Friday, March 31, 2017

The Holy Spirit is God

Many people question the doctrine of the trinity.  I John 5:7 declares, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”  This is the clearest statement about the trinity in the Bible, stating that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are a single unit, a unity.  It is the same concept he used in Genesis 2:24, when Adam said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  Though they are separate individuals, they are physically and emotionally connected and form a single unit. 

Genesis 1:1-2 tells us, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” making it clear that the Holy Spirit was present at creation.  Speaking of Jesus Christ, John 1:3 tells us, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made,” clearly indicating Jesus is God, and as Colossians 2:9 tells us, “…in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”   Various other references make similar statements. 

Genesis 1:27-27 tells us, “And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  Notice that he said, “let us”, indicating there were more than one while stating he created him in his (singular) own image. supporting the statement of I John5:7 that God is a single entity composed of three different beings.

All three members of the trinity were present at the baptism of Jesus.  Luke 3:21-22 tells us, “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”

There is no earthly object or concept that fully portrays the trinity although several illustrations such as the egg, which is composed of the shell, the yolk and the white give only a partial understanding of the relationship, and any effort to describe it runs into a similar limitation.  Jesus Christ is the Physical manifestation of God on earth, dealing with the world primarily on a physical level.  The Holy Spirit primarily interacts with the world on a spiritual level, affecting people’s attitudes and mental processes.   The father oversees and directs everything, making the plans and seeing they are implemented, although all three can perform any of the functions  and can exercise all God’s power when needed. 

For the purposes of our study, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is God, and has been involved with the planning and creation of the world from the very beginning.  While he primarily works in the spiritual realm, he has access to all the power of God. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Proof of Salvation

The Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the Christian life.  Romans 8:9 tells us, “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  Sadly many Christians are like those Paul met at Ephesus, described in Acts 19:2.  “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?

And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” 

Although the men were baptized members of the church at Ephesus, something about them just didn’t seem quite right.  Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit after being baptized.   The men replied that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit.  They didn’t even know if he existed.   That raised another question in Paul’s mind. 

“And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized?

And they said, Unto John's baptism.” (Acts 19:3)

When he asked why they had been baptized, they said it was because that was what John told them they needed to do. 

“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” (Acts 19:4)

Before Christ was crucified, John had preached that people should be baptized as a sign of their repentance, and that was why they had been baptized.   They had missed the other part of his teaching however.  John had also taught that they needed to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.  The baptism itself did not save them , as we see in Mark 16:16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  Numerous scriptures such as John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10 stress that salvation is the result of faith, not of having been baptized.    Baptism is only a way of showing that faith. 

“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:5-6)

When they believed in Christ, they were re-baptized as a demonstration of their faith in him, and received the Holy Spirit as proof of their salvation, as Ephesians 1:13-14 makes clear.  “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”   Remember, Romans 8:9 says, “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

Clearly the Holy Spirit plays a vital part in the Christian life.  In the next few lessons, we will be looking at just who the Holy Spirit is and what he does in our life.  In the process, we will learn how to tell if something is from the Holy Spirit or from a lying spirit pretending to be from God.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

Mark 16:9-20

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.”(Mark 16:9-11)

When the women went into the city and told the disciples what they found, Peter and John went to the tomb and saw the empty tomb and the grave clothes.   After they went back, Mary remained at the tomb and saw the Lord, but the disciples did not believe her when she told them about it, as John 20:11-18 describes.

“After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.  And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.” (Mark 16:12-13)

Later in the day, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus as described in Luke 24:13-35.  The disciples still didn’t really believe it.

“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” (Mark 16:14)

Jesus’ appearing to the eleven that same evening  is also described in  Luke 24:36-48 and John 20:19-23.  He would spend the next forty days teaching them and preparing them for when he ascended into heaven, although only a little of his teaching during this period is recorded.    

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.   He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)

It was during this period that Jesus gave the great commission to go into all the world and reach all peoples rather than just the Jews.  He made the point that faith in Christ was essential for the Gentiles to be saved, just as it was for the Jews.    Many have mistaken the word baptism here as referring to being baptized in the water rather than the spiritual baptism described in Romans 6:3-7.  “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.”   Water baptism only illustrates the spiritual baptism, and without faith, is meaningless and cannot save anyone.   God would work the same in both Jews and Gentiles, producing the same spiritual results in their lives.  In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile as Romans 10:12-13 tells us.  “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. “

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:19-20)

Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, as described in Acts 1.  The disciples began reaching out to the world as commanded, spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.  Mark was written  about 50-53 AD, about half way through the book of Acts and by that time a large number of churches had been established.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Ressurection

Mark 16:1-8

“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?  And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.” (Mark 16:1-4)

The ladies returned to the tomb to complete the embalming process, arriving about sunrise Sunday morning.  As they came they were concerned that there would not be enough of them to roll away the stone that covered the entrance.  When they arrived, they found the stone already moved and Jesus gone from the tomb.   The soldiers had already returned to Jerusalem to tell what had happened.  The timing here is crucial because of Jesus’ statement in  Matthew 12:38-40.  “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” 

While Jesus had fulfilled hundreds of ancient prophecies, he said that the only new prophecy for that day to prove he was the messiah would be that he would be dead for three days and three nights,   Any variation from that would clearly indicate that he was not the Messiah.    If he was crucified on Friday, as tradition says, he could not be Messiah because there are not three days and three nights between Friday night and Sunday morning.  Similarly, if he was crucified Wednesday, as some have taught , he could not be Messiah because there are too many nights.  

If Jesus was crucified on Thursday as the Scriptures indicate, dying that afternoon, the prophecy is fulfilled, proving he is the Messiah.  We have the remainder of Thursday afternoon and evening, Friday, and Saturday, making our three days, and Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night giving us the three nights.    Like many other traditions, the tradition of the crucifixion being on Friday has cast doubt on the accuracy of the scriptures and the truth of the gospel.   

“And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.   And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.  But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.  And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:5-8)

After looking into the sepulcher, the angel directed the ladies to go and tell the disciples that Jesus was risen and would meet them in Galilee as he had promised.  It was so incredible they were afraid to tell anyone anything until Mary Magdalene told of meeting Jesus personally.    

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jesus’ Burial

Mark 15:42-47

“And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:42-43)

Most Europeans figured the day from sunrise to sunrise, and thus the this verse has traditionally been interpreted to mean that Jesus was crucified on Friday.    The gospels are written using the Jewish tradition, and the Jews figured the day from sunset to sunset.   Under their figuring, Friday began at sundown on Thursday and went until sundown Friday.  At sundown Friday, the Sabbath began, in accordance with the command in Leviticus 23:32.  “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.”  At even on Friday would no longer be the day of preparation.  Clearly the crucifixion had to occur on Thursday rather than on Friday as tradition holds. 

“And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.  And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45)

People who were crucified sometimes lived for three or four days, eventually dying of dehydration and exposure, and Roman law required that a body be buried before dark.  As a result the Jews had insisted the legs of the offenders be broken to hasten their death so that they would not have to bury the bodies on the Sabbath.  When the legs were broken people usually died within sixteen to twenty four hours.  Jesus had died within about six hours, and only about nine hours had elapsed when Joseph came to ask for the body.  Pilate had never had anyone die so quickly and questioned how long they had observed the body.  He had not expected any of the m to die until the following morning, once again indicating that the crucifixion had to be on Thursday rather than Friday.     

“And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.   And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.” (Mark 15:46-47)

Joseph and Nicodemus performed an abbreviated embalming process in order to get Jesus’ body buried before dark, placing him in Joseph’s personal tomb because it was nearby.  The women observed where the body was placed, and the following day, obtained the necessary ingredients for a full embaloming process, according to Luke 23:56.  “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”  Under Jewish law it would have been illegal for Joseph and Nicodemus to bury the body or for the women to prepare the spices for embalming after sunset on Friday.    

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jesus’ Death

Mark 15:33-41

“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.  And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.” (Mark 15:33-36)

About noon there was a darkness, similar to a total eclipse, which lasted until about 3:00 o’clock.  This was not a solar eclipse, however, as total solar eclipses only last about seven minutes and this lasted three hours.   During the time he was on the cross, Jesusaccepted the guilt for all of mankinds.s sins as Isaiah 53:6 tells us.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  As a result, for the first time ever There was a separation between him and the Father.  Isaiah 59:2 tells us, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  Jesus cried out,” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The Pharisees had become so worried about taking the name of God in vain they would not write or say his name, and most Jews still will not today.  When they heard Jesus, the people assumed he meant Elijah.  Hearing him, one man put a sponge soaked with vinegar to his mouth, knowing it would accentuate his thirst and misery.  He said they would watch to see if Elijah came to the rescue. 

“And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.  And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” (Mark 15:37-38)

When they gave him the vinegar to drink Jesus knew the last prophecy about his crucifixion had been fulfilled, and released his spirit, as John 10:17-18 explains.  “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Hebrews 9:6-7 stresses that the veil portrayed that the the old testament law could never provide salvation.   When Jesus gave up his human life, the veil or curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was ripped in two, demonstrating that salvation was now available to all. 
“And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.”  (Mark 15:39)

After seeing  and hearing what Jesus said, the Roman centurion who conducted the crucifixion recognized he had to be the Messiah, even though the Jewish leaders and teachers, who were far more familiar with the scriptures did not.   Unfortunately, many people who can quote scriptures have no spiritual understanding of what they mean. 

“There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.” (Mark 15:40-41)

In the crowd watching the crucifixion were many of the women who had followed Jesus in Galilee and had accompanied him and the disciples to Jerusalem for the Passover.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Crucifixion

Mark 15:16-32

“And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.  And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.” (Mark 15:16-19)

“And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar,” according to John 19:12  If the Jews rioted, Pilate’s leadership would be questioned and a charge of treason would almost certainly get him fired and possibly executed.  He knew the Jews would hesitate to bring such a charge if he refused to do as they demanded, so he gave in and turned him over to the soldiers to be executed. 

The Roman soldiers made a mockery of Jesus as the king of the Jews in an effort to drive home the fact that they ruled the Jews, dressing him as a fake king, then beating him and spitting on him to show their disdain for Jewish power.  Had it been anyone but Jesus, the Jews would have revolted, but because of their hatred for him, encouraged it in much the same way the Never Trump forces ignore their most sacred beliefs to attack president Trump.    

“And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.  And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” (Mark 15:20-21)

Tradition says the cross was so heavy Jesus fell trying to carry it.  Scripture does not say that.  It was so heavy and awkward it would be difficult for a person to carry, delaying the crucifixion.  To expedite matters, the soldiers drafted Simon of Cyrene to carry one end of the cross, as Roman permitted them to do. 

“And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.  And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.  And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.” (Mark 15:22-24)

When they arrived at Golgotha, which was frequently used for executions, Jesus was stripped, nailed to the cross and offered a drink of wine mingled with myrrh, before the cross was raised.  While the drink would provide immediate relief, the lingering taste would only exacerbate thirst later.  Jesus refused  the drink, having stated he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until he celebrated the communion with the saints in his kingdom.    Once the cross was raised, the soldiers becan to gamble for his clothing even before he was dead. 

“And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.  And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.” (Mark 15:25-28)

By about nine o’clock in the morning the trial was over, and Jesus had been nailed to the cross.  The charge against Jesus, as posted on the cross was that he was the king of the Jews.  Two thieves were hanged alongside him, fulfilling the scriptures that he would be executed like a common criminal.  Even their best efforts to make him appear as a common criminal demonstrated that he was in fact the Messiah. 

“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross.  

Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.  Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” (Mark 15:29-32)

The crowd spent the next few hours watching Jesus suffer and making fun of him.  They said that if he really was Messiah, he should demonstrate it by coming down off the cross.  Even one of the thieves got caught up in the mockery.  They didn’t understand that his staying on the cross was the real proof he was Messiah.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jesus’ Trial

Mark 15:1-15

“And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.” (Mark 15:1)

In the Roman Empire, Roman Law took precedent over local laws, just as Federal law takes precedent over those of local cities or states.  Because the Jewish leaders had fallen into a habit of trying to use Jewish law to stop their opposition, much like Lois Lerner withholding tax exempt status from conservative groups, the Roman government had limited their authority to enforce their laws.  Before sentence could be carried out, it had to be approved by the Roman courts.  Though the Jewish rulers had decided Christ’s sentence they had to have a hearing before Pilate.  

“And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.

And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.  But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.” (Mark 15:2-5)

Jesus had repeatedly shut down and destroyed his opponent’s arguments in the past, and could easily have done the same thing before Pilate because even their witnesses couldn’t agree.   He had come to earth for the purpose of dying for man’s sin, and any effort he might make to defend himself would destroy their case potentially preventing them from executing him.    He simply refused to defend himself, and Pilate was amazed, realizing that their entire case was based on envy, and not a legitimate crime as we will see in Mark 15:10.  The other Gospels give additional details of the hearings, with both Pilate and Herod concluding the charges were without merit, but fearing the Jewish reaction, were afraid to set him free.   

“Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.  And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.  And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.

But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.” (Mark 15:6-10)

Each year at Passover, Pilate had made a habit of releasing one political prisoner.  In a last ditch effort to release Jesus without upsetting the Jewish leaders, Pilate gave them a choice of which prisoner he would release.  He knew that everyone hated Barabbas, a well-known murder and trouble maker they were glad to have off the streets.   He was sure they would choose Jesus over Barabbas. 

“But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

And they cried out again, Crucify him.

Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.” (Mark 15:11-14)

Like the Democratic Party leaders and News media stirring up hatred toward Donald Trump, calling for his impeachment even before he took office, the Jewish leaders stirred up hatred toward Jesus, calling for his crucifixion.  Pilate was shocked at the level of hatred and asked what the grounds for execution for execution could be since he had not been shown to commit any crimes. 

“And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15)

In an effort to appease the people, Pilate authorize Jesus’ crucifixion, even though he knew it was wrong.  He refused to accept responsibility for what was happening.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Peter Denies The Lord

Mark 14:66-72

“And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.” (Mark 14:66-68)

While the hearing for Jesus was being held in the High Priests house, Peter was down in the palace with the servants and common people.  One of the High Priest’s servants recognized him as a follower of Jesus.   Peter said he didn’t know what she was talking about, implying she was mistaken.  He went out into the courtyard to get away from her.  When he did, he heard the rooster crow the first time, probably about 3:330-4:00 o’clock in the morning. 

“And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.  And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” (Mark 14:69-71)

While he was still on the porch, another maid saw Peter and told the others he had been with Jesus.  That time Peter clearly denied having been with Jesus.  A little later, another one told the people he had been with Jesus and insisted that his Galilean accent clearly gave him away as having accompanied Jesus.  Peter began to curse and swear like the fisherman he had been in an effort to convince them he was not a disciple of Jesus.  He insisted he didn’t even know who Jesus was. 

“And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.” (Mark 14:72)

The rooster crowed again, probably about 4:30 am.  It was only about six or eight hours after Jesus had announced that all the disciples would be offended by what happened.  Peter had boldly spoken, insisting he would never deny Christ, as had all the other disciples.  Jesus had warned them that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the second time.    When he heard the rooster, Peter realized he had denied the Lo9rd just as he prophesied.  Suddenly he realized just how weak his faith was. 

While it is easy to condemn Peter for denying Christ we need to remember some other things he did.   He was one of the first ones to follow Jesus and the only one to walk on the water to meet him.  He was the first one to declare that they believed Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God.  He was the only one to try to defend Jesus against the mob that came to arrest him.  Clearly he had a great deal of faith in Christ, but even he succumbed to fear in a particular situation.   It seriously damaged hi pride, so that he no longer thought he was better than the others.  Unfortunately all of us have similar areas where we are vulnerable to Satanic attacks, and most of us don’t realize it until we fall for them.  Fortunately Jesus is willing to forgive and can use our failures to make us stronger.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Investigating Jesus

Mark 14:53-65

“And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.  And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.” (Mark 14:53-54)

After his arrest, Jesus was taken to the high priest’s home to be interrogated.  Peter and John followe along behind, and because John was known to the High priest, he was allowed inside while Peter was not.  He was forced to sit outside in the courtyard with the servants.   

“And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.  For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.  And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,  We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.  But neither so did their witness agree together.” (Mark 14:55-59)

The election of Donald Trump has given me a far greater understanding of the hatred Jesus experienced.   Like the Never Trump groups, the chief priests and Pharisees were panicked at the thought of losing control.  Though they had no evidence the Never Trump groups are calling his impeachment, just as the priests and Pharisees called for Jesus’ execution.  They met together to investigate whether they could find grounds for his execution, asking for people to provide any stories they could against him.  Repeatedly, the stories turned out to be false.  Finally some were found that could accuse him of saying some things that were unpopular, but even those claims failed to justify his execution. 

“And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?  But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:60-61)

Unable to find anything of substance against him the high priest began to bait him implying that his silence amounted to an acknowledgment of guilt.  Jesus did not respond until asked a legitimate question, which he answered honestly.   

“And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?  Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.  And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.” (Mark 14:62-65)

The Jews had accepted several Pharisees as Messiahs, but when Jesus said he was, they seized on his statement as an excuse to attack him in much the same way the Democratic party has attacked President Trump for calling for a limit on immigration even though it is nearly identical to the one President Obama signed.  While Donald Trump has little similarity to Jesus, the way he has been treated reveals just how irrational and unethical the Jew’s hatred of Jesus was.  Ignoring both Roman and Jewish law, they began to abuse him even though he had not yet been tried and their investigation had not shown any wrongdoing.    

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Jesus’ Arrest

Mark 14:42-52

“Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.   And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” (Mark 14:42-43)

Jesus had told his disciples to watch and pray, while he went off to pray privately, and when he returned he found them asleep. The second time he said they should get as much sleep as they could and didn’t waken them.   A little while later, he woke them up warning them that Judas and the officers were nearby.  Judas knew where they often spent the night when they stayed in Jerusalem so he was able to bring a large group of officers directly to the place. 

“And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.  And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.  And they laid their hands on him, and took him.  And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.” (Mark 14:44-46)

The chief priests wanted to avoid publicity if possible, so Judas had agreed to give Jesus a warm personal greeting, to allay suspicion.  When he kissed the Lord the officers were to grab him, catching everyone by surprise.  By the time.  By the time the disciples could react, it would be too late.  They had not counted on any of the disciples being armed.  Peter drew a sword, and attacked but only cut off a guy’s ear because he ducked.  Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, and put the ear back on, showing he cared about them as well. 

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?  I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:48-49)

Jesus then asked why they had come to arrest him with such a huge force of officers as if he were some dangerous criminal when at any time they could have arrested him downtown without incident if they had a valid case against him.  Obviously, they were trying to make it look like he was a dangerous criminal.   As he pointed out, by doing things that way, they were fulfilling the prophecies about Messiah. 

“And they all forsook him, and fled.  And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:50-52)

It was at this point the disciples realized how determined the Jews were and fled.  Mark tells us about a boy or young man who had undressed and rolled up in a blanket to sleep.  When Jesus woke the disciples, he had just pulled the blanket around him.  When the disciples fled, somebody grabbed hi, but he wriggled free and fled leaving the blanket behind.  Some have speculated Mark may have been the boy, although he was probably too young at the time. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jesus Prays In The Garden

Mark 14:27-41

“And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.  But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all. ” (Mark 14:27-31)

After eating the Passover and the Communion. Jesus warned his disciples that some things would be happening that night that would leave them feeling betrayed and lost, because according to the scriptures they would lose their leader.  When that happened, they were to understand he would meet them back home in Galilee.    Though he had warned them repeatedly, they still didn’t understand about his crucifixion and resurrection.   They knew about the Jewish efforts to arrest him, of course, but they did not realize how serious the threat was.  Peter was convinced there was nothing that could weaken his commitment to Christ. 

When Jesus told Peter, that he would be so disheartened that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed the second time the next morning, Peter insisted there was no way anything could shake his faith that quickly.  The other disciples were equally convinced although less vocal about their commitment. 

“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.  And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.   And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:32-36)

Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen the following day, and as a human being, could not help but be concerned just as anyone else facing execution would be.  When thy came to the place where they usually camped out for the night, he told them he was feeling really upset and asked them to stay alert and pray while he went a little farther and prayed privately.  He then prayed that if it was possible, God would provide another way so he didn’t have to go through the suffering.  As Hebrews 5:1 explains, even he feared the pain he would face.  When he asked the disciples to watch and pray, he was not asking them to pray to stop the things from happening, but that they would be ready to deal with what happened, as we see in the text of his prayers in John 17. 

“And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?  Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.  And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. “ (Mark 14:37-39)

Because they didn’t understand the urgency and seriousness of what was about to happen, the disciples quickly fell asleep.  When Jesus returned after praying for a while he woke them up and asked them to pray again.  Still tense and upset, he went back out to pray alone again.  He understood how complete their commitment was, but also that the human body was more concerned with its rest than with his concerns.

“And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.  And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mark 14:40-41)

When Jesus returned the second time, he didn’t wake them up, saying they should rest as much as they could because nothing was going to prevent his betrayal at that time.  He knew they probably wouldn’t sleep very well for the next few days.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Communion

Mark 14:22-26

“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.  And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.  Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”  (Mark 14:22-26)

The Passover was celebrated as a memorial of the death angel passing over Israel without killing them when he killed all the firstborn sons of Egypt.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during that memorial, Because Jesus himself would be the Christian Passover, sacrificing his own blood to save them from eternal death.  Luke 22:19 tells us the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated as a memorial to him.  “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 

Under Jewish law the Passover was required to be taken very seriously and celebrated exactly as prescribed to preserve its symbolic meaning.   Anyone who partook of the Passover whitout a proper commitment to the Jewish covenant, as demonstrated by circumcision, was to be cut off from the people.   I Corinthians 11:24-32 warns of similar punishment for taking the Lord’s supper when one is not qualified.   “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” 

Jesus said that the bread symbolized his body being sacrificed for those who believe, and the grape juice symboli8zed his blood being shed for our sin.  To partake of it undeservingly, without a real commitment to Christ makes a mockery of his sacrifice for us, and demands God’s judgment.  Paul said  some in the church had died and others were unhealthy because they did not take their commitment to Christ seriously.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating the Passover

Mark 14:12-21

“And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” (Mark 14:12)

Matthew and John were originally written in Hebrew, according to Pappias, and were translated into Greek around 70-80 AD,.  Because no copies in Hebrew have survived, and the style of the Greek used in the translation, many scholars have assumed the date of translation was the date they were written.   Mark and Luke were originally written in Greek around 50-55 AD.   

The Hebrew word translated Passover refers specifically to the Passover meal, while the Greek word refers to both the Passover meal and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Writing in Greek, Mark made a special point to specify that this was the day when the Jews celebrated the Passover, killing and eating the Passover at sundown.   Contrary to what some have taught, Jesus did not partake of the Passover early, according to Mark.   

“And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.  And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” (Mark 14:13-16)

During the day Wednesday, Jesus sent two of the disciples to find a place where they could partake of the Passover feast.  The Jews had specified that he was not to be arrested that day to prevent a riot and the spoiling of the Passover, which was the most sacred of their holidays.  As a result Jesus and his disciples were free to move about the city on Wednesday.  Jesus gave the two specific instructions as to what they would find.  Everything turned out just as he described, and by late afternoon they had obtained everything they needed to celebrate the Passover.

Note:  Because of the way Passover was set we can readily determine what day Passover fell in any given year.  If as indicated, Passover fell on Wednesday, this had to be either April 28, 28 AD, or April 25, 31 AD.     If it fell on Thursday as Tradition says, it could only have been April 22, 34 AD.

“And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.  And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?

And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.  The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.” (Mark 14:17-21)

At sundown Wednesday evening, the Passover officially began, and Jesus met with his disciples for the meal.  The disciples had worked together for about two years.  They thought they knew each other, and Jesus’ statement that one of them would betray him was bombshell.   Judas was the treasurer and they trusted him implicitly.  They were more concerned that they might betray him than that Judas would.  Even when jesus specifically told them it was the one he was giving a piece of bread to, and told Judas to go do what he was going to do, they did not suspect him. 

It would have been better for Judas to have never been born than to be cast into lake of fire  for eternity because he rejected and betrayed the Lord.   Judas’ decision to betray the Lord was not a spur of the moment decision.  Jesus had known all along that Judas would betray him , according to John 6:64.  “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.”  In John 6:70-71 he warned them all that one of them was not really a believer.  “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.”  Being rebuked for his attitude toward the women who sought to honor Christ was just the trigger that caused Judas to act at that time.   He would die without making things right with the Lord.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Plot To Kill Jesus

Mark 14:1-9

“After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.  But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.” (Mark 14:1-2)

In modern colloquial English is common to say an accident happened Friday night about two o’clock when technically, according to our official way of figuring time it occurred Saturday morning at 2:am since the date officially changes at midnight.   Instead of changing the date as midnight, the Jews officially changed it at sunset, when evening officially began.  We need to keep this in mind if we are to understand the sequence of events during Crucifixion week. 

Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  He had purified the temple, and had made the Pharisees and Sadducees look foolish in the attempts to discredit him, reinforcing his standing among the people.  They were determined to do whatever it took to Get rid of him.  Tuesday, they assembled to plan to have him killed.  They were concerned that if they arrested him on the day when the Passover was to be celebrated it would cause a riot. 

Under Jewish law, the Passover was to be celebrated, beginning at sunset on Wednesday, which was officially the beginning of Thursday, making it officially two days away, although it would be following day by our way of figuring it.  Jesus had taught publically in the morning, but for the rest of the day, he went into hiding to prevent being arrested, according to John 12:26.  “…  These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.”  That evening he went back to Bethany.

“And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.” (Mark 14:3-5)

The previous week, Jesus had come to Mary and Martha’s house, where Mary had rubbed ointment on Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair, according to John 12:1-8.  The night before he was arrested, an unnamed woman came to Simon’s house, and poured an expensive ointment on Jesus’ head.  Matthew 26:6-12 gives almost and identical description, while Luke 76:36-40 appears to be acomposite of the two stories.  Remember that Luke was not one of the disciples and was writing based on the stories others told him.  According to Pappias, writing about 90 AD, John the Apostle said Mark and Luke  sometimes got things out of order. 

“And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.  She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:6-9)

Both times Judas led complaints about the waste of such expensive ointment instead of selling it to give to the poor.  He was more concerned with the money than with the respect shown to Jesus by Mary and the other woman’s actions, as John 12:6 tells us.  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”  Both times Jesus sharply rebuked him for his attitude, pointing out that they were honoring him. 

“And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.  And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.” (Mark 14:10-11)

Resentful at having been rebuked by Jesus for his attitude, Wednesday morning, Judas went to the chief priests, offering to betray Jesus to them.  They promised to reward him for his efforts if he succeeded.  He began to look for an opportunity when it wouldn’t cause a riot.   

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Be Ready

Mark 13:28-32

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” (Mark 13:28-30)

Jesus had warned the disciples they were not to be concerned about the events that were happening as signs of his return.  He also told them that when the saw the abomination of desolation, then they were to know that the end was close.  Now he uses the illustration that when a tree starts putting out leaves, you know that it is getting close to summer time.  In the same way, when you saw the events Jesus prophesied happening, you will know the Lord’s return is getting very close.  In fact, he said that that generation of people will still be alive when he returns.    

Unfortunately some have translated the leaves on the fig tree as representing Israel being restored to the land in 1948, and based on that and how long a generation lasts, have tried to set a date by which Christ will return.   Jesus referred specifically to when we see the Abomination of Desolation and said nothing about seeing Israel restored.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.  But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. “ (Mark 13:31-32)

Even though the heavens and earth we know today will be destroyed, god’s word will abide forever.  His prophecies will surely come to pass just as spoken.   We need to understand, however, that God has not told anyone when his return is going to happen.  Acts 1:7 tells it is none of our business when it will occur.  “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”  Jesus said no human knows nor do the angels, and that he did not know himself.  Clearly, anyone who sets a date has identified himself as a false teacher. 

“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.  For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.  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 13:33-37)

For several years, I served on a volunteer Fire Department.  We rarely fought more than three or fires a year, but because we had no idea when a fire would occur we kept the truck filled with fuel and water, and made sure the battery was charged and the tires were aired up and a dry hoses were loaded so we were ready to roll.  We knew that there would be no time to fill up the truck or load the hoses when a fire call came.   Although we usually had several months between fires, we could not afford to postpone preparing.  We need to have the same attitude about serving the Lord.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Rapture

Mark 13:21-27

Jesus had just told the disciples not to let themselves be upset by warnings that wars and natural events signaled the return of Christ.  He said that it wouldn’t happen until they say Jerusalem surrounded by the armies of the Antichrist, and the Jews were forced to flee their homeland for three and a half years.  Things will get so bad at that time that there will be fear for the entire human race being destroyed, and people will be desperately looking for answers.

“And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.  But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.” (Mark 13:21-23)

While there have been and will be false teachers and fake Messiahs throughout the Church age, as people get more desperate, they will become more common.  They will also be more sophisticated and persuasive, using apparent miracles and powers that would convince even those who believe in God, except that they have the Holy Spirit to show them the truth.   He warns not to let the fact that other people accept their claims cause his people to accept them at their word.  He has warned us because some will fall for the lies, as Daniel 11:35 warns.  “And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.”  People will be forced to decide whether they will follow God or the Antichrist.    

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. “ (Mark 13:24-25)

At the end of the Tribulation period, the events described in Revelation 6:12-17 will occur, according to Jesus.  “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

The Antichrist will set himself up as god, convincing himself and others he has as much power as God, with the help of Satan.  In the last part of his reign,  a series of natural disasters will occur that he cannot prevent, even with Satan’s help, making it clear he really isn’t a god after all.  These events will go far beyond anything man has ever seen and people will reach a point of wanting to die to escape what is happening.  As we have already seen, if God didn’t limit the time, no life would survive. 

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

When it is finally clear that neither mankind no satan have the power to control the universe. Christ will appear in heaven, as  described in Revelation 19:11-15.  “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.”
Revelation 1:7 tells us, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”  At about the same time I I Corinthians 15:52 also tells us, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  This calling out of the believers is often called the Rapture. 

Please understand that Jesus's statements, as recorded here, in Matthew 21-31, and in Luke 21:20-28 appear to contradict many popular teachings about the sequence of events during the Tribulation and the Rapture.   

Friday, March 3, 2017

Persecution By Antichrist

Mark 13:14-20

“But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.  But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” (Mark 13:14-17)

Daniel 11:31-33 describes the time when the vile leader known as the Antichrist places the abomination of desolation in the temple.  “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.  And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.  And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. “  He will do this in an attempt to prove he is greater than any other god, setting himself as their god. 

His pride will not carry him very long, according to Daniel 12:11.  “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”  Approximately three years and seven months after the Antichrist places the Abomination o Desolation, Christ will set up his earthly kingdom, after destroying the Antichrist and his forces, as described in Revelation 19:11-21.  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.   And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;  That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.   And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”

When the Antichrist sets himself up as god, He will attack every group that opposes him,  Initially, the Jews are the focus of his ire, and Jesus warns he will m,ove against them so fast they will not have time to prepare for flight,  As a result pregnant women and those with infants will have an especially hard time.  Revelation 12:13-14 describes this attack.   “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.  And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 

And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.  And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Unable to destroy Israel, the Antichrist will turn his wrath on the Christians for three and a half years.  A group centered in Babylon, probably Muslim, will make the mistake of opposing him and Babylon will be completely destroyed, but he will not be able to destroy all the Christians or Israel. 

“And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.  For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.  And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.” (Mark 13:18-20)

Because they will have no time to prepare, they need to pray that the flight will take place in summer so they can have time to grow and harvest food for the winter.  The persecution and attempts to destroy them will be far worse even than Hitler’s persecution during the Holocaust.  God has limited the duration of the Antichrist’s reign or none could survive it.  In his efforts to prove himself god, he would destroy all life, much like some of the liberals today who are willing to destroy the United States to regain power.  God will limit the Antichrist’s power for the sake of those who trust Him.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Persecution Will Come

Mark 13:9-13

“But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.  And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” (Mark 13:9-10)

Jesus had just warned the disciples that in the coming ages they would be confronted with false teachers claiming to be the Messiah.  Many of them would use the events around them to persuade people that they needed to follow them to be prepared for God’s kingdom. 

Satan and his followers have always hated God,and Jesus said the Christians should not be surprised that they were hated.   In John 15:18-23 he had warned them, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.  But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.  He that hateth me hateth my Father also.”

Jesus’ coming and living a sinless life called attention to how bad the others were, and those who took pride in their own goodness resented being shown up.  Rather than changing their own behavior they turned on Christ, attempting to destroy or discredit him.  Jesus warned that when he was no longer there, that hatred would be turned toward his followers.  Throughout history, the most virulent hatred has come from powerful false religions, and especially those who claim to be ‘Christian.’    

I John 4:7-8 advises, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”  The very fact that these groups are filled with hatred toward others proves they are not of God and do not know him, whether it was Judaism in the first century; the Catholic Church during the Inquisition; the Lutherans, Calvinists and Anglicans during the Reformation; or the Muslims today.   As Titus 1:16 says, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

“But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 13:11)

Rather than planning their defense and, Christians are to simply trust God and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them.  Trusting the Holy Spirit, Jesus was able to silence both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, while the brilliant lawyer, Clarence Darrow was unable to overcome the Evolutionists in the Scopes Trial.  Human wisdom can never match the Holy Spirit’s power. 

“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13:12-13)

Relationships will provide no protection against satanically inspired hatred.  People will betray their own families, knowing it will result in death, just as we see in the honor killings in Muslim society.  Christians will be hated in every society, but those who remain faithful to Christ through the persecution will experience the Salvation he has promised while those who have not truly committed to Christ will fall away to escape the trials.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Beware Of False Teachers

Mark 13:1-8

“And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!

And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)

The original temple had been built by Solomon about a thousand years before.  That Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians ant rebuilt about four hundred fifty years before.  Continual fighting with teir neighbors had resulted in the temple being badly damaged so Herod the Great had rebuilt it about fifty years before.  The disciple was simply calling attention to the great construction and that the temple had endure through all the things it had been through.   It could easily last for thousands more years.   Jesus warned that the temple would be destroyed, far beyond what even the Babylonians had done, so that not even a single stone would be left in place. 

Thirty nine years later, the Roman army under Titus would completely dismantle the temple, raze the city, and drive the Jews into exile, in 70 AD.  The nation of Israel would not have a land of their won again until 1948, and the Temple has yet to be rebuilt.  They will be unable to practice the Jewish religion fully until the temple is rebuilt.    

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:3-4)

Later that afternoon, as they sat on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the temple, the disciples asked Jesus privately about what he had said about the temple being destroyed.    When would it happen and what signs should they be looking for?  Their questions gave Jesus the opportunity to explain many things about the coming Church Age, which will end with his return and the establishment of his kingdom.    Matthew 24 and Luke 21 record additional details of his teaching on the subject.  Knowing these things would make it far easier for them to stay true to god during the period. 

“And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Mark 13:5-6)

The first thing they needed to know was that there would be many who started new religions claiming to be the Messiah or to have some new revelation.  They were to be careful not to go along with these leaders because they would deliberately try to deceive them, and many would be led away.  They were not to follow the popular religious fads, but to stick with the word of God.

“And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.” (Mark 13:7-8)

Many of the false teachers would use prophecies based on the wars and possible wars to excite the people and convince than they were teaching the truth.  Jesus said the wars were a natural part of human existence, as were natural events such as earthquakes, famines, or floods, and Believers were not to see them as special signs of his coming or allow themselves to fall for such teachings.  They were just the natural results of wickedness in the world and hold no special significance.  They are not signs of the times as many have taught.   

Sadly, thousands of false teachers have used these so-called ‘Signs of the Times’ and fear to manipulate people and attain fame and fortune, even getting people to donate their homes and businesses to the leader because they wouldn’t need it when the Lord returned.   Apparently it never dawned on them that the church and leader wouldn’t either if what they were teaching was true.   Many others have lived in constant fear as a result of such teachings.