Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is It True That All We Need is Love? Should Christians Be More Tolerant? How Should We Love Others?

All You Need Is Love. That's the name of a famous song by the Beatles. Today in the Church this is the message that is being taught. And it is a good one, as far as it goes. Christ told us that we should love God first and foremost and love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 13 it says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).”

One of the things that Christ said would be missing from the Church before His return was love. Matthew 25:12 “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Christ says this, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” It is important that the Church preach that we love each other and our neighbors, because the Church is sadly lacking in love. But in talking to people, and listening to some pastors, I have discovered that what people are calling “love” is not necessarily what God means by “love.”Often what is meant is simply "tolerance."

When asking people what they view as love, the following definitions come up. 1) Accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are 2) It is a beautiful and unique feeling 3) God is love 4) acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice 5) pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do 6) a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined 7) it's up to you 8) understanding someone else and sharing their dreams 9) to provide and protect 10) never having to say you're sorry 11) when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself 12) a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction 13) finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs 14) nature's way of tricking people into reproducing 15) commitment.

So these are the ideas people have as to what love is. But is this God's definition of love? English is a poor language in some ways. We have one word for love that means everything from love for family, to friends, to sexual attraction, to being “in love.” Greek, at least the Greek of the Bible has several different words for love. The lowest form would be Eros. Eros is sexual desire or romantic love. We use the word erotic, which is derived from the word “eros.” As romantic love generally has sexual overtones to it, romantic love falls into this category. The next love is phileo. It is a brotherly type of love (hence Phila-delphia the city of brotherly love). Its basis is our natural tastes and preferences. We choose friends that enjoy the things we enjoy or like the things we like, who have similar lifestyles, backgrounds, etc. It does not have to be a shallow love, just because it has a basis in your preferences or tastes, as you can love your friends very dearly. The depth of the love is dependent upon the depth of the person's character from whom it comes. Storge is best defined as the kind of love you feel for your family or those you view as family, such as the kind you feel for a best friend. It tends to be a more committed love than eros or phileo, and does not have sexual overtones.

The last type of love is agape love. Agape love is unconditional love. It is a love that is made by a choice of the will, not necessarily out of feelings. It surpasses mere feelings, so you can agape someone when you do not like what they are doing or possibly do not even like them personality-wise. This is possible simply because it is a choice of the will. It is a sacrificial love. Agape love does not seek to please itself, but desires the best for the object of that love, even at the sacrifice of self. The best definition comes from 1 Corinthians 13, because this is the kind of love that God has, and the kind we are expected as Christians to have for others. To put their welfare above our own.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteer me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”

So how does God define love? Love long as it has to. It endures hardship and pain. Love is kind. It treats everyone with kindness. Love does not envy others. It is not jealous of others or want what they have. Love does not vaunt itself or get puffed up. It is not boastful, arrogant, prideful, or conceited. Love does not behave unseemly. It does not do things which are wrong, or even just ill-mannered. It doesn't commit sinful acts against others or even deliberately do things to annoy or offend others. Love does not seek its own way. It puts others first before self. It doesn't insist on having things its own way and is not selfish. Love is not easily provoked. It does not let others make it angry, no matter how much they may try to do so. It overlooks things and refuses to react in like manner. Love thinks no evil. It does not think the worst of others automatically. It does not dwell on evil thoughts of any kind. It keeps its mind pure. Love does not find joy in the sins or unfortunate happenings in others' lives. Love loves the truth. It finds great joy in it. Love bears everything without losing hope, faith, or patience. Love believes in God and that with God all things are possible. Love hopes for the best no matter the circumstances. Love endures to the end. Love never fails, but hangs tough through it all. And mainly, love is something that gives without looking for something in return. Most loves expect to receive love back in return and often will not endure unless the love is returned. Agape love will give love whether or not it is returned.

Christ told us to love God and our neighbors. These two commandments are a condensed version of the Ten Commandments, for those Ten tell us how to love God and others, or if you prefer, how not to behave, if we do not want to sin against God and man, for they are there to show us our sin. The first four tell us how to love God. The last six tell us how to love others. These commandments are the testimony of God that were kept in the ark of the covenant or ark of the testimony, as it is actually called in the Bible. They are eternal, for God's standard of holiness is eternal. God cannot tolerate sin, so these behaviors will interfere with our relationship with God. Many believe they were given first to Moses, but they were known from the beginning as were other laws and statutes. We are told that Abraham knew them. Genesis 26:5 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Abel and the other patriarchs knew about sacrifices and made them to God. They were not first instituted with Moses. Noah knew about clean and unclean animals. It was not a new things with Moses. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizadek (not of his own possessions, but of the booty he brought back from war, yet still he tithed from that booty.) Tithing was not first a concept taught to Moses. And the Sabbath was instituted in the creation week and was observed by the followers of God who knew these statutes, commandments, and laws as Abraham did. The Israelites were told to remember the Sabbath. They had forgotten it in the four hundred years of slavery, as they were not allowed to observe it. But they had known about it from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So we have the Ten Commandments which show us how our love for God and neighbor should be manifesting itself in action. These are not for Israel alone. They existed before Israel and they continue to exist as Christ told us that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments, which build on the Ten Commandments by addressing our heart condition, as well as our actions. For example, beyond not murdering, we are not to hate. Beyond adultery, we are not to look upon someone with lust. But as we are dealing with the actions of love, which stem from the state of the heart, we will start with the Ten Commandments for now, as if you find you are breaking them regularly as a matter of course, it is evidence that you have a heart problem in your relationship with God, and if that exists, you are not really able to love either God or man.

Before continuing further, I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that we should be striving to obey the Ten Commandments to earn our way to heaven or special favors from God. Although certainly God is much happier with us as children and feels more loved, if we are in obedience to Him, just as being parents we feel our children love us, and we are happier with them, if they obey our rules. I feel the need to state this as there are those who feel any adherence to these Commandments is to nullify Christ's death on the cross. It is only doing that if you are counting on obedience to get you anything except to be a manifestation of the state of your heart. If you see you are not keeping the Commandments (simply because you feel a desire to want to live that way), and you are not being convicted about the situation, it is a good indication that you have a problem in your relationship with God. If you find you have to work at keeping them, instead of the behavior coming naturally to you, it is questionable that you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, for His indwelling should work upon you to put the desire to act in accordance with keeping these commandments without having to strive to do so. Also, keeping these commandments (from a natural desire) does tend to bring blessings with it. Obedience to God is always the better life choice and better life choices naturally bring blessings with them. That said, let us take a look at these Commandments to see how love as defined by God should be manifesting itself.

Exodus 20:3-17
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

These commandments cover, in general, the ways in which we should be manifesting our love for God and neighbor. First we should not have any other god before God. That does not just mean some pagan god. That means anything which becomes our focus in life. Money, fame, sex, a person, anything that becomes the premier focus of our life instead of God becomes our god and ends up making God less than first in our life. If we put anything before God, how can we say that we love Him?

The second commandment is that we should not make and worship any graven image as a representation of God or any other object of worship. We should not bow down or pray to any physical object, but worship God only in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” If we bow down and worship or pray to any physical object, then we no longer worship God, we worship that object. How then can we say that we love God?

The third commandment tells us that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. Some people think this merely means swearing using Jesus' name or using the phrase in which people ask God to damn something. While God is not God's actual name, we use it as if it were at times, so we should not be throwing the names of God (Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, etc.) or even the word “God” around in an empty, useless way. To ask God to damn something is to ask God to bring eternal judgment down upon them. That is not necessarily a breaking of the commandment, if you are serious about it. For instance, to ask for something that is a blasphemy to God be sent to perdition is not a bad thing. Equally God can be trivialized when people go around saying “God bless” or “praise the Lord” when it is just a habitual phrase one throws around to look pious. This is treating God equally with triviality and emptiness, as to ask Him to damn something. We are not to throw God's name around as some do when they say, “God wants you to send me money and He will bless you.” God does not want you using His name as an authority when He has not given the message you are relating. That is using God's name in vain just as a curse is. And just for clarity, vulgar language is not necessarily breaking the third commandment, however, we are told to make sure that our speech is tempered with grace.

Proverbs 10:32 “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Colossi ans 3:8 “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

If someone says they love you, then uses your name to curse out others or in a way which shows that they do not hold a lot of respect or reverence for it, would you think they loved you? Probably not. God is no different. If we love Him, we will not use His name in a vain, empty way.

The fourth commandment is one of great controversy. As such it is an article in itself. I have already written on this subject and it can be found in my archives.

If we love God, will we not treat the day He has established from the very beginning of time as being a holy day, in a holy way as He has asked us to do so? In fact, it is a gift, a blessing, and to observe it will enhance your life, not burden it. If we do not treat it differently, are we not treating Him with the greatest disrespect, since He established this day at creation? He did not ask us to treat as holy every first day of the week due to the fact that His Son rose from the dead on that day. He asked us to keep the seventh day of the week holy because He rested on that day and made it holy. He did this at the beginning of time, not just when He reminded Moses and the Israelites to remember that it had been meant to be kept that way right from the first week. He created this day for man, so that man might have time to rest from his labors and spend time with God. He did not create man for the day. Mark 2:27-28 “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Notice that Christ said He is LORD of the Sabbath. So the Sabbath is important to Him. What Christ was saying was not that He was going to do away with the Sabbath, but that He was going to relieve them of the burdens that the Pharisees had placed upon them on how to observe it. It was not made so that they could have a list of things to do or not do. It was made for them to have a day of rest when they could spend time with God and not have to worry about doing the daily chores that every other day held. 

Just as Christ told Martha that Mary chose the better part, because she chose to sit at His feet rather than get the meal, He was letting them know that He was freeing them to observe and enjoy the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not a list of do's and don'ts. It is a day to rejoice and rest. A blessing for which we can thank God. There is nothing wrong with going to church on Sunday and worshiping God on that day too, but that does not negate the fact that the Sabbath was created for man, for all men, not just the Israelites, and it should be observed as a manifestation of our love for God. For it is a gift from Him and to refuse such a great gift is just plain rude. Personally I love the fact that I have a legitimate excuse to not have to do work on that day. On Sunday I used to go to church and sit at a piano and play for the service. I worked. I had a choral rehearsal before church. I worked. I played at an evening service. I worked. Where was my day of rest in the week? It didn't exist, until I started observing the Sabbath. I LOVE the Sabbath. And I love God for giving it to me. I have a day when I do not have to work, nor do I have to feel guilty for not doing work, nor justify my taking a day off from work. I get to spend the day studying God's Word and praying, and enjoying my family or friends, and resting from my labors, all guilt free. That's the freedom Christ gave us. I think the Sabbath is the best thing ever. What is wrong with you people who do not want to observe it? Are you crazy? Why would you turn down such a great gift? That is like turning down a paid vacation. Imagine how the person who paid for it and gave it to you feels when you treat it as non-existent? That is why observing it is showing God your love. It is showing your gratitude by enjoying the gift.

Those are some of the ways in which we should be showing our love for God. To show our love to our neighbors we have been given more commandments. First we start with the very first people in our lives, our parents. We are to honor them. This means to love and obey them, to treat them with respect, and to care for them when they are old. If we do so, we are promised a long life. So this commandment comes with a promise. These are the first people we will love in life. And to show them our love, we need to honor them. We know that this commandment is still in effect, for we are again told to do this in the New Testament. So these rules are not null and void as some would teach. They are still very much in effect. Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Next we are told not to kill. Some people believe this means that you must never take another human life. But we know from Scripture that God ordered His people to take many a life. Sometimes in battle and sometimes as a punishment for sin. So what does this mean? What this means is that you are not to murder another human. Murder is an act of violence against another human for personal reasons. It is not in warfare, it is not to execute just punishment for a crime. It is a personal vendetta. God even made provisions for accidental deaths. It is just the taking of a person made in the image of God in this way that is a breaking of His law. This commandment has nothing to do with the animal world. Love does not manifest itself in the action of murder. I think that is pretty obvious.

We are not to commit adultery. In this case I don't believe it is just referring to a married person cheating on their spouse. This is talking about sexual impurity. If we believe that God has prepared a mate for us, then to fornicate with someone before marriage would be to cheat on the intended spouse. To have relations with the same sex, would be to cheat on the intended spouse (not to mention that God finds it an abomination). To have sex with animals would be to cheat on the intended or present spouse (again an abomination). So any sexual relations outside of the marriage to the intended spouse is adultery. Sexual purity is the only acceptable practice. If you love someone, you will not commit sexual impurity against them.

We are not to steal. Stealing is taking what does not belong to you. It is wrong and is a crime and sin against your neighbor. To take what is theirs is in essence to take a part of that person. Often theft is accompanied by an attack against the person who is being robbed. Obviously this is not showing love if you do it. While we think of theft as merely stealing physical objects, stealing can also refer to stealing reputations, stealing away someone's love, stealing ideas for profit, etc. There are all kinds of theft.

Bearing false witness can be carried out in several ways. You can lie about someone when they are accused of something, or you can create rumors and gossip about them. No matter how it is done, false witness will carry the consequence of ruining someone's reputation and assassinate their character. In a way it is another form of murder. Murder of the person's character and reputation. This can be as devastating as death in some cases. In some cases it has driven people to take their own lives when false witnesses are believed. If you want to love your neighbor, you won't bear false witness against them.

Lastly we have coveting. Coveting is not only envying what someone has, but wanting it for yourself. We are not to covet any person or thing that belongs to our neighbor. It is envy and jealousy, and these two emotions can make someone act in a very bad way toward an innocent person. People will even murder over covetousness. Again, we come back to murder. It is amazing how often these other sins come back to murder as the final result. People murder because they covet someone's spouse (adultery) their belongings (stealing) or because false witness has destroyed their lives. If we love our neighbor, we will never do any of these things to them. The ways in which we interact with our neighbors will fall into these categories in some way or another. So they are a general and basic outline for how to show love to our neighbor. For those who say these commandments are not applicable anymore, think again. When we were told we are no longer under the law, it did not mean that we shouldn't live by these rules. It meant we are no longer under the penalty of the law, the condemnation or consequences or punishment of the law. Christ took those upon Himself when He died for us. We are however to have the law written upon our hearts (which is more incumbent upon us than just having them written in the Bible). Jeremiah 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God's commandments should not be tossed aside as no longer relevant, in fact these commandments are supposedly engraved upon our heart. If they are so engraved on our heart, should we not then be observing them? The Holy Spirit makes it so that we can observe these commandments, as we now have the love of God within us to carry them out. Something Israel did not have. They were under the condemnation of the law, because there was no sacrifice great enough to take it away. We are no longer under the condemnation, but now have that law written on our hearts. As such we should be showing our love in the way that is described in them.

There are other things no doubt that can be included in this list, but as said above, these general categories probably cover any other ones that might be mentioned. For instance, judging someone without due diligence might fall under the category of bearing false witness.

Now Christ took these things to the next level. He addressed the state of our mind and heart. We are not only not to murder, we are not to hate for that is the same as murder. We are not only not to commit adultery, we are not to lust in our heart. As sin starts in the heart and mind and then manifests in actions, we are to guard our hearts and minds as well as our actions.

In conjunction with this list is how we carry them out. In obedience. Obedience is more important to God than most anything else.

1 Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Romans 6:26 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

Hebrews 5:8-9 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;”

1 Peter 1:22 “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:”

1 Peter 4:7 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” If our judgment is going to be based upon our obedience to the gospel of God, then obedience is pretty important in showing God our love.

Besides showing love in the above ways, we also have some tangible aspects as well.

James 2:14-17 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

Besides being told how not to treat our neighbor as in the commandments, we are given some tangible ways of showing love too. 1 Corinthians 13 written above showed us some ways. James showed us some ways, and there are many other examples in the gospels and epistles. Feeding people, clothing them, helping them in whatever way they might need. All these are ways of showing love. But there is more.

Hebrews 12:6 “For whom the Lord love he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Those whom the Lord loves, He chastens to conform them to the image of Christ. Likewise we are to discipline our children. We are not to provoke them, but discipline them with love. Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Discipline reaches farther than just our children. When a brother is sinning against us, we are to go to them and have a talk with them, not let it continue unaddressed. Matt. 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” This is for their own good, to bring them back into a right relationship with God and the person they have sinned against. If they do not listen, they are spoken to by several people. And if the person will not listen then, they are spoken to by the entire church. If they still will not listen, they are to be treated as an unbeliever by the entire church.

If a brother is in flagrant sin (not necessarily against us, but just sinning) and they do not listen when spoken to, then they are to be ostracized. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” The same process as above should be carried out before ostracization. They should be spoken to and brought before the church, if necessary, first. This discipline is actually a form of love. Just as if we love our children we will not let them run amok with no rules, or guidance, or discipline, we are to do the same for our brothers in Christ. So God's love demands that we sit in judgment upon people's behavior if it does not line up with the behaviors we are taught in God's Word. We are not to just blindly tolerate all things, because that is “loving” our neighbor. It is not loving to not correct someone who needs correction. It is not unloving to sit in judgment if judgment is called for. But one must be very careful to make sure it is God's rules and judgment, not our rules and judgment. Just as breaking the Pharisees laws about the Sabbath were not breaking God's rules, and people did not deserve to get into trouble for breaking their laws, we must make sure that we do not make people live up to our personal rules if they are not God's.

Now that we've established what God sees as love, let us compare that to the list of answers that people have given to the question, “What is love?”

The first answer was: accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are.) We most certainly should not reject a person simply because their personality or station in life does not please us as much as someone else's. We should accept the poor, the rich, the eccentric, the disabled, etc. alike giving no preference to one above the other. These are not reasons to not accept a person. James 2:1-49 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?.....But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

There is only one reason to reject a person, and that has to do with sin. Even sin should not stand in the way of us accepting a person as they are, if they are not a believer, for what did the passage above say? “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world......For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.” We are not the judge of those outside of the Church (meaning the body of Christ, not the local assembly). Therefore we should not reject a non-believer simply because they are a sinner. How can they come to Christ if they do not hear? The sin is not important when we are delivering the gospel message. They are a sinner in need of repentance no matter what sin they might be committing. So to ostracize unbelievers from your life because of their lifestyle is not a loving thing to do. We should accept them where they are at, for Christ accepts them where they are at. He will be the one to do the changing, when they accept Him. It is not our place to change them and then bring them to Christ. It does not work that way. So we should not judge them.

As the same passage says, though, and the one previous to it, we are to judge the sin of our brothers and speak to them about it, but in a way which is not self-righteous on our part. Matthew 7:3-5 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” If they repent, we are to accept them back. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

If they do not accept the chastisement, then we are to separate ourselves from them and turn them over to Satan. Matthew 18:15-17 (see above) Titus 3:10-11“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 & 5 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians3:14-15 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 1 Timothy 5:19b-20 “before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

Clearly we should love everyone, but the idea that we should just accept people indiscriminately, no matter their behavior, is not a Scriptural teaching. We can love the unbeliever and not judge them, for God said that is His job. That is quite a separate subject from dealing with Christians. When it comes to other believers, we do have an obligation to not simply accept any behavior on their part, with the reasoning that we are “loving” them, but to speak to them (in love) correcting them if they are committing a sin, not accepting or tolerating it. That does not give us the right to judge their quirkiness, their personality, or their freedoms. Many people have a legalistic, pharisaical faith that condemns anybody who does not live up to their standards, (which are not necessarily scriptural) or they take issue with the person's lifestyle (which might simply be different). If their standards are God's standards that is one thing, but many people have taken God's Word and added many rules to it that God has not, just as the Pharisees did. This is not the same thing as correcting someone who is in violation of God's laws. We are not to judge these things. We are warned to be very careful about the way we judge people, for how merciless we are to others, is how merciless God will be to us. Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:35-37“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” And God help you if you are judging someone and committing the same sin yourself. Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”

One problem that seems to be a stumbling block in the church is food. Meat vs. vegetarianism vs. kosher, alcohol vs. non-alcohol. Romans 14 addresses this. We are not to judge this issue with other people, for it is not about sin. It is about freedoms. However, if our freedom is a stumbling block for someone else's weaker faith, we should not flaunt our freedom in their face. This just gives them the opportunity to speak evil of it, which then becomes a sin for them. Hence we are causing them to sin by exercising our right to our freedom. We must for their sake, keep our freedom our own personal business. It is not deceit nor denying whom one is, it is called agape love. Sacrificing something of yourself for their good.

Romans 14:1-23 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

This should show that the first definition of love given by men falls somewhat short of God's definition. The second definition is very warm and mushy. “It is a beautiful and unique feeling.” Well, that's a lovely definition, and there truly is nothing that compares to God's love, however it is very vague. Many emotions can be described thus, so it does not really define what love is at all.

Our third definition is “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 agrees with this defintion. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”I think we can all agree that God is the personification of the word “love.” But then to understand what love is, we need to define God. Most people do not really understand who and what God is. This is a huge topic. Actually too big for this article. It is an article in itself, so we will just concede that God is definitely love.

Next we hear that love is “acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice.” As agape love is sacrificial, and 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love is kind, this seems to be a simple definition of love, however it isn't all that love is or should be. Love entails much more than those few things by God's definition. So while it is a start of a definition, it falls short of all that true love embodies.

Our fifth definition of love said that love “pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do.” As agape love demands much from us (read 1 Corinthians 13 again), it is safe to say that it could be defined in that way, but is the opposite true? Is what pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do, always love? There is no definition of “things.” There are all sorts of things that people might not normally do that they would do for love, but that doesn't necessarily make them good things. People steal “for love.” People kill “for love.” These actions cannot be defined as true love, yet some people in their twisted minds think that these actions, which they wouldn't normally do and are out of their comfort zones are love. So clearly this is not a good definition of love.

Love has been defined as “a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined.” Well, I would have to agree that God's love for us is a mystery. Even the Bible defines it as a mystery. 1 Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The mystery of godliness is that God loved us so much that He manifested in the flesh in the person of His Son and died for our sins. It is also true that this cannot be understood unless it is experienced. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” However, love can be defined and Scripture does define it for us in many ways, some of which have been listed above.

The next definition is “it's up to you.” If anybody can define love in whatever way they want, then the word love has no meaning. Yet God gives it a definition, so this is a very wrong concept, that love is whatever we want it to be.

Then we have “understanding someone else and sharing their dreams.” This does not have to be love. This can simply define two people having similar or shared goals. It does not have to have anything whatsoever to do with love. So it fails as a definition of love. Especially by God's definition.

Number nine on the list is “to provide and protect.” One would hope that a person who loves another would want to provide for and protect that person. God expects men to provide for their families. 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Parents are expected to care for and protect their children. Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” This does not mean that the provider/protector necessarily loves the people for whom he provides and protects, although one hopes he would. It means that he is observing an obligation or commitment. In this respect it would qualify as storge love, which is the familial love rather than agape love.

The next definition was one that was mocked by many when it was uttered in a movie. It is “love is never having to say you're sorry.” Why this was mocked was because love would ask for forgiveness if it has offended. It would not assume that it should be forgiven without it. It is the opposite of the definition of real love. I realize the implication is that the other person would forgive you because they love you, without your having to apologize, and that would require love, but the idea that you don't need to apologize is not a way to show love. It is the way to show selfishness and contempt for the other person. Hardly a good definition of love.

Following that is “when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself.” This is actually a good definition as God has given us the same one. Matthew 22:39 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Mark 12:31“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” In this day and age of the “me” mindset, people love themselves almost to the exclusion of others, so if they were to love someone else as much as they love themselves, they truly would have a great deal of love.

The next definition falls under the category of eros love. It was defined as a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction. That is how the word “eros” is defined. It is not agape love.

Then we have “finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs.” Was there ever such a selfish definition? If you “love” someone simply because they make you feel good and fill your needs, you don't love them at all. You simply want them to serve you. You enjoy their love toward you, but there is nothing going back toward them if you only “love” them if they fill your needs, and you are not filling theirs or making them feel good in return. This is a horrible definition of love, yet many a person marries because they are experiencing this type of “love.”

“Nature's way of tricking people into reproducing.” This is likewise a horrible definition, and has nothing to do with love as stated. What is being spoken of here is probably strictly physical attraction that leads to sex, which might result in a pregnancy. Nothing about this requires love, although love between a man and woman will naturally lead to sex, as God built us that way for the purpose of reproduction. This is still instinctual physical behavior, not a definition of God's love.

The last definition is “commitment.” Love should have as part of its definition commitment. Storge love has this quality, and agape love would also. We commit ourselves to Christ when we accept Him. It is a lifelong commitment. Christ made the ultimate commitment to us when He died in our place. He committed to taking on our sins, and is not going to renege on that commitment. But again, this is only one small part of the definition of love. There is much more than this involved.

Some of these definitions were fairly good, and some were quite awful. But as God is love, only He can truly define what it is, and He has given us all we need to know as to what love is - in His Word and through His Son. 
The reason for this entire article came as a result of a conversation in which the person took the stand that Christians should only ever be loving and show love to all regardless, but in the course of the conversation it was clear that what was meant by “love” was not love, but tolerance for any and all things no matter what. That is not love by God's definition, and I felt the need to clarify that concept, as it is what is being taught in so many churches these days. Tolerance is not the same as love. Tolerance can sometimes be the lack of love, for tolerance requires a lack of discipline and judgment, both which love will do. God is not just a God of love, He is also a God of justice and even wrath. These are as much a part of God as love is. The church is neglecting to teach that, so people are getting a skewed concept of who and what God is. There is a need to teach what love truly is by God's Word.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Should Christians Wish People a Merry Christmas or Not?

Many people, agencies, and corporations are trying to make saying “Merry Christmas” a crime these days. Recently a Walmart manager threatened to call the police on a group of children who came in to flash mob the place by singing Christmas carols. How ironic, considering that Walmart now puts out the Christmas merchandise even before Halloween is over. Most Christians (there are those who believe Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas anyhow, as it is a co-opted pagan celebration, so this probably wouldn't bother them) are naturally outraged by this verbalized restriction of their freedom to celebrate their religious belief, as it appears nobody has a problem with other religions celebrating their holiday. It is just Christian holidays that seem to be an offense. I am all for religious freedom and the anti-Christian stance that this country is beginning to take bothers me enormously. I feel it is a danger to Christians. However, I am looking at this in a different light. A great deal is made of being free to say “Merry Christmas” and we should be free to do so, but should Christians be wishing each other this phrase anyhow? Let us take a look at what it is actually saying.

The first word in the phrase is “Merry.” By itself this word is no problem. It means be light-hearted, festive, cheerful, jolly, and carefree. It invites the idea of frivolity and playfulness. The problem comes in when this word is coupled with the word “Christmas.” I don't know if people really understand that this word does not mean “the birth of Christ” but is just a coupling of the words “Christ” and “mass,” and when you say “Christmas” you are really saying “the mass of Christ.” A mass is a Catholic ceremony that celebrates the death of Christ, not His birth, most particularly by transubstantiation, or the eating of what they believe is the literal body and blood of Christ. So when you say “Merry Christmas” what you are really saying is “have a festive and joyful time celebrating the death of Christ by literally eating His body and blood.”

Now I don't know about you, but I have a problem with this on several levels. First, as most everyone knows at this point, the twenty-fifth of December is not the birthday of Christ. Many scholars believe He was born during the Festival of Tabernacles in the fall, which makes sense given that the Scriptues imply He was about to celebrate His 30th birthday when He began His ministry, and He died in the spring after three and a half years of ministry. That would put His birthday in the fall around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. So why are we celebrating it on December the twenty-fifth? Because the Catholic church, way back when, took many pagan things and Christianized them for the sake of compromise between the pagans and Christians. One of those things was turning the birthday of Mithras or the last day of the weeklong celebration of Saturnalia, the Roman festival in celebration of the god Saturn, into the birthday of Christ. I am not going to get into that argument here, for all days belong to God including the birth days of pagan gods, and if we celebrate a day unto the Lord, Paul has said that is fine. Romans 14:5-6 “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.”

The next problem I have is that I do not believe in the celebration of mass, for I do not believe in Christ having to die over and over. Christ died once for all time for our sins. To say that He is crucified anew every time mass is celebrated is saying that He did not die once and for all. The Scriptures do not agree with this teaching.

Romans 6:10 “For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.”
Hebrews 7:26-27 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”
Hebrews 9:28 “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Hebrews 10:10-12 :By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
1 Peter 2:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”

Christ died once and cannot be crucified again and again by the priests. It clearly says in Hebrews that He does not need to be daily offered up as a sacrifice, as the priests once did at the temple, and as the priests in Catholicism do every day. Once was enough. So we should not be celebrating mass, as that is what it means.

Next is the actual celebration of the mass, which is the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ. That is what transubstantiation means. Literally and miraculously turning the wafer and wine into the body and blood. Pagans practiced the “eating of the gods,” where they believed that when they ate a wafer and drank some wine, it became the body and blood of their god. This was a Babylonian practice that pre-dated Christianity by a long time and like other pagan practices was incorporated into the rituals of the Church. If people were to bother studying the Scriptures, they would find that this is a blasphemy to God. The one thing that He clearly specified in the Old and New Testament was that we are NOT to drink blood, ANY blood, neither animal and especially not human. To drink the blood of Christ would be to drink the blood of God Himself, which is total blasphemy. Nor should we be eating the body, as that is cannibalism. When cannibalism is presented in Scripture it is the result of God's wrath upon a people and the result that ensues in their desperation for food. It is not something that God approves and endorses. It is an evil human act which comes as a byproduct of God's vengeance and anger being enacted upon a people.

When Christ held what is now called the Last Supper, He was celebrating the Passover seder. In that seder He performed the ritual of breaking the bread (which is now part of the ritual of the afikomen) and said that it was His body which would be broken for them. Obviously as He was not yet dead, it could not be His actual body, but was a representation of His body. He did the same thing with the wine, which was the Cup of Redemption in the seder, indicating it represented His blood which would be their redemption. He was instilling a new symbolism into the already well-known annual ritual that would, in an abbreviated form, become a part of the Church's ordinances to this day. If there is any argument on this interpretation, Christ himself made it clear that this was to be figuratively taken, when earlier He told the disciples He was the Bread of Life, and if they ate of it they would live forever. John 6:51-58 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”

Now clearly the Jews and the disciples believed that Christ was speaking literally, and there was a brouhaha over it. Why was that? Because what Christ was proposing, if literal, was in direct violation of God's very own laws. Now, would Christ be telling them to do something which was strictly forbidden, and still is, by God? Of course not. And He makes that clear to the disciples later when He was with them and they still weren't understanding what He meant.

John 6:61, 63 “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Christ saw they were not understanding and asked them if they were offended by what He had said. Of course they were, so He made it clear that He didn't mean it literally, for He says that eating His literal flesh would not do anything for them. He meant that spiritually or figuratively He was the Bread of Life and only in accepting Him as the way to eternal life (figuratively eating His flesh and blood or in other words taking Him internally into their hearts and lives) would they live forever. Would eating anything give us eternal life? Of course not. As Christ said, what you eat comes out the other end. It doesn't profit anything except to keep the body going. It does nothing for the spirit. He states, very clearly, that the words were spiritual or symbolic, not to be taken literally. I always advocate taking God's Word at face value except for when God Himself indicates otherwise by interpreting a vision or symbolic representation for us, so that we know it is symbolic and for what that symbolism stands. In this case Jesus is very clear that the words were not to be taken literally, but spiritually. As He has already indicated in this passage that when He refers to His body as the Bread, it is symbolic, we have already been told in advance that this is how He means it at the Passover seder. So the bread and wine are only symbolic of His body and blood.

Since the entire idea of a mass has now been shown to be unscriptural, we should not be advocating it by wishing it to people. In so doing, we are encouraging them to participate in a ritual which God finds an anathema. To wish them a “Merry” Christmas is to say that not only should they participate in said ritual, but should do it with frivolity and merriment, as if Christ's death were a trivial, fun thing.

So, when someone tells you that you shouldn't wish someone a Merry Christmas, maybe they aren't so wrong after all.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Will the Ark of the Covenant Be Necessary in the Third Temple of Daniel's 70th Week? Will It Be Found?

Much has been speculated over the fate of the ark of the covenant. There are a number of theories as to where it lies. This is the list of the most popular theories.

It lies hidden in a cave in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Temple Institute, which is an ultra-orthodox group who have been working on preparations to rebuild the Temple, along with many orthodox Jews, say that this is the location of the ark. There was an excavation attempted in 1982 under Rabbi Yehuda Getz, but is was halted due to the riots that began when the Arabs discovered there was digging going on under the Dome of the Rock. “Witnesses” have said that they saw it, before they were blocked from further excavation.

It lies in a hidden room at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in France. It is suggested by Louis Charpentier in his book Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral that the Templars found the ark during the Crusades and hid it in the cathedral for safety. The current clergy and caretakers at the cathedral deny this theory.

It lies in an unmarked cave in modern Jordan, along with other key artifacts, having been hidden there by the prophet Jeremiah prior to the siege by Babylon.

It lies in one of sixty-four different locations designated as treasure sites in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It is held by the Lemba Tribe in southern Africa, specifically Zimbabwe. This tribe claims to be one of the “lost” tribes of Israel. A DNA survey done in 1999 does link the Lemba tribe to the priestly families in Israel. They treat their “ark” with the appropriate rules as prescribed in the Scriptures. There is a 700 year-old replica held at the Museum of Human Science in Zimbabwe which the Lemba claim was created from the core of the original ark. As this “ark” is bowl shaped, one has to wonder if they were so meticulous about keeping the prescribed rules for how to treat the ark, how they missed reading the description of it, which clearly is a box shape.

It lies in the Chapel of the Tablet at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia. Supposedly Solomon's and the Queen of Sheba's son, Menelik, stole the ark and replaced it with a fake, taking the real one back to Ethiopia with him. Nobody is allowed in to see this ark, but supposedly replicas of it are placed in every affiliate church. In looking for pictures of the replicas, I could only find someone carrying a small red rectangular trunk (no cherubim) with either gold or silver star-shaped designs on it. Again, this does not fit the description in the Bible.

It lies on the bottom of Lake Tiberias (aka the Sea of Galilee) according to some Shia Muslims who credit this knowledge to the Hadith (sayings attributed to Mohammed or commentary thereof). According to their prophecies, this ark will rise from the lake after the rise of the Mahdi (their Messiah), whom their prophecies also say will rule the Earth for seven or so years before the Day of Judgement.

It lies under the hill of Golgotha, according to Ron Wyatt, a hobbiest archaeologist. Wyatt made claims of finding other Biblical artifacts, such as Noah's ark. He said that the ark of the covenant was positioned there, so that Christ's blood could drip on it through the fissure in the rock during the crucifixion. He even claims to have scraped dried blood off the ark casing and to have subjected it to DNA testing. He said the lab reported the fascinating result of half the chromosomes normal humans have, consistent with having only one human parent (Mary). My problem with this is, how did Wyatt avoid being struck dead, as Uzzah was when he touched the ark, when he scraped this blood sample off the ark? That does beg some questions, does it not?

It is said by some to reside in heaven, based upon Revelation 11:19 “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” This can be dismissed right away, as there has always been an ark in heaven, long before the replica of it was made for the tabernacle. We know this because God told Moses that he was making the tabernacle and its accoutrements as replicas of the heavenly temple, and that is why the measurements and arrangement of all things had to be so precise. Exodus 25:9, 40 “According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it........And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” Hebrews 8:5 “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”

Lastly the movie Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark along with the television show Warehouse 13 has left us with the theory that the ark is boxed up in an unmarked crate and stored along with other missing artifacts of importance in an undesignated (or possibly the basement of the Smithsonian) government location where it can be protected from either being used for nefarious purposes by unsavory characters, or possibly proving the Bible true. One can almost believe this is the most logical possibility, knowing our government.

The truth of the matter is, nobody knows what happened to it except God. Is it necessary that it make a reappearance for the time of Daniel's 70th week? Not really. We know that it was not in the Second Temple, and that did not stop them from sacrificing. We know that God left the Temple and will not return to it until He returns in the person of Jesus Christ or Yeshua ha Mashiach, so He does not need the mercy seat as a throne. We know that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and that the Yom Kippur sacrifice or atonement has been permanently made once and for all. So the ark would seem to be unnecessary for the Tribulation Temple, for lack of a better title.  The only real prophecies that say it will make a reappearance come not from the Bible, but from the prophecies of Islam. These prophecies come from Satan, so does he plan to bring it back? Or at least a facsimile of it? Possibly.
The question then would seem to be, is it a necessary part of the Millennial Temple, for if it is, then one might think that it is necessary that it makes its reappearance. For that answer we can turn to the Scriptures.

Jeremiah 3:16 “And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.”

This Scripture tells us that during the millennium (which this passage of Scripture is describing) the ark will not come to mind, nor be remembered, nor visited (it could only be visited by priests once a year on Yom Kippur), nor shall what was done on the day of Yom Kippur (the sacrifice covering the sins of the people for the past year) be done anymore. If it is not visited by the priests on Yom Kippur, then it is not being used. If it is not being used it is unnecessary. If it is not remembered or does not even come to mind, it probably doesn't exist, for even if it existed, but was not visited, people would know it was there and think about it. Why is it not there? It is not needed. God will dwell among people in the person of Jesus Christ. He will be on a different kind of throne. Not a mercy seat where sacrifices need be offered, but on a throne where a king reigns. The people who are born in the millennium will only know the world that is, at that time, not remember the world that was. It will be irrelevant to them. The temple worship will be similar, in that sacrifices will be made, but not for all the same purposes. In Old Testament times, besides being sacrifices of blood to barely temporarily cover their sins, the sacrifices were the source of food for the priests and Levites. Without land to till and raise animals, they would be without food to eat. These sacrifices provided, along with the tithes every third year, the needed supplies of food, oil, wood, wine, etc. that was needed for the temple priests/Levites as well as their families and the running of the temple itself.

While many people have a problem with sacrifices being re-instituted during the millennium, that is exactly what Ezekiel teaches us in the last ten or so chapters of that book. As most people do not understand the sacrificial system at all, and only think it was to cover sins (which it never really did – Hebrews 10:4 “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”), they do not understand why it would be re-instituted given that Christ died for our sins once and for all. Yes, He did. But looking at the Church these days and the sin that pervades it, would it not be a good reminder every time you committed a sin, if you had to go sacrifice an animal? I know it would certainly be a greater tangible deterrent for me than just my conscience, which although it accuses me, makes me feel guilty, and causes me to repent, does not cause as much anguish in my repentance (shame on me) as if I had to also slaughter one of my animals (and being an animal lover, this would bother me greatly). Then there is the absolute necessity of providing food for the priests and Levites. This will not change. This is the means by which it will be done, as this is how God set up His government. The sacrifices always served a double duty.

So, while the temple will be built again (see Ezekiel for the description) during the millennium (this will be the fourth temple, actually) it will not have an ark of the covenant according to the Scripture in Jeremiah. As it is not needed, chances are, it will not be discovered for the time of Daniel's 70th week. But who knows. Maybe Satan has something up his sleeve, given what he has told others.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2 Thessalonians 2:1-11 What is Paul Really Saying?

Even though I have written on this passage in my endtimesstudies blog, I am constantly amazed and dismayed that people can read this passage of Scripture in such a way that they can so badly scramble what it says. It is an all too often misused and misinterpreted passage of Scripture having to do with the end times, although one of the simplest to understand. The passage of which I speak is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11. It truly is not that hard to understand if you simply do not come to it with a preconceived prejudice or bias toward a particular theological doctrine, or spiritualize what it says. Let's take a look at it word by word, verse by verse, and just take it at face value, for I do not think Paul was trying to be obtuse or put it in hidden terms, so that only the “enlightened” could understand. That is a satanic thing, not a God thing. God is not the author of confusion. He wants us to understand, and He knows we are incredibly stupid. One only has to look at some of the crazy interpretations of some of the Scriptures out there to know this. The verses in question are the following:

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

When Paul taught the early churches about the Second Coming, he would have taught them what Christ had taught the disciples. And what would that have been? It would have been the information found in the Olivet Discourse. Within the Olivet Discourse there are no hidden secrets, no hidden meanings. Christ told his disciples straight out what to expect before His return and what they (or those who were alive when He returned) could expect to endure. Contrary to what some teach, Paul was not given a new secret about Christ's return which had not revealed to the disciples, that he was now to teach the Church. We will see that this passage and the Olivet Discourse line up exactly with the same chronology. Paul was teaching exactly what Christ had taught.

Starting with the first verse and taking it one section or phrase at a time, we begin with....

Now we beseech you, brethren,”

Paul was making a strong plea to them about something. He was not just asking, he was pleading with them about something. One only turns to pleading when one is distraught. They obviously had something amiss that he wanted to rectify, and he seems a little frustrated that they had so soon turned from the truth which he had already taught them. That truth being the information given by Christ to His disciples.

by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

The thing which they apparently had misconstrued was something having to do with the Second Coming of the Lord. That is what the phrase “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” clearly means. The “coming” is the Second Coming. So this is clearly speaking of the Second Coming of Christ, the one in which every eye shall see Him, for this is the only “coming” that had been taught. In the Olivet Discourse Christ told us in Matthew 24:30 “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” We are also told by John in Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” In all the verses speaking of Christ's return or coming, it is always a reference to the Second Coming in His power and glory.

John clearly still understands (well after Paul wrote his epistles) that there is only one coming of the Lord and it will be very visible to the world. It will be just as Christ described it to the disciples in the Olivet Discourse, in the clouds with glory for all to see. There is no mention anywhere in Scripture of Christ coming other than at His Second Coming. In fact we are told in several places that He cannot return until certain things occur. Acts 3:20-21, 2:34-35 “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things.....For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.” Heaven receives Christ until there is a restitution of all things (on the earth) and Christ's foes (Satan, the beast, his minions) are made His footstool. This occurs at the time Christ returns in power and glory and the kingdoms of the world become His. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:Until Satan and his beast are put down and are made Christ's footstool, He cannot return, according to this Scripture, secretly or otherwise. Until restitution is made and the earth is returned to its proper owner, Christ must remain in heaven. So there is one coming that Christ taught, John has taught in Revelation, and Paul is teaching here in 2 Thessalonians.

So to repeat, Paul is addressing something they have gotten wrong about the Second Coming. This event is mentioned in conjunction with something that occurs with it.

and by our gathering together unto him,”

This phrase is connected by a conjunction “and” which means the two go hand in hand. And this follows what came before. One does not put a second event before the first in a series of chronological events connected by the conjunction “and.” If I were to buy some groceries at the grocery store I would not say, “I bought some groceries and went to the store.” To say it that way would imply that I went somewhere (perhaps a farm market) and bought some groceries, then I went to a store afterward. While one can put objects in any order and have it make sense - “ham and eggs” and “peanut butter and jelly” are the same as “eggs and ham” and “jelly and peanut butter” - and while the order doesn't matter in these cases, still the two phrases exist as one entity, not two separate meals (a ham meal, and an egg meal) or sandwiches (a peanut better one, and a jelly one). While an order is not so essential in a list of objects, one cannot put events which occur in a timeline and have chronological significance in any order other than the order they occur, if one is to be understood correctly. The order for correctly understanding the order of events in the sentence above should be “I went to the store and bought some groceries.” Now it is clearly understood that I went to the store where groceries were sold and then bought the groceries there.

In the same manner, Paul mentions the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, then our gathering together unto Him. This clearly is a statement of the chronology of events. First Christ returns in His Second Coming in the clouds where every eye sees Him, then He gathers His elect. Now we can see that Paul did indeed teach what Christ taught in the Olivet Discourse, for that is exactly how Christ explains it.

Going back to Matthew 24:30 where Christ comes, and continuing on to verse 31 we find the same chronology. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

The parallel passage is found in Mark 13:26-27 “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”

So to this point, Paul is giving the order of events in the same manner Christ did. He has not changed the timing of the gathering of the elect to seven years before Christ's coming or any time before Christ's coming for that matter. It still occurs after He comes. Paul speaks of it in this same order in another passage. In 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 he says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.” Paul is putting the resurrection at the time of the Second Coming. But the resurrection precedes the rapture, as we all know. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”  Paul clearly tells us here that those who are alive at the coming (Second Coming) of the Lord will not precede the dead in Christ or the resurrection. So in this passage so far, Paul is imploring them to correct their misunderstanding about the Second Coming and the gathering of the elect, which as we shall see is otherwise known as the Day of the Lord. So what is he imploring them to correct?

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us”

It would seem that someone has sent them a letter or told them by word of mouth, some new information regarding this subject and implying that this information has come from Paul and his associate. The information in this letter which they believe is valid has gotten them terribly upset. They are apparently shaken to the core, and it will shortly be seen why. Paul assures them that they should not be upset or troubled by this information that supposedly came from him, for it did not come from him and the information is faulty. So what is this information that has them so upset?

as that the day of Christ is at hand.”

Apparently this letter informed them that the Day of the Lord was happening. The Day of Christ, otherwise known as the Day of the Lord, is when Christ returns and pours out God's wrath on the world. It is the time when He will gather His elect before He pours out God's wrath. Now to be clear again, Paul is saying that this issue which has them all upset is concerning the Second Coming and gathering (rapture), which he then labels as the day of Christ, (another name for Day of the Lord) meaning that the Second Coming, gathering, and Day of the Lord are all the same event. All three things are inexorably combined into one major event and Paul refers to them as such in the way he writes this. Christ's Second Coming, the gathering of the elect, followed by the Day of the Lord are all part of one huge orchestration. And this makes perfect sense. The elect are not appointed to wrath. We should be taken out before God's wrath is poured out, as God has promised us that we will not suffer His wrath, but there is no reason to take us out any earlier than just before it begins. We are only not appointed to suffer God's wrath. We are not appointed to escape persecution. But Christ does not pour out God's wrath until He returns, so this order of events as laid out by Paul makes perfect sense and taken at face value it clearly makes things understood. It also lines up with what Christ taught.

Now we can understand why the people were so upset if they thought the Day of the Lord had commenced. They knew they should be gathered out before that happened. To think they were still here during the Day of the Lord would mean that, as the saying seems to be going around, they were “left behind.” Now Paul goes back to the basics that Christ taught in the Olivet Discourse to reassure them that there are signs that precede this event, which he no doubt has taught them, but they have forgotten, and they should know them, so that they will realize when the event does occur.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first”

Paul almost chastises them and tells them that they should let nobody deceive them. One thing that is going on in spades these days is the deception of what the end times events are. There are numerous theories out there as to what is going to happen, but what must be realized is that there is only one way it is going to happen. Only one of these theories is right. All the others are wrong. So anything that does not agree with the face value chronology of the Scriptures - of what Christ said in the Olivet Discourse, of what Paul said in his epistles, of what Peter said in his epistles, and what John relates to us from what he sees and hears in Revelation - is not correct.

What did Christ repeatedly say in the Olivet Discourse? Do not be deceived. Matthew 24:4 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” Matthew 24:5 “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Matthew 24:11 “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Matthew 24:23 “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.” Matthew 24:24 “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matthew 24:26 “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

So what is the first deception that Paul corrects in their thinking? That day.... what day?..... the day mentioned earlier - the Day of Christ or the Lord, (which occurs in conjunction with the Second Coming and gathering) shall what?..... shall not come except (until or unless)....that day (the Day of the Lord) shall not come until or unless something occurs first. What is it that must occur before that Day comes? There are a couple things that must occur. It won't come until 1) “there come a falling away first.” What exactly is this falling away that must occur first, or before any of these other events can happen? The Greek word for “falling away” is “apostasia” which means “to defect from truth” or “to forsake” (the truth). No matter how much some people want this to mean to fall away from the earth (as in a rapture) that is not what the Greek means. It means exactly what the English word apostasy means, a total desertion, departure, or abandonment of one's faith or principles. It is from the Greek word and its meaning that we get the English word and it's equivalent meaning.

So Paul is telling us that the Day of the Lord (and the Second Coming followed by the gathering or rapture) cannot occur until after there is a defection from Christianity's truth. Not a departure from the name “Christianity” but from the truth that is Christianity. “Christian” mega-churches abound. They are huge and growing, but when one looks at what they are teaching it seems to bear no resemblance to the truth of what is taught in the Scriptures. These are apostate churches. And not just the mega-churches fall into this category. Some of the big denominations, the cults who call themselves Christian, even small individual churches, are all abandoning, deserting, and departing from the truth of Scripture. They have created another gospel. One that is comfortable and easy and appeals to itching ears, but one that will not save you. I think it is safe to say that this first tenet is now a reality, so we have seen the first sign Paul has given us come to pass, although I do believe it will get worse.

And does this go along with what Christ said in the Olivet Discourse? Yes it does. Matthew 24:10-11 “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”
We see that before the abomination of desolation occurs, many shall be deceived (into apostasy) and be offended. This word “offended” is “skandalizo” in Greek. It means “to entrap, stumble, entice into sin and apostasy.” It is obviously the root of our English word “scandalize” which is when someone does something that crosses the boundary of moral behavior for all the public to see. So we see that Christ said that before the abomination of desolation (verse 15), there would be an apostasy. A falling away from the faith due to deception. This is why He kept warning us to not be deceived by false prophets. He told us that false teachings about His return would abound. And we can see that this is very true.

and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped”

What is the next tenet? 2) “and that man of sin be revealed.” The man of sin. And who is the man of sin? “the son of perdition” The only other person to be called the son of perdition was Judas. And why was he called that? Because Satan himself actually entered in and possessed him. This man of sin will be possessed or at least controlled directly by Satan himself and he will be “revealed”. How will he be “revealed”? He will do some things that will clue us in that he is the son of perdition.

Before pursuing more on the man of sin, we need to stop and again see that just as Christ put the apostasy before the abomination of desolation (when the beast comes to prominence), so Paul put it there too in this passage.

What kind of things he will do? “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped;” This man of sin, the son of perdition, will first oppose God and exalt himself above God. Daniel 7:25a “And he shall speak great words against the most High,” Daniel 11:36 “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods,” Revelation 13:5-6 “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.”

He will oppose God. He will be publicly verbal in his opposition, speaking insulting and blasphemous things against the most High God. He will try to usurp God's position (as Satan has been trying to do from the beginning and will try to do in a physical body now on earth) and demand that he alone be worshiped as God.

so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

Next we are told “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” He will sit in the temple of God declaring himself to be God, and he will demand worship of himself as God. Revelation 13:4, 15 “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?......And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” If a person does not worship him as God, they will be killed.

It says that he will show himself to be God. How would he go about doing that? By miracles. In this very passage in 2 Thessalonians we are told in verse nine “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” In Revelation we are told one of these wonders. Revelation 13:13 “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” So there will be miracles to convince people that he is God.

Now we need to address something that is a bone of contention between two differing Christian camps. What is meant by the phrase “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God”? There are two vastly different understandings of this phrase. One takes it quite literally at face value, and the other spiritualizes it. The question that comes to my mind is, should we be spiritualizing it? We are told by Peter that prophecy is not for private interpretation. Spiritualizing a prophecy makes it a matter of private interpretation. But for the moment let us suppose it is supposed to be spiritualized or taken figuratively. The argument is given that in the New Testament we are told that we are now the temple of God, therefore any time a temple is referred to in the New Testament, it refers to our bodies. Does this hold true? Of the 108 verses that mention the temple in the New Testament, only seven of them are definitely not referring to the literal temple. Two of those seven are Christ referring to Himself as the temple and the other five are Paul telling us that we are the temple of God both as individuals and as the entire body of Christ. So to say that in the New Testament the temple refers to our bodies is erroneous. Granted, the temple was still standing during the time much of it was written, so it would refer to the temple as a physical place. But what about after it was destroyed. What about the prophecies, which is what this particular passage in 2 Thessalonians is about?

Let us take this verse figuratively and see where it leads us when we take it to its conclusion. If we believe that the temple is the body or more accurately the heart of the believer, then we would read this passage in this way, “so that he as God sits (or takes control and ownership of) the heart of the people of God.” This interpretation is saying that the antichrist, the man of perdition is going to set up his throne in the heart of Christians. Not in the heart of the unbeliever, mind you, but the heart of the temple of God, the Christian, which the unbeliever is not. It makes no reference at all, in this spiritualization, of the man of sin setting up himself in the heart of those who do not believe in God. Does this not seem a very wrong interpretation? It certainly does to me. And regardless of how much the person who wants to argue this may argue, this is the clear meaning of the verse by simple substitution of the words “Christian's heart and body” for “temple.” It would read, “so that he as God sitteth in the Christian's heart and body.” This is saying the Christian replaces the true God with the son of perdition as his god. Do these people who come up with these symbolic interpretations ever really take it to its conclusion and look logically at what they are saying? I think it is clear that we can dismiss this verse as referring to the figurative temple of God. So the only thing left is the literal temple. A temple which presently does not exist, and would have to be built for this verse to be taken at face value.

Are there any other verses that would provide evidence that indeed this interpretation is correct? Yes there are. Let us start at the place where this event mentioned here in Thessalonians is first mentioned. In the Olivet Discourse in the gospels we find Christ giving us a clue to this event.

Matthew 24:15 “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand):”

Mark 13:14 “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:”

To understand to what Christ is referring, we need to reference the book of Daniel. In that book we find a couple of references.

Daniel 9:24-27 “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Daniel 11:31 “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”

Daniel 12:11 “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”

These are the references in Daniel to the abomination of desolation. As I have written on Daniel 9 in other articles, I am not going to go into the meaning of the seventy weeks here. All that is necessary to know is that each of these references refer to a future event. In the case of Daniel 11:31, it also describes what Antiochus Epiphanes did to the temple, but it also has a second prophetic meaning in that it also describes what the man of perdition will do again. Antiochus Epiphanes was a foreshadow of a larger but similar event. It is this particular verse that lets us know to what the other two verses are referring. When Christ mentioned the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, the only thing that would have popped into the mind of His disciples would be the historical event that led to the celebration of the holiday of Hanukkah. As the prophecies of Daniel about the end times were sealed until now, they would not understand that those prophecies referred to a second occurrence. It was for us to understand that this is what Christ meant. He said it for us. It is Christ's statement to them when He tells them that one of the signs of His coming would be that the abomination spoken of in Daniel, the one they understood about Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtering a pig on the altar and setting up a statue of Zeus in the holy place, would be that this abomination would be seen to happen again. While they might not understand exactly what He meant, we should. Christ is not obliquely referring to antichrist setting himself up in the hearts of Christians. He is referring to an actual event that will involve the temple, just as it happened before. That is the only way in which He expected His statement to be understood. The term “place,” as in “holy place,” is the Greek word, “topos” which means a physical spot of limited locality and occupancy. When Christ speaks of the holy place, He is referring to the temple, and possibly the holiest place in the temple where the ark was kept. The term “holy place” in Old Testament usage (and Christ would have been using Old Testament terminology in His speech, not using the term "temple" as referring to our bodies and hearts) meant the temple itself. When He told the disciples that when they saw the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, which to the disciples would mean something akin to the statue of Zeus, stand in the holy place (temple), that they should flee Judea.

Now this word “stand” is the Greek word “histemi” which does not necessarily mean to stand, as  opposed to sitting. It means “stand” as in “to abide, be established, be set up”. So something will be set up or will abide in the temple that is an abomination, just as the statue of Zeus was.

Clearly in this passage, Christ is referring to a physical temple, and a physical idol of some sort set up in that temple. To further verify this idea, we see that these verses in Daniel each have a second reference that accompanies the abomination. Something that also occurred with Antiochus. The sacrifices and oblations were and will again be stopped. Sacrifices refer to animals offerings. Oblations refer to non-animal offerings such as oil, wine, grain, etc. And it says they will be stopped again. Christians today do not offer animal sacrifices or oblations. How then can they be stopped if they are not being offered?  The only conclusion one can get from the clear reading of these passages based upon how Christ told us they should be interpreted (by Daniel's book) is that there will be a temple (this does not have to include the courtyards, but only the main building) and an altar set up on the Temple Mount. One that can be desolated by an abomination.

One last reference that clinches this idea that a temple will be rebuilt is found in Revelation 11:1-2. “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”

John has been given a vision of the future when the man of perdition will reign on earth. In this vision he is given a rod and told to measure the temple of God. One whose courtyard is being overrun by the Gentiles, as is the city of Jerusalem. This is speaking of something tangible. A temple and a city. Would one be given a rod to measure a single Christian, for clearly the word “temple” is singular. One could say, well it is all figurative speech. Okay, but then he is told to also measure the altar and them that worship therein. People are worshiping inside this temple. Clearly this is a physical temple, with an altar and worshipers. A temple which can be measured. And this is exactly what Daniel has said and what Christ has said. Not only that, but the idea that there would be no courtyards seems to be accurate, for John is told not to measure that area for it is given to the Gentiles to trod underfoot. There will be no courtyards, which given the situation on the Temple Mount makes perfect sense. It could well be a shared space with the Muslims and the Dome of the Rock. While some think this is impossible, let me quote an article on this subject.

Can Third Temple be built without destroying Dome of the Rock? By Matthew Wagner 06/21/2009 Jerusalem Post

Until now Jewish tradition has assumed that destruction of the Dome of the Rock was a precondition for the building of the third and last Temple. However, in an article that appeared in 2007 in Tehumin, an influential journal of Jewish law, Frankel, a young scholar, presented a different option. His main argument is that Jewish doctrine regarding the rebuilding of the Temple emphasizes the role of a prophet. This prophet would have extraordinary authority, including the discretion to specify the Temple's precise location, regardless of any diverging Jewish traditions. Frankel considers the scenario of a holy revelation given to an authentic prophet that the Temple be rebuilt on the current or an extended Temple Mount in peaceful proximity to the dome and other houses of prayer such as the Aksa Mosque and nearby Christian shrines. However, both Muslims and Jews have expressed opposition to the initiative. Sheikh Abdulla Nimar Darwish, founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, said it was pointless to talk about what would happen when the mahdi, the Muslim equivalent of the messiah, would reveal himself. "Why are we taking upon ourselves the responsibility to decide such things?" Darwish said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. "Even Jews believe that it is prohibited to rebuild the Temple until the messiah comes. So what is there to talk about. "The mahdi will decide whether or not to rebuild the Temple. If he decides that it should be rebuilt, I will go out to the Temple Mount and help carry the rocks." Darwish warned against any attempt to rebuild the Temple before the coming of the mahdi.”

I find this article intensely interesting in that both parties say that if a Messiah type were to come with the authority of God, they would both concede peace and the temple would be built alongside the Dome of the Rock. That this position could be filled by the man of perdition is stating the obvious. The antichrist will present himself as the world's Messiah. To the Jews he will be the Jewish Messiah. To the Muslims he will be the Mahdi. He will fulfill all the roles needed.

So it seems clear that there will be a physical temple rebuilt that can be desolated by an abomination. And that sacrifices that will at some point begin, will be stopped.

Now we look again to the verse in 2 Thessalonians. “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” The man of perdition will sit in the temple declaring himself to be God. We find that there might be more to it than this. In Revelation 13:14-15 “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” It does not state that this image will be set up in the temple, but we know that the man of perdition will set himself up as God in the temple.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

Now Paul shows his frustration with them. He asks them if they remember that he went over all this when he was there with them. He taught them the Olivet Discourse. Obviously they were not listening. I sympathize with Paul. As a teacher I know how frustrating it is to teach something and find out that the student has paid no attention and has learned nothing. And in Paul's case it is crucial information. Information about the end times. This is important information that they were to teach others. This is not just a school subject. This is information about our future, about salvation and the Coming of the Lord, and the terrible time that will precede it.

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.”

This is also a debated phrase. What exactly is it that withholdeth the antichrist from coming into power? Well, we know from this passage that he is called the man of perdition, and that only one other has had that moniker, Judas. And why did Judas have that title? Because he was indwelt by Satan. It seems to be the consensus that the son of perdition will be inhabited by Satan at the time he sits in the temple declaring himself God. I do not know if it is an actual possession by Satan, or as God has a Son, so Satan has spawned an offspring which he can control. Angels do have that ability as we know from Genesis. So, what precipitates Satan taking control of the man of sin? It appears that he finally gets thrown out of heaven for good.

Revelation 12:7-9 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

We find this mentioned in the Old Testament as well in the book of Daniel 12:1 “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” The context of both passages show that this war between Michael and his angels and Satan and his angels occurs at the time of the abomination of desolation. We see in another passage in Scripture that it appears that Michael is Satan's adversary. Jude 9 “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”

In the verse in Daniel 12 it says that Michael shall stand up. We are used to the phrase “stand up” meaning literally to rise from a seated position. But this is not how this Hebrew term “amad” is used in chapters 11 and 12. Throughout the chapters it means “to arise, stand by, stand firm, and stand still” for a few definitions. It is highly doubtful that Michael sits around in heaven and only at this point stands up to do battle. He does battle constantly, as he appears to be a comparable angel in position and power to Satan, being an archangel. He is also the angel who oversees Israel. So it would appear that it is Michael who is Satan's equal and adversary (he is not Christ's equal) and who does battle with Satan and restrains him from doing what he would like to do, especially to Israel.

The passage in Thessalonians tells us that we should know who withholds or restrains Satan, who will be taken out of the way so that Satan can vent his wrath full force. When it says that Michael stands up, it means that after he throws Satan out of heaven, he stands still or stands by and just watches. God is allowing Satan to have full reign, so Michael can no longer dispute or battle with him. He no longer tries to restrain him. Michael is told to stand aside and let Satan have his way. Most people believe it is the Holy Spirit and will not accept this interpretation, but Scripture does bear out that Michael is the one who does battle with him. The Holy Spirit is never once in Scripture said to have the job of restraining or battling Satan. That is not His job. It is the Holy Spirit's job to indwell, guide, lead, and so forth, us. The only reason the assumption has been made that it must be the Holy Spirit is that this verse is approached with a preconceived doctrine (pre-trib rapture) which then creates a bias toward interpreting it that way, so that the theory can be validated. That is not the way Scripture should be understood. We do not bring out theory to the Scriptures and make them say what we want to validate our theory. We read the Scriptures and understand what it says and build our theory from there. The only Scriptural connection between Satan, the man of perdition, and the lifting of restraint is the Michael connection. Therefore we need to lean on the side of Scripture and accept that the apparent restrainer is Michael.

And just to show that the theory that it is the Holy Spirit cannot be right, those who believe it is the Holy Spirit being removed in a pre-trib rapture, then say that untold numbers will come to the Lord during this time. How can they, if it is the Holy Spirit who reveals and draws us to the Lord and He is removed? Since Christ returned to heaven, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers. It is through the Spirit that we have the strength to endure. Without Him, which is what this theory insists, how could people believe and how could they endure? Common sense tells us that this cannot possibly be a right interpretation given what the Scriptures teach about the Holy Spirit's job in our lives.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”

The passage continues with information about the restrainer being removed. It says that this evil is already at work, and that he that “letteth” which in Greek actually means “hold down” not “allow” as we think of the word “let,” will continue to hold him down until he is told to stop doing so. The way it is worded is that the restrainer is taken out of the way by God. But the Holy Spirit is God. He doesn't take Himself out of the way by removing His presence from Christians and leaving them alone to face this horror without the Comforter. He takes someone else out of the way. Again this would seem to point the finger at Michael as he is told to stand still.

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

It is at this time that the “Wicked” or “anomos” which means “the lawless” (as in not subjecting himself to God's laws) will be revealed. It has already been discussed that at the abomination of desolation that the son of perdition will be controlled by Satan and declare himself God. Up until this point, people may not realize exactly who this man is. It is when he is no longer restrained and declares himself that he is revealed for who he really is.

When Christ comes at the end of Daniel's 70th week, he will destroy the son of perdition. We find this is foretold in Revelation 19:11-20 also. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,”

It has already been discussed that this son of perdition will be performing miracles and now Paul tells us that those miracles are the work of Satan. He will have all kinds of supernatural power and perform lying signs and wonders to convince people he is God.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

Paul tells us that the unrighteous will be deceived and will perish. This is because when they have heard the gospel (And the entire world will have heard the truth of the gospel. Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”), they have rejected it or fallen away from it. Because they have rejected the truth, God will send them a delusion that is so believable that they will believe it. And consequently they will believe that the son of perdition is God and will take his mark and condemn themselves to an eternity in hell.

What is important in this verse that many tend to completely miss is that God says that during this time, what time?.... the time of tribulation, when the son of perdition will declare himself God after the abomination, those who have not believed in the gospel, will not believe. The idea of 144,000 evangelists bringing thousands upon thousands of people into God's fold of believers is totally against what God has said will happen. People will not be accepting the truth, as they will believe the lie, because that is what God has ordained. Now, we know there will be people who go into the millennium who have not taken the mark, but are not a part of the Church. How can that be? There are people who do believe in God the Father (Jews in particular) and worship Him, but do not know Christ. These people will not believe the lie, because they do believe in God the Creator, God the Father, the God of the Bible. They may not have a personal relationship with Him through Christ, but they have a head and heart belief in the Father, and this keeps them from believing the lie. There will probably also be conspiracy theorists and survivalists among some of these people, besides the Jews. And if the son of perdition presents himself as an “alien”, there are those who will refuse to bow down to him because they will not accept an “alien” as their god. And it must not be forgotten, that not all of Israel are Jews. The ten tribes have co-mingled themselves into the Gentile nations. Some of them no doubt still believe in the God of Abraham. So while they are not followers of Yeshua or Jesus, they will not believe the delusion, for they do believe in the truth of the God of the Bible.

So we can see that Paul is simply re-teaching us the Olivet Discourse here. The events occur in the same order that Jesus taught them. The reference to the man of sin by Paul is an apt description of the one in Daniel, which Christ referenced for us to understand what this event would be. These two passages go hand in hand and completely agree with each other, as Scripture generally does. It is very clear to see for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Hopefully for anyone who has not seen this truth yet, may your eyes now be opened to the truth and may you continue to seek out the rest of the truth so that you are spiritually prepared for what lies ahead.