Problems With The Rapture Doctrine # 2-The Parable Of The Tares

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Those who believe in the doctrine of the Rapture teach that the church will be removed from the world seven years before the end of time.

It is claimed that Jesus will do this in order to spare His people from the “great tribulation” that will come upon the world at that time.  

However, the Lord Himself clearly teaches that this is not true. Indeed, in the Parable of the Tares, Jesus makes it clear that His people will be in the world until the very end of time.  

Let’s study.  

Matthew 13:24-30-24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;

25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.

26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.

27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’

29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.

30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ”
The disciples of Christ did not understand the meaning of this parable, and so the Lord explains it to them in more detail: 

Matthew 13:36-43-36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.

38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.

39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.

40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,

42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Notice several things with me about this parable.  

First, Jesus here is clearly discussing the events leading up to, and including, the Second Coming. Verse 39 is clear that the harvest is “the end of the age,” which is a clear reference to the end of time itself (Matthew 28:19-20).  

Second, the Bible teaches that the Son of Man sows the seed (Matthew 13:37). This is accomplished when His people, the church, share the Word of God with people in the world around us (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-11).

The Lord sows the seed of the kingdom through His body, the church of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23).  
Third, there will be some in the church who are the “tares.”

What does this mean?  

“THE pictures in this parable would be clear and familiar to a Palestinian audience. Tares were one of the curses against which a farmer had to labour. They were a weed called bearded darnel (lolium temulentum). In their early stages, the tares so closely resembled the wheat that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other. When both had produced seed heads it was easy to distinguish them; but by that time their roots were so intertwined that the tares could not be weeded out without tearing the wheat out with them…The tares and the wheat are so like each other that the Jews called the tares bastard wheat. The Hebrew for tares is zunim, whence comes the Greek zizanion; zunim is said to be connected with the word zanah, which means to commit fornication; and the popular story is that the tares took their origin in the time of wickedness which preceded the flood, for at that time the whole creation, human beings, animals and plants, all went astray, and committed fornication and brought forth contrary to nature. In their early stages, the wheat and the tares so closely resembled each other that the popular idea was that the tares were a kind of wheat which had gone wrong.”. (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel Of Matthew, Volume Two, 1531-1547 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press) 

Fourth, the Bible clearly teaches that the saved (the “wheat”) will be in the world until the very end of the age (Matthew 13:38-41). It is not that the righteous will be taken away before the end: instead, the righteous will be with the wicked in the world until the very end.
Speaking of this interesting order of events, Carver has pointed out: 

“It should also be noted that the two parables which deal with the separation of the wicked and the righteous picture the wicked as being taken out from among the righteous, rather than the reverse. In the parable of the tares, the angels gather the tares— not the righteous— and the tares are cast into the fire. Verse 30 pointedly states that He will instruct the reapers, “Gather ye together first the tares.” Thus those taken will be the tares and not the righteous. Also, in the parable of the net (Matt. 13:47- 52), it is the bad who are gathered out from among the good. Rapturists, on the other hand, predict that the good will be removed from among the evil.”. (Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes Again, 5186-5194 (Kindle Edition); Prestonsburg, KY; Reformation Publishers) 

Fifth, the Lord clearly teaches that both the “wheat” and the “tares” will be gathered together and taken to different places at the end of the age (Matthew 13:30).  

Sixth, the wicked will be taken and “gathered” to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42), another designation for Hell (cf. Matthew 8:12-13).  

Seventh, the saved will be taken to be with the Lord in His kingdom (Matthew 13:43).  

Please notice my friends that Jesus is clear that His people will be in the world until the very end of time.

There will be no “secret Rapture” of His people seven years before the end of the world.  

The Rapture doctrine is not true.  

The Bible teaches that the sons of God will be the ones who are saved throughout eternity.

Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God (John 3:16; Hebrews 11:17) came to this world and died for the sins of mankind so that we could become children of God (John 1:10-12). He died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Why not today become a child of God through faith, repentance, confession of faith in Him, and baptism into Him (Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 8:35-38)?  

If you are a child of God who has turned from the Lord in sin (2 Peter 2:20-22), why not today repent of that sin and come back to Him in prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?  

The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

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Problems With The Rapture Doctrine # 1

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Many people in the religious world are surprised to learn that the churches of Christ do not subscribe to the doctrine known as “the Rapture.”  

I remember several years ago preaching a series of radio sermons on the topic of the Rapture and Premillennialism on our old program, “Rest For The Weary.”

After I was finished with those lessons, I was contacted by two preachers in the local area who at first had been shocked when they heard these things. Then, realizing the fact that the Bible was opposed to this teaching, they requested my sermon outline on the topic (which I happily provided them).

They were both from different denominational churches, and had been convinced that the Rapture doctrine was true, until they started studying the Scriptures in depth. 

What is it about this doctrine that is so fundamentally opposed to the Bible?
In this series of articles, we will learn the answers to that question.  

What Exactly Is The Rapture?  

To begin with, let us carefully notice a definition of the “Rapture” doctrine.

Rapture proponents teach that the Second Coming Of Jesus will occur in “two phases.”

The first phase is known as the Rapture, in which Christ returns quietly and takes the church.

At the same time, the righteous dead are resurrected and taken to Heaven.

People “left behind” on Earth know that all of this has happened, yet they have not seen the Lord’s Return; so there are lots of theories about what has happened.

Some will say that there were government experiments, others that “aliens” beamed them away, etc.  

Over the next seven years on Earth, there will be a terrible guy who comes to power and who stops all the fighting in the world. He makes plans to begin rebuilding a third Jewish Temple.

Unbeknownst to the people on the Earth, this political leader is actually the Antichrist! Meanwhile, some of the folks who had been “left behind” will somehow be converted to Christ. The Antichrist will make war against them, and there will be a “great tribulation” on Earth.

Finally, at the end of the seven years, Christ will again return again and conquer the Antichrist, setting up a kingdom in the city of Jerusalem over which He will reign for one thousand years.  

The Origin Of The Rapture Doctrine 
The idea of a two-phase Second Coming of Christ is not found in Scripture. Indeed, the idea was not invented until the last two hundred years! One researcher has pointed out: 

“The Rapture has become embedded in American Christian culture today, but the idea of the Rapture is less than two hundred years old….The Rapture has its origins in the nineteenth century beginning, according to one critic, with a young girl’s vision.2 In 1830, in Port Glasgow, Scotland, fifteen-year-old Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service. There, she was said to have seen a vision of a two-stage return of Jesus Christ.3 The story of her vision was adopted and amplified by John Nelson Darby, a British evangelical preacher and founder of the Plymouth Brethren. At the time, the belief that Jesus will come again was not new. Christians have always taught that Jesus will return to earth and that believers should live in the urgent and hopeful anticipation of his second coming. This teaching is central to ancient Christian creeds and is taught by all churches. But Darby’s new teaching was the claim that Christ would return twice. The first return would be in secret, to “Rapture” his church out of the world and up to heaven. en. Christ would return a second time after seven years of global tribulation to establish a Jerusalem-based kingdom on earth (which they call the “Glorious Appearing,” a phrase from Titus 2:13). For Darby and his sympathizers, the search was on for Bible verses to support this two-stage version of Christ’s return.” (Barbara R. Tossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message Of Hope In The Book Of Revelation, 21-22 (Kindle Edition): New York, NY; Basic Books) 

The idea of the Rapture is not found in the Bible, my friends.

What’s more, the teaching of the Bible is completely against the main tenants of this doctrine.  

Everyone Will Know When The Second Coming Of Christ Occurs

In this article, I would like you to notice with me one of the biggest problems of the Rapture teaching: according to the Bible, the Second Coming of Christ will be witnessed by everyone!

There is no ‘secret Rapture’ in the Bible.  

In fact, the passages which mention the Second Coming show that His Return will be sudden and visible to every person.  

Acts 1:9-11-9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,

11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Often, people claim that only believers will see the Return of Christ.

Yet this is definitely not true, for the Apostle John writes:

Revelation 1:7-Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Did you notice that beloved? Not only will God’s people see the Lord when He returns, but so will His enemies!  

The Bible also teaches that the Return of Christ will be heard by everyone, as the Apostle Paul teaches:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18-13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We are told here that the Second Coming will be heralded by “shouts” and “trumpets” and the ‘voice of an archangel.” My friends, these are not signs of something quiet!  

When Christ returns to the Earth, there will not be “second chances” to avoid eternity. The Earth will not continue for seven years (like the Rapture doctrine teaches); for when Christ returns the Earth will be destroyed by fire and the Day of Judgment will commence (2 Peter 3:9-13).  

Friends, I implore you to make your life right with God today. He loves you so very much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the price for our sins on the Cross of Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

If we want to be saved, we must: hear His Word (Romans 10:17; John 6:44-45); believe in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 16:31); repent of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31); confess our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6;12); be baptized into Him to have our sins forgiven (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38); and live faithfully to Him even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).

When we as a child of God fall short and sin, we are forgiven when we repent of that sin and pray to the Lord (Acts 8:22; Hebrews 7:25).  

Will you not turn to Him today? The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Job Bible Class: The Bible And Evil, Pain, And Suffering # 1-Freewill 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Quotation For Consideration 

“If all that you can see is the Devil in your injustice or abuse, you will never be free from the power of your past. You must see God too—you must see Him as permitting the evil and intending to use the evil for some higher end. We can only move beyond our past when we can embrace it as part of a plan. And while others meant it for evil, we must see it as God intending it for our good. That gives us an entirely different perspective and enables us to give praise to God—not for the evil as such but for how God will use it in our lives.” (Erwin W. Lutzer, When You’ve Been Wronged: Overcoming Barriers To Reconciliation, 127 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)

Questions For Consideration 

 What is “evil?”  

Is God responsible for evil?

Is freedom actually good?  

In our study of the Book of Job, we have carefully examined several philosophies to try and make sense of the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in our universe.

We have learned that each of these belief systems are fundamentally flawed, and cannot account for the existence of evil, pain, and suffering.  

Atheism. The belief system that states that there is no God does not adequately explain the existence of evil, pain, and suffering. Atheism is irrational in that the atheist must become God in order to prove that there is no God. Atheism is also unscientific in that the laws of science clearly demonstrate that there is an eternal Creator.  

Sadism. The belief system which tries to explain the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in our universe due to God being evil is also shown to be flawed. The goodness of God is demonstrated in countless ways each day. His character and His response to man’s wickedness and blasphemies quickly defeats the notion that God is evil, as does the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary on behalf of God’s enemies.  

Dualism. The idea of dualism (e.g., that there are two co-eternal “gods” locked in an eternal struggle, one good and one evil) is also unable to account for the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in our universe. Evil cannot be eternal, since it can only exist in what is first good, and because there must always be a standard of goodness prior to evil by which the evil is judged as such. Therefore, the devil cannot be eternal.    

Karma. The ancient belief system of karma (which states that all suffering is a direct result of personal sin, committed either in this life or a previous life) is unable to account for the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in our universe. The idea of karma does not solve the problem of evil; it compounds it. Further, we know that karma is not true since Job did not suffer as a result of personal sin. Further, the doctrine of karma is not true because the notion of “past lives” (i.e., reincarnation and transmigration of souls) is shown to be false.  

In this article, we will begin carefully investigating whether or not the Bible itself provides an adequate explanation for the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in our universe.  

We will be studying especially about the relationship between Freedom And Evil, Pain, And Suffering.  

Understanding “Evil” 

What exactly is “evil?”

The Lord spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah and gives a good working definition of the word: 

Jeremiah 18:9-10-And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it DOES EVIL in My sight so that it DOES NOT OBEY MY VOICE, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

Did you catch that? Evil is a failure to do what God commands.  

In other words, “evil” is “sin.” 

“Evil is, in reality, a parasite that cannot exist except as a hole in something that should be solid. In some cases, though, evil is more easily explained as a case of bad relationships. If I pick up a good gun, put in a good bullet, point it at my good head, put my good finger on the good trigger and give it a good pull … a bad relationship results. The things involved are not evil in themselves, but the relationship between the good things is definitely lacking something. In this case, the lack comes about because the things are not being used as they ought to be. Guns should not be used for indiscriminate killing, but are fine for recreation. My head was not meant to be used for target practice. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with strong winds moving in a circle, but a bad relationship arises when the funnel of wind goes through a mobile home park. Bad relation ships are bad because the relationship is lacking something, so our definition of evil still holds. Evil is a lack of something that should be there in the relationship between good things….But if Adam and Eve were perfect, how did they fall? Don’t blame it on the snake because that just backs the question up one step; didn’t God make the snake perfect too?…To be free we had to have not only the opportunity to choose good, but also the ability to choose evil. That was the risk God knowingly took. That doesn’t make Him responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men made evil actual. Imperfection came through the abuse of our moral perfection as free creatures.”. (Norman Geisler & Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook On Christian Evidences, 61-62 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Yet even this is not an adequate enough definition.

We must distinguish between “moral” evil (sin) and “natural” evil (what we might term suffering, earthquakes, sicknesses, death, etc.).

The Hebrew word ra (translated in several different ways in the Old Testament) carried all of these connotations in the word “evil.”

Randy Alcorn explains: 

“Most people today understand evil as anything that causes harm. The Bible uses the word evil in a broader way to describe anything that violates God’s moral will and therefore displeases him. Evil is more than merely the absence of good; it’s the corruption of good, like rust on metal or cancer in the cells of a living body. The first human sin, when Eve and Adam disobeyed God (see Genesis 3), initiated sweeping consequences, including a curse on the natural world. That initial moral evil loosed ever-expanding suffering. So suffering follows evil as a caboose follows an engine. We can therefore think of moral wrongdoing as primary evil and suffering as secondary evil. Secondary evils are things that happen to us that we don’t like; they’re caused by primary evils, which are things we do that God doesn’t like.”. (Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good, Why Do We Hurt? 11-12 (Kindle Edition): MultNomah Books)

We see this demonstrated in the very beginning of human history, in the Book of Genesis. Suffering and death in the Creation were introduced into the world by the choice of Adam and Eve to commit evil (Genesis 2:15-17; Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:18-22). 

Since sin is the choice to violate the commandments of God, then we need to better understand the nature of freewill.  

Is Freedom Good?

According to Scripture, freedom is a “good thing.”

The Bible teaches that when God created the universe, He declared that everything which He had made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31-literally, the best it could be).

Yet one of the things which God endowed within His creation was freedom of choice (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:15-17).

Therefore, the ability to freely choose is “very good.”  

“The fact is, it’s good to be free. No one ever marches against freedom, chanting, “Down with liberty! Back to bondage! I want to do only what the government tells me to do!” Even if someone attempted to speak against freedom, he would be speaking for it, since he believes it’s good to be free to express that view. That freedom is good is literally undeniable. But if it is good to be free, then evil is possible. Freedom means the power to choose otherwise. So in this present world if one is free to do good, he is also free to do evil. If one is free to love, he also is free to hate. If we are free to praise God, then we must be free to curse God. The very nature of our divinely given freedom makes evil possible. Any alleged “freedom” not to choose evil rather than good is not really freedom for a moral creature.”. (Norman L. Geisler, If God, Why Evil? A New Way To Think About The Question, 29-30 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)

Is God Responsible For Evil?  

Throughout the Book of Job, we see that God is the One Who allows Job to suffer.

Yes, Satan is the one who does the actual attacking; but it is at the permissive will of God Himself that Satan is allowed to do so! For example, we are told: 

Job 1:8-12 (CEV)-8 Then the LORD asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him—he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil.”

9 “Why shouldn’t he respect you?” Satan remarked.

10 “You are like a wall protecting not only him, but his entire family and all his property. You make him successful in whatever he does, and his flocks and herds are everywhere.

11 Try taking away everything he owns, and he will curse you to your face.”

12 The LORD replied, “All right, Satan, do what you want with anything that belongs to him, but don’t harm Job.” Then Satan left.

Again: 

Job 2:3-6 (CEV)-3 Then the LORD asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him—he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn’t changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.”

4 Satan answered, “There’s no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive.

5 Try striking Job’s own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face.”

6 “All right!” the LORD replied. “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don’t kill him.”

The Bible is clear that God Himself does not do anything which is morally evil (cf. Genesis 18:25; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 19:7), and we can be certain from the perfectly good Nature of God that He can never do anything wicked (Psalm 92:15; James 1:13-17; 1 John 1:5; Acts 14:17).   

While God cannot be held accountable for the wickedness of mankind, there is a sense in which He is indirectly responsible for evil.

Commenting on Isaiah 45:7, two authors write:

“Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20 ; Rev. 21–22 ).”. (Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 4059-4065 (Kindle Edition); Victor Books)

In describing the ways in which freewill and the nature of God are compatible in the face of evil, pain, and suffering, Powell points out:

“Very simply stated, the free will defense suggests the possibility that: An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-benevolent God created human beings as free moral agents. This entails the ability to choose evil as well as good. Because God is all-knowing, He knew evil would result; because He is all-powerful, He could create the world in alternate ways; and because He is all-benevolent and morally perfect, He could only have good reasons for making the world in this way. As a result, God may have created the potential for evil, but human beings, because they have chosen evil things, made it actual. But this actualizing of evil was not news to God. Thus, ultimately, there is evil in the world because God has a good reason for its existence.”. (Doug Powell, Holman Quicksource Guide To Christian Apologetics: A Clear And Concise Overview, 4331-4337 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Holman Reference)

Freedom Without Consequence?  

Many believe that God could have created a world in which freedom existed, and not consequence.

In other words, they believe that God should have endowed mankind with freedom, and yet made the world in such a way that there were no negative consequences for mankind’s actions.  

However, a little consideration will show the impossibility of this line of reasoning.

What good can be accomplished from a world where there are no consequences for wrongdoing?

If a child is allowed to do as he wishes and break any rule which he wishes, what will the fate be of that child?

Will the child grow and mature?

Or will it continue to behave as a spoiled child, even long after he has reached adulthood?  

Consequences for wrongdoing are necessary for growth to take place.

How is either God or mankind benefited from a world bereft of consequence?

As early as the Garden of Eden, we see that mankind needed this power to choose and to suffer consequence for wrongdoing.

Speaking in the context of the horrible Virginia Tech shooting, Jim Pace discussed these deep insights: 

“I used to be very angry with God about that tree. Tempting them like that? It was only a matter of time before they wouldn’t be able to restrain themselves. And then what? He blames them ? How long did God expect they would make it before, to their ears, the “you can eat everything but that one tree” became “you can eat everything but that one tree”?…I have come to appreciate the risk of that tree for God— and the necessity of that tree for us. Simply put, that tree made us real: it gave us choice. God wasn’t looking to make some complicated hamsters that he could set up in a sweet cage. He created us for real relationship with him. Real relationship simply cannot exist if you cannot choose something else other than that relationship. We pity a woman whose husband or boyfriend keeps her locked in their house, monitors the few phone calls he allows her to have, and keeps even her family at arm’s length. No one would call that love. Had God not offered the tree and with it the opportunity to rebel against him, he would have been that guy. Love that isn’t chosen is forced. In giving us that tree and making the warning very clear, he gave us choice, even the option to reject his guidance and companionship. He knew very well that decision would cost him dearly, but it was what was best for us.” (Jim Pace, Should We Fire God? Finding Hope In God When We Don’t Understand, 829-842 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; FaithWords Hachette Book Group)  

Indirect Consequences Of Sin

The decision of mankind to rebel against God brought catastrophic consequences to our world. While suffering is sometimes the result of personal sin (Galatians 6:7-8), this is not always the case (such as Job and the teachings of the rest of the Bible prove).

Sometimes, we suffer for the consequences of others’ sins. This is powerfully demonstrated in the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden: 

“To help understand Creation and the Fall, the image of three iron rings suspended from a magnet is helpful. The magnet symbolizes God; the first ring, the soul; the middle ring, the body; and the bottom ring, nature. As long as the soul stays in touch with God, the magnetic life keeps flowing through the whole chain, from divine life to soul life, body life and nature life. The three rings stay harmonized, united, magnetized. But when the soul freely declares its independence from God, when the first iron ring separates from the magnet, the inevitable consequence is that the whole chain of rings is demagnetized and falls apart. When the soul is separated from God, the body is separated from the soul-that is, it dies-and also from nature-that is, it suffers. For the soul’s authority over the body is a delegated authority, as is humanity’s authority over nature. When God the delegator is rejected, so is the authority he delegated. If you rebel against the king, his ministers will no longer serve you. Thus both suffering and sin are traced to man, not God.” (Peter Kreeft & Ronald Kitacelli, Handbook Of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds Of Answers To Crucial Questions, 135 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

Conclusion 

We have noticed that the Bible teaches that pain and suffering in our universe are a result (directly and/or indirectly) of sin against God. Evil is the decision of free moral against to rebel against the Word of God. Such evil produces suffering in our world.  

While God is indirectly responsible for sin (in that He endowed His Creation with the good blessing of freewill), it is the created beings (of mankind and of angelkind) who are responsible for actually bringing evil into the world.  

In our next lesson, we will carefully study about the teaching of the Bible and the existence of evil, pain, and suffering.

In particular, we will investigate the questions of angels and freewill, and how such an understanding helps us better understand why the universe is in such a state as it is today.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

“Bereshit” 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

The study of the Word of God is one of the most thrilling endeavors the heart of man can pursue.  

The more I have studied the Bible, the more I am amazed at its’ incredible depths. Being a diligent student of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15) will include carefully examining the Word of God, even in its’ original languages (Jeremiah 29:13). The blessings of such a journey are beyond description!  

It is also imperative as we study the Word of God to remember that everything in Scripture revolves around and points to Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter pointed this out when he was preaching the Word of God to Cornelius and his household: 

Acts 10:43-To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
While discussing the Word of God with the Jews of His day, Jesus made this claim: 

John 5:39-You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

With this in mind, I would like to share with you something I have learned recently. I was, quite frankly, stunned by what I am about to share with you.

That is the beauty of the Word of God! It has the power and the eloquence to speak to a child so all can understand, and yet there are depths to the Bible that can astonish the careful student after years of intense scrutiny.  

What I am going to share with you has to do with the very first word of the Bible-and how this word paints an incredible picture of Jesus Christ.  

The Hebrew Old Testament 

The Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language, which is exceedingly and amazingly complex.

Scholar Chuck Missler describes some of the incredible nuances of this language: 

“The Hebrew language has some distinctive characteristics that no other language on the planet Earth has. All the early languages were written without spaces between the words, and the Hebrew language is self- parsing. In Hebrew, there are five letters that have a slightly different shape when they’re used as the last letter of a word. Because of that, it’s possible to read Hebrew without spaces between the letters. There are only consonants in Hebrew, and no vowels. It’s what’s called a consonantal script. The meaning of a word derives from a root of three letters, and each three letter root word can be expanded to create all manner of other words. Prefixes and suffixes can be added to those three letters, forming different parts of speech or even entirely new words; the meaning is related to those three base letters. The particular meaning of the word depends on how it’s pronounced when vowel sounds are added. For instance, the three letters sfr create the word for “book” and it’s pronounced “sapher.” A writer, on the other hand, somebody who makes books, would be called a “sopher” same letters. The plural form requires a “ym” ending sfrym – “sefarim.” The pronunciations are therefore very important. It’s not difficult for a native speaker to vocally add the appropriate vowels. We often use the consonants “bldg” for “building” and we understand the word even with the vowels (and one consonant) removed. Native speakers would naturally read the words correctly. The root consonants are designed to give Hebrew a semantic backbone and stability not characteristic of Western languages. It also leads to word play. Verb usage is dependent on the context, and the language lends itself to puns. There’s often far more meaning implied in the Hebrew sentence than there would be in a Greek sentence….One of the peculiarities of the Hebrew language is that the alphabet is not just phonetic, but also symbolic. The alphabet of most languages are phonetic. Words can be sounded out if the letter sounds are known. Hebrew is phonetic, but it is a special language, because it is also symbolic. Individual letters can have their own meanings. Early in Hebrew writing, the letters were also pictographs. Aleph , for instance, was shaped like the head of an ox and represented strength and leadership. The letter kaf was originally shaped like a hand, and “kaf” means “palm of the hand” or “to coerce.” The Hebrew language is astonishingly vivid, concise and simple. It is also so dense that it makes it difficult to translate fully. While the Greek language is precise, each word holding a specific intended meaning, Hebrew leaves many ideas to be “understood.” It requires the reader to fill in the blanks. It often takes two or three times as much space to translate the Hebrew into English because the words carry so much significance on their own.”. (Chuck Missler, How We Got Our Bible, 400-424 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

The original Hebrew of the Old Testament, like the koine Greek of the New Testament, is unparalleled in its’ beauty and complexity.  

Bereshit

With this rudimentary knowledge in mind, consider the amazing discovery one researcher learned about the very first word of the Bible: 

“I began to wonder about the Hebrew pictographs. The pictographs can be dated back many thousands of years even before the time of Christ. Each picture tells a part of a story or message; I believe it is a message from eternity to those who are willing to listen and believe….The above illustration is a generalisation of the meanings of each letter. For instance Aleph can also mean sacrifice as it is in the shape of an ox and an ox was used to sacrifice or it can mean God himself as the first above all. Tav is the last letter of the Hebrew “Aleph- bet” and like Aleph and many of the other letters can simply mean cross because of its shape. Again I wondered is there a message here somewhere? I began my search in the very first word of the Old Testament “Bereshit” meaning “In the beginning.” What would happen if I took the ancient pictographs and substituted them for the Hebrew letters in Bereshit? Would there be a message hidden beneath the surface text?…In the pictograph of Bereshit, the first word of Genesis 1, we read from right to left: ְבּ Beit which is a picture of a house or the temple, ֵר Resh meaning the highest, אAleph which can mean God or sacrifice, שׁ Shin meaning to be destroyed or to destroy, יYod meaning hand or one’s own hand, ת Tav meaning a cross. (See fig 4) The stunning message we receive from Genesis 1 in ancient Hebrew Pictographs and Bereshit the very first Hebrew word in the bible is: The house / temple of the highest sacrifice (or God) will be destroyed by his own hand on a cross. (Fig 4)….Isn’t that incredible? To discover the Gospel message hidden in the first Hebrew word of the bible? Hidden in ancient Hebrew pictographs. All the more stunning when one realises the modern religious Jew does not believe God would come and die on a cross for their sins. Yet here it is revealed in the Hebrew pictographs proving, yet again, God authored the bible; placing within the Hebrew text proof they cannot deny from their own ancient pictographic history. Yeshua is God and came and died on the cross for our sins. The message was placed there by a divine hand at the very beginning of the Hebrew bible thousands of years before crucifixion was ever invented!” (Bob Mitchell, The Messiah Code, 77-103 (Kindle Edition))

“The house/temple sacrifice of God will be destroyed by his own hand on a cross.”  

Incredible!!  

When I was studying this, I was reminded of something else I had read a couple of years ago: 

“Even the word “Torah” itself, drawing on the concepts that lie behind the original Hebrew letters, , embodies some provocative elements: The Tav (originally, a cross), the Vav (a nail), the Resh (the head of a man), and the Heh, (the breath or Spirit of God). Thus, Man, with the Spirit of God, nailed on the Cross! This term was in existence well before Messiah walked on the earth. It is an interesting summary of the climax of God’s love story, which was nailed on a cross erected in Judea 2,000 years ago. The entire Biblical drama records the extremes our Creator has resorted to in order to redeem man—including you and me—from our predicament.”. (Chuck Missler, Hidden Treasures In The Biblical Text, 295-305 (Kindle Edition): Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)  

Everything revolves around Jesus Christ.

 
My friends, the God of Heaven has gone to such incredible lengths to inspire His Word and to provide evidence of its’ inspiration so that you will know that it is TRUE. The God of Heaven DOES love you. He loves you so very much that He sent His Son to live a perfectly sinless life, even though He was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and to die in your place as a perfect Sacrifice (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus died for you, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).  

God has declared that those who hear His Word (romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repent of sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and are baptized into Him (Galatians 3:26-27) will be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Will you not obey Him today (2 Corinthians 6:2)?  

If you are a Christian who has turned from the Lord, won’t you please repent of the sin in your life and turn back to God by confessing your sins to Him (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?  

The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

The Crowning Of Joshua The High Priest

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

For the past two years, our Sunday morning adult Bible class at church has been trying to go through the entire Bible in a Book by Book format.

We had almost finished the entire Old Testament- and then we got to the Book of Zechariah. Keeping in mind our goal of doing one Book of the Bible per week in an overview system, we have now been on Zechariah for six weeks.

This Book is, without a doubt, one of the most profound Books of the entire Bible. I would like to share with you something that we studied about this past Lord’s Day that has had me shocked and amazed since I began to understand it: the crowning of Joshua.  

Now before I relay the passage to you, let me set the context.

In the Old Testament, the Twelve Tribes of Israel underwent a terrible division and civil war (around the year 931 B.C.). The ten northern tribes became known as the nation of Israel, and the two southern tribes became known as the nation of Judah (you can read about this in 1 Kings 12). The ten northern tribes continued in their wickedness until the year 722 B.C., when the nation of Assyria deported most of them back to their land (and there is good evidence that the Assyrians eventually brought some of those Hebrews to America, but that’s covered in other articles I have written, so I just mention it here for detail). You can read about this event in 2 Kings 17. The two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were carried away to the land of Babylon (in the years 606, 597, and 586 B.C.). You can read about these deportations in 2 Kings 24-25.  

God had declared through Jeremiah the Prophet that the Jews would be in captivity in Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10). After that, God would bring the captives back to the land of Israel, where they would be commissioned to begin rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem to start getting ready for the coming Messiah.  
They returned to their land at three different times (536, 457, and 444 B.C.) under the commission of Cyrus king of Persia (of which we also have good archaeological evidence). They started rebuilding the Temple in 536 when they returned, but soon stopped because of the persecution from their Gentile neighbors. In 520 B.C., God commissioned two Prophets, Zechariah and Malachi, to stir up the people to begin rebuilding the Temple once more. The governor of the land was named Zerubbabel, and the high priest was named Joshua.  
In Zechariah 6, we read of an astonishing command that God gave to Zechariah the Prophet.

Read with me: 

Zechariah 6:9-15-9 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:

10 “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah.

11 Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD;

13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ‘

14 “Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the LORD for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

15 Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”

Priests Could Not Be Kings

The main reason why this passage is so incredible is that under the Old Law of Moses, a priest could not be eligible to become a king.

The Law stated that kings could only come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and that priests could only come from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 16:40; 18:7; Hebrews 7:14). One king who tried to serve as priest was named Uzziah. He was struck with leprosy by God as a punishment (2 Chronicles 26:16-23).  

Zechariah the Prophet knew all of these things, and yet he goes and crowns this man Joshua the priest as king.

How did this make any sense?  

Furthermore, it seems as if Zechariah is calling Joshua the Branch, which was an Old Testament designation for the Messiah (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).

So, how could an inspired Prophet of God call Joshua the Messiah?

How could an inspired Prophet of God crown a priest as king?  

What are we missing here? 

The answers to our questions will be found in recognizing that Zechariah’s Crowning of Joshua was not about Joshua at all, but rather looked to something else entirely.  

This Is Not About Joshua

The first thing to really notice about this passage is that Joshua is not really in view at all.

When we first read this, it sounds like Zechariah is telling everyone on the sidelines, “Listen up everyone, behold this man I’m crowning is the Branch!”

However, a study of the original languages (and the English also bears this out when we look carefully) helps us to see that it is actually Joshua being told to see that the Branch will one day be coming!

Look at how the Amplified Version translates this passage: 

Zechariah 6:12 (Amplified)-And say to him, Thus says the Lord of hosts: [You, Joshua] behold (look at, keep in sight, watch) the Man [the Messiah] whose name is the Branch, for He shall grow up in His place and He shall build the [true] temple of the Lord.

Please notice that Joshua is told to behold the fact that the Branch is coming.  

This is one of the reasons why the ancient Jewish interpreters of our passage saw that the entire scene was somehow descriptive of the Messiah who was to come.

For example:

Zech. vi. 12 [Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord.'”] is universally admitted to be Messianic. So in the Targum, the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. 5 a), in the Pirqé de R. Eliez. c. 48, and in the Midrashim.” (Alfred Edersheim & Edited by Robert C. Newman, Messianic Passages in the Old Testament as Cited in Rabbinic Literature, 1552 (Kindle Edition); Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute http://www.ibri.org

Several researchers, carefully investigating the ancient Hebrew commentaries on this passage, concur:

“To explanations, such as that of Grotius, who, by the righteous Branch, understands Zerubbabel, we here need the less to pay any attention, that the fact of his being in this without predecessors or followers palpably proves it to be erroneous. If, indeed, we could rely on Theodoret’s statement (“The blinded Jews endeavour, with great impudence, to refer this to Zerubbabel”-then follows the refutation), the older Jews must have led the way to this perverted interpretation. But we cannot implicitly rely on Theodoret’s statements of this kind. In the Jewish writings themselves, not the slightest trace of such an interpretation is to be found. The Chaldean Paraphrast is decidedly in favour of the Messianic interpretation: אתן אמר יי ואקים הא יומיא לדוד משיח דצדקה “Behold the days shall come, and I will raise up to David the righteous Messiah, (not דצדקיא ‘the Messiah of the righteous,’ as many absurdly read), saith the Lord…For Josedech, the father of Joshua the high-priest, is a person altogether obscure. All which they intended, by their retaining the Hebrew form, was certainly only the wish, to express that it was a nomen proprium which occurred here; and they were specially induced to act thus by the circumstance, that this name was, in their time, generally current, as one of the proper names of the Messiah.” (Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament: And a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions (Complete), 15677-15687 (Kindle Edition); Library Of Alexandria). 

The most ancient Jewish commentators underwood this passage as being a prophecy of the future Messiah; yet when the Messiah came and the Jews rejected Him, later Jewish scholars began to try and change the meaning of the text to reflect an anti-Christian interpretation.

One author, speaking specifically of this willful and prejudiced mishandling of the text by later Hebrew authorities , tells us: 

“Another example of Rashi’s influence in changing messianic interpretation is seen in Zech 6: 9–15. This passage relates a role-play wherein Joshua the high priest is crowned as a representative of the Messiah, who will unite the offices of priest and king and be named “Branch.”…In either case, Joshua is viewed as symbolic, enacting a role-play of the future Messiah. 64 This is the view of the Midrash as well. It asks, “What is the name of the Messiah?” Then, after giving various names from differing Old Testament texts, it says, “His name is ‘Branch’ as it is stated, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, and who shall branch forth from his place, and build the Temple of the Lord’ (Zech. 6: 12).” 65…To summarize the point of this section, Rashi and other medieval Jewish interpreters, in seeking a polemical tool to combat Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, adjusted the meaning of peshat, changing it from the literal (or literary) sense to the historical sense. They then used the peshat, even if it contradicted the messianic interpretation of earlier rabbinic sages, to combat the messianic interpretation of the Old Testament and the identification of Jesus as the Messiah.” (Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? 126-127 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B& H Publishing Group)

Why would so many of the later Jewish rabbis be so intent on perverting the obvious intent of this passage of Scripture?

Without a doubt, one reason has to do with the fact that this passage clearly prophesies the very NAME of the Messiah-YESHUA!

This Messiah was Himself put to death by the Hebrews when He finally came to the world. Michael Brown writes: 

“Zechariah 6:9-15, however, is explicit: Joshua the high priest is to be crowned—remember that only kings were crowned—and it is he who symbolizes the Branch: “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch [once again, the Targum calls him the Messiah], and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD’” (Zech. 6:11-12).292…”It is the high priest Joshua, crowned and sitting on a throne, who is symbolic of the Branch, thus emphasizing the priestly role of the Messiah—making atonement for Israel and the nations—who is elsewhere known in the Scriptures as the royal son of David. What makes this all the more interesting is that this man Joshua is normally known by a shortened name in the Tanakh, just as someone named Michael could be called Mike. And what is that shortened name? Yeshua!…”And so, the one and only man directly singled out in the Bible as a symbol of the Messiah was called Yeshua. The Lord knew exactly what he was doing when he laid this all out in advance, giving enough clues along the way that, once discovered, the evidence would be indisputable. Is the picture becoming clearer to you?296”. (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus-Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections, 144-145 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books) 

Summing Up Thus Far

Now, what have we said thus far?  

First, Joshua could not be crowned as a king because he was a high priest. This therefore must have been an event which was symbolic of something else.  

Second, Joshua is commanded by Zechariah to take comfort in the fact that the Messiah (the Branch) would one day come into the world and build the temple of the Lord.  

Third, the most ancient Jewish commentators understood that this Branch was not Joshua, but was instead a reference to the coming Messiah.  

Fourth, the prophecy of Zechariah 6 is so detailed that it even prophesies the very name of the Messiah.  

Fifth, later Jewish interpreters put forth the idea that the Branch was Joshua because of the passage’s clear prophecies about Jesus Christ Himself.  

How Is Jesus Both A Priest And A King?  

Of course, this still leaves us with the same question we had at the beginning of our study: how can Jesus be both Priest and King as the Messiah?

After all, He was not from the tribe of Levi but from Judah (Hebrews 7:14).

So even if this passage is a prophecy of the future Messiah, how can the Messiah be both Priest and King?  

The answer is simple: Jesus could not be both Priest and King under the Old Testament Law.  

Therefore, the Law had to be changed.  

This was one of the central teachings of the Book of Hebrews. Jesus cannot be both Priest and King under the authority of the Old Testament Law. Therefore, since Jesus is both Priest and King, the Law must have been changed. Paul writes: 

Hebrews 7:12-14-12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. This priest was also a king of the city of Jerusalem, nearly five hundred years before the Levitical priesthood was established. We first read about Melchizedek in the Book of Genesis: 

Genesis 14:18-20-18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

This Melchizedek was both a priest and king. We are told in Psalm 110:4 that the Messiah would be a a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  

In the crowning of Joshua, we see a prophecy that there would be a New Law and a new Priesthood one day.

In stunning accuracy, the “hidden message” of the crowning of Joshua was revealed for all to see.  

The coming Messiah would one day be brought into the world under a New Law, and would become both Priest and King for God’s people.  

Some Powerful Lessons From The Text 

First, this event went far beyond what Zechariah himself understood.

When I was talking about this event with my wife, her first statement surprised me: “I feel bad for Zechariah.” When I asked “why,” she pointed out, “Well, he didn’t know what was going on! He knew that it was against the Law to crown a priest as king, and yet God told him to do just that.”

While it is clear that Zechariah understood there was some hidden significance to this action, it does not change the fact that there was much God called Zechariah to do that he did not fully understand.  

Think about the connection to us today.

Often times, God calls us to follow Him and His Word, even if we do not fully understand “why.” I think of faithful Abraham, who went out now knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). He had to leave behind EVERYTHING to follow the Lord, and he had no idea where he would end up!

Following God does not require perfect understanding on our part; it requires trusting God and obeying what we know of His commandments, even when we do not fully understand every aspect of those commands.  

Second, please notice that this event describes to us the powerful message that the Word of God is true!

Think about it: Zechariah did all of this, and these events forecast in extremely incredible detail, the Messiah who was to come.

The Prophet himself did not fully understand everything, yet the God Who was orchestrating all of this clearly foresaw what would be.

The evidence of prophecy and fulfillment is one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Son of God.  

Third, we are reminded here of the important fact that the priesthood of Christ would be under a New Law. The Old Testament was not sufficient to bring redemption, and it was designed to be temporary.  

Hebrews 8:6-13-6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “BEHOLD, THE DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH—

9 NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; BECAUSE THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DISREGARDED THEM, SAYS THE LORD.

10 FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

11 NONE OF THEM SHALL TEACH HIS NEIGHBOR, AND NONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL SHALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

12 FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

13 In that He says, “A NEW COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

We are blessed to live under the New Covenant, which has a better Priest, a better Mediator, better laws, and better promises.  

Finally, notice with me that the Bible here teaches that Christ would be a High Priest while He reigned. Since Jesus is now serving as High Priest (Hebrews 7:25-28), then we see that He is also now reigning as King.

Many in the religious world (such as our premillennial friends) teach that Jesus will not be King until the Second Coming.

Yet Scripture teaches that He is king NOW, over His kingdom, the church (Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28; Matthew 16:18-19).

Christ will not establish His kingdom at the Second Coming, for He did that at His First Coming!  

1 Corinthians 15:23-26-23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

I want to ask you the question: have you made Jesus your King and Priest? He came to this world to die for the sins of mankind on the Cross of Calvary (Isaiah 53). He died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Word of God has the power to save us (Romans 1:16). God declares that all who hear His Word (Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8;24), repent of sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6:12), and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38) will be saved (Mark 16:15-16) and added by God to His church (Acts 2:47).

If you have never obeyed that Word, will you not do so today?  

And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).  

If you are a child of God who has turned away from the Lord in sin (Galatians 5:4), will you not today repent of that sin and confess it to the Lord to be forgiven (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?  

The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

“Knowing” Christ: Personal Relationship With God

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

One of the great teachings of the Bible is that the God of Heaven desires to have a personal relationship with His people.

One of the greatest blessings is enjoying such a personal relationship with the Lord.  
Many in the religious world are uncomfortable with this teaching of the Bible, yet this teaching of the Bible is one of great importance.  

Where does the Bible mention such a personal relationship which God desires with His people? 

While there are several passages which teach this idea of a personal relationship between God and His people, we will notice in detail something which the Apostle Paul declared in his Epistle to the Christians at Philippi:

Philippians 3:8-Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. 

Please look carefully at the phrase “the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

This is a very interesting phrase in the Greek New Testament.

The idea here goes far beyond the concept of knowledge ABOUT a person; instead, it carries with it the idea of knowledge OF a person (such as in personal relationship). 

Notice how the passage is translated in the Amplified Bible: 

Philippians 3:8 (Amplified Bible)-Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),

Peter O’Brien, in his in-depth study of the Greek New Testament, has this excellent note: 

“In the OT knowledge signifies ‘living in a close relationship with something or somebody, such a relationship as to cause what may be called communion’. 1982 To know God was regarded as of paramount importance (Ho. 6:6; cf. 4:1, 6) and meant to be in a close personal relationship with him. Here at Phil. 3:8 Paul is speaking about ‘his own personal relationship with Christ’, something that is absolutely basic and fundamental to his being a Christian. It ‘includes the experience of being loved by him and loving him in return’. 1983”. (Peter T. O’Brien, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistle To The Philippians, 9732 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Another scholar of the Greek New Testament, Gordon Fee, concurs with this assessment: 

“As v. 10 will clarify, “knowing Christ” does not mean to have head knowledge about him, but to “know him” personally (BAGD) and relationally. Paul has thus taken up the Old Testament theme of “knowing God” 21 and applied it to Christ. It means to know him as children and parent know each other, or wives and husbands knowledge that has to do with personal experience and intimate relationship. It is such knowledge that makes Christ “trust- worthy.” The intimacy will be expressed in v. 10 in terms of “participation in his sufferings.” In the light of such expansive language, therefore, the object of his “knowing” is not simply “Christ,” nor even “Christ Jesus,” but “Christ Jesus my Lord.” Here is the evidence of intimacy and devotion. Paul regularly refers to Christ with the full title and name, “our Lord, Jesus Christ”; only here does he reverse the order and substitute the first person singular pronoun. The “Christ Jesus,” because of whom he gladly considers all else to be loss, is none other than “my Lord.” The reason for such devotion and longing is not expressed here, but it rings forth clearly in Gal 2:20, “who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is not simply coming to know the deity it is that, of course but even more so, it is to know the one whose love for Paul, expressed in the cross and in his arrest on the Damascus road, has transformed the former persecutor of the church into Christ’s “love slave,” whose lifelong ambition is to “know him” in return, and to love him by loving his people. There is something unfortunate about a cerebral Christianity that “knows” but does not “know” in this way.”. (Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary On The New Testament: Paul’s Letter To The Philippians, 9220-9240 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Throughout the Old Testament, God had expressed His desire to share in a personal relationship with His people (cf. Psalm 103:11-14; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Micah 7:18-19; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 57:15).

God does not offer this relationship because He is lonely (for He has full perfection with complete happiness and joy within the Holy Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-1 John 4:8; 5:7); instead He offers this gift because He is loving and kind (Psalm 136). 

Several passages in the Bible reiterate the intimacy of the relationship that we enjoy with God in Christ.  

The Bible likens our relationship to that of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33), a vine and branches (John 15:1-8), a Shepherd and His beloved sheep (John 10:1-10, 27-30), a Father and His beloved children (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), and several other illustrations are provided to convey the friendship we enjoy with the Lord.  

This relationship that God offers to us is through His Son, Jesus Christ: 

John 17:3-And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

God desires for us to be saved from the consequences of sin (eternal death-Romans 6:23).

Hell is beyond our worst imagining; for it is the very absence of God’s Presence (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). 

In order to make it possible for us to be forgiven and to enter into that personal relationship with Him, God allowed His Son Jesus Christ to pay for the full penalty for our sins by dying in our place at the Cross of Calvary (1 Timothy 2:1-6). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites all men and women to come to Him to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  

Those who believe in HIs Word (Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17; John 8:24) are commanded to repent of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized in water (Acts 8:35-38) to have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38). God adds us to His church at this point (Acts 2:47), and we are to live faithfully to Him even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).

When we as Christians sin and fall away, God commands us to repent of sin and to return to Him (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  

If you need to obey the Lord, I plead with you to do so today.

No relationship can compare with a relationship with the Lord and His people.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

A Friendly Examination Of “The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints”

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

(Note: Since the publication of this article in the Hazard Herald, I have learned that archaeology supports the Book of Mormon in one regard: there is evidence to suggest that the Hebrews may be the progenitors of the Native Americans. I have adjusted the article below accordingly. It is important to realize, however, that this knowledge of the Native American ancestry was commonplace among Americans long before the times and influence of Joseph Smith, and does not therefore lend credibility to the claims of the Book of Mormon).  

Introduction  

 One of the great blessings of being a Gospel preacher is having the opportunity to meet lots of different people.

In my ministry, I have talked with and become acquainted with many different people, from many diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some of my most interesting and valued Bible studies have been with those members of a denomination that is known officially as “the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints,” or unofficially as “the Mormon church.”

I am aware that many of the adherents of this religion are offended by the term “Mormon,” believing that it was originally given to them out of derision. Therefore, out of respect, in this article I will refer to my “Latter-Day Saints” friends as “LDS.”

I respect my LDS friends; I admire their zeal and their devotion in trying to share the message they so strongly believe in, at least in a private capacity.

However, as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I firmly believe that their doctrines are not true; indeed, that the teachings of this denomination are of such a nature that they will lead a person to condemnation.  

 Recently, I contacted my LDS friends in this area, about the possibility of entering into a public debate regarding certain propositions. With one of our congregation’s elders, I met with two very nice and respectful young men about the specifics of this discussion. The Bible certainly commands and exhorts Christians to defend the Gospel both in private and in public (I Peter 3:15; Jude 3; Acts 17:17; 18:28; etc.). As my LDS friends quickly agreed, their own scriptures teach the same thing:

“Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.” (Doctrine And Covenants 71:7)  

 Sadly, however, the debate was cancelled by the LDS church in town. I was certainly sorry to hear about that, and am hopeful that the LDS church will agree to enter into such a dialogue with the church of Christ in the future.

After all, it only makes sense that if our LDS friends truly have the truth, they should be willing to proclaim and defend it. Why should anyone accept the teachings of the LDS church as true if they are not willing to believe and practice their own scriptures?

In this article, I am going to propose several reasons why they may not want to enter into such a public dialogue with the churches of Christ.

If they change their minds regarding such a public exchange the churches of Christ are certainly willing to meet them in a cordial and comprehensive investigation of the matters that separate us. Indeed, we are willing to engage in such a discussion in the newspaper and-perhaps-on the radio (assuming that the local paper and radio stations are amenable to such an arrangement).

Let me point out, before I go any further, that it is often claimed by our LDS friends that those who oppose the teachings of Joseph Smith are always quoting their church’s doctrines out of context.

As such, I challenge every reader of this article to carefully examine the source materials I am quoting from, to see that my points are not based on twisting of Latter-Day Saint doctrine and literature, but are based instead upon an honest investigation of what the LDS church documents actually claim. I have spent hours researching these matters, and encourage you to do the same!

A Brief Synopsis Of The Book Of Mormon  

 Many people do not know what the Book of Mormon is about. So, let me provide you a brief description from the Book of Mormon itself. In the Introduction to this document, we are told:

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other two came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians. The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and it tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come. After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language…Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”  

 This is a brief description of the Book of Mormon. The above statement is factually wrong on several points, but especially in its’ claims to being the “most correct” of any book on the Earth, and that a person would get nearer to God by its’ teachings than by any other book. I challenge that statement, and am willing to put the Bible up against the Book of Mormon. Many of the statements that our LDS friends make against the Bible are simply inaccurate, and a public debate would be one occasion where such could be made absolutely clear.  

 Could that be the reason why our LDS friends will not meet with the church of Christ in a candid discussion of these matters?  

Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know The Truth About The “Three Witnesses”

 Our LDS friends put a great deal of stock in the testimony of their three witnesses. These three men (Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery) were supposedly witnesses to the “gold plates” from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

In fact, if you open up the Book of Mormon, you will see the testimony “they” gave to the world, declaring their beliefs in the things they had “witnessed.” Someone says, “Well, Mark, isn’t that a pretty strong case?” It might be, except for several facts.  

 First of all, did these three men actually “witness” anything? I have before me a publication of the LDS church, known as the Dessert News, dated August 15th 1942. It took me quite some time to find this publication from a library in Salt Lake City, Utah. (I mention this to dispel the potential claims from my LDS friends that I am quoting from a non-LDS source.) Anyway, in the article, a man is interviewing Martin Harris. I quote from page 5 of this publication:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses-(Harris-Cowdery and Whitmer). I said to him,-“Martin did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up and said, “No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.”  

 Dear reader, what kind of witness is THAT?

Suppose a police officer investigating a murder begins to look for witnesses. A man approaches and begins telling him all kinds of details. The officer, writing all these things down, says, “So, you saw all of this happen with your own eyes?” Imagine the witness stopping, looking at the officer and stating, “No, I saw these things with a spiritual eye.” You know that that invalidates this kind of testimony!

Contrast that with the eyewitnesses of the Lord, who actually SAW Jesus, HEARD Jesus, TOUCHED Jesus, ATE with Jesus, etc. (Acts 10:39-43; II Peter 1:16). This right here is sufficient evidence to show us that the witnesses of the LDS church simply are not credible.  

 Second, did these three witnesses give their own testimony as to what they “witnessed?” No, they did not. Instead, there was a statement made, and they were to sign their names on it. Again friends, listen to what the LDS account says of this:

Doctrine And Covenants 5:26-And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.  

 So, Martin Harris and his other two friends did not truly give their own eyewitness account in the beginning of the Book of Mormon; instead, something was written down and they signed their names to it. Friends, do these sound like reliable witnesses thus far?  

 Consider thirdly, however, the fact that all three of these witnesses eventually left the LDS church.

While it is claimed that two of the three eventually were restored back to their relationship with the LDS church (and the evidence on this is quite shaky), I have to also point out that all three of them are referred to in less than favorable ways by the scriptures of the LDS church.

For example, in Doctrine And Covenants 3:12, Martin Harris is called a “wicked man.”

It is also clear from Doctrine and Covenants 30:1-2 that David Whitmer had trouble with Joseph Smith. Much more could be said along these lines; but I believe this is sufficient to establish the point.  

 Fourth, according to our LDS friends, there were eight more witnesses to the gold plates.

However, this is in direct contradiction to what the LDS scriptures themselves proclaimed. Notice:

Doctrine And Covenants 5:13-14-I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are: and to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness-clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. And the testimony of three witnesses will I send forth of my word.  

 Notice that according to Joseph Smith, there were only to be three witnesses to the gold plates; indeed, Joseph Smith has God telling him that no one else in that generation would see them.

However, our LDS friends then claim that eight others saw the gold plates that Joseph Smith made reference to. Friends, do you see the contradictions here?  

 So, what it boils down to is this: the witnesses that our LDS friends rely on for the Book of Mormon did not actually witness anything with their natural senses; they did not give their own testimony as to what they “saw;” all three eventually left the LDS church (although our LDS friends claim that two of them were restored); Joseph Smith himself, along with the scriptures of the LDS church, shows many serious character flaws in these men that definitely reflects on their credibility; and the statement regarding these three witnesses and their unique role is clearly contradicted elsewhere in the teachings of the LDS church in regards to the testimony of the “eight witnesses.”  

 Could these be some of the reasons why our LDS friends do not wish to engage in public dialogue?  

Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know The Truth About How Archaeology Has Not Helped To Confirm The Claims Of The Book Of Mormon

 I often hear my LDS friends make the claim archaeology (the study of ancient civilizations) has time and time again proven the claims of the LDS church. I was curious about that, so I did some research. Writing an email to the Smithsonian Institute, I posed a simple question: Have any archaeological discoveries been made that confirm or deny the teachings of the Book of Mormon? Here is (part of) their response: 

The Smithsonian considers the Book of Mormon a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and has found no archaeological evidence to support its claims.

 Please notice, my friends, that archaeological discoveries have not furthered the claims of the LDS church. While archaeology suggests that the Native Americans may be the descendants of the Hebrews, the overall claims of Mormonism have been proven false. Other archaeologists have testified similarly. Now, contrast this with some of the archaeological evidences which help form the foundation for the credibility of the Bible. Notice the testimony of two well-known archaeologists regarding these matters (both quoted in The Evidence Bible, complied by Ray Comfort, page 1237; Gainesville, Florida; Thomas Nelson Publishers):

It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. (Dr. Nelson Glueck)  
Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts…Yet archaeological discoveries have shown that these critical charges…are wrong and that the Bible is trustworthy in the very statements which have been set aside as untrustworthy…We do not know of any cases where the Bible has been proved wrong. (Dr. Joseph Free)  
 Could THIS be the reason the LDS is not willing to enter into a public debate?

Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know That Joseph Smith Made Many False Prophecies In His Lifetime

 Joseph Smith made many false prophecies in his lifetime. I do not have time and space just here to chronicle extensive examples, but I give this sampling of evidence.

In the LDS book, History Of The Church, Volume 2, page 182, we are told:

President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision FN.3 and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion–our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; FN.4 and it was the will of God that those who went to zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh–even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.

 Joseph Smith made this prophecy in the year 1835. So, according to Smith, Christ was to return “fifty-six years” from that time, which would have been in the year 1891.
However, Christ did not come back in the year 1891!

Many more examples could be given of the false prophecies of Joseph Smith, but this should be sufficient to show us that the LDS church is built upon a false foundation.

I have shown this “prophecy” to many of my LDS friends, and encouraged them to go and research it. Not one has told me that I have misrepresented what Smith said. Friends, the evidence is clear!  

Could this be part of the reason why they will not enter into public debate with the church of Christ?  
Conclusion  

 Friends, much more could be said regarding these matters. I hope that you see the teachings of the LDS church are not in harmony with the Bible, and I also hope you realize that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is the Word of God. Build your life on this great book! Accept Jesus Christ by yielding to His plan of salvation.

Having faith in His atoning death, burial, and resurrection three days later (I Corinthians 15:1-8), repent of your sins and be baptized into Him, so your sins can be forgiven and you can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).

Then, live faithful to Jesus, even till the time of His Second Coming, that you may receive the great reward of Heaven itself (Revelation 2:10).  

 To all of our LDS friends: please know that I, and the churches of Christ, love you very much. We would not be speaking these things if we did not. If you wish to engage in a personal Bible study of these (or other matters), please call upon us. Or, if you have changed your mind and would be willing to enter into a public discussion of previously arranged and agreed upon debate propositions-whether at our respective church buildings or via the radio or newspaper (again, assuming that there are no objections to this course of action from the local radio stations and newspaper)-then the churches of Christ are more than willing to explore that possibility.