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.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Eternal Soul?

I was recently turned down from serving in a particular ministry because I was unable to completely affirm their statement of faith, which included the doctrine that unredeemed souls will be tortured for all eternity.  I have been studying the doctrine of hell for over a year now, and I will continue studying it, as I have no desire to be wrong about this!

(For my recent series about what I have learned in light of what scripture says, click here for the first post). 

It is very disconcerting to me (okay, terrifying) to question a doctrine that has been taught in Christianity for over 1500 years.

The Rob Bells are saying, no, no... all souls will eventually repent from that torturous place and be saved... which is universalism.  Most others are saying, no, God's word is clear that unbelievers are condemned forever, so therefore they will be forever tormented.

What if we are asking the wrong question?

Many of us have been taught all our lives that humans have a soul which is separate from the body. But as I have been digging into what the scriptures actually say, I have changed my mind.  I no longer believe that humans have a soul  that floats away to heaven (or hell, or purgatory) upon bodily death.  Read on if you are still with me and are not thnking "Heretic, heretic!!"

Let's go to Genesis 1.  In verse two, we see the spirit of God hovering over the waters.  The word for spirit is ruach.  Even with my limited knowledge of Hebrew, I know that Ruach ha Kodesh means the Holy Spirit.  Ruach means breath, or wind.  The very breath of God was hovering over the waters.

Skip to day five in verse 20.... God filled the waters with chai nephesh - living creatures.  The words chai and nephesh are repeated in verse 21 in regards to the great sea monsters.

Day 6 - verse 24; we see them again:  chai nephesh... living creatures, this time formed on land; each after their own kind.  (So much for evolution).

In verse 26, an interesting account becomes even more so.  Let Us make man in our image (tselem), according to our likeness (demoot).  The Hebrew word for man is 'adam.  (Thus his name).   The different Hebrew words for image and likeness are simply synonymous.  The plurality of God here is fascinating and worthy of a separate post... watch for that soon.

In verse 28, Adam and Eve were told to rule over every living thing - chai.  In verse 30, dietary instructions are given to all living souls - the word is nephesh - both human and animal.

Chapter 2 of Genesis goes back in time and gives us more details on the creation of man.  Verse 7 tells us  Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed (naphach) into his nostrils the breath (n'shamah) of life (chai), and man ('adam) became a living (chai) being (nephesh).

Wait!  Chai and nephesh were the same words used for animals and fish.  Where is the separate, disembodied eternal soul that man is supposed to have?  Does being made in the image and likeness of God require a separatable (is that a word) being?  Or does it mean that humans simply have a capacity within themselves (their nephesh - soul) that animals don't have?  The capacity for love, the capacity to reason, the capacity to think, to make choices; the capacity to worship their creator?

Further along in verse 17, we discover the penalty for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil - death.   We'll come back to that in a bit.

In verse 19, we see the man (adam) naming the living (chai) creatures (nephesh). 

In chapter 3 verse 20, Adam named his wife Eve (chava), because she will be the mother of all living (chai).

The Lord God then needed to kick Adam and Eve out of the garden.  Verse 22 says that if He left them there, with their new knowledge of good and evil, they could figure out that they could eat of the tree of life and live (chayah) forever.

This is mind boggling to me.  I grew up with the idea that "people had souls, animals did not."  I even checked the Greek Septuagint, and the same words for living (zao) souls (psuche) were used for humans and animals in Genesis.

During the flood, Genesis 7:22-23 tells us, All in whose nostrils was the breath (n'shamah) of the spirit (ruach) of life (chai), all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things (new word - y'kum, meaning all that exists) which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Every word here that describes life, breath, soul, spirit, and so forth applies to both man and beast.

When Lot was fleeing from Sodom in Genesis 19, the angel told him to flee for his life (nephesh). There are many more examples throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament).

When we move to the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament), we find the word that is translated spirit is pneuma. Again, this is a word that means breath, life, or wind, just like the Hebrew ruach. It is used over 300 times in the New Testament.  The Greek word psuche is translated soul.  Think of the word psych... our mind, our thoughts, our inner being.  Our nephesh, as it would read in Hebrew.  We don't HAVE a soul, we ARE a soul!  And so are all the other living creatures on earth.

Nephesh and psuche are used in scripture 976 times, and translated into over 40 different words!  But always, they are referring to living (or dying) creatures here on earth.  But never once do they refer to a soul that is consciously existing post mortem

Many will look to Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  One might say, See?  God has put eternity in their hearts - therefore they must have eternal souls!  But if you really look at this verse (in the middle of Solomon's musings on the meaning of life), that is not what it is saying.  The word for eternity is olam, which can mean the world, the universe, long duration, everlasting, perpetual time.  More importantly, we need to look at the word for heart - leb.  It means emotion, mind, desire.  God has definitely given man the desire for eternity, for significance, for meaning.  This is why there are so many religions!  They are all about man trying to reach (or become) God.  But the true faith is about God reaching man, which He has done through His Son Yeshua.

Over and over again, scripture tells us that the penalty for sin is death and destruction - starting in Genesis 2:17.  Do we believe what scripture says, or do we redefine words like perish and death and destruction to match what we believe about the automatic eternity of every human soul? The Rob Bells of the world ignore the many verses that call for the destruction of the wicked, but frankly, so do the eternal torment folks.

As it turns out, the idea of a disembodied soul comes from the pagan religions that stemmed from Babylon, and was made popular by the Greek philosopher Plato.  The idea was later picked up by the church as paganism crept in, beginning especially in the fourth century when ancient Rome took over Christianity and got rid of all of the Jewish roots of the faith.  When you really think about it, only GOD is eternal; which means no beginning and no end.

It is interesting to note satan's words to Eve in Genesis 3:4:  Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die."  How do we know when satan, the Father of Lies, is lying?  The answer is, whenever he is speaking.  This early lie of satan is still believed today by people all over the world:  you WILL live forever, be it in smoking or non-smoking.

Just a side note about the word hell before I move on... there are four words in scripture translated into that one word hell, which has its origins in paganism.  The four Biblical words are sheol (Hebrew), Hades, Gehenna, and Tarturoo (Greek).  Ironically, the final judgment place, the Lake of Fire, is not translated hell at all; in fact, hell (Hades) is cast into it in Revelation 20:14.

Scripture tells us about the future resurrection.  Jesus spoke of the resurrection in Luke 14, Luke 20, John 5, and John 11.  The best Biblical illustration of what this resurrection will look like can be found in 1 Corinthians 15.  Believers who are asleep (dead) will be raised imperishable.  There is no mention of one's conscious soul floating down from heaven and rejoining his or her new body.  (Genesis doesn't mention a disembodied soul either, for that matter.   You'd think that if it were the truth, it might have been mentioned in the Book of Beginnings).

When we die, our bodies will "sleep" in the ground until the resurrection, according to the passage in 1 Corinthians 15.  The beautiful thing about sleep is that when you awaken, it seems like the night flew by and morning was instantaneous.  Thus to be dead is to be immediately in the presence of the Lord.  Our time stops until the Lord returns and awakens us with a shout... and a new body that will never get sick and never die - woohoo!  (I have a friend who is a Catholic and faithfully prays to Mary and the saints... This idea - that they are dead asleep and awaiting the resurrection - sure would burst her bubble).

But we will only be awakened at the Lord's return if we are covenanted to God through the plan that was in effect while we were on earth... this called the first resurrection.  Today the plan in effect is via the Messiah - Yeshua, who two thousand years ago, shed His blood and died so that we can be reconciled to God through repentance and faith in Him.  At the first resurrection, believers from both Old and New covenants will rule with Him on earth during the one-thousand-year reign.  Our position in this messianic kingdom will depend on the works that we have done while on earth.  Our entrance fee was paid for by the sacrifice of Yeshua.  Revelation 20:6 says, Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

The second resurrection does not occur until after the Millenial Kingdom.  Revelation 20:5 and also verses 11-15 describe what happens to the rest of unredeemed humanity - they are not found in the Book of Life and are cast into the Lake of Fire.  Since scripture shows them to be complete physical beings (and not a disembodied soul), they will perish in the Lake of Fire.  Matthew 3:12 says, 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.  Note that the fire continues to burn, but the chaff is burned up - ie: destroyed.

For a long time, I had been wondering why the unbelieving dead had to be raised up, only to be cast into the fire.  Why wouldn't God just leave them dead?  Then one day, I read the following verse and it became clear to me.  Philippians 2:10-11 says, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  This comes from Isaiah 45 (except that Yeshua isn't mentioned yet) and is also repeated in Romans 14:10. 

It occurred to me that this hasn't happened yet!  Every knee has NOT YET submitted to the Creator and Ruler of the universe.  This is why the sea had to give up its dead (the wicked who died in the flood).  All those who died without acknowledging God still need to do that, for His Glory. And sadly, it will be too late for them.

As it says in Hebrews 9:26-27, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Have you received forgiveness through Yeshua?  If you have not, I pray that you will turn your back on sin and receive Him today as your Redeemer!  He truly is the only way to eternal life! 

For more on this subject, click here.