Monday, December 17, 2012

The Gathering, Part 2

Daniel's seventieth week, the seven years leading up to the Lord's return, will be hard. And I have to say that it drives me crazy that so many pastors simply won't deal with it.  Perhaps they can't defend what they were taught in seminary.  I've heard some say that they just don't want to cause division.  Where is the iron sharpening iron?  We are to be LOOKING for the return of the Lord and many churches avoid the subject completely.  Often we hear Hebrews 10:25 preached in regard to church attendance, but they forget to mention the second half of the verse:  exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  That would be the Day of the Lord.  The return of the Messiah.  We are supposed to be WATCHING for it.

Revelation chapter 6 talks about the seals of the scroll being opened.  What is the scroll?  Daniel 12:1 and 12:4 reveal to us that it is the book that contains the names of His people who will be delivered.  Look what verse 9 says:  And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.  Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.

During the breaking of the seals in Revelation (before the scroll is opened), there is plenty going on, and it is amazing how there is a precise parallel to Matthew 24.  Let's look at the seals in Revelation and how they compare to Matthew.

  • Seal One (Rev 6:2)  And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.  It sounds like someone who has been given the ruling power of a king - could this be the antichrist?  Matthew 24 says And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 
  • Seal Two.  Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.  Matthew 24:6 says:  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.

  • Seal Three.  Behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "“A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”  Uh oh, food shortages.  Matthew 24:7 - And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

  • Seal Four.  So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.  (It doesn't sound pretty, does it?)  Matthew 24:9 says, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 

  • Seal Five. When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.  This is the great tribulation!  Matthew 24: says,   For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

  • Seal Six.   I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold,there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,  and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  Look at that - God's wrath is about to begin!  But the tribulation has already happened!  If the pattern continues, we should see a parallel in Matthew 24.  Oh yes, here it is, right in order:   “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (emphasis mine). 

  • Seal Seven.  In Revelation, there is a break in the action while the Jewish people are sealed, and then a whole bunch of people show up suddenly in heaven.  Verses 13-14 clarify exactly who they are:  Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”  And I said to him, “Sir,you know.”So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."  Does Matthew 24 give us a parallel?  You bet it does!  Verse 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.   Then in chapter 8, the last seal is broken, the saints are gone, God's covenant people (The Jews) are redeemed and sealed, and God prepares to pour out His wrath on the earth.  This harmonizes what is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:9... For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The short version of "happily ever after" is that when God's wrath is complete, the wedding of the Lamb will take place and we will dwell with Him on Earth during His thousand year reign.  It will be the seventh millenium of human history - a Sabbath, if you will; following the pattern of the week of creation.  Satan will be bound and it will be a time of peace and safety.  A honeymoon with our Messiah!  After that, Satan is released for a short time and vanquished, and the New Jerusalem will come down from the heavens and join with the New Earth to be our dwelling place with Him.

I'd like to see HGTV top THAT home makeover!  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gathering, Part 1

Back in the 90s, when the Left Behind books were so popular, I (like many others) became interested in End Times theology.  Having been raised Catholic, the "End Times" was not something that was ever taught or discussed.  So as I began to read the books (and yes, I read them all), it was my first realization that the Bible really did talk of the return of Jesus.  Growing up, I had heard references to the "second coming," but frankly, I had no idea what that meant.

I told my pastor (at that time) that I was reading the Left Behind books, and he said, "That's good, but you really need to watch their theology."  That's all he said.  He did not elaborate, or try to convince me of his own viewpoint.  Hmmm.... the researcher in me really woke up!  (Turns out he was an amillenialist - see the next paragraph to find out what in the world THAT is).

I discovered that there were numerous theological opinions regarding the End of the World.  I began to study all of them.  One thing became clear to me:  the events of the last days are completely centered on Israel!  For centuries, the church taught Replacement Theology and had to allegorize away most of Revelation (amillenialism), because the coming kingdom is centered on God's covenant people in the physical land of Israel.  If you are teaching that the church replaced Israel, Revelation can be a tough book to rationalize.

Today, it seems that within evangelical Christianity, the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint is the most popular.  This is the idea that the church will be zapped away into heaven before the start of Daniel's seventieth week, which is the final seven years of History on Earth before the Lord's return.  It is a step in the right direction, because at least it acknowledges Israel, but it still separates out the"church" from Israel.  I don't know about you, but I'M grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and an heir according to the promise to Abraham.

The history of the pre-trib viewpoint goes back to about 1830, with a supposed dream or vision had by a fifteen-year-old girl, Margaret MacDonald in Scotland. 

John Nelson Darby, the founder of a group known as the Plymouth Brethren, began teaching this new theory after visiting Miss MacDonald.

Later, by 1917, C. I. Scofield had published his improved edition of the Scofield Reference Bible which contained the pre-tribulation teachings of Darby and others. Soon many Bible Colleges such as Moody Bible Institute and seminaries such as Dallas Theological Seminary became staunch promoters of dispensational theology that included the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture.
In 1970 Hal Lindsey, who attended Dallas Theological Seminary, popularized this teaching with his book titled The Late Great Planet Earth. Several million copies have been sold and a movie by the same title was made.

The more I studied scripture, however, the less I agreed with this point of view.  There were just too many things that didn't line up.  Eventually a friend gave me a book, "The Rapture Question Answered, Plain and Simple," by Robert Van Kampen.  This book helped greatly in clearing up my confusion, and helped to harmonize all the scriptures regarding the End Times for me.  I went on to read his very thick book "The Sign," which helped to further clarify things (even though I don't agree with all of his conclusions).

There are several scriptures that pre-trib people use to help justify their viewpoint.  One is 1 Thessalonians 1:10 -  and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  See?  God wouldn't have us undergo the wrath that is coming in the tribulation.  Hmmm, ever read Foxe's Book of Martyrs?  There has been persecution and tribulation for believers since Jesus went back to heaven. 
Another verse used is Revelation 3:10, from the letter to the church at Philadelphia:  Because you have kept My command to perservere, 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.  Bullinger's Greek Lexicon explains "keep from" in this manner:  "to watch over, take care of, keep an eye on, observe attentively."  In other words, it's a promise of protection to the faithful within a sphere of danger.  But it's a promise made to only one of the seven churches in Revelation.  What about the warnings to the other six?  I want to be a part of Philadelphia, the faithful church!

The problem I have with the pre-trib viewpoint is that it assumes that the whole 70th week of Daniel is "the tribulation."  This just ain't so.  The first three and a half years will be relative peace and safety, albeit with birth pangs.  The second half is the great tribulation - severe persecution by satan against the people of God.  The pre-trib view also lumps together the great tribulation and the wrath of God.They are two separate things!  The gathering of the saints DOES happen, just not when the PTs think. 
I have found that Matthew 24 and the seven seals of Revelation 6-8 parallel each other and give us the clearest picture of what is to come.  So in my next post, I will take a closer look at them.  Stay tuned!

Click here for part 2.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yeshua and Yosef

A few months ago, I finished reading a lengthy commentary on the book of Genesis.  At one point, the author disparaged the idea that Yosef (Joseph) was a prophetic picture of Yeshua (Jesus).  I could almost hear his eyes rolling as he dismissed the idea, saying that SOME commentaries tend to go overboard in trying to make that connection.

Let’s see if he is right.

Both were the beloved sons of their Fathers.

Both were given special, colorful robes.

Both were sent by their Fathers to their brethren.

Both were 30 years of age when they began their ministries (the same age as a priest).

Both were shepherds of their Fathers’ sheep.

Both were tempted.

Both were taken to Egypt.

Both washed the feet of their brethren.

Both brought bread to people.

Both were rejected by their brethren.
Both were subject to a plot to kill them.
Both were betrayed for silver.

Both were falsely accused.

Both were stripped of their robes.

Both had blood on their robes.

Both suffered although they were righteous.

Both were bound in chains.

Both forgave those who wronged them.

Both were in the ground for three days.

Both had stories made up about their deaths.

Both brought salvation to their nation Israel.

Both were elevated to the position of second in command.

The wrongs that men did to them, God used for good.

Both were placed with two prisoners, one who was saved and the other who was not.

Both saved the world for 2(000) years after being rejected by their brethren.

Both were exalted after suffering.

Both had brethren who vowed never to bow down to them. (Most Jewish people today want nothing to do with Yeshua)

*Both appear as a foreigner so that their brethren would not recognize them.

*Both reveal themselves to their brothers privately.

*Both have brothers who weep in sorrow and fear as they recognize them.
The last three similarities, marked by asterisks, are still awaiting final fulfillment by Yeshua.
* First, Yosef appeared as an unrecognizable Egyptian to his brothers.  In the same way, Yeshua has been removed from His Jewish context and presented over the centuries to the Jewish people as a foreign, pagan Gentile god.  I can almost see it now when they finally recognize Him:  "Is it really YOU?? Our Messiah?"

* Secondly, Yosef had everyone leave the room when it came time to reveal himself.  I believe that this is the moment that the believers are gathered from the Earth (aka "the rapture"):  just before the Lord returns in Revelation 6 and 7 and seals the tribes of Israel before God pours His wrath on the rest of the Earth.
* Thirdly, this will be the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10; when they look with sorrow and fear upon Him whom they have pierced.
Yes, I guess I can see how the commentator would be hestiant to see the similarities between Yosef and Yeshua.  NOT!  How much more obvious can it be, anyway?  The Jewish sages taught that there were two pictures of the Messiah in the holy scriptures:  Messiah ben (son of) Yosef  - the Suffering Servant - and Messiah ben David - the Conquering King.  Some believed that there were two messiahs, since the messianic pictures were so different.  And some thought that there would be one Messiah that comes TWICE.
Imagine that!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Restoration = Retain Roots!

I think it is no coincidence that the title of today's post is an anagram. 

This post today is simply a reminder of why I study the Bible the way I do - this is Jewish Roots 101.  In Christianity today, we have over 30,000 denominations, each with their own twist.  Why is that? 

The first believers were all Jewish.  Jesus and His family were Jewish.  He is the prophesied Jewish Messiah.  Ever since the Jewish roots of our faith were severed (mostly beginning in the fourth century under Constantine and Rome), there has been so much confusion!

Much of the confusion is due to Replacement Theology.  This is the idea that the church replaced Israel - for good.  Many churches still teach this today.

God deals with His people in terms of covenants.  The Abrahamic covenant was permanent, unconditional, and irrevocable.  The covenant made with the Israelites through Moses at Mt. Sinai was conditional and temporary.  All covenants beginning with Abraham were made with the Jewish people, including the new covenant. 

This is foundational!  Don't build your theology on sand.  I have heard preachers say, the old covenant is for the Jews; the new covenant is for the Christians.  This is simply wrong, and easy to demonstrate through scripture.

Jeremiah 31:31 says this:  Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—  not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt (emphasis mine).  Jeremiah is letting us know that a new covenant is coming to replace the one given after leaving Egypt - which was the covenant God made at Sinai with Moses and the Israelites.

Fast forward to Ephesians 2:12-13 (Paul is speaking to the Gentiles here):   that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Romans 11 gives us a wonderful picture that demonstrates this truth.  Paul is speaking of the Jews in verses 11 and 12:  I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

Speaking to the Gentiles, Paul says, "And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you."

Finally, Paul reiterates God's promise to His people Israel in verses 25 and 26:  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.”
The Abrahamic covenant is everlasting and unconditional.  Israel was promised the land, the Seed, and the blessing.  The Word promises, "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you."  This promise was repeated to Isaac and to Jacob, and history has proven over and over again that it is true.  Believers, it is our job to bless Israel!  God keeps His promises - He WILL bless you if you bless His people.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jairus' Daughter... Resurrected

Yesterday I was in my car, listening to a preacher teach on the scripture passage about the bleeding woman and the raising of Jairus' daughter.  As I was driving, the Lord gave me a little further clarification.

About a year ago, I had written a post on this very passage, showing that the two stories were really one story.  You can review the post here if needed:

Toward the end, I made the subjective conclusion that the woman represents everyone who will ever come to the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile, and that the synagogue ruler represents unbelieving Israel.

I see now that the little girl herself is a representation of Israel.  She was doing well and thriving for twelve years - a number that represents divine government in God's kingdom.  Meanwhile, the bleeding woman, representing the Gentiles, was unclean and without hope. 

The moment the woman is healed, the little girl dies.  We can now see a picture forming of abundant life being offered to the Gentiles, while death (albeit temporary) comes to Israel with their rejection of the Messiah.  We don't know how long she remained dead; the passage doesn't say.  We do know that Yeshua was on His way there.  But the great news is that she came to life again!

The other thing to note is that the woman was healed very publicly, but Yeshua raised the young girl privately.  When He reveals Himself to national Israel, the rest of His faithful remnant - believing Jews and Gentiles - will have just been removed from the Earth (see Revelation 6).  It is very much like Joseph revealing himself to his brothers - everyone leaves the room for their private reunion.

For more on how Joseph is a shadow of the Messiah to come, click on the following link:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who is the Rock?

Scripture has so many underlying pictures and themes!  Mountains, fish, trees, bread - to name a few.  A friend of mine recently did an exhaustive study on mountaintop experiences. In this post, I want to take a look at the elements of stones and rocks.  There are too many references to rocks and stones to mention them all, but I would like to highlight a few.

In OT Hebrew, the word for stone is 'eban, and the word for rock is tsur.   In NT Greek, the word for stone is lithos, and the word for rock is petra.  In all cases, whenever the word stone was used, the context was as something that was active and moveable, and when rock was used, it was more like an immoveable fortress.  The word Cephas (used nine times in reference to Peter - in John 1:42, as well as in 1 Corinthians and Galatians) is actually a Latin transliteration of the Aramaic word Kapha.  That particular word can be used with both moveable stone and and immoveable rock contexts.

Our first major theme of a stone is in Genesis 28, when Jacob was fleeing from his brother and on his way to find a bride.  One night, as he lay sleeping somewhere between Beersheva and Haran, he placed a rock under his head and had a dream. 

In this dream, angels were ascending and descending a ladder, or staircase.  When we fast forward to John 1:51, what do we see?  In the midst of a conversation with Nathaniel about whether Yeshua was the Messiah, we read this:  And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Yeshua was claiming to be the Messiah here.  Looking back to Jacob's ladder, we can see that it is a representation of the cross, bridging the heavens and the earth.  The Lord God revealed Himself to Jacob at this time and repeated the promises that were made to Abraham and Isaac - the promises of the Land, the Seed, and the Blessing of the Nations.

What did Jacob do in the morning?  Genesis 28:18 tells us:  Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.  (The Hebrew word for top is rosh; perhaps you have heard of the Jewish celebration Rosh Hashanah, which literally means head of the year).  When kings and priests were anointed, they had oil poured on their heads.  The words Messiah and Christ both mean anointed.  This stone, anointed by Jacob, was a picture of the future Messiah.  Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning House of God.

Many years later, Jacob comes back to the very same place, with his wives and children and having made peace with his brother.  In Genesis 35, God again reiterates the promise of the Land, the Seed, and the Blessing, and gives Jacob the name Israel, which means Contends with God.  Immediately, Jacob set up another pillar of stone and anointed it with oil.

In Genesis 49, tucked right in the middle of Jacob's blessing to Joseph, is another allusion to the Rock.  Verse 24 says, But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).  This is giving us a snapshot of the future Messiah, our Good Shepherd.

In the book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments were written on - you guessed it - stone!   I find it interesting that the Law of Moses repeatedly says that when a crime punishable by death was committed, the guilty party was to be stoned.  It is a picture of judgment from God Himself!

When David slew Goliath, what was his weapon?  Stones, of course.  I just love David's words to Goliath here in 1 Samuel 17:   Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  It leaves us no doubt in Whose name David cast those stones!

Near the end of his life, King David was preparing to build the temple in Jerusalem (which his son Solomon would complete). 1 Chronicles 22:2 tells us,  So David commanded to gather the aliens who were in the land of Israel; and he appointed masons to cut hewn stones to build the house of God.

We cannot miss the connotation in Psalm 118:22 - The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.  Also Isaiah 28:16 says, Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Yeshua quoting Psalm 118:22, and it is repeated in Acts 4:11 by Peter. 

The book of Daniel has an awesome picture of a stone in chapter 2.  The context is the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had about the statue made from different elements, which represent different kingdoms of the earth.  Then what happens?  We read in verses 34 and 35, You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.  The stone is the Messiah of course, who will one day return and take dominion over the whole earth.

Later, Daniel was placed in a cave full of hungry lions, and a stone was placed over the cave to lock him in.  Could that stone be a picture of the One who protected him?  And where else have we read of a stone placed over a cave?  Hint:  When He came back to life, the stone moved!

When Yeshua performed His first miracle, it was at a wedding.  They had run out of wine, so He told the servants to fill the stone jars with water.  These jars were used for ritual outer cleansing.  Of course, we know that He changed the water into the most fabulous wine that anyone had ever tasted.  Again, the stone is a picture of Him - and when we allow Him to change us, we will never be the same.  Wine is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and these stone jars can also represent us, as living stones, filled with the Spirit - no longer with water by which we attempt to cleanse ourselves.

Romans 9:33 refers back to Isaiah 8:14, and we actually see both words used here.  As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

In Matthew 16, Peter had just declared Yeshua to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  Yeshua replied, And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  In light of all the other scriptures regarding the rock and the stone, I highly doubt that Yeshua was saying that His ekklesia would be built on Peter himself, but rather, on Peter's declaration.  And Peter was to be one of the living stones, as are all who believe.

Ephesians 2:19-21 confirms this concept.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord

Peter himself tells us exactly who the Rock is, in 1 Peter 2:4-7:  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion,a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” (He refers back to Isaiah 28:16 here).  Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” (referring back to Psalm 118).  I just want to say that any attempt to make Peter into The Rock takes glory away from God and places it onto a man.

And now for a little comic relief
In closing, there are so many more uses of rocks and stones in scripture!  Precious stones, memorial stones, water from the rock in the wilderness, and many more.  I hope you will take time to check some of them out. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Election Time Again

The world is filled right now with election rhetoric.  Between commercials, mailings, Facebook posts, and debates (among candidates, family members, friends, and even enemies), I have about had my fill.

I have to say that I am not enthusiastic about any candidate.  I feel like I would be voting for either stage one cancer or stage four cancer.  No, I am not going to spend my energy arguing for the stage one cancer guy, nor will I put his sign in my yard.

What I will do is trust in the sovereignty of God.  Scripture is clear that no government is allowed except by the hand of God, for His purposes.  Here are a few passages to back up that idea:

Daniel 2:20-22
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His; and He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding.

2 Chronicles 20:6
O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? 

Proverbs 16:4
The Lord has made everything for His own purposes; even the wicked for the day of evil.

Revelation 17:17

For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

All leaders, good and evil, lead to the fulfilling of prophecy, God’s ultimate purpose, the coming back of His Son to reign as King of kings. In order to get there, all kinds of things which don’t make sense to us must happen.
You may ask, "What about Hitler? Can God have had a purpose with the Holocaust?"  As heinous as that time was, I have to go with scripture and say yes, God did have a purpose.  Don't get me wrong; the Holocaust was gut-wrenching and just thinking of it moves me to tears.  I have to believe that it moved God to tears as well; that it was harder on Him than it was on anyone else.  I think of Yeshua weeping over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37; oh how He loves His brethren!
Without the Holocaust, the State of Israel would not have been born.  It opened up a small window of worldwide sympathy for the Jewish people; a window which soon slammed shut.  And without the State if Israel in existance, Yeshua could not fulfill the scriptures and return to Earth!  Satan is hard at work seeing that this doesn't happen, because he knows it will lead to his demise.
So before you get all whipped up about the election, I hope and pray that you will look to the One who is in charge and be assured that He has an ultimate purpose.
Nebuchadnezzar was made to live like an animal in a field and eat grass until he realized Who was in charge.  Daniel 5:21 says "Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses.

Psalm 118:8-9 tells us, It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
Psalm 146:3-4 says, Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.
So yes, I will vote.  As a citizen of this country, I feel that it is my responsibility.  But I will do so knowing that the results are ultimately in God's hands. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Memories of Sukkot

For about five years, I have wanted to celebrate Sukkot.  But as a Gentile, raised in churches whose calendars focus on the two main Roman-instituted holidays, I had no understanding of how to go about it.  So I kept my nose in the scriptures, and also watched a great movie called "Ushpizin," filmed in Jerusalem by an orthodox filmmaker. 

Also this year, I purchased this book:

Very helpful.  So I decided to just jump in and build a sukkah.  Using pallets, garden stakes, juniper branches, and leftover deck paint, I came up with the following:

Ironically, the only thing I purchased was Christmas lights.  We had a celebration with good friends and good food, complete with God-honoring worship and teaching time.  What a meaningful and joyous holiday it was!  I didn't feel empty afterwards, the way I used to when I still celebrated Christmas.  There was no materialistic frenzy that left a hangover-type feeling the next day.  Building the sukkah was way more fun than any tree I ever decorated.  And at our celebration, my daughter and a friend from her childhood experienced a wonderful restoration of friendship that had been lost.

I am so thankful that many congregations are looking back to their Biblical, Jewish roots and working to restore them.  Tradition can be a difficult thing to leave behind, but God's word gives us so many oppportunities to create new ones... traditions that are steeped in the Bible and in the Feasts (appointed times) of the Lord.  Zechariah 14:16 tells us that all the nations of the world will be celebrating this Feast in the coming kingdom, so we might as well start enjoying it now!


If you want some Biblical background for this wonderful Feast, check out my previous post. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Feast of Sukkot... The Granddaddy of Them All!

Sukkot... Booths... Tabernacles... Ingathering...  It goes by numerous names.  It is the seventh and final feast of the seven outlined in Leviticus 23.  For the Jewish people, it is a celebration of great joy!  People look at me funny when I tell them that I, a non-Jewish person, am joining in the celebration.

Under the Mosaic Covenant, it was a pilgrimage feast; meaning that the Jews were required to travel to Jerusalem for the celebration.  However, Zechariah 14:16 tells us that this will be a feast for all the nations in the future kingdom, after the Lord returns (The Millenium):

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

As I mentioned, the feast is a celebration of great joy.  It celebrates both God's provision and God's presence.  It looks back to the time in the wilderness, when God dwelt among His people in the Tabernacle in the wilderness.  It looks back to the time when God sent His son, Emmanuel, to dwell among us (more on this in a minute), and it looks forward to the time when God will dwell with His people once again on the Earth in the future kingdom!

There are two elements associated with Sukkot that deal with God's provision and presence:  water and light.  Sukkot is the end of the harvest and the beginning of the rainy season.  The water represents God's provision in sending rain to the earth.  The light represents His presence.

In John chapters 7 and 8, Yeshua was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, and in that context He speaks of both water and light.  7:37-38 says, 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.  John 8:12 says Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

There is Biblical evidence that demonstrates that Yeshua entered the world at the Feast of Sukkot. John 1:14 says, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  The Greek word for dwelt, skenoo, literally means to pitch a tent.  Some translations even use the word tabernacled.  The Hebrew word Sukkot included animal shelters... Genesis 33:17 says And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week. When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abijah (Luke 1:5), when Zechariah was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18. Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).

We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev. Kislev 25 is Hanukkah.  Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. They may have been given shelter in a sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple Feast (Luke 2:1).

Even though the Bible does not specifically say the date of Yeshua's birth, we know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture. Round the clock shepherding would especially take place during a pilgrimage festival, where there would be great need of many animals for sacrifices.  

God does things with such precision!  If Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot, His circumcision would have been on the day after Sukkot ended, itself also a Biblical celebration.  Leviticus 23:36 tells us, For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.  This is the day that Yeshua would have been given His name and entered into the Abrahamic covenant through circumcision.  (Luke 2:21)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which begins at sundown tonight, is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. The Bible prescribes Yom Kippur as a day of affliction (Lev. 16; 23:26-32). In the ancient world, the High Priest woke up early, donned his priestly garments, and sacrificed a bull for both himself and his family. He then cast lots over two goats, choosing one for the Lord and designating the other as the goat to remove sin. Only on this day did the High Priest enter into the Holy of Holies in the Temple to offer incense and sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant. Before concluding the sacrifices by burning both the bull and the goat, the High Priest placed blood from the Lord's goat onto the second goat. He then cast the second goat into the wilderness, thus symbolically removing Israel's sin.

In modern observance, Yom Kippur involves a fast from both food and drink. Many spend the entire day praying in the synagogue. During the Ten Days of Awe preceding Yom Kippur, many Jewish people give tzedakah (charity) which some consider a replacement for the animal sacrifice. A small segment of the Orthodox Jewish community practices kapparot, a ceremony in which a person waves a chicken over his head, before killing the chicken as a symbolic transfer of sin. According to tradition, the Book of Life and the Book of the Dead are closed on Yom Kippur, and the fates of those within the books are sealed for the coming year.

Followers of Yeshua the Messiah confidently look forward to eternal life, because our names are written in the Book of Life. When He died, the veil of the Holy of Holies ripped in two, symbolically breaking a barrier between humans and the presence of God. Previously, only the High Priest had access to this room, and he only entered it once a year on Yom Kippur (Matt. 27:51).

However, Yeshua's death gives believers access to God, because He entered into the Heavenly Holy of Holies to offer His blood for our redemption (see Heb. 9:11-12). Unlike the Israelites' annual sacrifices on Yom Kippur, Yeshua's one sacrifice continues to provide atonement to this day. Yom Kippur, for followers of Yeshua, reminds us of the certainty of our redemption through the blood of our Messiah and High Priest, Yeshua.  It is no mistake that Yeshua means salvation.

Yom Kippur also reminds us of the ultimate salvation of the Jewish people. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a day when the nation of Israel will recognize her Messiah and "they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son" (Zech. 12:10). When the Jewish people recognize Messiah, as Paul writes, "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). The Day of Atonement thus reminds us of our own salvation and also looks forward to the salvation of Israel.

The final Feast, Sukkot, will be five days after Yom Kippur and is the most joyous Feast of them all!  My next post will feature a picture of the first sukkah that I have ever built.  It is still in progress but will be done soon.  Come back soon and read more about Sukkot, The Feast of Booths!  Find out why I believe that Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot.

PS.  Thanks to Chosen People Ministries for help with the details of Yom Kippur. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Good News!!!!!

The Gospel... what is it? The Greek word is euangelion; in old English - from where the word is derived - it is godspell. It means good message; glad tidings.

The Gospel is simple, but it isn't easy.

I could start with Yeshua's death on the cross, but there is much that leads up to that point.  Yeshua didn't come to start a new religion called Christianity.  He came to fulfill what the Scriptures foretold in so many places.

Let's go back to the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:3 shows that Chava (Eve) knew the penalty for disobedience - death.  Of course, the serpent deceived her and convinced her that she would instead become like God, knowing good and evil.  When she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam, sin entered the world. 

Adam and Chava tried to atone for, or cover, themselves - with fig leaves.  God proclaimed the penalty for them... that from the dust they were created, and unto dust they will return (die).  But in His mercy, he promised that One would come to crush the head of the serpent (Satan).

Then, in verse 21, He gave Adam and Chava a different covering - animal skins!  This is the first instance of blood being shed for atonement (kafar, which in Hebrew means covering).  This is the first foreshadow of the future redemption!

Fast forward to Abraham.  God asked him to sacrifice his only son.  At first glance, you might say what??? Kill the child of promise, that Abraham waited so long for??  But God is in control.  He was testing Abraham to see where his heart was... did Abraham love God above all?  And then God stopped Abraham and instead provided a ram for the sacrifice.  He was giving us another picture of His provision.

The covenant made with Moses and the people of Israel at Sinai set up an elaborate system of atonement through sacrifice.  One of the key sacrifices was the Passover lamb, which was a picture of escape from the slavery of Egypt.  Egypt is also a representation of sin in the Bible. 

All these pictures of sacrificial substitution lead up to the One who was sacrificed once for all.  Yeshua, Son of God, came to earth and lived His life in perfect accord with the Law of Moses, thus becoming the only One who ever was able to fulfill that covenant.  In doing so, He ushered in the new covenant that was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31... “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,says the LordHe is the ultimate Child of Promise, for Whom the world waited a long time.

Leviticus 17:11 tells us this:  For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.

The word sin means to miss the mark, or fall short.  Yeshua fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Moses covenant perfectly, yet was put to death.  Scripture says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), yet Yeshua did not sin.  Because he paid the price that He did not owe, his shed blood is able to cover, or atone for, our own sins when we receive Him by faith.  The second part of Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  The ultimate GOOD NEWS!

To receive that covering, the Bible tells us to come to Him in repentance; a word that means to make a u-turn.  Turn away from our life of sin and toward the One who paid the price for us.  Yes Lord, we accept your gracious payment, a payment we could never make for ourselves!

This is our justification.  Our price is paid by the Passover Lamb and we are redeemed unto eternal life. Halellujah!  But God loves us too much to simply leave us there at the altar of sacrifice.

What comes next, then, is our sanctification.  This is the process of becoming cleaned up.  We come to Yeshua repentant but unclean.  He cleans us up through the work of the Holy Spirit, without Whom it would be impossible.  It is a process that takes the rest of our lives.  This parallels the Biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread, which immediately follows Passover and continues for seven days.  Seven is a symbol of completeness, and represents the rest of our lives.

Yes, the gospel is simple.  But it isn't easy.  Sanctification requires us to die to self.  Again and again, I might add.

Tomorrow at sundown begins the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar:  The Day of Atonement.

So if our justification and sanctification were fulfilled at Passover and Unleavened Bread, what is this Day of Atonement?  Watch for my next post!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Love the Lord Your God With All You've Got

What is the greatest commandment?

Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  This is part of the Hebrew shema... Hear O Israel!

The gospels add yet another word:  mind.  (See Mark 12:30).  The Greek word is dianoia, which means understanding. 

Both of these covenants are telling us to love our God with everything we've got.  I find it interesting that the new covenant adds the idea of understanding.  Knowing that salvation would be offered to the Gentiles, and that many movements and denominations within the faith would arise, God has given us provision to love Him to the best of our ability within the realm that He has placed us. 

But that does not mean, stop studying.  He gave us His word so that we can gain greater understanding as we learn more and more about Him, thereby enabling us to love Him more and more as our understanding increases!

Mark 12:31 continues and says the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I just love what the scribe says to Yeshua after that in verses 32 and 33:  So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.  And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

I have been studying the letter to the congregation at Ephesus in Revelation 2.  The congregation was commended for its commitment to truth, and for doing good works.  It also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (nico means ruler and laitans means people - they didn't allow their leadership to be controlling of the people).  The rebuke they received was that they had lost their first love and were told to return to the first works.

What does this mean?  In today's terms, Ephesus had great church programs, and were busy, busy, busy.  Awesome Youth Group.  Divorce Recovery Group.  Senior Citizens Fellowship.  Women's Ministry.  Men's Ministry.  Awana.  Amazing Music and Drama Teams.  But the time they spent worshipping at the feet of Yeshua was, um, lackluster.  Too busy for that!  They had flip-flopped the greatest two commandments, serving the needs of the people first and giving God whatever was left (if there even were any leftovers).

Now, there is nothing wrong with all those programs.  People have needs, and it's great that there are ministries that can help.  BUT, unless it is done in the proper order as set forth in the Word, it will fail.  What happened at Ephesus?  The Romans came and cut down all their trees.  Erosion caused Ephesus to turn into a desolate place - their lampstand was removed.  A congregation can learn a lot from this:  Put God first, and all the loving-your-neighbor business will follow naturally.

Don't we pray this way too sometimes?  We approach God with our laundry list of things we or others need, instead of simply lavishing Him with praise and adoration. 

Matthew 6:9 gives us our model:  Our Father in heaven,  hallowed (Holy, set apart) be Your name!  Your kingdom come, Your will be done...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joshua - A snapshot of Messiah

Did you know that the account of Joshua battling for the Promised Land is a picture of the spiritual battle won by Yeshua?  There are numerous parallels that foreshadow the Messiah.

The very first phrase in the book of Joshua is this:   After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord,  This indicates that something new is about to take place - and it did:  the Israelites entered the Promised Land.  In the same way, Yeshua instituted the new covenant when he perfectly fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant.  His death and resurrection opened up the spiritual Promised Land for all who put their trust in Him.

In Numbers 27:16-17, Moses said, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.  The man set over them was none other than Joshua, son of Nun... a foreshadow of the Good Shepherd Who was to come (see John 10).

The names Jesus and Joshua (Yeshua and Yahoshua) are virtually the same name.  They mean God saves/salvation.

The scarlet cord hung from the window represents the blood on the doorpost at Passover and the blood on the cross.  It represents salvation for Rahab and her family... and her story foreshadows the salvation of the Gentiles.

The spies disappeared for three days after providing the way to salvation to Rahab.  Then they reappeared and told the Israelites that the promised land is theirs….  It is finished!  The Lord has given it into our hands!

In Joshua 4 and 5, we see the Israelites crossing the Jordan.  Before they can proceed, they are circumcised on the tenth day of the first month.  Notice that the timing here is Passover!  When Yeshua made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he was inspected for four days, just as the spotless lamb at Passover was observed for four days.  The reproach was removed from the Israelites before they could proceed to the Promised Land, so to speak.  The following is from Joshua 5:8-12:

So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed.  Then the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year. 

Notice how the manna ceased on the day after Unleavened Bread.  This parallels the Feast of Firstfruits, which was fulfilled when Yeshua rose from the dead.  If you have never studied the Feast of Firstfruits, click on the tag to the right that says Firstfruits for more information.  If you're like me, you'll never go back to Easter again!

But I digress. 

The wall around Jericho represented a stronghold of the enemy.  Our Lord crushed the stronghold of the enemy with His death and resurrection.

When the Israelites arrived on the scene, Jericho was a city filled with worshippers of the moon god. Today, Jericho is an Arab town, filled with worshippers of Allah (who is, in reality, the moon god). 

The rest of the book of Yahoshua is filled with battles as the land is taken.  They are a great picture of the spiritual battles that we fight today in the Messianic age.  For example, the deception of Achan in Ai can be compared to Ananias and Sapphira in the early church.  The deception of the Gibeonites is a picture of the wolves that both Yeshua and the Apostle Paul warned the believers about  (Matt 7:15, Matt 10:16, Acts 20:29).

Yahoshua took the physical land.

Yeshua took the spiritual land.

Now that Israel is back in her homeland, Yeshua will return soon and take them both.  Thy kingdom come, Messiah Yeshua!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When We Die

I want to follow up on my previous post, where I questioned the eternity of the soul of man.  (I am actually writing this seven years later, but dating the post so that it shows up right after the one in question).

A friend recently asked me where Jesus was during the three days of His death.  It was hard for me to give a plain and simple explanation without the background information, and without freaking her out, so I thought a blog post was in order.

For years, I dug into what the Bible had to say about heaven, hell, and the afterlife, and then wrote a series of blog posts on what I discovered.  If you like, you can click here to start at the beginning of this series.  Each post has a link to the next one in the series.

When I speak to people privately about this subject, I sometimes get asked, "so do you believe in soul sleep?"

Yes and no.

Do I believe there is a literal giant cosmic bedroom of snoozing, snoring, disembodied "souls"?  No.

Do I believe that the concept of sleep is used over and over again as a metaphor for death?  Yes.

First of all, I love that God gave us the gift of sleep.  I love that I can lay my head down after a long, exhausting day, and get rest.  I love that the night flies by and before I know it, it is morning.  I awake refreshed and ready to go for the day.  I love that there is coffee to enjoy in the morning!  Ok, you get the picture.

Let's look at what scripture says.

The first person to compare death to sleep is Job, in chapter 14.  The context is that he is speaking of life's woes:
So man lies down and does not rise.
Till the heavens are no more,
They will not awake
Nor be roused from their sleep.

Next up is King David, in Psalm 13:
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

David describes death in Psalm 6:
For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?

Asaph is next in Psalm 76, as he rejoices that Israel's enemies are destroyed:
The stouthearted were plundered;
They have sunk into their sleep;
And none of the mighty men have found the use of their hands.
At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep.

Now, Jeremiah, as he speaks of the utter defeat of the Babylonians in chapter 51:
“And I will make drunk
Her princes and wise men,
Her governors, her deputies, and her mighty men.
And they shall sleep a perpetual sleep
And not awake,” says the King,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts.

Next is one of my favorites, from Daniel 12.  The context is the future resurrections.  Daniel didn't know that there would be two, so they are lumped together in this verse:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting abhorrence.

You can say, well, those are all Old Testament references.  Yep.  Let's move to the New Testament.

In the first three gospels, we read the account of Yeshua raising the synagogue leader's daughter to life.  Luke says it this way in chapter 8:
Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.”  And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

Apparently even people back then had a hard time with the idea of sleep as a death analogy.

The gospel of John has its own sleep/death analogy in chapter 11.  And to me, this is one of the clearest examples in the gospels:
He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up."  Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”  However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

Perhaps you might make the point that these are all examples taken before Messiah's resurrection, and you would be right about that.  So let's keep going.

In 1 Corinthians, 11, Paul said this:
For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
If you look at the context, Paul meant dead.  Even my NKJV has a note that says dead, even though the Greek says sleep.

Moving to 1 Corinthians 15, we see what I believe is the clearest example of the future resurrection of believers. (Note:  I like to use the Hebraic word Messiah in place of the Greek term Christ):
For if the dead do not rise, then Messiah is not risen. And if Messiah is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits, afterward those who are Messiah's at His coming. 
(When are we made alive? At. His. Coming)

Later in the same chapter, we read:

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.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  (When?  At. His. Coming)

Semi-side note.  I recently heard a preacher on a podcast say that the people who took part in the second resurrection, unbelievers, had to be raised with immortal bodies so that they could burn forever.  I was horrified.  Scripture shows us that only believers obtain immortality - through the blood of Messiah.

Ephesians 5:14 refers back to Isaiah 26:19 when it says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Messiah will give you light.”

1 Thessalonians 4, speaking of the future resurrection, assures us:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

All this talk of sleep has made me tired, even though it's morning!  It's like watching Food Network after dinner and getting hungry. 

In chapter 1 of his gospel, John says, No one has seen God at any time.  And lest you respond with the claim that he says this before the Messiah's resurrection, he repeats these very same words in 1 John 4:12 - No one has seen God at any time.   And John wrote his epistles decades after Yeshua returned to the Father.

I realize that people are comforted by the idea of their loved ones dwelling joyfully in heaven, and there is no need to let go of that comforting thought.  Because the thing is, when we die, we are no longer bound up in time.  We will be instantly transported to the resurrection, at least from our point of view. All believers will meet Yeshua at the same time, although to each of us it will seem like it happens at the instant of death.  The Apostle Paul understood this when he voiced his desire to depart and be with the Lord.

So to answer my friend's question, I believe that Yeshua didn't go anywhere upon His death; He remained in the grave - just like Matthew 12:40 said He would:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Yeshua remained in the grave for three days and three nights, just as the scripture says.  How can this be, you ask, if He died on a Friday?  Good question.  And a different topic entirely.  (And if you want the explanation, you can click here.