Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Door

Hebrew is an amazing language.  I have just begun studying it in the last year.  The letters and words have such meaning to them!  Here is a great example. 

The name of the LORD is yod heh vav heh - YHVH.  Also called the tetragrammaton, it is called "the unpronounceble name" in Judaism.  The vav can made an O, U, or V sound, allowing for numerous pronunciations..  There is no "J" in the Hebrew language, so the rendering "Jehovah" is an English misnomer (along with many other names in scripture - Joseph should be pronounced Yosef,  Jacob - Ya'acov, Jerusalem - Yerushaliyim, Jesus - Yeshua, etc).

This is how the tetragrammaton appears in Hebrew (reading right to left):

In order to make the name Judah (Yehuda), you would place a dalet between the vav and the last heh, like this:


The letter dalet in Hebrew symbolically represents a door - through which we can be open to the hope of our dreams or to remain closed off and alienated.  Yehuda is the door through which God will send the promised Messiah, Yeshua.  It is a picture of our future redemption - the only door to the Father!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Scripture Picture - The Bleeding Woman and Jairus' Daughter

My friend whom I call “Al,” had a wonderful insight the other night.  He had been reading in the gospel of Mark, chapter 5, when he noticed a similarity between the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Yeshua’s tunic and the little girl that was raised from the dead.

“Hey,” said Al.  “The woman had been bleeding for twelve years, and the little girl was twelve years old! Do you think there's a connection?”

I had read that story many times and never noticed that similarity before.  Al, you're a rock star! 

I couldn’t resist digging into this one.  What could it possibly mean?  After all, nothing is in scripture by mistake – every detail means something, and quite often there is more than one layer of meaning. Scripture often gives us a snapshot of something else that is going on, and this is no exception.

The two stories are really one interconnected story.  There are numerous "opposite doubles" that are featured in the accounts.

  • The woman had been ill for twelve years.  She became ill when the daughter of Jairus was born.

  • Jairus was an important, and probably wealthy, religious ruler of the synagogue.  The suffering woman was a poor, unclean outcast.

  • The daughter of Jairus was doing fine for twelve years.  She died the moment the bleeding woman was healed.

  • The woman quietly and secretly sought healing by touching the hem of His garment (the subject of which is another post entirely).  Jairus, as a leader of the synagogue, boldly and publicly came to Yeshua with his request.

  • Yeshua called attention to the woman who was healed.  The miracle of Jairus' daughter was to remain private.

  • Yeshua calls the woman “My daughter.”  As soon as He heals her, the religious leaders come and tell Jairus that his daughter is dead, twelve years after this story began.

  • Yeshua told the woman that her faith saved her.  He told Jairus to have more faith.

  • Yeshua loves both of these daughters, but one comes from a humble position and He exalts her publicly.  God also loves the religious ruler and does raise his daughter, but He humbles and restrains him.

Here are my thoughts.  First of all, the account mentions the number twelve twice.  Twelve represents divine order or divine government.  The twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles come immediately to mind.  This tells me that something about this story has to do with the Kingdom of God.

The woman, aware of her uncleanness, comes humbly to her Lord for healing.  She is healed because of her great faith.  I believe that she represents everyone in history - both Jew and gentile - who has or who will humbly come to faith in the Messiah before He returns.

On the other hand, I believe that Jairus, the religious ruler, represents unbelieving Israel, who will be enlightened unto salvation when Yeshua returns and reveals Himself to his brethren.  Romans 11:15 says, “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

By the way, the name Jairus means “God will enlighten you.” 

Update:  I actually wrote a second post about this very story, clarifying a couple things.  You can find it here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Israel - Riches For the World - Pt 2

My last post looked at the miraculous restoration of Israel.  But now the question remains - WHY is Israel being restored?

Before 1948, nobody really studied eschatology (the study of end times events).  The church for the most part was being taught that IT replaced Israel in God's redemptive plan.  This is called Replacement Theology - the idea that God was done with Israel, and all His present and future workings would be through the church only.  After all, wasn't the temple destroyed in 70 AD?  Didn't this mean that God was finished with the Jewish people?

I am not sure what these theologians did with verses like Romans 11:1 -  I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin or Romans 11:11 - 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.

What part of "certainly not" was unclear to these replacement theologians??  Not to mention the many, many verses that spoke of the regathering of Israel in the Tanakh (aka Old Testament). I listed two of them in my last post, but there are many more.

But thankfuly, now that Israel is a nation again, Replacement Theology is slowly being, um, replaced!  Look at the very next verse in Romans - 11:12 - Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!    This verse speaks of Israel's return, and the effect that it would have on the rest of the world!

We are living this out today!  When Zionism (the desire for a Jewish homeland in Israel) began in the late 1800s with Theodor Herzl, eyes began to open.  When Israel became a nation in 1948, things really began to pick up in God's kingdom worldwide.  And after the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel was given control over Jerusalem, the gospel began exploding throughout the world!  There has been a tremendous parallel awakening between Israel and the church - look at some of what has taken place since the birth of Zionism:

  • When Israel became a state in 1948, there was only a handful of believers in Yeshua.  Today in Israel, there are over 100 messianic congregations.  Similar growth has taken place all over the world among the Jewish people.

  • In 1897, the population of South Korea was 1 percent Christian.  Today it is close to 40 percent, with the world's largest church (Yiodo Full Gospel Church) located in Seoul with over 800,000 members.

  • Seventy percent of all of those who have ever come to faith in Yeshua in the last 2000 years have done so since the first Zionist conference in 1897.

  • Seventy percent of THOSE people have come to faith since 1948 - the year Israel gained statehood.

  • In China in 1900, there were about 100,000 believers.  By the time China became communist in 1949 and closed its doors to outside visitors, there were about 700,000.    In the 1970s, when the door was opened again to outsiders, it was feared that communism had beaten the church to death.  Instead, it was discovered that there were millions of believers!  In spite of persecution even today, the believers are numbered at about 100 million!

  • The pentecostal movement exploded onto the world scene at the beginning of the twentieth century, simultaneous to the birth of Zionism.  With this revival came the outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit (just like in the time of Acts), which still continue today with signs and wonders happening all over the world.

  • Billy Graham began preaching in the 1940s.  A major milestone of his ministry was when he got together with his evangelical team in Modesto, California and committed themselves to righteousness and purity within the ministry, which really took off from that point.  The year:  1948.  Israel statehood year!

  • The tumultuous 1960s saw the birth of such groups as the Jesus movement (which saw many Jewish people coming to faith in), Jews for Jesus, and YWAM.  Other groups saw their births in earlier decades:  Youth For Christ in the 1940s, Campus Crusade For Christ and Operation Mobilization in the 1950s.

  • More Muslims have come to faith since 1980 than in the previous one thousand years.  Worldwide, Islam is growing at a 3.2 percent annual rate, but worldwide faith in Jesus is growing at 6.9 percent annually

  • India has 103 million believers and counting, with new churches being planted among Hindus at a rate of one every seven minutes.

Most of these statistics came from the book The Coming Israel Awakening by James W. Goll.  What exciting times we live in!  Gentiles all over the world (including myself) are awakening to the Jewish roots of their faith. This is a movement that cannot be traced back to any one person but can only be attributed to a movement of the Holy Spirit.

Plain and simple, Israel must be back in her homeland and seeking the Messiah before He can return.  Satan is working feverishly to see that Israel doesn't survive.  But the scriptures tell us Who wins in the end, and I want to be on His side!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Israel - Riches For the World, Pt 1

So, what's the big deal about Israel?

For many of us, Israel has been a country our whole lives, so it doesn't occur to us to think any differently.  Many people don't realize that for almost two thousand years, Israel was NOT a country.  And most people don't realize what an absolute MIRACLE it is that Israel exists again today.  The fact that Israel is once again a country proves that God keeps His promises, and that His word is trustworthy!

Let's look at two (of the many)  examples from the scriptures that tell us about Israel's homecoming:

Isaiah 11:12  He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.

Amos 9:14  I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.

The time window for Israel to become a country was very small.  In the late 1940s, Hitler had just slaughtered millions of European Jewry.  On November 29, 1947, the newly founded UN voted to partition the area of "Palestine" in order to give the Jews their own homeland.  The vote was 33 for and 13 against, which fulfilled the two-thirds requirement by three votes.  Soon after, anti-Semitism developed in the UN and resurfaced around the world, which would have made a later vote on Israeli statehood unsuccessful.

However, the miracles in Israel continued, as she survived - against all odds - five different wars with her Islamic neighbers (who greatly outnumbered Israel in every way).   It sure seems like the One True God has been protecting her, and getting ready to fulfill all things which still must take place - in Israel!  Look at this map, which shows Israel (that tiny little red speck) surrounded by Islamic nations who hate her, and then do the math regarding the odds of her survival.  Only God!  

The reason so many in the world hate Israel is because satan knows his time is short, and that with Israel re-established, God's plan will move forward. So he works hard to stir up a spirit of Haman (who wanted to annhilate the Jews in the time of Queen Esther) throughout the nations of the world.   Don't let this spirit of Haman get a foothold on you... bless God's chosen people Israel just as they have blessed you!  (Gen 12:3)

Look at Amos 9:14 again (above).  Scripture promises that the wasteland will be restored.  Here another mention of the promise:
Isaiah 35:1 - The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose

Mark Twain visited Israel in 1867.  Here is an excerpt from his book Innocents Abroad regarding the land of Israel:

“….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

When the Jewish people began to return to Israel from the four corners of the earth, they were met by malaria-ridden swamps and barren deserts.  The people that had been living in "Palestine" had not done anything at all to make the desert bloom.  Soon after the Jewish people began arriving, an agricultural transformation began, just as promised in scripture. 

Today, Israel is the third largest exporter of fresh-cut flowers, valued at $140 million per year.  Israel not only produces enough food for its citizens, but also exports 20 percent of its agricultural products to the rest of the world!  Bananas (a warm-climate fruit) are grown in the Jordan valley, while five miles away, apples (a cooler-climate fruit) are produced.  Israel is a world leader in agricultural technology and is the most water-efficient country in the world, using technology and recycling to maximize its use. 

And as far as the desert blooming, what is happening in the Negev (the desert in southern Israel) right now is nothing short of amazing!  Agricultural technology makes use of the brackish (salty) water of the desert to grow amazing vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, yellow melons, grapes, pears, and potatoes.  Don't believe me?  Check out the video link on the following website for more information on the Negev - it's really quite amazing!

 Today is an exciting time to be alive!  As God's hand moves in and on Israel, the rest of the world benefits as well.  That will be the subject of my next post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Hell, Part 5

This is the last post from my recent study on hell.  Maybe.  Who knows?  I might disover something else as I continue to dig into what scripture says about these things.

One scripture that is often used for the eternal torture doctrine is found in Revelation 14:10-11.  Let’s take a look at it:  He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  If you look at the context here, it is not hell at all.  This is in context of God’s wrath being poured out on earth at His return.  Notice that they are being tormented in the presence of the angels and the Lamb!  There is no rest for them (those who took the mark of the beast) day or night as this is happening.  The final judgment has not taken place yet.  You might question the use of the smoke of torment rising forever and ever.  It is important to study the Greek word aionin, translated here forever and ever. The word literally means ages, as in the life that hastes away in the breathing of our breath of life, life as transitory, the course of life and time of life – this definition can be found in the Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament by E. W. Bullinger, printed in 1999 and originally published in 1908.

In Revelation 15:1 we then see that God’s wrath is completed on earth – the wrath that was just taking place in chapter 14.  But if the idea of eternal torment is true, then God’s wrath is never satisfied.  Is the idea of eternal torment in hell truly a picture of God’s justice?Deuteronomy 32:4 says, He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is HeWhat would be His point, to torment someone forever and ever?  Is this perfect justice for 70 years of sin on earth? 

Another aspect to consider is the question of how much God loves us.  Consider the following story.  A handsome prince in a faraway kingdom fell in love with a fair maiden and set out to woo her.  Eventually, he lovingly asked her hand in marriage.   She considered his offer and asked him what would happen if she decided against the marriage.  The prince told her that if she said no, she would have her eyes gouged out and be chained in the cold, dark dungeon for the rest of her life.  Number one, did he really love her, and number two, what kind of choice did she really have?

Think about it: A sentence of eternal torture would be far worse than anything Adolf Hitler or Yasser Arafat or Idi Amin or Joseph Stalin ever dished out. 

And think about this:  God is all-knowing.  He knows who will be saved and who will not.  Do you believe that He really creates people, knowing full well that they are destined for an eternity of torture?  

Romans 9:21-24 says, “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?   What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 

Our God is truly a merciful, loving, perfectly just God, who mercifully gives to all who ask.  For those who reject Him, He gives them their wish and allows them to be destroyed.  Granted, the process will not be pleasant – there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth when they realized what they gave up! 

In closing, it has become obvious to me that the idea of eternal torment in hell crept into the church via pagan concepts, and was then used by the church to control the people using fear as a motivator. The ancient and medieval church kept the scriptures from the common people.  Today, we have no excuse!  We have God’s Holy Scriptures available to us, and we must systematically study them!  The publishing market is currently flooded with books about hell.  Some are even on the New York Times bestsellers list.  I’d like to gently remind you that these books are not God’s Holy Scriptures.  Test all things in light of scripture.   I plead with you not to take my word for any of these things, but to do the research yourself so you can know exactly what you believe.  Be a Berean!

If you'd still like more, click HERE for my in-depth musings on the "eternal soul."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Hell, Part 4

Many will argue that the account of Lazarus and the rich man is a clear teaching on heaven and hell. However, looking at that parable with an ancient Jewish mindset, you will see a completely different picture. It isn’t a treatise on heaven and hell at all – it’s a rebuke to the Pharisees, and it’s a parable on Jews and Gentiles. 

The rich man represents the Jews – purple cloth and fine linen represent royalty (the kings of Judah) and the priesthood (the priests of the tribe of Levi), and is foretelling the offering of the kingdom to the Gentiles. Luke 16:21 says that Lazarus was desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Gentiles were always dogs in Jewish thought). And remember the Syro-Phonecian woman from Mark 7:28? And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

There are other clues that this parable was about Jews and Gentiles (and not about heaven and hell): the bosom of Abraham, for one. This is a Jewish idiom, where being in someone's bosom shows a very close emotional relationship and position of honor. The idea of the kingdom of God being taken from them - the Pharisees - and offered to the Gentiles would have caused them to be in torments, as is pictured in this parable.  Parables are figurative.  They are not to be taken literally; they must be interpreted, and this parable is no exception.  I don't think the rich man would have been as calm as he was if his flesh truly was being barbequed.

The mention of the five brothers is a clue that the rich man represents Judah, as well as all of Israel – (Leah had six boys - both Levi and Judah had five full-blooded brothers). Also, there is a pointed reference by the rich man, saying that the brothers had Moses and the prophets – again, a very Jewish reference.  The rich man was well acquainted with Moses and the prophets.  And the reference to "rising from the dead" was foreshadowing the unbelief in the resurrection of the Messiah.  The Pharisees to whom this parable was directed knew exactly who Jesus was talking about - themselves!

Another question that comes to mind is this: does being a poor beggar give you assurance of salvation? Are you damned because you are a wealthy man? And finally, the Greek word that is translated hell in this parable is Hades. But in my first post on hell, we saw in Revelation 20:14 that Hades will be cast into the lake of fire and destroyed at the second death. Is "hell" cast into itself? 

There are many more insights to be gleaned from the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.  I hope you will take the time to dig!

If you wish to continue reading, click HERE for part 5.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Hell, Part 3

Today in part 3, I will address what I feel is the most convincing concept regarding eternal life and judgement.

Over and over, scripture tells us that eternal life is available only through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was asked on numerous occasions, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Thus, it is something to obtain, not something we already have.  I mentioned John 3:16 and Romans 6:23 in my last post, which you may wish to read again with that idea in mind.  Also, look at the following two verses:
  • Galatians 6:8 - The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

  • 2 Timothy 2:10 - Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

If we already have an eternal soul, and it’s just a matter of where we spend eternity (heaven or hell), then Romans 6:23 would probably read more like this:  For the wages of sin is eternal torment, and the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Instead, the two concepts are juxtaposed against each other with that little word “but."

Granted, there are several places in scripture where an argument could be made for the eternal torment idea.  Remember, the doctrine of eternal torment has been ingrained in the church for more than a thousand years.  All of our modern translations are translated with that mindset as a basis.  This is why you need to dig into the original languages, to see what they are really saying.  Remember the unquenchable fire from my last post?  Mark 9:45 says, “And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell (the word Jesus used was Gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched.” 

Often it is our doctrinal filter; that is, what we already believe about something, that tells us what a particular verse is saying.  Take this verse, for example:  Matthew 25:46 – “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Your doctrinal filter can tell you that the flames will torment you forever, or your doctrinal filter can tell you that the punishment, destruction, is final – forever, the eternal effect of an act.

Yeshua didn't come to save us from hell, He came to save us for the kingdom, where we will live in immortality and enjoy His gift of eternal life.  Turning away from sin and trusting in His shed blood is the ONLY way to obtain it.

Still with me?  Part 4 can be found HERE.

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Hell, Part 2

In part 2 of this series, I am addressing the question of what scripture means when it says death and destruction.

First of all, let me say that I am not a universalist (the belief that all people will eventually be saved – Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins (which I have read), seems to lean that way, although the book arguably raises more questions than answers). I believe the Bible clearly describes the punishment of the wicked. There are many verses that speak of their destruction, but let’s look at these two:

  • John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son; that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

  • Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here is my question. Why are words such as perish and death redefined as to mean never die and never perish? Think about it: if an unbeliever is tormented in fire forever, he never really dies or perishes.

The idea that a human soul is eternal simply is not found in scripture. It comes from paganism and was made popular by the Greek philosopher Plato: he believed in the pre-existence and immortality of the soul, holding that life is nothing more than the imprisonment of the soul in a body. You will find similar beliefs in Hinduism, Buddhism, and frankly, most world religions. But this isn’t what the Bible says.

Adam was created from the dust of the earth, and God breathed life into him, making him a whole, living person. He was created imperishable, but because of his sin, he became a mortal being: subject to the punishment for sin – death.

Jude 5-7 gives us another picture of the judgment. But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Sodom and Gomorrah are not “in the process of being destroyed” today by a fire that lasts forever. They were completely destroyed and have never come back. 2 Peter 2:4-6,10 confirms this: For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (the word here is Tartarus – used only once in all of scripture) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly… then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.

It is important to let scripture interpret scripture, and to be careful not to use a “proof text,” which means using a single verse, taken out of context, to try and prove a doctrinal viewpoint.

Want to learn more?  Click HERE for part 3.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Hell, Part 1

In the last few years, God has given me a passion to study the Jewish roots to our faith.  It began with a simple thought, “Where does the word Easter come from?”  That simple thought changed my life.

I’ll give you the quick answer to the meaning behind the word Easter:  Babylonian Fertility Goddess.  You can easily research this yourself – it didn’t take me long to find the answer.

I discovered that when Constantine made Christianity the legal religion of the Roman Empire, he swept through and “Christianized” many pagan concepts.  Furthermore, he despised and persecuted the Jews, and made sweeping laws that rendered their Biblical celebrations illegal.  Because of this, Christianity was severed from its roots.  The reformation came and went, and these roots remained disconnected.  Today there are still many pagan aspects in the church.  Christmas.  Easter.  Sunday Sabbath.  And many more, thanks to the emperor Constantine and ancient Rome.

Remember, the entire early church was Jewish.  Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah, born to Jewish parents in order to fulfill prophecy made by Jewish prophets.  Anyway, I digress.

Recently, I began examining my beliefs on the doctrine of hell in light of scripture.  It began when I heard a preacher say that there were four different words in scripture that were translated into the word hell.  So I looked up the word hell in the dictionary.

Let’s look at this etymology (word origin).  This is taken from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Middle English helle, from Old English; see kel- in Indo-European roots.

Word History: Hell comes to us directly from Old English hel. Because the Roman Church prevailed in England from an early date, the Roman - that is, Mediterranean - belief that hell was hot prevailed there too; in Old English hel is a black and fiery place of eternal torment for the damned. But because the Vikings were converted to Christianity centuries after the Anglo-Saxons, the Old Norse hel, from the same source as Old English hel, retained its earlier pagan senses as both a place and a person. As a place, hel is the abode of oathbreakers, other evil persons, and those unlucky enough not to have died in battle. It contrasts sharply with Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes. Unlike the Mediterranean hell, the Old Norse hel is very cold. Hel is also the name of the goddess or giantess who presides in hel, the half blue-black, half white daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha. The Indo-European root behind these Germanic words is *hel-, "to cover, conceal" (so hell is the "concealed place"); it also gives us hall, hole, hollow, and helmet.

Interesting.  The word hell comes to us from pagan mythology.  I began to wonder if the whole concept of the afterlife was also borrowed from the paganism that was introduced into the church.  So I decided to carefully study the four words in scripture that are translated into the word hell. 

  • Hebrew Sheol:  This word is found 65 times in the Old Testament, with the first occurrence found in Genesis 37:35.  In the King James version it is translated “the grave” 54 percent of the time, “hell” 41.5 percent, and “the pit” 4.5 percent.  Sheol has no such meaning of future punishment, but denotes the present state of death.  It is never associated with life except as a contrast.  Sheol can therefore be understood as the state of death, or the state of the dead, of which the grave is a tangible evidence.  It will continue until, and end only with, resurrection, which is the only exit from it.  Remember the argument between the Pharisees and the Saduccees?  (They are sad, you see, because they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead). 

  • Greek Hades:  This word occurs eleven times in the New Testament.  Like Sheol, it is always connected with the dead, not the living.  It is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol.  Hades is a heathen word and comes down to us surrounded with heathen traditions, which had their origin in Babel and not the Bible.  These traditions have reached us through the pagan corruptions in the ancient church.

  • Greek Gehenna:  This is a transliteration of the Hebrew Ghi-Hinnom, which is the Valley of Hinnom located outside of Jerusalem.  Whoa!  A physical place on earth?   Solomon, king of Israel, built "a high place", or place of worship, for the gods Chemosh and Molech. The valley came to be regarded as a place of abomination because some of the Israelites sacrificed their children to Molech there. In a later period it was made a refuse dump and perpetual fires were maintained there to prevent pestilence.  Bodies of the wicked were cast here and burned.  The Valley of Hinnom is also the traditional location of the Potter's Field bought by priests after Judas' suicide with the "blood money" with which Judas was paid for betraying Jesus.   The fires of Gehenna were perpetual, but whatever was discarded there was eventually destroyed.  The Greek word for unquenchable actually means that the fire will not go out until that which is burning has been destroyed (an example is in Matthew 3:17 - His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”).  Jesus uses the physical place Gehenna to foreshadow the final judgment in the Lake of Fire.

  • Greek Tartarus:  Used only once in scripture, 2 Peter 2:4.  It is not the abode of men in any condition.  It is used only here, and only of the angels that sinned.

These words have different meanings, yet they all have been translated into the same word – hell.  Preachers today talk as if the word hell is the original word, and they proceed to translate those four original words according to the church’s notion of what hell is, or what they were taught in seminary.  I have recently heard two preachers say (both of whom I have great respect for, by the way) that these four words mean different chambers in hell; again, this position assumes that hell is the original word.

Look how the King James version states Revelation 20:14-15  - And death and hell (the Greek word is Hades here) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Huh?  Doesn’t the church believe that the lake of fire is hell?  Then how is hell (Hades) cast into it and then called the second death?  Something seems rotten in Denmark.
My next post will tackle the idea of death and destruction.  Stay tuned if you haven't written me off as a heretic yet!

Click HERE for part 2.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Can you repeat that?

Recently, I've been involved in conversations with people regarding the use of repetition during worship, whether it be singing or praying.  Last night our youth led the singing with the song "Let It Rain," with that phrase being repeated about 96 times.  However, my brain checked out after about the seventh repetition. 

In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul encouraged the use of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.  Six times in the psalms, once in Isaiah, and once in Revelation we are told to sing a new song to the Lord.  Obviously God loves variety and creativity!

Growing up Catholic, we used repetition a lot.  I have prayed many rosaries in my day.  Repeating the "Our Father."  The "Hail Mary."  The "Glory Be."  "The Act of Contrition."  And so on. 

Years later, as a no-longer-Catholic adult, I attended my uncle's funeral at a Catholic church.  My sister (also no longer Catholic) and I were sitting behind my grieving aunt.  The priest, who had a very Scandanavian accent, was saying "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."  Now I realize that this was from scripture, and it is ALWAYS a good thing to memorize scripture.  However, both my sister and I lapsed into giggles in the middle of the funeral when I leaned over and whispered, "It's like riding a bike," meaning, "we will never forget the liturgy that has been drilled into our heads."  I also don't think we would have giggled quite so hard had the priest not sounded like the Swedish Chef.  I don't know if my aunt heard our giggles or not, and if so, I hope she forgave us.

Anyway, the repetition to me has always been by rote.  As a child, I used to say the same five prayers before bed, hoping that they would satisfy God.  Now as an adult believer in Yeshua, Matthew 6:7 resonates with me.  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Yep, that was me. 

People will argue that Jesus taught the "Our Father" right after that.  But He wasn't teaching people what to pray, He was teaching people how to pray.  Up until this time, God had not been accessible to the people; He dwelt in the Holy of Holies, accessible only by the high priest once a year.  Jesus was preparing people to have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.  If people were going to have a relationship with Him, they needed to know how to relate to Him personally and intimately.  Today, we are able to pour out our hearts to Him in praise, adoration, confession, thankfulness, intercession for others, requests, and so forth... whatever is on our heart!  Even though He already knows our deepest thoughts, He still wants us to talk to Him! 

If one of my kids came up to me and said "I love you, you're so awesome..." over and over again, I think that after about seven times, my brain would tune them out.  (And I would probably wonder what they wanted from me!)

What about the creatures in Revelation 4?  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” The phrase "day or night" in Hebrew thought denotes continuity - not the endless duration of an action.  We can also let scripture interpret scripture here, because later in Revelation we see the living creatures engaged in other activities in addition to praise and worship, such as speaking a command (Rev 6:1), or handing bowls to angels (Rev 15:7).   Also, Hebrew does not have separate words for communicating the words "holy," "holier," or "holiest," so repeating something three times is a Hebrew literary method of communicating a superlative.  Another way of expressing a superlative in Hebrew is to say "king of kings" or "servant of servants," meaning the greatest king or the lowest of servants.

I am looking forward to praising my King in person in the coming kingdom - it will be AWESOME!  But But we will also be reigning with Him!  He will give us charge over things... there will be things to do!  We are His chosen bride and we will dwell with Him!  There will be times of passionate worship as well as awesome times of serving, and so much more!  God is a creative being Who loves variety.  I can't wait to see what all He has in store for us on the other side!