the person is one of the elect. Again, this system supposedly magnifies God’s grace, not our choices or works. Then, once a man is saved, “P”, perseverance of the saints: he can’t “fall from grace”. It doesn’t matter if he turns from sin or does good works, he will still be saved in eternity by God’s grace. God’s grace is so great that it can do that! Oh, Calvin said, it is good for the church and society for him to turn from sin and do good works, but not necessary for his eternal salvation.

BTW, Calvinism has a Bible passage to supposedly support each one of these tenets of TULIP, which I will not go into here, but each one of the 5 points contradicts other plain passages. Each of their verses isolated might seem to teach TULIP, but those verses must harmonize with all other verses, and they don’t. I leave the study of those verses for future study. But Calvinism basically takes away the freedom to choose, to really be free to choose whether to be saved or not. I had a friend once who, under the teachings of Calvinism, went to the “mourner’s bench” 2 or 3 times with a penitent heart, wanting to confess Jesus and be saved. He got no Spirit signs that he was the elect and went home discouraged, feeling unsaved and without hope of salvation. I studied with him one night. We read Peter’s first gospel sermon in Acts 2 where he preached the completed death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Many of the Jews asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Did Peter tell them “there’s nothing you can do to be saved; simply ask God to show you in some Spirit sign that you are the elect”? No, he told them, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It doesn’t sound like Peter was teaching Calvinism, does it? He says they are able to choose whether to repent and be baptized or not. He makes repentance and baptism conditions of receiving God’s saving grace and forgiveness. He leaves salvation open to anyone and not just a limited number. He makes the receiving of the Spirit something that happens after you have been forgiven, and not before forgiveness, which is the opposite taught in Calvinism. He doesn’t deal with “P”, but later in his writings in 2 Peter 2:20-22 he clearly teaches that false teachers who were once saved would be lost, 2 Peter 2:1 denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. So he doesn’t preach the “P” either.

My friend I was studying with read Acts 2 with me. He looked at me, and said, to the best of my memory (it has been 45 years ago), “you mean, I have already repented of my sins, so all I have to do is be baptized and I will be forgiven and can feel and know that I am saved?”. I, of course, said “yes”. I baptized him that night. He then felt saved because Acts 2:38 says that he can know that he is saved. His baptism was not a work to earn salvation, as some might accuse me, or even Peter, of teaching. It was not something to do to show that you already have been saved by the “sinner’s prayer” that is often used by evangelicals. I mean, did Peter tell them, “just confess your sins and say the sinner’s prayer, confessing Jesus, and you will be saved”? No, he did not. Did Peter put some conditions of receiving the forgiveness of sins? Yes, repentance and baptism. If someone did not choose to meet those conditions, then he/she would not be forgiven. Are those 2 things clearly conditions of salvation? Yes. Does that make salvation any less by grace? No. If I offer you a sack with a million dollars in it, money you haven’t earned and can’t possibly earn working for me, but I tell you that you must trust me that the money is in the sack and you must reach out in faith to take the sack from my hands, and then it will be yours. So I put conditions on receiving the money and allow you to choose. So if you do choose to reach out and take the money, does that make it any less of a gift from me? Of course not. To me, that illustration explains it all. My friend the assurance of salvation for many years after his baptism before he died about 15 years ago. I believe he is enjoying eternal life. I am so glad that God let our paths crossed so I could help him understand the Scriptures and how to be saved more correctly. I wonder how many have given up on being saved because they have been taught Calvinism and got no sign that they were the elect?

Having said all that, back to the main point. All through the Scriptures, people are given the freedom to choose right or wrong, to be saved or not. Adam and Eve. Genesis 3 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. God then punished them because of their bad choices. James 1 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin [p]is accomplished, it brings forth death. Sounds like James says that Eve saw the fruit, lusted (wanted) it and chose to eat it out of her own lusts.

Joshua told the people they were free to choose to serve God or the gods of the Canaanites. Joshua 24 15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Moses gave some strong sermons on the plains of Moab before he died. He warned them about repeating the sins of their fathers. He told them what God required for them to be blessed by God. But then he gave them the freedom to choose. Deuteronomy 30 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your [w]descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him;

On Mt. Carmel, Elijah challenged Israel to choose to follow God or choose to follow Baal. 1 Kings 18 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you [i]hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”

Ezekiel 30 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”

Isaiah 65:12 I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”

Jesus taught freedom of choice. John 7:17 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. Yes, Jesus said in John 15:16 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you… But that does not mean that the apostles did not willingly choose to leave their homes and occupations to follow him. Yes, Jesus said in John 6:44 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… But that does not mean that the person dos not want or choose to respond to the drawing of the Father.

Let’s clarify something about freedom of choice. You might not be able to choose your circumstances, but you are free to choose how to respond to them. Joseph was not free to choose whether to go to Egypt or not; his brothers made that choice for him. But he was free to choose how to respond to being enslaved in Egypt to Potiphar and in prison 2 years. You can choose to respond to bad or difficult or even tragic circumstances in your life in faith and God will bless you. Or you can choose to. respond in bitterness, self pity, anger, even rejecting God.

So many things in life are based on our choices. My mother in law, who is always very happy and calm even in the worst of circumstances, always said, “People are about as happy in life as they choose to be”, and she is right on. Every day we can choose to rejoice in our salvation and the hope of eternal life and enjoy the day, looking for how God can use us to do His will. If things go bad, we can choose to do what James says: James 1 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [c]trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces [d]endurance. And let [e]endurance have its perfect [f]result, so that you may be [g]perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Just go with the flow, go with “God’s flow”. Look for the good in even the bad. Romans 8 28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. Even if you can’t find something good in tragedy, think about eternal life that is prepared for us where there is no more tragedy or pain or death or disaster or disease.

Choose to eat healthy and exercise. So much of our bad health is because we don’t choose to eat healthy or exercise. I have been on the Mediterranean diet for almost a year now.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

I can testify that this diet has lowered my cholesterol, helped me lose weight and keep it off, and feel better about myself. I’m still grouchy, but that is probably because I choose to be! I can stay on this diet so much easier than other diets. I snack on almonds and walnuts at night, and popcorn, but I don’t eat supper. I wake up hungry but with my weight under control We truly “are what we eat”. I try to walk everyday, but the key is what we eat. I hear people talk about their high blood pressure, their borderline type 2 diabetes, being overweight, etc. So we look for a pill when most of their problems could be controlled by eating properly and exercising. But it’s our choice.

One of the greatest things a parent can do for his/her child is to teach them that their choices have consequences. So many parents bail their children out when they make bad choices, not allowing them to suffer the consequences of those choices. Eli rebuked his 2 evil sons, but he never made them suffer the consequences of their evil choices.

Well, this article started off emphasizing our freedom to choose to obey God and be saved or not, but I kinda got off track, huh? But life is about choices. And choices have consequences. So choose to obey God and receive eternal life, or choose to live in sin and receive the wages of sin, which is death. Jesus said in Matthew 16 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his [v]life will lose it; but whoever loses his [w]life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus “The Prophet”

Deuteronomy 18 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your [j]countrymen, you shall listen to him. Acts 3 17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His [h]Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the [i]Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the[j]period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet [k]like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ John 1 19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not [q]the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” John 5 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Have you ever wondered why they asked John if he was “the prophet”? Not just a prophet, but “the prophet”? I’m not an authority on Judaism, so I don’t really know how many Jewish scholars expected Deut 18:15 to be fulfilled by the Messiah, although I did read that some did. But if Peter was speaking by inspiration (and he was) in Acts 3:17, then Jesus did fulfill Deut 18:15 and was “the prophet” Moses predicted. I doubt that would jump out at us as a Messianic prediction like some of the clearer ones, like Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, etc., but it is still a Messianic prediction. When Jesus said that Moses wrote about Him (John 5:46), was He referring to Deut 18:15? Probably so. I can’t think of any where else in the Torah (the first 5 OT books) where Moses made a Messianic prediction, although there are indeed types (like the Passover Lamb) and the seed promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:16 that seed was Christ, the Messiah). Probably this prediction in Deut 18:15 is why the Jews came asking John if he was “the prophet” (John 1:21). Surely they were not just asking him if he was “a” prophet. Their next question, “are you Elijah?” tells us that they were looking for the fulfillment of Malachi 4: 5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Of course, they expected Elijah himself to be raised and to come right before the “age to come” would begin, i.e. the Messianic Age. Jesus later told the apostles that John the Baptist was indeed the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. Matthew 17 10 And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did [d]to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer [e]at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist. So why did John tell the Jews that he was not Elijah? Because he was not the actual man Elijah raised that they were expecting. But Jews’ questions to John tell us that they were expecting some OT prophecies to be fulfilled, and that tells us that perhaps they were asking if John was the fulfillment of Deut 18:15 “the prophet”. I doubt if they were asking if he was the Messiah Himself. They were probably expecting some great prophet, like Moses, to come right before the Messiah would come (just as they expected Elijah to come).

Back to our main point, Jesus was “the prophet” predicted by Moses in Deut 18:15. We often think of Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer, The Son of God, etc., but we usually don’t think of him as “the prophet”. The Muslims speak more of Jesus as a prophet than Christians do, although they believe (incorrectly) that he was just another prophet like Moses who brought some more of God’s word (though they say the Christians corrupted what Jesus taught by saying that Jesus taught that he was the Son of God). They would also say that he was not the last great prophet, but that Muhammed, the founder of Islam, was. But for Moses and Peter to call Jesus “the prophet”, what does that mean? Well, a prophet’s work was to speak the word of God to the people. Jesus did that. He often would tell the Jews that the words he spoke were not his words, but the words of the Father.

But how would the Jews know if someone who claimed to be a prophet was a true prophet or not? Deut 18 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, [m]that prophet shall die.’ 21 [n]You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. There were 2 basic tests of a true prophet. 1) Did he teach something totally contradictory to other confirmed scripture? 2) Did all of his predictions (not just some) come true? If he ever predicted anything that did not come true, he was a false prophet and Israel did not need to fear any of his predictions against them.

Those 2 basic tests of a true prophet would still be true today, would they not? Tongue speaking was the original excitement of the charismatic movement in the early 1900’s. But much later in the century, the charismatic movement produced a wave of “prophets” who could supposedly predict future events or to predict events in a person’s future. Unfortunately, none of these so called prophets could predict the future with 100% accuracy and often predicted things that did not come true. They did not pass the Deut 18 true prophet test and thus were false prophets. I read where there was a prophets’ school where these so called prophets could learn how to discern whether what they were predicting was really from God or not. If they were true prophets, they wouldn’t have to do that. Then there have been the numerous “latter day prophets” of the last 2000 years, such as Ellen G. White of the 7th Day Adventists, Joseph Smith of the Mormons, Rutherford and Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many, many more. All of them predicted things that did not come true and none of them predicted the future with 100% accuracy, and yet their followers still regard them as true prophets and their writings as equal in authority to the New Testament. There were inspired prophets in the first century church (Ephesians 4:12) just as there were inspired apostles and teachers. But after the first century and the cessation of the miraculous, there have been no true apostles or prophets. The Mormons even claim to have 12 apostles who have the same authority as the original apostles. Well I read where Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth. John 15 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. But I don’t read where Jesus gave any truth to any prophet or apostle after those original apostles and prophets. If one of these latter day prophets could pass the true prophet test and predict the future with 100% accuracy, then I might have to rethink all this, but they can’t.

Back to the main point about Jesus being a prophet. He spoke the words of the Father, but did He predict the future accurately to confirm that He was a true prophet? Yes He did. He predicted his death, burial, and resurrection on several occasions. He even predicted that his death would involve being lifted up from the earth. John 12 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. Of course, he was talking about being crucified. He predicted that Judas would betray Him. John 13 18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. He clearly tells them that he is predicting the future so that they can believe He is the Prophet when the event takes place.

But the most powerful and amazing prediction Jesus made over and over again was the prediction that the temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed within the lifetime of those He was speaking to. In the “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, He predicted that and then said that it would happen before that generation passed away. Matthew 24 34 Truly I say to you, this [x]generation will not pass away until all these things take place. That word in the Greek “genea” always means a period of about 40 years or a group of people living in a period of about 40 years. It never means a generic race of people over a long period of time which is what some claim it means. The same author, Matthew, in Matthew chapter 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus in 3 sets of 14 generations and the meaning is obvious. The word was used in the same way we use the “baby boomers’ generation”, a group of people living at about the same time who in turn produced the next generation. Jesus predicted this event many times. His predictions were all made during His 3 year ministry around 30 AD. The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD just as Jesus predicted. If that prediction did not come true, then Jesus should be declared a “false prophet”. But it did come true.

In Mark’s gospel, He made other amazing predictions. Mark 9:1 And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” Mark 1:15 14 Now after John had been [h]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [i]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [j]is at hand; repent and [k]believe in the gospel.””Daniel had predicted that God would set up His kingdom in the days of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2:44). Jesus clearly predicted that kingdom to be established within the lifetime of those He was speaking to. Either that or, if it wasn’t established as He predicted, there must be some 2,000 year old people still alive today! That kingdom was a spiritual kingdom and it was established just a short time after Jesus spoke this. That kingdom was the church established as the apostles preached the gospel and baptized believers into that kingdom. And yet there are many who say the kingdom was not established as Jesus predicted. They say He “delayed” its establishment even though they have no passages in the NT where He said that. Their problem is that, like the Jews, they expect it to be a physical power type kingdom like Israel was in the OT under David, which it is not. But to the point again, if that kingdom was not established in the lifetime of those He was speaking to, then He is a false prophet.

Just one more “teaser” to get you thinking. In the only 4 times in the synoptic gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke) where Jesus predicts that He is coming back, i.e. His 2nd coming as we call it, Jesus said that His 2nd coming would be within the lifetime of those whom He was speaking to. Matthew 10:23 23 “But whenever they persecute you in [t]one city, flee to [u]the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. He was talking to the apostles who would be going through all Israel preaching the gospel after He died. Matthew 16 28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 24 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 4 verses after this, He said all these things would take place before the generation He was speaking to passed away. Matthew 26 64 Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, [v]hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus told this to Caiaphas. What could Caiaphas have possibly seen that would fulfill this? It had to be when Jesus “came” in judgment on the wicked Jews, using the Roman Empire to destroy over a million of them.

I challenge you to find any passage in any of the synoptic gospels where Jesus predicted some “coming back” that would occur beyond the lifetime of those whom He was peaking to. So, He either fulfilled that prediction of else He is a false prophet. He did come in judgement on the Jews, using the Roman Empire. If we gave the synoptic gospels to someone who had never heard about Jesus or never read the gospels or never had someone tell them when this 2nd coming would occur, and if they read these 4 predictions, would they not judge Jesus to be a true prophet or not by whether He returned within the lifetime of those He was speaking to or not? Of course, we would. BTW the Muslims, Jews, and atheists all say Jesus was a false prophet because they don’t think His prediction came true. Their problem is that they don’t understand the figurative language of the Bible. His 2nd coming was imminent as He predicted, but it was not some “end of the earth”, body of Jesus coming as people have taught it to be. Christian preachers have confounded this problem by not understanding the fulfillment of the prediction, saying that He did not return soon as He predicted, that His 2nd coming is still in our future and here we are 2,000 years after Jesus made His prediction. Digest all that because it is very imporant that we show that Jesus was not a false prophet in any of HIs predictions, including His prediction that His 2nd coming would be imminent. BTW the apostles taught the same thing. Just one example: James 5 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. The 1st century early church expected His 2nd coming to be within their lifetime because that is what He and the apostles had told them. Either it happened as predicted, or Jesus and the apostles are false prophets! Period!

I hope this article has helped us appreciate Jesus as the Prophet of Deut 18:15. I hope it stimulates your thinking on some of the predictions that He made.