The Tattooed Messiah

There are many who read the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation and assume that Yeshua the Messiah is going to return to earth with a tattoo on his thigh. This conception is totally invalid and is caused by a complete misunderstanding of who Yeshua really is and how He lived. Unfortunately this false teaching also is fueled Antisemitic bigotry that plagues many Christian churches to this very day.

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.
(Revelation 19:11-16 KJV)

The history of tattoos is tightly bound up with that of paganism because the first people to create and receive them were pagans or, at the very least, their ancestors whose shamanistic ways gave birth to paganism. Tattoo is one of the oldest forms of art, right after cave and rock art from prehistoric times.

Moses wrote, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28 KJV), “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28 KJV) and “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28 KJV).

Clearly the Torah (instruction) teaches us that tattoos are forbidden by HaShem. This prohibition is only one of the 365 negative mitzvot (commandments) contained within the Torah.  In our day, the prohibition against all forms of tattooing regardless of their intent, should be maintained. Tattooing becomes even more distasteful in a contemporary secular society that is constantly challenging the concept that we are created in the image of HaShem (Genesis 1:27) and that our bodies are to be viewed as a precious gift on loan from HaShem, to be entrusted into our care and are not our personal property to do with as we choose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Voluntary tattooing even if not done for idolatrous purposes expresses a negation of this fundamental perspective.

Yeshua was a tzitzit wearing, Torah-Observant Jew. Obviously, it would be impossible for Yeshua to break the commandments of the Torah (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15).

A tzitzit is the name for specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews. Tzitzit are attached to the four corners of the tallit (prayer shawl) and tallit katan (small tallit). The wearing of tzitzit by observant Jews is also mandated by the Torah. It is only one of the 248 positive mitzvot contained within the Torah. Rabbinical scholars equate the observance of the tzitzit mitzvot with that of all other mitzvot. One Rabbinical scholar, Maimonides,  includes it as a major commandment along with circumcision and the Passover offering.

And YHWH spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of YHWH, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your Elohim. I am YHWH your Elohim, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim: I am YHWH your Elohim.
(Numbers 15:37-41 RNKJV)

The tassel (tzitzit) on each corner is made of four strands, which must be made with intent. These strands are then threaded and hang down, appearing to be eight. The four strands are passed through a hole 1-2 inches away from the corner of the cloth. There are numerous customs as to how to tie the tassels. Some Rabbinical commentaries explain that the Bible requires an upper knot (kesher elyon) and one wrapping of three winds (hulya). They instructed that between 7 to 13 hulyot be tied, and that “one must start and end with the color of the garment.” As for the making of knots in between the hulyot, the Rabbinical commentaries are inconclusive, and as such the designers of Jewish law have interpreted this requirement in various ways. The various commentaries described tying assuming the use of tekhelet dye, however, following the loss of the source of the dye, various customs of tying were introduced to compensate for the lack of this primary element.

Though many methods exist, the one that gained the widest acceptance can be described as follows:

The four strands of the tzitzit are passed through holes near the four corners of the garment that are farthest apart. Four tzitzyot are passed through each hole, and the two groups of four ends are double-knotted to each other at the edge of the garment near the hole. One of the four tzitzit is made longer than the others; the long end of that one is wound around the other seven ends and double-knotted; this is done repeatedly so as to make a total of five double knots separated by four sections of winding, with a total length of at least four inches, leaving free-hanging ends that are twice that long.

Before tying begins, declaration of intent is recited: L’Shem Mitzvat Tzitzit (“for the sake of the commandment of tzitzit”).

Blue and white tzitzit knotted in the Sephardi style, the all white is Ashkenazi. Note the difference between the 7-8-11-13 scheme and uninterrupted windings (between the knots) on the Ashkenazi, vs. the 10-5-6-5 scheme and ridged winding on the Sfaradi tzitzit.

The two sets of stands are knotted together twice, and then the shamash (a longer strand) is wound around the remaining seven strands a number of times (see below). The two sets are then knotted again twice. This procedure is repeated three times, such that there are a total of five knots, the four intervening spaces being taken up by windings numbering 7-8-11-13, respectively. The total number of winds comes to 39, which is the same number of winds if one were to tie according to the Talmud’s instruction of 13 hulyot of 3 winds each. Furthermore, the number 39 is found to be significant in that it is the gematria (numerical equivalent) of the words: “The Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Others, especially Sephardi Jews, use 10-5-6-5 as the number of windings, a combination that represents directly the spelling of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH).

Rashi, a prominent Jewish commentator, bases the number of knots on a gematria: the word tzitzit (in its Mishnaic spelling) has the value 600. Each tassel has eight threads (when doubled over) and five sets of knots, totalling 13. The sum of all numbers is 613, traditionally the number of mitzvot in the Torah. This reflects the concept that donning a garment with tzitzyot reminds its wearer of all Torah commandments.

Maimonides disagrees with Rashi, pointing out that the Biblical spelling of the word tzitzit has only one yod rather than two (giving it a gematria of 590 plus 13), thus adding up to the total number of 603 rather than 613. He points out that in the Biblical quote “you shall see it and remember them”, the singular form “it” can refer only to the p’til (thread) of tekhelet. The tekhelet strand serves this purpose, explains the commentaries, for the blue color of tekhelet resembles the ocean, which in turn resembles the sky, which in turn is said to resemble HaShem’s holy throne, thus reminding all of the divine mission to fulfill His commandments.

When wearing a tzitzit, the tassels hang to the thigh of the person wearing the tzitzit. Obviosly then, Yeshua will not have a tattoo on His thigh. He may very possibly be wearing a tzitzit with a combination of knots, wrappings and embroidering that will contain His title, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Todd Bentley, the Canadian “Evangelist” (http://www.freshfire.ca/) has claimed that he has piercings and tattoos because Yeshua also has piercings and tattoos. He is referring to this passage in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 19:11-16) and the wounds from the crucifixion. This is total blasphemy to compare his tattoos and piercings with misinterpreted Scriptures and the suffering inflicted upon Yeshua at His crucifixion as a means to justify his own tattoos (include a recent tattoo of a demon in a rose) and many body piercings.

Todd Bentley and Fresh Fire Ministries was also part of the Lakeland Revival. The Lakeland Revival was related to the Toronto Blessing in Canada and the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. However, the Lakeland Revival had a greater focus on divine healing along with a call to evangelism, was much shorter than these two revivals, and was nearly inseparable from Todd Bentley. The revival displayed many “ecstatic manifestations” and some participants claimed “esoteric experiences”, such as divinely inspired visions and prophecies. In addition to claims of numerous miraculous healings, there were at least 30 claims to cases of resurrection of the dead (all unsubstantiated). The Toronto Blessing is the movement responsible for “Holy Laughter” which is sometimes manifested with uncontrollable laughter and even projectile vomiting.

Todd Bentley has been criticized for occasional violence against “worshipers” at his “revivals”. He has been known to forcefully kick, hit, smack or knock over participants. In one incident, a man was knocked over and lost a tooth. In another, an elderly woman was intentionally kicked in the face. Todd Bentley held claims the Holy Spirit led him to such actions, saying that those incidents were taken out of context and adding that miracles were happening simultaneously.

Every Word of Elohim is refined, He is a shield to those who seek refuge in Him. Do not add to His Words, that He not reprove you, and you be found a liar.
(Proverbs 30:5-6 HRB)

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You Cannot Serve Two Masters

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
(Luke 16:10-13 ESV)

The love of money leads to all kinds of problems in this world and in our lives. Greed, materialism, selfishness, worry and dishonesty are among these problems. The love of money has another consequence, it always replaces our love of God.

HarperCollins Publishers is the parent company of both Thomas Nelson Publishing and Zondervan. They are the world’s largest Christian publisher of books, audio recordings, video recordings and Bibles. Interestingly, they also publish The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey. HarperCollins Publishers is owned by News Corporation. Keith Rupert Murdoch is the founder, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, the world’s second-largest media conglomerate. Keith Rupert Murdoch publishes pornography (film and print), yet claims to be a Born-again Christian.  Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church is  Keith Rupert Murdoch’s pastor. Coincidentally, Zondervan is also Rick Warren’s publisher.

Profit is the goal of all corporations. What are the practical implications of a alleged Christian publisher serving God and Satan, albeit under different subsidiary company names?

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
(John 2:13-16 ESV)

Keep in mind that the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals in the Holy Temple were doing so to enable worshipers to serve God during the Passover Feast. They had setup a type of convenience store in the courtyard of the Holy Temple, selling livestock for sacrificial offerings and money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian money. However, none of this was enough to justify their actions before Messiah Yeshua. This is the only account of Yeshua using physical force in any of the Gospels.

An Old Testament comparison can be found in an incident that took place in the Holy Temple can be found in the time of Nehemiah, when Nehemiah overturned the furniture of Tobiah the Ammonite who had, with the cooperation of Eliashib the High Priest, leased the storerooms of the temple, depriving the Levites of their rations from the offerings, and drove out Eliashib’s grandson who had married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Nehemiah 13).

The Bible says that God is a jealous God. The Bible says that you cannot serve God and money. The Bible says that God is Lord over all. Clearly, God wants all or nothing.

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
(Revelation 3:16-22 ESV)

Who Was Melchizedek?

Melchizedek’s sudden appearance and disappearance in the book of Genesis is somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after Abraham’s defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating friendship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham in the name of El Elyon (“God Most High”) and praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle .

Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the items he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he recognized Melchizedek as a fellow-worshiper of the one true God as well as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than himself. Melchizedek’s existence shows that there were people other than Abraham and his family who served the one true God.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
(Genesis 14:18-20 ESV)

In Psalms 110, a Messianic psalm written by David, Melchizedek is seen as a type of Messiah.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
(Psalms 110:1-7 ESV)

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
(Matthew 22:41-45 ESV)

This theme is repeated in the book of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Jesus Christ are considered kings of righteousness and peace. By citing Melchizedek and his unique priesthood as a type, the writer shows that Jesus Christ’s new priesthood is superior to the old Levitical order and the priesthood of Aaron.

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
(Hebrews 7:1-10 ESV)

I have heard some people speculate that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ or perhaps even the Holy Spirit. This viewpoint is highly unlikely. So the question remains, who was Melchizedek?

Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem (Salem) in Abraham’s time. The Targum and the Talmud identify him with Shem the son of Noah. He was also a priest; the Rabbinical sources give no details about his priesthood, but they indicate that he was not as worthy a person as Abraham. The people who passed down religious traditions from Adam to Abraham and his descendants include Shem.

In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.
(Psalms 76:1-3 ESV)

The Targum and the Talmud point out that Jerusalem was referred to as the City of Righteousness.

Therefore the Lord declares, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
(Isaiah 1:24-26 ESV)

Jerusalem’s kings were called “King of Righteousness” (Malki-Tzedek in Genesis 14:18) “Lord of Righteousness” (Adoni-Tzedek in Joshua 10:1).

As soon as Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.”
(Joshua 10:1-4 ESV)

Melchizedek had no recorded predecessor or successor in his priesthood, and his nationality, genealogy and offspring are left undisclosed in Scripture. He was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who has an unending priesthood, unlike the imperfect Levitical priesthood that died and needed successors. The resurrected, sinless Jesus Christ continues alive forever, having His priesthood without any successors, and is able to save completely those who are approaching God through Him, because He is alive to make intercession for them.

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.'” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
(Hebrews 7:11-25 ESV)

In the Aramaic Targum of 1 Chronicles 1:24, Shem, son of Noah, is described as High Priest. At least one Targum source, Codex Neofiti, uses the name Shem rather than Melchizedek in the Genesis 14 passage. In early Rabbinical sources, “Rabbi Zechariah said in the name of Rabbi Ishmael: The Holy One, blessed be He, desired to derive the priesthood from Shem, as it is said: And he was priest to El Elyon.” According to the chronology of Genesis 11:10, Shem must have outlived Abraham by 35 years, and did not die until Jacob himself was 50. Jewish writer, Ephrem of Syria (306-373 AD), in his Commentary on Genesis identifies Melchizedek as Shem. However, the thrust of Jewish commentary on the passage is that the priesthood of God held by Noah then Shem was transferred to Abram at the time. The passage in Psalm 110:4 is seen as referring to Abraham by some Rabbinical commentaries, with Abraham being the Adonai-Zedek mentioned in the passage.

As far as the speculation that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, there is absolutely no proof of this. In the Book of Hebrews, it clearly states that Jesus Christ was compared with Malki-Tzedek, not that He was Malki-Tzedek. Would Jesus Christ have come to earth and ruled as an earthly king over a city? Melchizedek is similar to Christ in that they are both priests and kings. Therefore, Melchizedek could be called a “type” of Christ, but they are almost certainly not the same person. The text in the Book of Hebrews that refers to Melchizedek being without father or mother or genealogy likely refers to his office of priesthood.

Freedom From Bondage

God promised to deliver Israel from the burdens of Egypt. The good news of salvation is that, through faith in Yeshua, the burdens of our sins can be removed. Instead of sin we have forgiveness. Instead of guilt we have joy. Instead of condemnation, we have vindication. Instead of death and judgment, we have the gift of eternal life and grace.

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am JEHOVAH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as EL SHADDAI, but by my name JEHOVAH I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am JEHOVAH, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am JEHOVAH your ELOHIM, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am JEHOVAH.'”
(Exodus 6:2-8)

Sacred Cows Make The Best Hamburger

The term sacred cow is an idiom, a figurative reference to sacred cows in some religions. This idiom is thought to originate in American English, although similar or even identical idioms occur in many other languages.

The idiom is based on the popular understanding of the elevated place of cows in Hinduism. A literal sacred cow or sacred bull is an actual cow or bull that is treated with sincere reverence. A figurative sacred cow is something else that is considered unreasonably immune from question or criticism.

There in no topic, doctrine or person that is above question or criticism. Any topic, doctrine, or person is subject to question and criticism, regardless if it is considered orthodox or not. This is indeed scriptural. The Scriptures are our highest authority and our guide to examine and test everything else in this world.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(1 John 4:1 ESV)

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
(Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV)

No sacred cows should be considered safe, it’s open season and there are no bag limits. After all, sacred cows make the best hamburger.

Joseph Smith: Prophet of God?

Joseph Smith, Jr. was an American religious leader and the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is regarded as the Prophet of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ by his followers.

Beginning in the early 1820s, Jospeh Smith said he had visions, in some of which he said an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates, inscribed with a Christian history of ancient American civilizations. In 1830, he published what he said was an English translation of these plates as the Book of Mormon, and organized branches of the Church of Christ, saying he had been chosen by God to restore the early Christian church. Church members were later called Latter Day Saints or Mormons.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 ESV)

As Christians, we should have the attitude that there are no parts of the Bible that we don’t believe, don’t like, or won’t teach, preach or obey. We cannot be like Thomas Jefferson, who brazenly sat down in the White House with a razor in one hand and a Bible in the other and cut out the portions he rejected, asserting his authority over the authority of God. We cannot be like those who are more subtle than Thomas Jefferson and simply ignore parts of the Bible as primitive, dismiss them as outdated, or explain them away with human reasoning.

The Apostle Paul showed us the proper attitude to have towards Scripture when he said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).”

The Apostle Peter expanded this admonition when he said, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV).”

The Scriptures are given by God’s inspiration, the very words of God, all we need to know God, a perfect guide for life, pure, true, trustworthy, perfect, effective, powerful, not to be taken from or added to, for everyone, to be obeyed and the standard by which all teaching is to be tested.

From the very earliest days, the church knew which books were God’s inspired Word. They read them, studied them, obeyed them, lived them, and passed them on. We should do the same without adding anything to the Scriptures. King Solomon said, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6 ESV).”

Does Scripture contain errors? The truthfulness of the Bible is inextricably tied to the nature of God. God is a truthful God who does not lie. Since God is ultimately the author of Scripture, it is perfect, unlike every other uninspired writing and utterance. The doctrine of inerrancy asserts that because God does not lie or speak falsely in any way, and because the Scriptures are God’s Word, they are perfect. As a result the entire Bible is without any error.

Yeshua used copies and translations. He trusted them, so we should too, especially when the science of textual criticism has confirmed that our text is accurate. Due to the fact that we have so many manuscripts to check, we are certain that the text of over ninety-nine percent of the Bible we have today is faithful to the original manuscripts. Most of the variations we do find involve spelling (e.g., color vs. colour), word order, or style. Less than one percent of all variations have anything to do with doctrine, and no doctrine is affected by any of those variations.

Can Scripture be written today? No, it cannot. The Tanakh ended with the prophet Malachi predicting that the next major event in history would be the coming of John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Yeshua. Four hundred years of silence followed in which no Scripture was written until John the Baptist came, just as promised. The Brit Chadashah ends with its final book, Revelation, telling us that no other books of the Bible are to be written after it and that we will have silence until the Second Coming of Yeshua. The Bible tells us that Yeshua is God’s final word or revelation to us and that we should not add anything to the Bible.

One way of saying this is that the canon of Scripture is closed. No books, not even a word, will be added to the Bible. The warning at the end of Revelation applies to the Bible as a whole.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

God still speaks to people and groups, albeit not in apostolic, inspired, canonical revelation. Examples include such things as predictive prophecies, dreams, visions, angelic visits, and other such means that the Scriptures speak about. In dealing with any alleged extra-biblical revelation, we must follow the biblical cautions. The Apostle Paul said, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 ESV).” We must follow the biblical guidelines for testing those who prophesy or allege other forms of extra-biblical revelation.

Are they loyal to God? Is their word consistent with the Bible? Is what they describe or predict accurate? Is their character Christlike? Does their word build up and encourage the church in truth? Do the church elders confirm their word?

While Christians should and do enjoy multiple good translations of the Bible, we must always be careful of corruptions of Scripture. Corruptions are “traslations” that seek to undermine the very teaching of Scripture. These translations include the Jehovah’s Witness translation called the New World Translation, which was written in large part to eliminate the deity of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, and the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenanats which were written in part to promote Tritheism (the belief that there are three distinct, powerful gods, who form a triad) and Monolatrism (the recognition of the existence of many gods, but with the consistent worship of only one deity). These are not translations, per se, but terrible corruptions of Scripture masquerading as God’s Word.

Mormons read poetic passages such as, “His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him (Psalms 98:1)” and wrongly conclude that God has a literal body of flesh and bones. However, the Bible clearly states that God is not a man and that He is a spirit without a physical body.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:23-24 ESV)

A list of basic Mormon beliefs (heresy) can be found at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Follow this link (Mormon Beliefs, Are They Christian?) to learn more.

Joseph Smith made a considerable amount of prophecies during his lifetime We know that the criteria of a true prophet is not failing when predicting the future. This is because God, who is outside of time and the creator of the universe, makes no mistakes when he tells us what will happen. Therefore, if anyone claims to be a prophet of God and speaks in the name of God and gives a prophecy that fails, then the person is not of God. Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? There are two ways to find out. First, compare what he says to Scripture and if what the prophet teaches contradict Scripture, then he is a false prophet. The second way is to examine any prophecies that he has made. If a single prophecy fails, then the person is a false prophet. Please note that having several fulfilled prophecies and even a single false prophecy still means that the person is not a true prophet of God. The test for a prophet is not if he gets them most right, but all right. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry have listed a few of Joseph Smith’s False Prophecies on their website.

Joseph Smith said, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Please see the Articles of Faith at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ website.

In addition, the Book of Mormon is filled with inaccuracies and errors. There are far too many to list here in this article. Interestingly enough, Joseph Smith’s book is known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul warned us of such writings in his epistle to the Galatians.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
(Galatians 1:6-9 ESV)

In conclusion, Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon and other LDS literature are terrible corruptions masquerading as the Word of God. Joseph Smith and the Mormons are the example I have chosen for this article, please note that these tests and guidelines apply to any and all self-proclaimed prophets.

The Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy

The subject of Biblical prophecy is a fascinating aspect of Bible study. Unfortunately, very few people understand the keys to understanding the prophecies of the Bible, and because of this many prophecies are greatly misunderstood.

One of the keys to understanding Biblical prophecy is the fact that many prophecies are dual in nature. Many Biblical prophecies have both a short-term and long-term fulfillment (types and antitypes).  The type is usually a relatively minor event in history. The antitype  symbolizes a major, often eschatological (eschatology is a branch of Christian and Jewish theology concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind) event that will occur later.

One of the best examples of dual fulfillment in prophecy is the Olivet Prophecy recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Events such as the siege of Jerusalem, Antiochus Epiphanes’ sacrifice of a pig on the altar (the Abomination of Desolation) and the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus Flavius are seen as only partial fulfillments of the Olivet Prophecy (which is also predicted in the Book of Daniel).  We can clearly see that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a type of the Great Tribulation which will occur in the time immediately preceding the Second Coming of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus Christ). Yeshua was actually predicting that the Abomination of Desolation which occurred under Antiochus Epiphanes in which he pronounced himself to be God and defiled the Holy Temple (which when corrected by the Maccabean Revolt resulting in the celebration known as Hanukkah) would occur again during the time of the final Antichrist. Yeshua actually prophesied two events in the Olivet Prophecy. Jerusalem’s destruction was the type, and the Great Tribulation is the antitype.

This particular prophecy highlights how vital it is to understand the principles of duality in Biblical prophecy. Many early followers of Yeshua did not understand that the Olivet Prophecy was dual and fully expected that Yeshua’s Second Coming would occur after the destruction of Jerusalem. When Yeshua failed to return at that time, some were very disappointed and disillusioned. Some even lost their faith and stopped believing. This disappointment was a major factor in causing the congregations to fall into apostasy in the closing decades of the first century.

The failure of the Jewish people to understand the duality of prophecy also played a role in their rejection of Yeshua as their Messiah. They thought (and still think) that the Messiah would come as a conquering, human king that would restore Israel to its former wealth and power. This idea was based on the many prophecies in the Old Testament which are actually describing the Second Coming of Yeshua and His millennial kingdom. An understanding of this principle of duality, along with careful study of the many prophecies showing the suffering and death of the Messiah, may have prevented this tragic error.

The type often stops short of fulfilling the entire prophecy. Yeshua pointed out a very clear example of this in Luke 4:16-21. On a Sabbath in Nazareth shortly after Yeshua began His ministry, He publicly read from the scroll of Isaiah in the Synagogue saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Reading this passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, Yeshua stopping abruptly after the first line in verse 2. Yeshua then rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. He told the amazed audience, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This portion of the prophecy was fulfilled, in type, during His earthly ministry. It will be completely fulfilled, as the antitype, throughout the entire world during His millennial kingdom. If Yeshua had read any further, He would have spoken of events belonging exclusively to His second coming, so He did not claim to be fulfilling them. If these devoted Jewish people has accurately assessed Yeshua’s words, they could have easily avoided the error that led them to reject Him and compell the Romans to condemn Him to crucifixion for blasphemy.

Keep in mind that not all prophecies are dual in nature. God’s predictions regarding the fate of ancient city-states such as Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon and others do not appear to have an antitype. In general, it seems that God has chosen to use the duality principle in those prophecies which deal directly with His chosen people (Israel) or with those who trust and believe in Yeshua (spiritual Israel).

As an example, ancient Babylon is one of the ancient city-states that does have an antitype. Under its greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon conquered Judah and took the Jewish people into captivity between 604-585 BC (II Kings 24-25). In the New Testament, Babylon becomes an antitype of those who persecute believers (Revelation 18:21-24), and its fate will be the same as that of ancient Babylon: a heap of ruins, never to be raised again (Isaiah 13:19-22).

The principle of duality in Biblical prophecy is especially important to believers in this day and age. Many prophecies in the New Testament predicted the great apostasy which took place in the congregations toward the end of the first century (Acts 20:29; II Thessalonians 2:3-12; II Timothy 3:1-8; II Timothy 4:3-4; Jude 3-4). All of these prophecies are dual. The falling away from the revealed truth of  God that occurred in the first century is a type of what is happening today in the worldwide congregations. We are actually witnessing some of these prophecies being fulfilled today.  Duality in Biblical prophecy is being demonstrated in our very lifetimes and before our own eyes.

For these reasons, we must be keenly aware of this important principle of understanding God’s Word. We must be constantly on our guard, watching prophesied world events, as well as those unfolding in the congregations, so that we are not caught unaware.

Yeshua warned all of us who are living in these turbulent times, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:35-37 KJV)

Unnatural Selection

Genetically engineered foods, otherwise known as genetically modified organisms, are rapidly being produced throughout the world for a variety of reasons by Genetic Engineers. Genetic modification or genetic engineering involves altering the genetic material of an organism by using techniques which may manipulate food, animals and perhaps even humans. With food for instance, scientists have the ability to reduce fruit softening, to make plants insect repellent, to enrich foods with minerals or vitamins, to brighten the color of fruit and to alter the shape of produce for easier storage (for example Japanese scientists have created square watermelons).

In animals, pigs were implanted with cattle DNA to allow them to produce more milk to raise their young more rapidly and efficiently. This was a genetic experiment, the animals involved were supposed to be destroyed after the process. In reality, they were sold to slaughterhouses and processed into pork products for supermarkets throughout Canada and the United States.

One of the more recent genetic engineering projects that is even more disturbing involves Chinese scientists genetically modified a dairy cow enabling it to produce human breast milk. The cows are apparently a special herd that were created with human genes and scientists expect to see this type of milk sold in supermarkets within the next three years.

Genetic engineers are deliberately breeding transgender goats to see if their milk is similar to that produced by humans. The goats being created are effectively a female trapped in a male’s body, complete with the full male anatomy. The company behind them wants to see if their milk contains the same proteins as human breast milk, with a view to one day possibly selling it in stores.

Large corporations including Monsanto, Bayer and Novartis are often behind such projects and in a position of considerable power, with financial gain fuelling their intentions. Genetic engineering and genetic modification by all means is revolutionary biotechnology and has been predicted to have the potential to solve food shortage and famine worldwide.

The introduction of biotechnology has stirred much debate and concern amongst consumers and health practitioners. Regardless of whatever benefits biotechnology may offer, genetic engineering and genetic modification is the furthest step we can take from nature and with no testing in place to examine safety, food altering technology may have potentially hazardous effects on health and the environment. Recent studies have suggested a link between genetically engineered soybeans and corn with a rise in food allergies in humans, as well as immune dysfunction in mice consuming genetically engineered peas.

Regardless of the secular debates and concerns with genetic engineering, is this ethically right to pursue these practices from a Scriptural context? We will examine several passages from Genesis and Leviticus to come to a definitive conclusion.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:11-12 ESV)

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:20-22 ESV)

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds–livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:24-25 ESV)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

Every plant and animal that God made when he created the earth each reproduced “according to their kind” and God said that was “good.” When God created man, He told us to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

To subdue something means to conquer by force or the exertion of superior power, and bring into permanent subjection; to reduce under dominion. Dominion is sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling. Does this include genetic engineering as we please? Absolutely not!

“You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.”
(Leviticus 19:19 ESV)

In Leviticus 19:19 we are given mitzvahs (commandments) not to interbreed animals or seeds. Therefore, genetic engineering is in direct violation of God’s commandments. Why is this prohibition made? Maybe a better question is, who are we to question the infinite wisdom of our omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Creator? Who are we to argue with God?

The Bible doesn’t directly say that genetic engineering is an abomination to God, but I am almost certain that we can easily come to that very conclusion ourselves.

Sound Doctrine: A Litmus Test For Christian Leadership

It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching.
(Aiden Wilson Tozer)

The Apostle Paul’s epistle to Titus was written when Titus was working as a missionary to the Island of Crete. At the time, Crete had many churches, but these churches did not have effective leaders and teachers. So the Apostle Paul told Titus how to select, qualify and appoint leaders to the churches in each of these towns. Titus was told to choose these leaders carefully and that each of these leaders were to be of good character, kind, holy and honest. These leaders and teachers were required to teach the Word of God with acuuracy.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you– if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
(Titus 1:5-9 ESV)

Paul’s epistle to Titus is an important litmus test to qualify church leaders and Bible teachers. This was a very important task for Titus to accomplish. Titus was encompassed by candidates that were trying to convince believers to follow in their teachings and traditions, contrary to the Word of God. These candidates were deceitful, they professed that they had a relationship with God, however, their actions (fruits) proved in fact that they denied God.

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
(Titus 1:10-16 ESV)

The Apostle Paul admonished Titus not to argue with those candidates who taught unsound doctrines. He told Titus to warn such a person only twice and then to have nothing more to do with them.

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
(Titus 3:9-11 ESV)

The Book of Titus should still be used today as a litmus test to see if a candidate for ministry (an elder, pastor, deacon or even a teacher) is qualified. If they are not qualified and continue to attempt to fulfill a ministerial role within any congregation or form of religious teaching of the Word of God, then Paul warned us that such a person is warped, sinful, detestable, disobedient and unfit for ministry, and that these people should be disassociated with entirely.

We would have much better congregations if all alleged leaders and teachers were held up to these standards as we have been commanded to do.

Torah: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
(John 14:5-6 KJV)

What is that way? Psalms 119:1 says, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law [Torah] of the LORD.”

What is truth? Psalm 119:142  says, “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law [Torah] is the truth.

What is life? Proverbs 13:14 says, “The law [Torah] of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 13:14 KJV)

The Torah also contains an important Messianic prophecy in the Book of Deuteronomy which was revealed by God to Moses.

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
(Deuteronomy 18:15-19 KJV)

Who is this prophet that Moses prophesied about? The answer is found in the New Testament in the Book of Acts. The Apostle Peter is speaking to the people of Israel after a miracle of healing had taken place before many witnesses. Peter noticed that the people were amazed by what had taken place.

And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 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, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
(Acts 3:12-26 KJV)

And to Abraham and to his Seed the promises were spoken. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, “And to your Seed,” which is Christ.
(Galatians 3:16 MKJV)

The promised seed (descendant) who was promised to Abraham was Yeshua, the promised Messiah.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
(Galatians 3:28-29 ESV)

The Gospel of Yeshua is offered to every person in the entire world, and there is still only one way to obtain redemption and salvation and only one name that will lead to redemption and salvation. Yeshua is that way and that name.

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
(Acts 4:10-12 KJV)

The Torah is the visibility of the truth, the visibility of God’s countenance. The Torah gives us the moral guidance for righteous living. Yeshua the Messiah is the Living Torah. In this Torah the abiding essence of what was inscribed on the stone tablets at Sinai is now written in living flesh. The Apostle Paul said, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
(Colossians 1:13-15 ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1-14 ESV)

Replacement Theology?

Regarding the theological status of modern day Jewish people, covenant theology is often referred to as “supersessionism,” or “replacement theology”, due to the perception that it teaches that God has abandoned the promises made to the Jews and has replaced the Jews with Christians as his chosen people in the earth.

Are you really foolish enough to believe this heresy? If so, what part of ‘Everlasting Covenant” don’t you understand?

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

Is it conceivable that God could break His promises or forsake His people? Could He ever reject His people and take another people in their stead? If so, there is no confidence in our faith and hope. Surely God is faithful to Israel.

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
(Isaiah 49:15-16 KJV)

Thomas Jefferson: All American Heretic?

Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third and fourth President of the United States (1801–1809).

A leader in The Enlightenment, Jefferson was a polymath who spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science, religion and philosophy. His interests led him to assist in founding the University of Virginia in his post-presidency years. While not an orator, he was an indefatigable letter writer and corresponded with many influential people in America and Europe. His views on slavery were complex, and changed over the course of his life. He was a leading American opponent of the international slave trade, and presided over its abolition in 1807. In the past, Jefferson has often been rated in scholarly surveys as one of the greatest U.S. presidents, though since the mid-twentieth century, historians have increasingly criticized him, particularly on the issue of slavery.

Thomas Jefferson rejected the orthodox Christianity of his day and was especially hostile to the Catholic Church as he saw it operate in France. Throughout his life Thomas Jefferson was intensely interested in theology, biblical study, and morality. As a landowner he played a role in governing his local Episcopal Church; in terms of belief he was inclined toward Deism and the moral philosophy of Christianity.

In a private letter to Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson refers to himself as “Christian” (1803): “To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence.”

In a letter to his close friend William Short, Thomas Jefferson clarified, “it is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, of so much absurdity, so much untruth and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.”

Thomas Jefferson praised the morality of Jesus Christ and edited a compilation of his teachings leaving out the miracles. Thomas Jefferson was firmly anticlerical saying that, “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot. They have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.”

Jefferson rejected the idea of immaterial beings and considered the idea of an immaterial Creator a heresy introduced into Christianity. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote, “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus taught nothing of it. He told us indeed that ‘God is a spirit,’ but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter.”

Clearly, in spite of many attempts to rewrite history to make Thomas Jefferson appear to be a Bible believeing Christian, little about his philosophy resembles that of orthadox Christianity either then or now.

The Jefferson Bible, or “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson’s effort to extract the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Thomas Jefferson states that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the “Christian System” in a conversation with Dr. Benjamin Rush during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the “deism and ethics of the Jews,” and concluding with the “principles of a pure deism” taught by Jesus, “omitting the question of his deity.” Thomas Jefferson explains that he does not have the time, and urges the task on Priestley as the person best equipped to accomplish the task.

On October 13, 1813, in a letter to John Adams describing his book “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines.”

In another letter to John Adams on January 24, 1814, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The whole history of these books(the four Gospels) is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

Using a razor, Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted his arrangement of selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order, mingling excerpts from one text to those of another in order to create a single narrative. Thus he begins with Luke 2 and Luke 3, then follows with Mark 1 and Matthew 3. He provides a record of which verses he selected and of the order in which he arranged them in his “Table of the Texts from the Evangelists employed in this Narrative and of the order of their arrangement.”

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’s birth without references to angels, genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It does, however, include references to Noah’s Ark, the Great Flood, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming, as well as Heaven, Hell, and the Devil. The work ends with the words: “Now, in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” These words correspond to the ending of John 19 in the Bible.

After completion of the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, in about 1820, Thomas Jefferson shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime.

The most complete form Thomas Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington. The book was later published as a lithographic reproduction by an act of the United States Congress in 1904. For many years copies were given to new members of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson was obviously a Deist. Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful Creator. According to deists, the Creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe. Deists typically reject supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, tending instead to assert that a god (or “the Supreme Architect”) does not alter the universe by intervening in it. This idea is also known as the Clockwork Universe Theory, in which a god designs and builds the universe, but steps aside to let it run on its own.

Deism became more prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries during the Age of Enlightenment — especially in Britain, France, Germany and America among intellectuals raised as Christians who found they could not believe in supernatural miracles, the inerrancy of scriptures, or the Trinity, but who did believe in one God. Deistic ideas also influenced several leaders of the American and French revolutions.

In the United States, Enlightenment philosophy (which itself was heavily inspired by deist ideals) played a major role in creating the principle of religious freedom, expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s letters, and the principle of religious freedom expressed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. American Founding Fathers, or Framers of the Constitution, who were especially noted for being influenced by such philosophy include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Cornelius Harnett, Gouverneur Morris, and Hugh Williamson. Their political speeches show distinct deistic influence.

Other notable Founding Fathers may have been more directly deist. These include James Madison, possibly Alexander Hamilton, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine (who published The Age of Reason, a treatise that helped to popularize deism throughout the USA and Europe).

In the United States there is controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians, deists, or something in between. Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography, “Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but each of them having afterwards wrong’d me greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith’s conduct towards me (who was another freethinker) and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful.” Benjamin Franklin also wrote that, “The Deity sometimes interferes by his particular Providence, and sets aside the Events which would otherwise have been produced in the Course of Nature, or by the Free Agency of Man.” He later stated, in the Constitutional Convention, that “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.”

For his part, Thomas Jefferson is perhaps one of the Founding Fathers with the most outspoken of Deist tendencies, though he is not known to have called himself a deist, generally referring to himself as a Unitarian. However, one unpublished Ph.D. dissertation has described Thomas Jefferson as not a Deist but a “theistic rationalist”, because Thomas Jefferson believed in God’s continuing activity in human affairs. The first-found usage of the term “theistic rationalist” is in the year 1856. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson stated that he “trembled” at the thought that “God is just,” warning of eventual “supernatural influence” to abolish the scourge of slavery.

In a letter to William Short on August 4, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “My aim in that was, to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers, which have exposed him to the inference of being an impostor. For if we could believe that he really countenanced the follies, the falsehoods and the charlatanisms which his biographers father on him, and admit the misconstructions, interpolations and theorizations of the fathers of the early, and fanatics of the latter ages, the conclusion would be irresistible by every sound mind, that he was an impostor. I give no credit to their falsifications of his actions and doctrines, and to rescue his character, the postulate in my letter asked only what is granted in reading every other historian. I say, that this free exercise of reason is all I ask for the vindication of the character of Jesus. We find in the writings of his biographers matter of two distinct descriptions. First, a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications. Intermixed with these, again, are sublime ideas of the Supreme Being, aphorisms and precepts of the purest morality and benevolence, sanctioned by a life of humility, innocence and simplicity of manners, neglect of riches, absence of worldly ambition and honors, with an eloquence and persuasiveness which have not been surpassed. These could not be inventions of the groveling authors who relate them. They are far beyond the powers of their feeble minds. They shew that there was a character, the subject of their history, whose splendid conceptions were above all suspicion of being interpolations from their hands. Can we be at a loss in separating such materials, and ascribing each to its genuine author? The difference is obvious to the eye and to the understanding, and we may read as we run to each his part; and I will venture to affirm, that he who, as I have done, will undertake to winnow this grain from its chaff, will find it not to require a moment’s consideration. The parts fall asunder of themselves, as would those of an image of metal and clay. There are, I acknowledge, passages not free from objection, which we may, with probability, ascribe to Jesus himself; but claiming indulgence from the circumstances under which he acted. His object was the reformation of some articles in the religion of the Jews, as taught by Moses. That sect had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust. Jesus, taking for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the Supreme Being, and formed him really worthy of their adoration. Moses had either not believed in a future state of existence, or had not thought it essential to be explicitly taught to his people. Jesus inculcated that doctrine with emphasis and precision. Moses had bound the Jews to many idle ceremonies, mummeries and observances, of no effect towards producing the social utilities which constitute the essence of virtue; Jesus exposed their futility and insignificance. The one instilled into his people the most anti-social spirit towards other nations; the other preached philanthropy and universal charity and benevolence. The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever dangerous. Jesus had to walk on the perilous confines of reason and religion: and a step to right or left might place him within the gripe of the priests of the superstition, a blood thirsty race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel. They were constantly laying snares, too, to entangle him in the web of the law. He was justifiable, therefore, in avoiding these by evasions, by sophisms, by misconstructions and misapplications of scraps of the prophets, and in defending himself with these their own weapons, as sufficient, ad homines, at least. That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the Son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore. But that he might conscientiously believe himself inspired from above, is very possible.”

Obviously, only God Almighty can judge the heart of a man. I pass no judgement on Thomas Jefferson or any of the Founding Fathers. Whether they were truly Christians or not is a matter between God and them. We know, however, that the Bible warns us from subtracting or adding to the Scriptures. Thomas Jefferson has some serious explaining to do on Judgement Day for his creation commonly known as The Jefferson Bible.

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.
(Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV)

Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
(Deuteronomy 12:32 ESV)

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
(Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

Thomas Jefferson’s entire work, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, otherwise known as The Jefferson Bible can be read in its entirety at the following link: The Jefferson Bible.

As Christians, we should have the attitude that there are no parts of the Bible that we don’t believe, don’t like, or won’t teach, preach or obey. We cannot be like Thomas Jefferson, who brazenly sat down in the White House with a razor in one hand and a Bible in the other and cut out the portions he rejected, asserting his authority over the authority of God. We cannot be like those who are more subtle than Thomas Jefferson and simply ignore parts of the Bible as primitive, dismiss them as outdated, or explain them away with human reasoning.

Knowing God

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
(John 10:14 KJV)

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
(Psalms 46:10 KJV)

Unless God is revealed to us through personal experience, we can never really know God. Most of us know about God, but that is quite different from knowing God. We learn about God through the functions of the church such as Sunday school, youth groups and activities, and worship services. Many people stop in their quest for God at this point. It is one thing to be introduced to a person, but quite another thing to know him personally.

The Theology of Money

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
(Matthew 6:24 ESV)

Almost everyone has heard the saying that, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Not only that, they will steadfastly insistent that this ‘phantom verse’ is in the Bible. I for one, thank God that these so called phantom verses are not contained in scripture.

As all rumors and lies, howver, their is typically some grain of salt to any fanatical, absurd and fabricated scripture verse. Some quote these verses in hypocrisy and some in arrocgance. So where exactly does, “The love of money is the root of all evil” come from?

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
(1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel or Health and Wealth Gospel)is a Christian religious doctrine, which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians.The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always cause an increase in material wealth. I like to refer to Prosperety Therology as Slot-Machine Christianity.

Prosperity theology teaches that it is part of the path to Christian dominion over society, arguing that God’s promise to Israel of dominion applies to Christians today (Replacment Theology or Supersessionism Theology, other unsould heresies that wull be adessed in another article). The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. The atonement is interpreted to include removal of sickness and poverty, viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through visualization and positive confession, which is often taught in mechanical and contractual terms. This stems from an interpretation of the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor. The doctrine is often based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, with emphasis often on the Book of Malachi.

Prosperity churches are usually directed by a sole pastor or leader, although some have developed multi-church networks that bear similarities to denominations. They typically set aside extended periods of time to teach about giving and request donations from the congregation, encouraging positive speech and faith. Some prosperity churches also teach about financial responsibility, though some journalists and academics have criticized their advice as unsound.

Prosperity Theolgy hangs most of its doctrines on one verse, “Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him (Malachi 3:18 ESV).”

Of course, for every concept there is a negative or reverse concept, and that brings us to Poverty Theology.

The basic idea of Poverty Therology is that wealth is wrong and poverty right. In many cases, it also includes the idea that voluntary poverty is a special class of moral excellence. Poverty Theoulogy is a lifestyle philosophy characterized by the denial of the flesh, especially in the form of basic material pleasures (food, shelter, possessions, etc.). It is called Poverty YTheology because its proponents subject themselves to poverty for theological reasons, namely, the imitation of Christ (Colossians 1:24), amd the conflict between the spirit and flesh (Galatians 5:16-26). Historically, ascetics have done things like renouncing material possessions, begging for food, living in solitude, even beating their own bodies. At its worst, Poverty Theology is accompanied by an unbiblical merit theology. At its best, it is a spiritual discipline undertaken in response to the gospel of grace.

Sadly, much of the teaching about stewarding one’s treasure is prone to either poverty or prosperity theology. Poverty theology considers those who are poor to be more righteous than those who are rich; it honors those who choose to live in poverty as particularly devoted to God. Conversely, prosperity theology considers those who are rich to be more righteous than those who are poor; it honors those who are affluent as being rewarded by God because of their faith. In fact, both poverty and prosperity theology are half-truths because the Bible speaks of four ways in which treasure can be stewarded (Doctrine, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, pg.388-391).

  • Righteous rich stewards – Biblical examples of righteous rich stewards include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job (both before and after his life tragedy and season of poverty), Joseph of Arimathea (who gave Jesus his personal tomb), Lydia (who funded much of Paul’s ministry), and Dorcas (who often helped the poor).
  • Righteous poor stewards – Biblical examples of righteous poor stewards include Ruth and Naomi, Jesus Christ, the widow who gave her mite, the Macedonian church, and Paul, who often knew want and hunger.
  • Unrighteous rich stewards – Biblical examples of unrighteous rich stewards include Laban, Esau, Nabal, Haman, the rich young ruler, and Judas Iscariot.
  • Unrighteous poor stewards – Biblical examples of unrighteous poor stewards include the sluggard and the fool, who are repeatedly renounced throughout the book of Proverbs.

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)

A loving and generous Father once bought his son a shiny new bicycle. With a broad smile, the Father surprised the son and rolled it out and handed it to him. Strangely, rather than looking happy, the son looked anxious. Rather than riding the bike, he stepped away from it in fear. The Father asked the child what was wrong. The son replied, “Father, I cannot ride the bike. All around the world there are missionaries who do not have a bike. I would like to give them my bike so that they can ride it to unreached peoples and preach the gospel. The Father replied, “If you simply ask me, I am glad to also give you a second bike to give to a missionary.” Yet, rather than simply riding the bike, the son continued to argue with his Father, saying, “I would much prefer an older bicycle. This one is shiny and new. It makes me look proud if I ride it.” The Father explained, “If I want you to ride the bike I gave you, and you are more concerned about what others think of you as you ride it than my joy in seeing you enjoy my gift to you, then you may look humble to them, but I know there is pride in your heart because you are living for their approval instead of my joy.” Unrelenting, the son said, “But some people will talk about my bicycle out of judgment, envy, or jealousy because it is so nice. Some might even stumble and covet my bicycle. I do not want them to sin, and so I would rather not have a new bike so as to be considerate of them.” The Father replied, “If others respond to my grace to you in this way, the problem is not the bicycle but their hearts. I will deal with their hearts should they prove sinful—something you assume will happen but do not know. I will love and serve them by working to change their heart if they respond sinfully. But for you, my request is that you simply ride the bicycle I gave you. You are thinking about it too much and enjoying it too little.” The Father walked away for a few hours, kindly asking the son to consider his request. Upon returning, the son had yet another line of reasoning. “Father, I will not ride the bike because I am fearful. I fear that it is so nice and I would enjoy it so much that it would become an idol to me. So, to avoid idolatry I will abstain from riding the bicycle.” The Father replied, “You could also ride your bike as an act of worship to me, enjoying the gift I gave you to your joy and my glory. Once again, the problem is not the bicycle.” The son replied, “But Father, you are better than any bicycle. You are enough. I do not need a bicycle. I have you. You, Father, are enough.” Grieved in his heart, the Father said, “I know I am enough. But I am a generous Father. I like to give gifts to my children. I like to see them blessed, happy, and free. I just wanted to watch you ride the bike. And I wanted to go for a ride with you. Then, we could have had fun, spend time together, make memories, and laugh.” Tragically, the son never did ride the bicycle. Instead, he gave it away. He did not cause anyone to stumble, or treat his bike as an idol. And he did not obey his Father and worship him by simply being a kid and enjoying the gift his Father gave him because he was too busy being a theologian with a head full of fears rather than a heart full of fun.”
(Pastor Mark Driscoll, Discipleship and Parenting, September 21, 2011)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalms 37:4-5 ESV)

Money and material possessions are a problem only when we place them before God, which is the sin of idolatry.

  • Here is a short video clip of Pastor Mark Driscoll concerning both “poverty theology” and “prosperity theology.”  http://youtu.be/3C9aa2C-Bdw

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

Judge not, that you may not be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, it shall be measured to you again. And why do you look on the splinter that is in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the splinter out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First cast the beam out of your own eye, and then you shall see clearly to cast the splinter out of your brother’s eye. Do not give that which is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and tear you.
(Matthew 7:1-6 MKJV)

This passage of scripture occurs in both the discourse provided in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. Yeshua spoke these words during the Sermon on the Mount which is also referred to as the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke. The Sermon on the Mount is the longest piece of teaching from Yeshua in the New Testament, and spans three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. The Sermon has been one of the most widely quoted elements of the Canonical Gospels. To most believers in Yeshua, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of discipleship.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) is most often quoted by hypocrites to anyone who points out their transgressions or anyone who makes a stand against any form or manifestation of immorality and sin. This verse is quite easily the one most often taken out of context from the entire Holy Bible. However, if one reads the first six verses of the seventh chapter of Matthew, it is very obvious that when read in its entire context, this passage is referring to hypocritical judgments.

Hypocritical judgement is passing judgement on someone or something for which the person passing the judgement is actually guilty of themselves. Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, and principles that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others, therefore hypocrisy is also a form of lying.

This passage means the opposite of what hypocrites interpret it to mean. Yeshua is teaching that hypocrites need to remove the log out of their own eye so that they can see clearly to remove the splinter from the eye of their fellow believer. Obviously, the references to logs and splinters are metaphors for sins.

Does this mean we are allowed to pass judgement on others? Absolutely, but we should examine ourselves first to make sure that we are not passing judgement when we are not worthy to do so. As an example, if you donate money to a crisis pregnancy clinic that provides abortion services, you have absolutely no right judging a person for obtaining or performing an abortion. Afterall, you donate money to provide this service, therefore you are as guilty as the one obtaining or performing the abortion.

King David said, “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment (Psalms 37:30 KJV).”

The Apostle Paul is known to have rebuked the Corinthians for not passing judgement on one another. He said, “Do any of you dare, when you have a matter against another, to go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels, not to mention the things of this life? If, then, you truly have judgments of the things of this life, set those who are least esteemed in the church to judge. For I speak to your shame. Is it so that there is not a wise one among you, not even one in your midst who shall be able to judge between his brother? (1 Corinthians 6:1-5 MKJV)”

The Prophet Amos said, “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:14-15 ESV).” It is quite impossible to hate evil and love good if someone refuses to judge any situation.

Clearly, the Bible teaches the importance of judging between morality and immorality in order to serve and honor God. To ignore this fact is to ignore all of the scriptures just presented, and also many other scriptures throughout the Bible. God expects us to pass judgement on others in regards to transgressions or manifestations of immorality and sin.

The Bible also tells us how we are to pass judgement on one another. God has given us a complete set of rules, and as long as we do not exceed these limitations, there is no sin in judging someone else unless we are hypocrites.

Yeshua said, “Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24 MKJV).” Righteous judgement can only be achieved through the application of the Word of God. We must always follow God’s rules, guidelines and limitations that are found throughout the text of the Bible.

The Prophet Isaiah said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20 KJV).” This tells us that our standard for judgement should always be the Word of God. Our personal or collective feelings, traditions and opinions have no place in guiding the judgement we pass upon others. Right and wrong should always be determined by the Word of God. So we are to always judge from a scriptural viewpoint.

If the Word of God is silent about a subject, it may not be necessary to pass any judgement on that subject at all. There is no need to pass judgment on any issue when the Bible says very little or nothing at all about it. The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians said, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath (Colossians 2:16 ESV).” In other words, don’t make a mountain from a mole hill. If it is a trivial matter that is not essential to your relationship with God, then there is no reason to spread strife and discontent among believers over something that scripture is silent about.

We should always pray for God to give us guidance so that we have the wisdom and ability to pass judgement on others. James, the brother of Yeshua, in his epistle wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5 ESV).” King Solomon asked God, “Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this Thy great people?’

We should judge people fairly and never favor anyone. In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon wrote, “These also are sayings of the wise. To have respect of persons in judgment is not good (Proverbs 24:23 JPS).” A righteous judge is unaffected by any and all outside influence.

God has been extremely merciful to us by redeeming us with Yeshua’s blood. Therefore, we should have mercy on those that we are passsing judgement on. Yeshua said, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:2 ESV).” If our judgement is not merciful, God wil not judge us with mercy. However, if our judgement is merciful, God will have mercy on us when we are judged.

In the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians he wrote, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31 MKJV).” Remember that the sin in passing judgement occurs only when the judgement is rendered by a hypocrite. We should always examine ourselves to ensure that we are not passing hypocritical judgenent upon others.

The next time someone quotes, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” to you, remember that passing judgement on issues of morality is your responsibility and that this responsibility has been ordained by God. The hypocrite that just twisted scripture by quoting this verse out of context to you has probably just falsely accused you of passing hypocritical judgement on them, someone else or whatever the issue might have been. They have probably just broke Yeshua’s admonition regarding passing judgement and their twisted concept of this verse thereby making themselves the guilty party.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

The Pot Calling The Kettle Black

We are not at liberty to rebuke a brother with hostility and arrogance, nor is it acceptable to lose restraint over our temper and tongue. If we’re not careful, the error in our rebuke will far exceed the error of their offense!

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
(Galatians 6:1-3 ESV)

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
(Proverbs 29:11 ESV)

For with whatever judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, it shall be measured to you again. And why do you look on the splinter that is in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First cast the beam out of your own eye, and then you shall see clearly to cast the splinter out of your brother’s eye. Do not give that which is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and tear you.
(Matthew 7:2-3, 5-6 MKJV)

Capital Punishment: A Biblical Perspective

Capital punishment is the sentence of death upon a person by a court order and carried out by the government as a punishment for a criminal offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences.

Whenever an execution is imminent, many questions are often raised Should capital punishment be acceptable in a civilized society? Is it morally right for a government to administer capital punishment? What is the purpose behind capital punishment, and is it accomplished? How do we find the answers to such questions? For Christians who believe in Biblical inerrancy and infallibility, we must look to the Holy Bible (the Word of God) for answers.

In the Book of Genesis, we have an account of the first murder in history. Cain killed his brother Abel in a fit of anger and jealousy after God was pleased with Abel’s offering and displeased with the offering made by Cain. The punishment that Cain received from God for killing his brother was not death. Cain received exile from being in the presence of God and was sentenced to be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. God then protected Cain from receiving harm or death at the hands of any man.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
(Genesis 4:3-16 ESV)

Lamech was a descendent of Cain and the father of Noah. The scriptures tell us that Lamech killed a young man at one point for hitting him (Genesis 4:23) Throughout the generations wickedness continued to flourish and increase on the earth until every intention of the thoughts of mankind’s his heart was only evil continually. This made God sorry that he had made man, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them (Genesis 6:7).”

Noah found favor in the eyes of God. Noah and his wife, their three sons, and their son’s three wives were spared from the flood that destroyed the rest of mankind. Only eight people were selected for salvation. That is the problem with a society without just punishment for criminals. Lawlessness abounds and spreads like a disease until all of society is corrupted.

Immediately after the flood, God blessed Noah and his family saying to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (Genesis 9:1-4).”

But they were also given a new and awesome responsibility. God told Noah and his family, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image. (Genesis 9:5-6).”

God now is requiring mankind to account for their actions. He requires murderers to be put to death by mankind. This new requirement is based on one fact, the fact that God had made mankind in His image. To murder someone who is created in the image of God is a serious offense that is punishable by the death of the offender. Also, because mankind was created in the image of God, he possesses the ability and responsibility to exercise justice and righteousness. Mankind is capable of administering the sentence prescribed by God.

It would appear that before the flood people may have taken God’s protection of Cain as a license to murder without any consequences. With the flood, God administered a form of capital punishment upon a violent and corrupt society. After the flood, God gave mankind the obligation and responsibility to take the life of those who committed the crime of murder.

The Torah, or Laws of Moses, prescribed the administration of capital punishment for many additional offenses. These laws were both civil and religious laws and they have served as the basis for criminal justice in many other civilizations since first given by God. The Torah prescribes capital punishment for premeditated murder, kidnapping, striking an expecting mother which causes the child to be born prematurely and die, failure to keep a killer animal from killing, killing a thief in revenge, sorcery or witchcraft, bestiality, adultery, incest, homosexuality, being a medium or spiritualist, and even breaking the Sabbath among many other offenses.

Were the laws of the Torah good laws? The Apostle Paul said that they were “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). While the religious aspects of these laws were temporary (Galatians 2:23-25), the civil laws served their purpose well to govern and preserve a nation. Who would be so presumptuous to say that they could improve upon such a civil code of ethics? Many have arrogantly presumed they could do better, and crime has gotten worse, not better. In conclusion, capital punishment was ordained by God in the laws of the Torah.

Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament is not designed to govern or regulate civil governments. It is designed for those in Messiah Yeshua’s kingdom, which is spiritual in nature (John 18:36). The purpose of the New Testament is to help mankind achieve and maintain a relationship with God through Yeshua,  His only begotten Son. So for the most part, it does not concern itself with telling mankind how to righteously regulate their civil affairs as these commandments had already been given to mankind in the Tanakh. However, in defining our relationship to civil authorities while subject to a higher law, there are references which reveal God’s attitude toward capital punishment

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
(Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

The Apostle Paul tells us that governmental authorities are established and instituted by God and that they serve as ministers of God, as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” When a government fulfills its responsibility upon those who are evil, it “does not bear the sword in vain.” This is a clear allusion to the administration of capital punishment. Therefore, the New Testament supports the government’s right to exercise the death penalty on those who commit capital offenses.

The Apostle Paul also said he was willing to die if he committed anything for which he deserved to die (Acts 25:11). This is a clear implication that in Paul’s opinion some crimes were worthy of the death penalty.Although the New Testament focuses on the responsibilities of the followers of Yeshua in His spiritual kingdom, there is certainly no indication that it is wrong for government to administer capital punishment when deemed appropriate. The principle established in Genesis 9:5-6, given to all of mankind before the saving grace that is provided by Yeshua’s atonement for our sins remains a responsibility placed upon the governments of mankind.

Some opponents of capital punishment will tell you that the Holy Bible says “Thou shalt not kill.” This is actually a mistranslation of the Hebrew word ‘ratsach.’ Ratsach is literally translated to murder. This commandment forbids killing with malice and premeditation (Exodus 20:13). Throughout the following two chapters of Exodus, God prescribes the death penalty for nine different crimes. The commandment not to murder is directed toward individuals; one must ignore the context and twist the Scriptures to apply this verse to the issue of capital punishment.

Ezekiel wrote that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32). However, one must consider the context of this passage of Scripture which states that the soul that sins shall die and no one else will bear the iniquity of any other person (Ezekiel 18:4). It also states that certain sins make one worthy of death (Ezekiel 18:10-13). God encourages the wicked to repent and do what is right (Ezekiel 18:21-23), but states that even the righteous person who begins to do wickedness shall die if they do not repent (Ezekiel 18:24). The entire contextual discourse of the passage is that mankind should repent before it is too late because God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that will not prevent Him from carrying out capital punishment when appropriate.

Some opponents of capital punishment claim that it does not work as it does absolutely nothing to deter crime. That is only true when the sentence is not carried out quickly. King Solomon said, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV).” Capital punishment does keep an offender from killing again, escaping from a life sentence in prison, or possibly being paroled or pardoned in the future. The ineffectiveness of capital punishment in deterring crime by others is an argument against our system of administering capital punishment. It is not an effective argument against capital punishment itself.

Capital punishment is not just a deterrent. There is also the issue of justice, and justice always demands that the punishment fits the crime. This is what is meant by “an eye for an eye.” It is a reference to equal and just punishment, not the actual plucking out of another person’s eye. Some crimes are so heinous that any punishment other than the death penalty is an injustice.

Other capital punishment opponents argue that innocent people are executed occasionally. Unfortunately, this is a fact of life. But as before, this is an argument that pertains to a system in which capital punishment is administered. It is not an argument against the idea of capital punishment itself. The Holy Bible states that capital punishment could not be applied unless the crime was seen by two or more witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). If a single witness made an accusation that proved false, the penalty for the crime could be applied to the false witness (Deuteronomy 19:15-21).

Capital punishment should be applied to criminals that are convicted in cases in which there are two or more eyewitnesses, and there is no doubt about the guilt of the defendant. When the conviction is dependent upon laboratory evidence and there are no eyewitnesses, then the maximum penalty should be life in prison. Sometimes laboratory evidence is later proved faulty as it did in the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito who were convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher on the witness of Rudy Guede (who had already admitted to the crime and was brokering a deal with prosecutors) and tainted forensic evidence. In these type of criminal proceedings that rely almost entirely on circumstantial evidence, a convicted person can later be released from prison if the laboratory evidence is later proved faulty.

Does God approve of capital punishment? I have demonstrated that God gave mankind the responsibility of carrying it out after the flood, God’s own illustration of justice in the government He gave to Israel, how believers today are to acknowledge the right and responsibility given by God to governments to be His ministers in avenging wrath on wrongdoers. Obviously, any civilized nation detests violence and bloodshed. However, civilization cannot exist with violence and corruption running rampant. or when government fails to administer justice with punishment that fits the crime.

How does God view governments that fail to carry out their responsibility to execute wrath upon the wrongdoer? As with anything that takes away justice, with sorrow and distress (Isaiah 5:20-23), and as with anyone who fails to fulfill their responsibility, they are cursed (Jeremiah 48:10).

Many people may refuse to accept what the Holy Bible has to say about capital punishment, but let those who profess to be believers and accept the Holy Bible as the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God acknowledge that capital punishment is ordained by God.

Treasures in Heaven

Yeshua told his disciples to lay up treasures in heaven instead of on earth. The world says, “You can’t take it with you.” Yeshua says that you can.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21 KJV)

New Year, New Beginnings?

As a new year begins, I am reminded of the fact that we are one year closer to the day of our death, or the day the Lord returns. Either way, on that day we will stand before the Lord in judgment.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

On that day the Lord will either say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34)” or, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).”

Remember that today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), tomorrow may be too late or may not come at all. Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off untill until tomorrow what you can do today.”

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
(Romans 10:9-11 KJV)

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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
(John 3:16-21 KJV)