Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chappy Chanukah!

As I write this, it is seven hours until the beginning of Hanukkah.  This is about the third or fourth year we have celebrated this festival.  I love it more every year!  In John 10, Jesus was in the temple during the celebration of Hanukkah.   Hey, if Jesus can celebrate it, why can't I?

Leviticus 23 outlines the seven major Biblical Feasts (mo'ed - appointed times).  Two additional feasts were added to the Jewish calendar... ironically, both of them were the result of some evil entity trying to wipe the Jews off the planet.  (Where have we heard THAT before?)  Purim was added to celebrate what Queen Esther did to save her people.  And then Hanukkah was added during the "inter-testament" time.

If you don't know the background, Hanukkah is a result of the persecution of Antiochus, ruler of Syria, from around 175-163 BC.  He wanted to destroy everything Jewish and overtake and Hellenize Israel.  He is foretold in the book of Daniel and is an early fulfillment of the antichrist.  In 167 BC, Antiochus desecrated the temple, sacrificed a PIG on the altar, and set up a statue of Zeus in God's holy place.  All over Israel, Jews were being forced to worship pagan gods.

Antiochus (he called himself "Epiphanes, meaning god), almost succeeded, but for a small band of dedicated fighters from the Hasmonean clan. For three years, Judas Maccabeus (which means "the hammer") fought against the Syrians and eventually prevailed, against all odds.  Judas then led the effort to clean up and re-consecrate the temple in 164 BC.

As the story goes, they discovered that most of the oil for the menorah had been contaminated by the Syrians.  Only one container was discovered still sealed, which should have been enough to fuel the menorah for a day.  But the oil miraculously lasted for 8 days during the temple re-dedication.  Thus the feast of Hanukkah, also called the feast of Dedication or the Festival of Light, was instituted to remember the surrounding events.

God once again had intervened miraculously to rescue the Jewish people from extinction.  And just in time, too!  Not too long after this, He sent His son to earth to save not just the Jews, but all people.  Without Hanukkah, there would have been no Jesus. 

The nine-branched menorah is used during Hanukkah (instead of the usual seven-branched menorah that was always in the temple).  The candle in the middle is elevated and is called the Shamash, or "Servant Candle."  It is with this candle that the remaining eight candles are lit.  What a wonderful picture of Jesus, the ultimate Servant, who is the Light of the World!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No Christmas Tree, No Christmas Tree

I've been taking a little good-natured heat for my stance on Christmas.  I love my friends dearly, which is why I shared the scripture from Jeremiah 10 about cutting down trees from the woods and decorating them like the pagans do.  But in the last twenty four hours I've heard expressed to me both "legalism" and "well, it's just the Old Testament" (with a shrug).

Perhaps, in hindsight, I shouldn't have started with Jeremiah 10.  I had been studying paganism in the church for a long time before I stumbled onto that verse.  "Christmas" isn't in scripture.  It was begun in the fourth century when Constantine "converted" to Christianity, outlawed the celebration of any biblical Feasts or Sabbaths, persecuted the Jews, and made all the pagan Roman festivals into "Christian" ones.  Friends, Jesus was Jewish, not Roman.  Whenever I hear "Keep Christ in Christmas," I want to shout out that He wasn't there in the first place - it was Saturnalia; the celebration of the death and resurrection of the sun god!  But of course, that would be rude, so I keep my mouth shut.  (Well, ok, not always - but sometimes I can't HELP it!). 

Both pagans and Jewish people chuckle at Christians around Christmastime.  Many of them know about the pagan roots to the holiday, even if believers don't.  The God of the Bible wants to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.  God has a way that He wants to be worshipped.  He calls the mixing in of pagan things "harlotry."  Remember the golden calf?  The high places?  The cakes baked for the queen of heaven?

Let me go back to that "it's just the Old Testament" comment for a moment.  There's this idea in Christianity that it's outdated and no longer relevant.  Not true.  Look at Acts 17:11-12 - These [Bereans] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 

These guys, both Jewish and gentile, weren't searching through the New Testament scriptures - those hadn't been written yet.  They poured through the Tanakh (aka "Old Testament"), which points to the Messiah Yeshua in every single book.  Yeshua fulfilled the Mosaic covenant (the old covenant law) when he gave us the new covenant through His blood (see Jeremiah 31:31-33), but there's a whole lot more to the Tanakh than the Mosaic covenant.  We are grafted into the kingdom of God - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) - and we'd best be studying ALL the scriptures for ourselves. 

Here's the thing.  Jeremiah 10 says the customs of the gentiles are futile - they cut trees and decorate them.  This statement was never abrogated (overruled, reversed) anywhere in scripture.  Well, I'm going with scripture, and not the traditions of men.

By the way, only two more days till Hanukkah!  Woohoo!  Now there's a biblical holiday!  (John 10)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Prophecies Fulfilled

Let's start at the end.  Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus:

 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Now we can go back to the beginning.  I mentioned on one of my recent posts that the birth of Yeshua was recorded in Matthew and Luke in order to demonstrate how He fulfilled prophecy.  (What?? It wasn't a big fat invitation to celebrate His birthday every year??)

The lineage quoted in Mattew 1 shows the lineage of Joseph and supports the need for a virgin birth, because one in that lineage of David, Jeconiah, was cursed and promised that his desendents would not prosper nor sit on the throne.  So Yeshua the messiah could not have been a blood descendent of Joseph.  The lineage recorded in Luke, however, also comes through King David and all the way to Joseph son (in law) of Heli (who is confirmed in the Talmud as Mary's father).  This is Yeshua's blood lineage through His mother.  Matthew chapter one continues, showing how Yeshua was born of a virgin, as prophesied in Isaiah 7 - Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).

Matthew continues with prophecy fulfillment in chapter 2.   Micah 5 is quoted to show where He would be born:
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.

The account of the wise men is there to reiterate the fulfilled prophecy of Bethlehem, Bethlehem, Bethlehem!  (Which means, "House of Bread," in Hebrew, BTW - coincidence?  I think not).

The escape to Egypt in verses 14-15 was included to demonstrate the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1.  When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,  and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

The next prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2 was Herod's terrible slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, from Jeremiah 31:15.
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 
 “ A
voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

The final prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 2 is the last verse, which says And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.  This one is a less obvious fulfillment of prophecy, since you won't find any one prophet who clearly says, "He shall be called a Nazarene."   Isaiah 11:1 says, There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.   The word translated “branch” in Hebrew is “Neser” and the name Nazareth has exactly the same root word “Neser”. Nazareth actually means “town of the branch." 

I find it interesting that the Branch will grow out of the stem (meaning stump, declaring that the tree had been cut down).  Yeshua is from the line of David, but the line of David was no longer ruling Israel.  Yeshua had to be born before the destruction of the temple (which happened in 70 AD), otherwise His lineage from King David could no longer be proved when the geneologies were destroyed.

The current king at the time, Herod the Great, was a political appointee of Rome and was half Arab and half Idumean.  It is also interesting to note that the one good thing Herod did to prepare for the coming of the Messiah was to make the temple ready for Him with major renovations and beautification.

The gospel of Luke, after showing the lineage of Yeshua through His mother, focuses next on the birth of John the Baptist (who fulfilled Malachi 4:5 as the Elijah who had to come before Yeshua).  Luke then reiterates the virgin birth, as well as Bethlehem and Nazareth. 

Luke also emphasizes the humble beginnings of Yeshua, highlighting the fact that at His first coming he is Messiah ben Yosef -  the Suffering Servant.  So many things recorded in Luke regarding Yeshua's birth scream out "Lamb of God!"  He was born in the same place a lamb would be born, and placed in a lamb's feeding trough.  He was descended from the Shepherd-Boy-Turned-King David.  His birth was announced not to the kings and rulers and important people of Israel, but to shepherds.  Yeshua, the Lamb of God and our Good Shepherd!

Yeshua's parents brought Him to the temple 40 days after His birth (Lev 12) for the purification ritual.  Both Simeon and Anna (aka Hannah) confirmed numerous prophecies regarding Yeshua.  If you'd like to look them up, check out Isaiah 9:2, 8:14, 42:6, 49:6, 6-:1-3; Lamentations 3:25-26.

These few chapters in Matthew and Luke are all about prophecy fulfilled, not the birthday of Jesus.  And this is only the beginning!  The gospels record many, many more prophecies that He fulfilled with His life, death, and resurrection.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Musings on the timing of Yeshua's arrival

I mentioned in my last post that God gave us some clues as to when His Son was born.  Let's look at those clues, just for fun.  These clues cannot give us an absolute answer, because of the workings of the Hebrew calendar, so some of this is definitely subjective.

First of all, a clue as to when Yeshua was NOT born.  Winter.  Sheep don't graze all night in the winter.  They do this in the spring and in the fall, when the former and latter rains fall, which is also when many of these animals were needed for the sacrifices of the spring and fall Feasts.

Jerusalem was very crowded at the time of Yeshua's birth.  The Jewish people would not have enthusiastically filled Jerusalem to beyond capacity for a taxation decree - they were supposed to each go back to the place of their birth for that.  However, there are three times per year that the people WOULD have filled Jerusalem to beyond capacity - the three Feasts that were pilgrimage Feasts, during which the Israelites were required by the law of Moses to go up to Jerusalem.   These were Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), and Tabernacles.  Bethlehem was a mere six miles from Jerusalem and would most certainly have been filled beyond capacity during these pilgrimage feasts.

Another clue rests with John the Baptist.  In Luke 1:5, we learn that Zachariah was of the priestly division of Abijah.  A seemingly small detail - but we can take that detail and visit 1 Chronicles 24 and learn that it was the eighth priestly division of the year.  There is no way to determine EXACTLY when his course would have taken place due to numerous calendar discrepancies between Hebrew and Roman calendars, but it can be estimated to be in the 9th or 10th week of the year (the year begins at Passover), because during the pilgrimage feasts, ALL priests were required to serve in the temple, not just the divisions.  If Elizabeth conceived immediately following her husband's service, we can estimate the conception to be in the early/middle of the summer; perhaps mid-June or so.

We also know from scripture that Mary conceived Yeshua six months into the pregnancy of Elizabeth.  If this is the case, we can count forward and determine that He was conceived around Hanukkah, which takes place in December.  Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights!  John 1:4-5 makes an allusion to this:   In him was life, and the life was the light of men.   And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 

The conception of John in the summer would put the birth of John the Baptist at the time of Passover.  This makes sense, because he was the fulfillment of Elijah who had to come before Yeshua did.  The Jewish people even today welcome Elijah to their Passover celebrations, knowing that the scriptures teach that he must come before the Messiah.

Six months from Passover we have the Feast of Tabernacles. Wow!  The feast that celebrates God dwelling with us!  Young's literal translation of John 1:14 makes another connection:  And the Word became flesh, and did TABERNACLE among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

If Yeshua was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, then He would have been circumcised on the eighth day, which is also a Hebrew holy day, called Shemini Atzaret - the eighth day of gathering.  This would have been the day that He was named and officially became an Israelite.  The number eight  in scripture represents new beginnings.

So, if I WERE going to celebrate the birthday of Yeshua, I would pick the Feast of Tabernacles.  The cool thing about God's Appointed Times, or Feasts, is that they are Biblical.  When you try to hijack a pagan festival and "Christianize" it, you leave all sorts of room for satan to work.  I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy Birthday?

In my last post, I briefly explained our journey out of Christmas.  Perhaps you are one of those who asks, "Is it wrong to celebrate the birthday of Jesus on December 25?"

One of the things that crossed my mind while thinking this through was, what if we eliminate the words "on December 25?"  Is it something we should be doing, period?  Scripture is not clear on the date of Yeshua's birth.  Two of the gospels don't even mention it.  Do you suppose that God did this on purpose?

I found two clear birthday celebrations in scripture, with an allusion to a third.  Let's look at them:

Exodus 40:20-22:  Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.  Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.  But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.

Matthew 14 and Mark 6 tell the story of the daughter of Herodias dancing before Herod on his birthday.  The ultimate result was the beheading of John the Baptist.

The final allusion to a birthday takes place in the first chapter of Job.  Some translations use the word birthday; others do not.  Here is the NIV translation:  His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. 

These are the only references in the scriptures to birthdays, and frankly, none of them had uplifting results.  I have also heard that the three most important holidays to practicing witches are Samhain (Halloween), Beltane (May 1), and their birthday.  I don't remember where I read this, and I am not totally certain that it is true.

We are never once commanded to celebrate the birthday of the Son of God.  So does that mean we should not do it?  This is a question that only you can answer, through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I am not going to condemn you if you do.  But I hope that you won't condemn me or call me Scrooge because I don't.   I know that the battle cry of the Reformation was "Sola Scriptura!"  Personally, I think that "Sola Scriptura Unless It Is A Long-Held Tradition " is more accurate.

And lest you think I am a JW and don't do birthdays at all, I do acknowledge the days that my children joined the family. But I am careful not to make more of those days than I ought.  Know what I mean? 

I also think that God left us a few clues in His Word to let us know when Yeshua was born.  Watch for my next post (if you are still with me, that is!).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

That time of year again...

Ah, December.

The frenzy.  The shopping.  The boycotting of stores who refuse to say "Merry Christmas."  The rushing around, preparing for and attending all sorts of parties.  The stress of buying just the right gift for Aunt Matilda.  The extra rehearsals for the Christmas pageant at church.  Pausing from the hubbub to remind ourselves for "the reason for the season."  The overindulgence.  The signs in the yard that say "Keep Christ in Christmas."  The ridiculous overspending.

I just can't do it anymore.

Our family has been on a journey "out of Christmas" for the past few years.  It began when I decided to stop sending out my annual mass-mailing of Christmas cards to pretty much everyone I had ever met.  (I initially changed the mass-mailing to Easter instead, but that eventually had to go, too).

The journey continued as I began to study the Jewish roots of my faith.  My studying included looking at church history.  I learned how ancient Rome under Constantine took everything Jewish away from the faith, and instead tried to "Christianize" the pagan festivals that were celebrated by the Romans.  Saturnalia, the celebration of the death and resurrection of the sun god, became Christmas.  Easter became.... well, Easter.  (They didn't even bother to change the name of that one because Passover was Jewish, so they kept the name of their fertility goddess.)  Even their priests were changed into "Christian" priests without really having to change much.  Instead of worshipping various gods, the people were given various "patron saints" to pray to.

Scripture warns us in numerous places not to mix pagan customs with the worship of the Lord.  Here is one of them that really stood out to me when I read it; Jeremiah 10:2-4: 

Thus says the LORD: 
“ Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;
Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.  

  For the customs of the peoples are futile;
For one cuts a tree from the forest,
The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.

If I'm not mistaken, that sure sounds like our modern-day Christmas tree!  You can see scripturally that the custom of cutting down a tree and decorating it originated way before Yeshua was born, and that it was a completely pagan custom.

The more I learned about the pagan-rooted holidays, the less joy I felt in trying to celebrate them.  And the more I learn about the Biblical Feasts and how they all point to Yeshua the Messiah, the more joyful they have become!

You're probably thinking, "Oh, your poor children!  How can you rob them of Christmas?"  My poor children are learning the Biblical Feasts, too.  And my poor children are not being trained in the frenzy of materialism of Black Friday, the Shopping Season, and Christmas morning.  During Hanukkah, we light the menorah, make latkes in the oil that represents the Holy Spirit, and celebrate the fact that Yeshua is the Light of the World.

I have been asked, "Well, is it wrong for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25?"   I'll give you my thoughts on that in my next post.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Musings on the Education of our Children

I just realized that I have harped on this before, but I think it's a message that bears repeating.  I recently attended a home education conference, and the speaker really brought these things to the forefront of my mind again.

I am very thankful to live in a country where we as parents are free to educate our children as we please.  It has not always been so.  Our home-education pioneering forefathers and foremothers of the 1970s era risked jail and even losing their children so that we could enjoy this freedom to educate our children in the way that God outlines in His scriptures.

However, it seems that many of today's home educators have lost that early vision.  All around me, I see home educators trying to re-create school at home.  Why is this?  Why do we feel like we need to adhere to some school standard issued by a godless institution?

Revelation 2 says to the church at Ephesus, I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Of course, home education is not the context here.  But some parallels can be drawn.  The home-educating community perseveres and endures hardships, working very hard to educate our children.  But there are many of us who have lost the very hearts of those children through the striving to be more public-school-like, and to achieve the idol of high academic standards. Algebra in preschool?  Latin and Greek at age 7?  Are these things beneficial to the child, or to the parental ego?

Sadly, I have seen so many crack under the pressure to measure up to the godless educational standard, and they end up sending their kids back to public school. Then they get to deal with the hours and hours of homework, assigned by an outside authority in their child's life, including content that they may even be opposed to. Not to even mention the ungodly influences that reign in the public schools.

Seven times in God's word, He tells us, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge. (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 33:6).   Do you really want your child sent to a place for education, six or seven hours a day, where the source of wisdom is man, not God?

We know through scripture that the home and the family was the center of biblical Hebrew education. Deuteronomy 6 tells us, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The language in our modern vernacular says, focus on these things 24/7!  I see nothing here on math, grammar, French Literature, or any such thing.  This doesn't mean never study those subjects; that isn't my point.  My point is, what is THE most important thing?  If they learn all those other things but miss loving and serving God, it was all for nothing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A new religion??

Let me just say this: Yeshua did not come to create a new religion. Yeshua was not a Christian. Yeshua was not Catholic. Jesus was Jewish from start to finish!

Over the past weekend, we held a "Feast of Feasts" at our house. We invited the youth (and their families) over for an afternoon of learning and feasting - feasting on food and the Word.

The seven Feasts found in Leviticus 23 create a mural for us of God's entire redemptive plan. Yeshua fulfilled the spring feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot (Pentecost) with His death, burial, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit. At His first coming, He was the Suffering Servant.

We are now in the long, hot summer between the feasts, where the Kingdom of God is offered to the whole world. Then someday, Yeshua will return and fulfill the fall feasts of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Shavuot (Feast of Tabernacles). This He will do as a Conquering King.

Folks like to say that Pentecost was the "birth of the church," and that we are now in the "church age." I say that it is simply the next step in God's redemptive plan, which is first to the Jew an then to the Gentile. The first believers were all Jewish. Yeshua said to the woman at the well in Samaria, You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. True, most of His brethren rejected Him as Messiah. But the early believers were the remnant who were empowered to take the good news to the rest of the world. The two loaves made with leaven that are eaten at Shavuot represent Jew and Gentile coming together as one new man in God's redemptive plan.

The word ekklesia, which is translated church in so many Bible versions, is a Greek word that means assembly. It can be a political ekklesia, a social ekklesia, whatever. It had no religious connotation at all. You can actually find the word in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Tanakh, which happened 300 years before Yeshua came to earth), being applied to the Jewish assembly.

Since about the fourth century, a dangerous theology called Replacement Theology has been taught within the church. This theology says that God is done with the Jews, and that the church is the new Israel. This theology has been responsible for the deaths of millions and millions of Jews as they were shunned, pushed out, forced to convert, or killed throughout church history - labeled "Christ killers" and being accused of all sorts of ridiculous things like killing Christian children at Passover and using their blood to make matzah. How stupid is that? Matzah is made with wheat and water, nothing else.

This theology has the capability of harming Gentiles as well. I recently read an article at aish.com, written by a former Gentile Christian who could not make sense of Replacement Theology. His heart was drawn toward the Jewish people (as is mine), but because all his studying was done through the lens of Replacement Theology, he could not reconcile Christianity. He is now an orthodox Jew living in Israel and has completely rejected Yeshua as the Messiah. He and I have had a brief exchange of emails in which he clarified his Rabbinic Jewish beliefs, and with a mildly hostile attitude, I might add. His article can be found here: http://www.aish.com/sp/so/My_Long_Road_Home.html. Sad, sad, sad!

I love the study of the Jewish roots of my faith (obviously, given the title of this blog). However, I have no fear of losing my faith in Yeshua. His amazing footprints are ALL OVER the Tanakh (old testament). Unfortunately, most of these ideas are not taught in the church, which for the most part is still entrenched in replacement theology.

Not convinced? Here is an example: does your church teach a pre-tribulational rapture of the church? This theology, made popular in the 1830s, shows a move toward a more biblical view of Israel - that God will deal with them in the end - but it still teaches that the church is entirely a separate entity from Israel. It is important to read (and understand) Ephesians 2, Romans 11, and Jeremiah 31:31. The covenants were all made with Israel, and we Gentiles were graciously allowed to be grafted into God's covenant with THEM. Scripture clearly shows the believers in Yeshua are still around in Revelation 12:17 (among other places). But that is altogether another post (or six) for another time.

I don't think the early church was entirely malicious in its formation of Replacement Theology.  After all, Israel had been completely destroyed, purged of Jewish people, and renamed Palestine (by the Roman Emperor Hadrian - who hated the Jews - and not by any Arab person).   And Israel had no homeland for centuries and centuries.  Perhaps it seemed logical to the church that they really were the new Israel.  (However, this does not excuse the historical treatment of the Jews by the church).

But now Israel is a nation again in her own homeland, a miracle, wrought by the hand of God alone!   People have been digging into the scriptures and re-examining their beliefs in this light.  Praise Adonai!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Marriage of the Lamb!

In my last post, I wrote about the similarities between a Hebrew betrothal and the covenant that was made between Yeshua and His bride, and I noted that we are in the betrothal period right now as we await the joyous arrival of our Groom.

Before I move on, there is one point that I want to add to my last post on betrothal.  In the ancient Hebrew betrothal covenant, a cup of wine was shared by the groom and the bride to seal the covenant.  Yeshua sealed this covenant with us, His bride, when He drank of the cup of wine with His disciples the night before He died, at their Passover celebration.  At the actual marriage ceremony, a second cup of wine would be shared by the Hebrew bride and groom.  Note the words of Yeshua in Matthew 26:29:  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.

We are now in a very exciting time to be alive!  We know that the sign of Israel being a nation again is the key to the return of the Messiah.  Yeshua will soon be fulfilling the Fall Feasts, just as He perfectly fulfilled the Spring Feasts with His first earthly visitation.   As the betrothed bride of the Messiah, we are now in the time of sanctification; that is, preparing ourselves to become His bride. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy day by day - getting ready for the Big Day!

A bride in ancient Israel had no idea what day or hour her bridegroom would return for her.  The groom himself didn't even know - his father would be the one to decide when all was ready for the wedding.  Sound familiar?  It should!   But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  Matthew 24:36

Jewish bridegrooms usually came for their brides late at night, near the midnight hour.  Shofars would break the silence of night.  There would be shouts in the streets, and a torch-light procession would wind its way through the town to the home of the bride.  Similarly, Yeshua will fulfill the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) when He returns for His bride.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins gives us a sobering illustration in Matthew 25.  Five of the virgins were prepared and ready. The other five did not allow themselves to become sanctified and holy; therefore, they were not prepared when the bridegroom showed up. They had no oil for their lamps, meaning that they did not have the Holy Spirit, who is symbolized by oil.  Sadly, they were shut out from the Wedding of the Lamb, for He did not know them.

The Hebrew marriage ceremony would take place under a chuppah, which means room or covering.  The marriage of the Lamb is fulfilled at the Feast of Tabernacles, the feast during which people build temporary booths or shelters, symbolizing the chuppah.  Tabernacles is the autumn feast that is seven days long, just like the ancient Hebrew wedding.  Remember how Jacob had to fulfill his week with Leah before he could have Rachel in Genesis 29?

The cup of wine is shared by bride and groom to seal the marriage covenant forever.  Since ancient times, the glass would then be broken to symbolize that they would never be the same again.  The marriage feast would have been an extremely joyous occasion, just as the Feast of Tabernacles is the most joy-filled of the seven biblical feasts.  I don't think that it is coincidental that the first recorded miracle of Yeshua was at the wedding celebration at Cana - involving wine, which represents joy.

The time period that follows the wedding feast of the Lamb is found in Revelation 20 - the one thousand year reign.  I've been pondering this, and I have come to the conclusion that this represents the honeymoon period.  Why?  Look at this little tiny requirement in Deuteronomy 24:5 -  When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.  In Hebrew, one year can have the same numeric meaning as one millenium. 

There will be a brief war at the end of the millenium - of course, Yeshua wins - and then in Revelation 21, we see that the glorious New Jerusalem will come down from the heavens and be joined together with the regenerated earth.  The Bridegroom will present his bride with her new permanent home, where He will forever dwell with her in love, joy, and peace.

Look at the words of Isaiah in chapter 62, verse 5:  And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,  so shall your God rejoice over you.    

Isn't this just a fantastic picture that leaves you breathless with anticipation?

Next year during the Feast of Tabernacles, I'd love to build a chuppah in my yard and host a marriage vow renewal ceremony.  Anybody interested?   Of course, I'd settle for a trip to Jerusalem instead.

The Proverbs 31 Woman and the Bride of Messiah

If you are like me, you have perhaps read the description of the Perfect Woman in Proverbs 31 and groaned inwardly (or outwardly), saying, "I will never be able to be like her!"

Verse 10 starts out with what seems like a rhetorical question.  "A wife of noble character, who can find?"

But the second part of that verse says her worth (her value, her price) is far above rubies.

In their ancient culture, women were purchased.  A bride price was always agreed upon before a woman became someone's wife.  Our Proverbs 31 woman KNOWS that she is valuable to her husband because he had paid a high price for her. Knowing how much he values and cherishes her, she serves him joyfully and without reserve.  Her family flourishes, and her children and husband praise her and call her blessed.

As the bride of Yeshua, we too were purchased at a very high price -  the blood of the Lamb.  Proverbs 31 actually foreshadows our Christian walk!  We don't (or shouldn't) serve Jesus out of some guilty sense of obligation.  When we realize what he has done for us, we can BE that Proverbs 31 gal when we serve Him joyfully and without reserve!

There are many parallels between the ancient Hebrew marriage customs and the coming Marriage to the Lamb.  Let's look at a few.
  • The Father chooses a bride for his son.  The Father also chose us for His Son. Eph 1:4 -  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love

  • The Ketubah was and still is the marriage contract in a Hebrew wedding.  We have a ketubah today:  the New Covenant, in which the groom promises love and care for His bride - and to give Himself for her. The bride promises to pay her dowry - her financial status - that of her yielded life and to keep herself for Him.  1 Cor 6:20 - For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s

  • The bride and groom were separately immersed in a mikveh, which we know today as baptism.  Yeshua was immersed as He began His ministry, and He asks us to do the same when we receive Him.

  • The betrothal period - This is where we now are!  In scripture, it was as binding as a marriage.  The time of betrothal was a time of sanctification (being set apart and preparing for the wedding and marriage).  The groom's responsibility at this time was to prepare a place for them to live.  In Bible times, this was usually not a new home, but rooms that were added onto his father's house.  John 14:2-3 illustrates this beautifully:  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

  • Before the betrothed couple parted to prepare themselves, the groom would give the bride a gift, called the matan in Hebrew.  Its purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her - and that he would return to receive her as his wife.  Interestingly, the Greek word for this gift, or pledge, is charismata.  We see the gift that is given in Ephesians 1:13-14 - In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
These are just a few things to ponder as we await the return of our Bridegroom.  Watch for another post soon on the rapidly approaching marriage!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yeshua Feeds Thousands and Thousands

Nothing is in scripture by accident.

Did you ever wonder why Yeshua fed 5000 people, and then shortly thereafter, fed the 4000?  Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the 5000.  Matthew and Mark both record the 4000.

God's numbers mean something.  Always.  I've said that my favorite number is seven - it happens so many times in scripture and it represents completeness.  But what can we learn from these giant Catering-By-Yeshua events?

The feeding of the 5000 took place near Bethsaida, to an all-Jewish crowd.  The number 5 represents God's grace and mercy, which He poured out first on the Jewish people.  The number five can also represent the Pentateuch - the first five books of scripture.  Yeshua, our Bread of Life, is transforming the Mosaic Law into something much bigger, greater, and more nourishing.  After the meal, there were twelve baskets left over.  Twelve is a very Jewish number!  Twelve tribes of Israel.  Twelve apostles. 

The Greek word used for basket here is kophinos, which was a small, personal-sized basket that was used by the Israelites.  The Jewish people observed cleanliness laws carefully, and large community baskets were out of the question.

Fast forward to the second Great Catered Event.  Yeshua had just been to Tyre and Sidon and was traveling in the Decapolis - in other words, He had a very Gentile audience.  He had just "thrown the crumbs to the dogs," so to speak, when he healed the Gentile woman's daughter who had been demon-possessed.

When He fed the 4000, He was foreshadowing the salvation of the world.  The number four represents the four corners of the earth, symbolizing all of creation.  Seven baskets:  seven represents completeness, His plan of salvation for all of mankind. 

Even the Greek word for basket is different:  spuris.  This type of basket is huge!  Picture an Indiana Jones movie -  when Indy runs from his enemies, this would be a basket he could hide in and put the cover on it. 

In the same way, the grace and mercy of the Lord will be (and is being) poured out abundantly on the entire world.

But notice the order:  First to the Jew, and then to the Gentile.

Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (or Gentile - the word helene actually means anyone "Hellenized," or a non-Jew).

God's order of things has not changed.  Pray for opportunities to be a blessing and a witness to your Jewish friends.  If you don't have any, pray for some!  Bless Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missions Week!

I was in the car today, and was struck by a thought.  Our church is in the middle of a week-long missions festival, which is probably why I have been pondering this.

Acts 1:18 says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The church always says that this means missionary work begins in your backyard.  Then you can start thinking about your county.  And then about the rest of your country.  And only then the world.

But what if the scripture means exactly what it says?  That witnessing should start in Jerusalem?  The apostles followed that very directive... beginning in Jerusalem and then fanning out.  This makes sense because Jerusalem is where it all started. 

So, was that directive only for the apostles, or is it something we should also take to heart?  Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Most people forget the second part of that verse when reciting it).

I visited a huge church a few weeks ago, and they too were having a missions fest.  Many giant flags were hanging all around the sanctuary.  The green Saudi Arabian flag was prominently displayed right up front.  (I wonder if that pastor knew that the Arabic words on it - above the sword - say "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.").  He did let me know that the flags represented the missionaries that they support, which is not a bad thing.  If God is calling you somewhere, it is in your best interest to obey Him (read the account of Jonah if you are unsure of this).  But I noticed there was one country's flag that was conspicuously absent:

What if my backyard here in little Mayberry is actually part of "the ends of the earth," and not my own personal "Jerusalem"? I'm just sayin...

Next year in Jerusalem!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on that Last Great Day

Today is known as the Last Great Day - Shemini Atzeret (meaning eighth day of assembly).  It is a special Sabbath, a celebration to close out Sukkot, and the final feast day of God's prophetic calender. 

The day commemorates the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of the new one.  The former rains would begin to fall, and the wheat and barley would be planted.  Even today, the Jewish people pray for rain as part of the celebration of this day.  In the arid country of Israel, water was obviously very important.

In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  Look at what he says:

Verses 37 and 38 say:  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The millenium, which is foreshadowed by the Feast of Tabernacles, will end.  This Last Great Day is a foreshadow of the coming Great White Throne judgment and the eternal life that follows for believers. 

In Revelation 21, John says, Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also, there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Here is a thought.  If the wedding feast of the Lamb took place just before the millenium, it could perhaps be said that the millenium period is the "honeymoon" with our Bridegroom.  After the honeymoon, our new permanent home is revealed - the New Jerusalem... the place Jesus said He would prepare for us:

In My Father’s house are many mansions;  if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tabernacles - The Grand Finale!

Today we are halfway through the seventh Biblical feast - The Feast of Tabernacles. We look forward with anticipation to the God of the Universe fulfilling this appointed time very soon! This morning in church, our pastor spoke of the dedication of Solomon's temple, which happened to also take place during the Feast of Tabernacles. I'm not sure if he even knew that Tabernacles is being celebrated this very week!

Remember, the seven Biblical feasts are a "mural" of God's redemptive plan with His people. The four spring feasts were fulfilled at His first coming to Earth, and the last three autumn feasts are awaiting fulfillment at His second coming.

Tabernacles is the seventh feast, celebrated in the seventh month, is seven days long, and there were 70 bulls sacrificed every year. The number seven again! Remember, seven in scripture represents completeness.

The Jewish people celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles by building and dwelling in "Sukkahs," or booths. This symbolizes the time spent in the wilderness - forty years - in temporary dwellings, with God's presence in their midst, in the tabernacle itself. The time in the wilderness taught them to trust God, and He lovingly cared for them during that time - giving them food and water to eat, and not allowing their shoes or clothing to wear out.

Tabernacles symbolizes God dwelling with us. The Feast is foreshadowing the millenium - the soon-to-be-fulfilled 1000 years on Earth. Jesus mentioned this in His prayer when he said "Your kingdome come." Look at history: From creation to Abraham was about 2000 years. Abraham to Yeshua was about 2000 years. And Yeshua until NOW is about 2000 years. The seventh millenium will be THE scriptural millenium, representing a Sabbath millenium.

Tabernacles also foreshadows the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Hebrew weddings in scripture lasted seven days, and they were extremely joyous events. Even today, Jewish weddings are so awesome! I used to work for a caterer in a special event facility, and some of the grandest events held there were the Jewish weddings.

I have come to believe that Tabernacles is a likely time for Yeshua to have been born. It makes sense with the idea of Immanuel - God With Us. Also, being as He is the Alpha and Omega, it makes sense in my brain that the same day would fulfill the beginning and the end. And if He was born as Tabernacles began, He would have been circumcised on the eighth day, which is the celebration of Ingathering - also a holy day.

Of course, we can't be certain on this one, since God didn't chose to reveal the date in scripture - and I'm sure He has His reasons for that. However, I am pretty certain that he was NOT born on December 25. Don't get me started on that one... I'm sure I'll be posting more on THAT after Thanksgiving.

For a few years now, I have wanted our family to build a temporary shelter and celebrate in a Hebrew way. But time got away from me again, so I will have to let my chickens do the celebrating for us. They are living in their temporary sukkah in the backyard - and, ahem, awaiting a different sort of feast.

If you would like more understanding on how the Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated today among the Jewish people, I highly recommend the movie "Ushpizin," which is the Hebrew word for visitors. The movie was filmed in Israel by some orthodox Jews. And unless you understand Hebrew, you will need to turn on the subtitles. We loved this movie!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Laodicea

The final letter to the seven churches is to Laodicea.

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  
  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The word Laodicea means customs or judgements of the people. The time represented by this church began in around the 1900s and will continue until the Lord returns.  Remember that there is some of each church present during each time period, but the letters outline the main happenings of each era.

Laodicea was a very wealthy city – famous for gold and banking, located between Colosse (known for its refreshing ice cold water) and Hieropolis (famous for hot springs). The city was also known for its special breed of black sheep, which produced wool for the expensive black fabric that Laodicea was known for.  The city had no defenses – armies would take over and they would succumb to them.  Finally, Laodicea had a medical clinic in the city that was well-known for its eye salve.

Laodicea had no water of its own; it had to be piped in from the neighboring cities and was nasty - lukewarm.  So many commentaries say that this was a lukewarm church, and that God would wish them to be hot or cold instead.  As if being cold in your faith was a good thing?   Both hot and cold in this letter were good and refreshing.These were not passive believers, these were religious unbelievers.  They had not been born again.

It is stressed in the beginning of this letter that He is Faithful and True - unlike the church.  It was a false church, succumbing to the "armies" around it.  It is interesting to note that the creation of God is mentioned.  One of the great heresies of the end-times church denies the creation and promotes evolution instead.  Today's politically correct church does not want to mention the atoning blood of Yeshua as being the only way to God.  Many churches today have succumbed to many other liberal ideas as well - such as the Bible is obsolete, inviting Muslims to prayer meetings (claiming that we serve the same God), ordaining homosexuals (claiming they were born that way, so it's fine), etc.

2 Timothy 3 says:  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power

The good news is that God loves the people of Laodicea!  He gives them three appeals.  He says they are poor, naked, wretched, and blind (in the midst of wealth and gold, expensive black clothes, falsehood, and eye salve).  But He loves them and wants to give them a white robe, which represents salvation (Revelation 7).   He knocks at the door.  Notice the picture below - there is no doorknob on the outside.  It must be opened from within.  This church is ruled by people, with God on the outside.

The church of Laodicea will be refined during the end.  It will be a tough time - many will fall away, but others will heed the warning.

In Zechariah 12, God says: 
I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, ‘This is My people’;
And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

Tonight begins the feast of Yom Kippur - The holiest day in the Israeli calendar and the sixth mo'ed, or appointed time in the Bible. In scripture, this is the one day of the year that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, and first atoned for his own sin, and then for the sin of the people of Israel. But since the temple was destroyed in the year 70, this has not been possible.

It is interesting to note that the custom of wearing a yarmulke (Yiddish), or kippah (in Hebrew), developed after the destruction of the temple. The word kippah comes from the same root word as kippur, which means atonement, or covering.  The Israelites were temporarily covered by the Yom Kippur sacrifice.  When Yeshua came to earth and was sacrificed, He covered us once for all with His blood.

Hebrews 9:11-13 says, But Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Since Yeshua already made atonement for the world at Passover, what is the prophetic significance then, of Yom Kippur? It is a snapshot of the future, of Romans 11:25-27, when the nation of Israel will collectively receive Yeshua as her Messiah.

...That blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“ The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins. (Quoted from Isaiah 59:20-21)

Today, Yom Kippur is a solemn day of fasting and repentance for Jewish people. The fasting and mourning take place during the day, and then a joyous celebration takes place in the evening, as the day is drawing to a close. When the people of Israel first recognize her Messiah, they will mourn. Zechariah 12 says:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

But joy will follow, as we will see in the Feast of Tabernacles, which is coming soon. Stay tuned, chaverim! (that means friends in Hebrew)

PS.  I know!  I still have one more church to cover in the letters to the seven.  I hope to finish it tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Philadelphia

Ahhh, the church at Philadelphia.  Finally!

They, along with Smyrna, did not get a bad report.  And Philadelphia and Smyrna are the only two cities of the seven that still stand today, even though they now have different names.

The modern Turkish city of Alasehir began as Philadelphia. It was established in 189 B.C. by King Eumenes II of Pergamos (197-160 B.C.). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), whose loyalty earned him the nickname "Philadelphos", literally "one who loves his brother".  Today’s church in Alasehir is underground due to persecution from Islam.

Here is the letter, Rev 3:7-12:

 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:  “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.   

Holy and true - This church upheld that the Messiah is completely holy.  Once can respect someone who is completely holy, and they respected God. They recognized the magnitude of being in a relationship with Someone so completely holy.   He is True. The Greek word means real, genuine, which is the opposite of“religion.” - not a set of rules, or a code, or a god taught by the Romans. 

Key of David – This section is quoted from Isaiah 22, where you can read the account of Shebna.  His authority was taken away and given to Eliakim - the key of David is given to him. Shebna had controlled access to the king.  The key of David represents the Lord opening the way and inviting us into His presence. Shebna means He came near. Eliakim means God will raise up. 

Is 22:22  The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open. 

The open door is an important feature of this letter.  The city of Philadelphia was a gateway city to Asia– it became a missionary center heading into Asia in the first century.  Thus the mention of the open door – the gateway city. 

The main era of history that this church represents is mainly 1800-1900s and probably continuing to the rapture.  Philadelphia replaced a church that was dead with one that is alive.  This is the great missionary movement!  The end of the 1700s saw an explosion of people becoming missionaries… going and sharing the love of Yeshua with the world. Not crusades or inquisitions or state churches. It was motivated by love... love of God and love of people, just like the two greatest commandments tell us.
Here are a few examples:  William Carey in 1792 established the Baptist Missionary Society.  This was followed by the London Missionary Society, focusing on the South Pacific and Africa.  Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1865.  Other well-known missionaries of this era were David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, and Gladys Aylward.

The world was turned upside down by the work of these early missionaries.  Most of the believers before then had been in the west, but today, the church is spreading like wildfire in the 10/40 window of Asia.   The door is closing to outside missionaries in many of these countries, but now indigenous missionaries are being raised up to reach their own people.
Moving on.. regarding the synagogue of satan, the church did suffer some persecution from the unbelieving Jewish community there (who eventually became believers, according to writings by Ignatius, pastor of Antioch). 
Isaiah 60:14 gives us a picture: 
Also the sons of those who afflicted you
Shall come bowing to you,
And all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet;
And they shall call you The City of the LORD,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

They have a small amount of strength (the Greek word means power), and they have not denied His name. We all may be asked to deny His name in the near future.  Be ready!

The church at Philadelphia kept His Word – it was a time of restoration of Bible truth.  Truths are still coming forth -spiritual revelations from God.  Nobody talked about end time prophecy before 1948.  Today there are so many learning tools available - lexicons, interlinears, commentaries, Dead Sea Scrolls.  In the era of Sardis (the Reformation), many things were not yet restored.

The church at Philadelphia was promised that they would be kept from the hour of trial facing the whole earth. They will obviously receive protection from something that is bad… could this be special protection during the great tribulation or is it protection from the wrath of God, which follows the great tribulation?  I believe it could be either one.  However,  I do not believe it is a catching away prior to the great tribulation.  Too many scriptures show the presence of believers on earth during this time frame.

Let no man take your crown – Apparently they already had it - had earned it.  Why would the Lord caution them to hold fast to it?  Laodicea is on its way – the lies and deception.  Watch for my last post on the seven churches, coming soon!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Letter to the congregation at Sardis

The town of Sardis, founded in 2000 BC was one of the greatest and wealthiest cities.  Gold coins were first made there in 600 BC.  The legendary King Midas (everything he touched was gold) was from Sardis.  His mother was the goddess Cybele – who is none other than the Babylonian goddess Semiramis. 

 It sat on a cliff 1000 feet high and was considered unconquerable, so they didn’t guard it.  Cyrus the Persian finally conquered the city, and then it was conquered again 300 years later by Antiochus IV, again, because they didn’t guard it.  The city was great and then became dead.

 I have been trying to figure out what Sardis means, and I just can't seem to find any information on it.

 Here is the letter:
 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.   “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Sardis represents the era of the Reformation, which brought the church out of the dark ages.  The Reformation was a major necessary step to correct the corrupt church of the previous age, but the letter says that the work was not perfect (meaning not complete). 

So why is there no good report in Sardis?  The Reformation was a good thing, was it not?  The letter says they had a name - a reputation - that they are alive, but they were dead.  Could it be that the church of Sardis, representing the Reformation church, had to be like a seed that was dropped to the ground to die, before it could be born again?

In a nutshell – what the Reformation started out to do, it stopped way too soon.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Justification by faith was taught, but the Holy Spirit was not.    The church became filled witth people trusting in a name, but were never born again.  The Spirit gives life, and they were dead.

They also did not correct the anti-semitism or the Replacement Theology (the idea that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan) that had been prevalent in the previous church ages.  Too much false doctrine from the Catholic church remained and was not corrected.  Reformationists even began persecuting Anabaptists because they didn’t baptize infants. 

Additionally, they too became state-run churches – Lutheran in Germany – Calvinism in Switzerland, Anglican in England, etc.

Reformation churches in general were trusting in their name and reputation.  I think of the time my children spent in a Lutheran school.  Reformation Sunday was a huge celebration in late October.  I remember being bothered by how much they focused on Martin Luther. It was all about being Lutheran!  Other mainline protestant denominations are similar.  We joined a Methodist church many years ago, before we were even believers, and we were asked to promise to be loyal to the United Methodist Church.  Really?  Even as an unbeliever, that didn't sit well with me.

The city of Sardis was conquered twice by the spirit of false trust, while they were sleeping.  The Lord will come like a thief, lest they watch, similar to how Sardis was conquered.  Today, the Lord may say to the church, "Wake up!"  But we know that the Lord will not come as a thief to the believers - hallelujah! 

And there is hope offered to those few in the dead church, who have not defiled their garments.  They will be clothed in white and walk with Yeshua, who will confess their names before His Father and the angels - and their names will remain in the Book of Life!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sound the Trumpet!

We interrupt my posts on the letters to the seven churches to bring you this fantastic Biblical holiday, which begins tonight, September 28, at sundown.  I really wanted to have the seven churches posts done by now, but there have been so many good things to learn and it has been a slow and studious road.

So anyway, Happy Yom Teruah everyone!  Yom Teruah means the Day of Trumpets in scripture.  It is the fifth of the seven Feasts of the Lord.

Leviticus 23:23-25 introduces us to this feast (mo'ed in Hebrew, which actually means "appointed time.")
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.  You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

Numbers 29:1 repeats the description of the feast:
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.

There isn't much more in scripture regarding this feast.  But the trumpet!  It is blasted throughout scripture for many purposes. It was a call to gather, and it was a call to repent.  The Hebrew word (transliterated into English) is shofar.  It was and is made from the horn of an animal.  I have one that is long and spiraled (like the one in the picture above), and it was a gift from some dear friends. 

So, if Yeshua fulfilled the first four feasts during His first coming  (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot were fulfilled by His death, burial, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit), it stands to reason that He will someday fulfill the Fall Feasts at His return.  God sent us these beautiful prophetic pictures of what is to come, so that we can study them, learn from them, and CELEBRATE them!

Joel 2:1 says, Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the LORD is coming,
For it is at hand

Matthew 24:31 says:  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

And look at 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

And also, 1 Thessalonians 4:6 says:  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Are you getting a picture of the Lord's return, and His gathering of His believers?  Yom Teruah is the only Biblical Feast that falls on the first day of the month - the new moon.  The priests had to see the thin crescent of moon and declare the start of the new month.  For no man knows the day or the hour... until it is seen and declared!

Today, the holiday is called Rosh Hashanah among the Jewish people, which means "Head of the Year."  The term is not found in scripture but comes from rabbinic Judaism, which is the Judaism that was developed and has existed since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD - in accordance with the Mishnah and the Talmud.   According to rabbinic tradition, the creation of the world was completed on 1 Tishrei.  This year's Rosh Hashanah welcomes the year 5772.

The next ten days are called the Days of Awe.  Jewish people reflect on the holidays and ask forgiveness from anyone they may have wronged.  Rosh Hashanah is a joyous holiday.  Symbolic foods are eaten that signify sweetness; for example, apples and honey.  L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!  (This is Hebrew transliterated into English and means "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year.")


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Thyratira

The letter to the church at Thyratira is the longest, with the longest rebuke.  Another long post.

What has happened in Pergamos is now full-blown.  It represents the dark and middle ages (approx 600 to 1500), and is what happened when Catholicism became the government.

Thyratira means daughter or it can also mean continual sacrifice.  The previous name of the city was Semiramis – the queen of heaven – the original pagan goddess. 

Here is the letter:

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—
27 ‘ He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—

as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

This letter begins with a description of the Son of God:  Eyes – like fire.  Feet – fine brass (which doesn’t melt in fire).  This letter is about judgement.  One thing to note:  this church did have some good things said about it, unlike the one to follow.  The church at Thyratira was credited for their love, service, faith patience, and works, which were increasing. 

Thyratira was known for its dyes – purple and scarlet. Tuck that piece of information away for now.

This was a terrible time in church history.  It happened because someone tolerated Jezebel.  There is a spirit of Jezebel which was operating in Thyratira, and they were allowing it to happen. 

Here's the first part of the story:

1 Kings 16
Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

It is Jezebel behind the scene who was running the show.  She came from Phoenicia, which means land of purple – the dye that made it famous. . In Revelation 17, we read about a harlot who is also dressed in purple and scarlet.  Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Phoenicia, and a Baal worshipper  (Baal represents the head honcho of many little gods).  The mother of Baal is Asherah (or Ishtar, or Oestre, or Semiramis – same thing).  This marriage between Ahab and Jezebel was to produce a trade alliance between Israel (Northern kingdom) and Phonecia.

Israel was mixing its holy calling with paganism by forming an alliance with the northern country.   The time of Jezebel was the darkest in Israel, and this letter represents darkest in church history.  Jezzy also killed the prophets (1 Kings 18:13)  She was stopping the Word of God.  And she was murdering, and Ahab allowed it, just as the church in the middle ages was allowing it.

The next part of the story is the account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  He made fun of them, they cut themselves and bleed on the altar.  Then Elijah threw water on it.  Verse 21 – And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.  Just like in Thyratira, there was a mixture going on between worship of God and paganism, and they were not choosing.   Elijah called on the Lord, who sent down fire and burned up everything.  He killed all the false prophets and there was revival in Israel. 

Jezebel’s other great sin was in 1 Kings 21 – the vineyard sin.  Ahab wanted to buy Naboth’s vineyard and was told no.  Jezebel plotted to get it for him and usurps the king’s leadership.  She hires two witnesses to testify against him falsely and had him murdered.   In verse 23, God told Ahab that Jezebel was going to get eaten by dogs.  She did.  Read 2 Kings 9 - it's pretty gross.  She was trampled and then eaten by dogs – destroyed like dung, so that none can make a shrine for her. 

Ahab was rotten because he was urged on by his wife.  Believe it or not, Ahab actually repented – so God relented and said that He would visit the judgement on Ahab’s son instead of Ahab.

The vineyard account tells of Jezebel murdering to get land and possessions.   The church of 500 – 1500 murdered and murdered to get land, possessions, and power.

In the late 300s, Emperor Theodosius made church membership mandatory.  The church was made into the image of the Roman Empire and took a nosedive into 1000 years of papal abominations.  It featured outward ceremony and splendor, just like the heathen temples.  In 395, the empire was split into East and West.  Pope Leo I in 440 proclaimed himself Lord of the whole church and exclusive papal authority.  Resistance to his authority meant a "road to hell" and the death penalty for those who disagreed. 

In 742, Charlemagne helped the popes to become world powers.

The “midnight of the dark ages” was full of bribery, simony (the purchase of church office or pardons with money), corruption, fornication, murder, etc.  Here is a sad and horrible list of examples - by no means exhaustive - from 900 to 1500: 
  • Pope Innocent declared the doctrine of transubstantiation, ordered two crusades, papal infallibility, condemned the Magna Carta, forbade reading of the bible, and instituted the Inquisition, among other things.
  • John the 23rd was a fornicator, he bought the papal office, and openly denied life after death. 
  • Paul II sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition, and he also made the declaration that money would deliver souls from purgatory. 
  • Leo X regarded the papal office purely as a source of money.  Under him, Rome massacred multitudes during the Reformation.
  • Overall, the church killed more people than the Holocaust did.

Hitler justified his Final Solution by pointing out that the church had oppressed the Jews for centuries.  More than 100 anti-semitic documents were published by the Catholic church.  Hitler was a Catholic in good standing and had hoped at one time to become a priest.  As a child, he attended a Benedictine monastary for a year.  The abbott was involved in the occult and Hitler first encountered the ancient Hindu swastika there. 

The “ratlines’ of the catholic church helped WW2 war criminals - like the SS - escape. 

There exist today many false teachings.  You may not agree with me on this, especially if you are a Catholic, and it is not my purpose to offend.  (I was one until about age 21).  If you believe some of these things, I hope you will prayerfully consider why.
  • Infant baptism wipes original sin away and now one can earn one’s way to heaven,
  • ,Grace is not available directly by God but through sacraments, Jesus, and finally through Mary, and the worship of images. 
  • Rome says there is power in statues and relics to work miracles, and as such they are devoutly worshipped from the pope on down
  • Mandatory celibacy of priests
  • Mary remaining a virgin her entire life in spite of the scriptures that speak about the siblings of Jesus,
  • confession to a priest instead of directly to Jesus,
  • Existence of purgatory prior to heaven so that the priest can control the people and make money through indulgences. 
  • Transubstantiation - the literal eating of the body and blood of Christ through the daily repeating of the sacrifice, and worshipping the wafer -  the idea that every time they have communion, they are crucifying the Lord all over again.  Remember the second meaning of Thyratira – continual sacrifice? But Jesus was crucified once and for all. 
  • Mariolatry – salvation depends on favor from and intercession by Mary – goddess worship.  Modern popes call her “the queen of heaven.”  Where have we heard that before?  Go check out the words of Jeremiah 7 and Jeremiah 44.

In Revelation, there are tough warnings of intense suffering for those of mixed religion, unless they repent.  God is not happy and he will destroy those responsible and strike dead their offspring (future generations). 

Verse 28 offers the overcomers the gift of the morning star – contrasting sun worship.  It comes up before the sun.  Jesus is the Morning Star.