The Judgment Of God Upon Nations Of Man And Heavenly Signs

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Throughout time, God has often forecast His punishments upon sinful nations of humanity through heavenly signs and portents. Throughout Hs inspired Word, the Lord has demonstrated this time after time.  

Sometimes “Heavenly Signs” Can Be A Reference To Literal Phenomenon In The Heavens

When the Jews killed the Messiah of God, the Lord rejected them from being His covenant people (Romans 11:18-25). It was at the time of Jesus’ death on Calvary that God foretold in a heavenly omen the calamity which would fall upon the city of Jerusalem. The Prophet Amos declared:

Amos 8:9-10-9  “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10  I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day.

When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary this Prophecy was fulfilled: 

Matthew 27:45-Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

Amazingly, many ancient historians confirm this darkness which took place when the Lord died.  

“Several interesting reports in extrabiblical literature suggest that the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion was worldwide. The early church Father Origen (Against Celsus, 2.33) reported a statement by a Roman historian who mentioned such a darkness. Another church Father, Tertullian, wrote to some pagan acquaintances about an unusual darkness on that day, “which wonder is related in your own annals and preserved in your own archives to this day.” There was also a supposed report from Pilate to Emperor Tiberius that assumed the emperor’s knowledge of a certain widespread darkness, even mentioning that it was from twelve to three in the afternoon.” (John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 48425-48434 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press) 

The Mayans and the Aztec civilizations also contain written references to the terrible darkness and horrible earthquakes which transpired when Christ died on the Cross. Don Mariano Fernandez de Echevarria y Veytia wrote a two volume work entitled Historia Antigua de Mexico. He chronicles:

“These natives indicate another singular event in their histories with great exactness, which later served them as a fixed era for their chronological calculations. They say that 166 years after the correction of their calendar, at the beginning of the year that was indicated with the hieroglyph of the House in the number ten, being a full moon, the sun was eclipsed at midday, the solar body being totally covered, such that the earth became darkened so much that the stars appeared and it seemed like night, and at the same time an earthquake was felt as horrible as they had ever experienced, because the stones crashing against one another were broken into pieces, and the earth opened up in many parts…Following these calculations, and adjusted to the comparison of the tables, this event should be placed in the year 4066 of the world, which was indicated with this character as can be seen in the tables, and precisely 166 after the adjustment of the calendar; and because of the circumstances surrounding this eclipse and earthquake, it was impossible for it to be any other than that which was observed at the death of Jesus Christ our Lord, having suffered it in the thirty-third year of his age, and so it seems that the incarnation of the Word should be placed in the year 4034 of the world, which the Indians indicated with the same hieroglyph of the House in the number 4, and I have noted it that way in the tables, and with this calculation following the chronological order they observed, counting the years from one memorable event to another with the assignment of the hieroglyph of the year in which they fell, I have been able to coordinate it perfectly with our years in the year 1519, in which Cortez landed at Veracruz, as will be seen in the discourse of this history. ( Donald W. Hemingway and W. David Hemingway, The Bearded White God Of Ancient America: The Legend Of Quetzalcoatl, 50-51; Cedar Fort, Inc)

The Lord Jesus Himself, before His crucifixion, warned the Jewish believers of His day that great signs in the heavens would herald the destruction of their city: 

Matthew 24:29-Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Mark 13:24-25-24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Luke 21:25-And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

Interestingly, all of these signs that Jesus prophesied would take place upon “this generation” (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32).

Sometimes people argue that Jesus simply meant that the phrase “this generation” would have reference to “that generation,” i.e., the generation which would be alive when the Lord came.

However, a thorough study of the phrase “this generation” as used in the Gospels will reveal that the phrase always had reference to the generation of people then living, i.e., within the first century A.D. (Cf. Matthew 11:16; 12:41-42; 23:36; 24:34; Mark 8:12; 13:30; Luke 7:31; 11:29-32, 49-51; 17:25; 21:32).

More to the point, if Jesus had wanted to signify another generation then the one He was referring to (i.e., His own generation), there was a specific Greek phrase He could have used instead which would communicated that idea clearly: 

““Third, the adjective this points to the contemporary nature of the generation Jesus was referencing (cf. Matt. 11:23; 27:8; 28:15). If some future generation had been in view, Jesus could have chosen the adjective that (cf. 7:22; 10:19; 24:10, 36; 26:29). The passage would then read this way: “That generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” A study of the way Matthew uses the adjective “this” will show that Jesus had the generation to whom He was speaking in mind when He described its soon destruction: “Give us this day our daily bread” (6:11). “And this news went out into all the land” (9:26). “But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next” (10:23). “This is the one about whom it was written” (11:10). “This man casts out demons only be Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (12:24). “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come” (12:32).” (Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession Of The Modern Church, 101-102 (IBooks Edition); Powder Springs, GA; American Vision)

“Had Jesus meant a future generation He would have had to use a different demonstrative pronoun. Just as we have the term “this” for something close at hand, and “that” for something at a distance, so did the Greeks. Jesus said, “This [Greek haute ] generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” For Him to have meant a future generation, He would have had to have used ekeine which has the significance of “that.” Thus the “time- text” stands. The things mentioned prior to our “time- text” had to be fulfilled while the generation living at the time Jesus spoke these words still possessed physical life here on this earth.” (Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes Again, 5139–5372 (Kindle Edition); Prestonsburg, KY; Reformation Publishers)

The Jewish historian, Josephus, writes about the strange heavenly “signs” that took place before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem:

“(3). Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comment, that continued a whole year. (4). Thus also, before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when teh peole were come in great crows to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, (Nisan) and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day-time; which light lasted for half an hour. (5). This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those vents that followed immediately upon it…Besides these, a few days after that feast on the one-and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius (Jyar), a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those who saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding cities.” (Josephus, Wars, 6.289-300 (6:5:3)

Sometimes “Heavenly Signs” Can Be A Figurative Reference To The Downfall Of Rulers And Nations 

While the imagery of heavenly signs could at times have reference to literally phenomena which would occur, sometimes there was a figurative application of such language as well.  

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s Prophets sometimes referred to prominent leaders and rulers as “stars” and couched the destruction of wicked nations in the terminology of galactic doom. In these cases, the references were not understood literally but figuratively and poetically, as expressing great sorrow and destruction upon nations.  

In this connection, notice how the patriarchs of the tribe of Judah are described:

Genesis 37:9-Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
Here, Jacob’s family is personified as the sun, moon, and stars.  

Consider again how the kings of the Canaanites are described: 

Judges 5:19-20-19 “The kings came and fought, Then the kings of Canaan fought In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; They took no spoils of silver. 20 They fought from the heavens; The stars from their courses fought against Sisera.

When describing the destruction of the city of Jerusalem that occurred in 586 B.C., the Prophet Jeremiah writes:

Jeremiah 4:23-28-23 I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken down At the presence of the LORD, By His fierce anger. 27 For thus says the LORD: “The whole land shall be desolate; Yet I will not make a full end. 28 For this shall the earth mourn, And the heavens above be black, Because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, Nor will I turn back from it. 29 The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen. They shall go into thickets and climb up on the rocks. Every city shall be forsaken, And not a man shall dwell in it.

In this passage, Jeremiah is specifically describing the siege of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 4:7). Please observe how the destruction of a city is couched in poetic expressions of universal gloom and calamity.  

Isaiah the Prophet uses the same imagery in describing the downfall of the nation of Babylon. He writes: 

Isaiah 13:9-10-9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

To make it clear that the Lord was describing the downfall of Babylon in this passage, we are again told:

Isaiah 13:17-19-17 “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it. 18 Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, And they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; Their eye will not spare children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

Carefully consider that these events were all fulfilled long before the time of Christ, and that the apocalyptic language used here was describing the downfall of a specific nation. The imagery of stars falling, the sun not giving light, etc. was not literal: instead, it was poetically used to illustrate the downfall of specific nations in the world.  

Later, in describing the downfall of the nation of Edom, we find similar language used:

Isaiah 34:2-5-2 For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, And His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. 3 Also their slain shall be thrown out; Their stench shall rise from their corpses, And the mountains shall be melted with their blood. 4 All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. 5 “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.

The Prophet Ezekiel describes the destruction of Egypt by the nation of Babylon, under the king Nebuchadnezzar. In his account, he uses similar language to that of Isaiah:

Ezekiel 30:10-12-10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease By the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 11 He and his people with him, the most terrible of the nations, Shall be brought to destroy the land; They shall draw their swords against Egypt, And fill the land with the slain. 12 I will make the rivers dry, And sell the land into the hand of the wicked; I will make the land waste, and all that is in it, By the hand of aliens. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Ezekiel 32:7-11-7 When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,’ Says the Lord GOD. 9 ‘I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries which you have not known. 10 Yes, I will make many peoples astonished at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them; and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of your fall.’ 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you.

Even David, when he was delivered from the hand of king Saul, used similar language to that of the Prophets in describing the immense events of that time:

Psalm 18:6-15-6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears. 7 Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. 8 Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. 10 And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. 12 From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. 14 He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. 15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

Some General Observations 

From the foregoing study, we can draw some general conclusions.  

First, throughout the Bible, there were times when God forecast His judgments upon the nations of wicked men with literal signs in the Heavens that took place. The judgments that these signs forecast could take many forms, including (but not limited to) profound darkness, eclipses, strange visions in the skies, and differing weather conditions. While the signs themselves could be used to forecast Divine judgment, this was not always their function.  

Second, often in Scripture, heavenly signs are used in a figurative sense to describe the rise and fall of political leaders and powerful nations.  

Third, it needs to be pointed out even more emphatically that while the Bible teaches that God sometimes provides heavenly signs of the downfall of wicked and corrupt nations, there are no signs given of the end of the world itself.

This important contrast is made especially clear in the 24th chapter of Matthew. There, several signs are provided for the disciples to beware of regarding the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The disciples were able to recognize these signs, and therefore were able to flee from the city before its destruction. However, of the end of the world (age), there would be no signs would be given to forecast this day is judgement.  

Matthew 24:36-But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Matthew 24:42-Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

Matthew 24:44-Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 25:13-Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Friends, Christ come come back at any time. On that day, each person will be judged:

Revelation 20:11-15-11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

The only hope you have of being saved is to obey the plan of the Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for you, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Why not today repent of your sins as a believer in Jesus Christ and be baptized into Him to be saved? 

Romans 6:3-4-3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

If you are a child of God who has been unfaithful to Him, won’t you please come back to Him in repentance and prayer?  

Revelation 3:20-Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

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 Redeemer Of Job: Part One-The Identity Of The Redeemer

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Quotation For Contemplation 

“The most significant question, however, is the third one: what kind of Savior do we need? Or to put it another way, what kind of man does the universe need? The more I have bashed my head against the text of Job year after year, the more deeply convinced I have become that the book ultimately makes no sense without the obedience of Jesus Christ, his obedience to death on a cross. Job is not everyman; he is not even every believer. There is something desperately extreme about Job. He foreshadows one man whose greatness exceeded even Job’s, whose sufferings took him deeper than Job, and whose perfect obedience to his Father was only anticipated in faint outline by Job. The universe needed one man who would lovingly and perfectly obey his heavenly Father in the entirety of his life and death, by whose obedience the many would be made righteous (Romans 5:19).” (Christopher Ash (Edited by Kent Hughes), Preaching The Word: Job, 21 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway)

One of the most powerful Messianic passages in the Book of Job is found in chapter nineteen. There, Job exclaims: 

Job 19:25-27-25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,

27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Identifying The Redeemer 

What exactly does the word “redeemer” mean?

“It is interesting that the writer uses the word redeemer rather than deliverer or savior….Yet a redeemer is someone who pays a price in your behalf. The word in Hebrew is go’al which is an avenger, one who pays a ransom, to redeem one from slavery. It is used for a kinsman redeemer who was to marry his brother’s widow to bring forth a child for him….It is saying that Job knew he had a redeemer and from the context he was not looking to any normal human being to be his redeemer. He was looking for a redeemer from his sins and that fits only one person in the human form and that would be the Messiah, who I believe is Jesus. He knew it; he was intimate in that knowledge that one day a redeemer would come who would pay the price for his sins and that he was not suffering now because of some sin that his buddies were trying to lay upon him. He could not explain the reason for his suffering, but he knew one thing. It was not because of any sin he committed, for there would be a redeemer who would one day ransom him from that sin.” (Chaim Bentorah, Hebrew Word Study: Ancient Biblical Words Put Into A Modern Context With The Help Of The People Who Ride My Bus, 10-11 (Kindle Edition); Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Hartline Literary Agency)

We see here that the Redeemer is One Who pays a price. In the context of this passage, we see that the Redeemer of Job must be God-for only God can pay the price for Job’s suffering!  

Yet, Job describes God as the One Who still “stand at last on the earth.” However, Job knows (as do his friends) that God is Spirit. We read for example: 

Job 26:13-By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

Job 33:4-The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

By these statements, it is clear that the patriarchs understood God to be Spirit, not flesh (cf. Luke 24:39).

How then could God stand upon the earth? After all, it is generally understood that a spirit does not have flesh and blood. As Jesus points out:

Luke 24:39-Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

It seems that Job is identifying his Redeemer as God, yet as separate from God.

Apart from an understanding of the Bible doctrine of the Trinity, this would make no sense.

Indeed, there are indications from the Old Testament that the saints had some understanding of the Bible teaching of the Godhead.  

The Angel Of The Lord 

One of the most powerful indicators that the people of God understood that there is a plurality within the Godhead is seen from the teachings of the Old Testament Scriptures regarding THE ANGEL OF THE LORD.

Carefully consider the following passages of Scripture: Genesis 16:7-13; 31:11-13; 32:24-30 with Hosea 12:3-4; Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 3:1-6; 13:2-22 with 14:19; 23:20 with 33:14; Joshua 5:13-15 with Revelation 19:10; Judges 6:11-13; 13:3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17-18, 21-23.

Speaking of the identity of The Angel Of The Lord, Edward Myers points out:

“The angel of the Lord is identified with God himself, so he must be a manifestation of God and not just a created angel. There are several reasons why we believe this to be the correct understanding. First, the grammatical construction of the expression “the angel of the Lord” has special significance. From Weingreen’s Grammar of Hebrew Language we learn that a noun in the construct state never takes an article. So, “Malach Elohim,” or “angel of the Lord,” without the article, would mean “an” angel of the Lord. However, the scriptural references to the angel of the Lord read “Malach Ha Elohim,” which means “the” angel of the Lord. Therefore, the reference is to one specific angel. Second, the people to whom the angel of the Lord appears acknowledge him as the Lord….Third, the angel of the Lord accepts sacrifices and worship offered to him….Created angels do not accept worship….The writers of the Old Testament identify the angel of the Lord with God, as we have seen in Judges 6: 12-16; Exodus 14: 19, 13: 21. So our first conclusion is that the angel of the Lord is identified with God Himself….Not only is there identification with God, there is differentiation from God. That would mean that the angel of the Lord is distinguished from the Lord….The angel of the Lord was a manifestation of the eternally preexistent Logos, who was with God from the beginning, who was God, and who was later made flesh….He must have been deity. Since he is identified with the Lord and yet differentiated from the Lord, our conclusion is that he is the pre-incarnate Logos.” (Edward P. Myers, A Study Of Angels, 71-76 (Kindle Edition); New York; Howard Books) 

Michael Heiser has well written of the Old Testament whispers of a Godhead: 

“The fact that the Old Testament at times has Yahweh appearing in visible form should now be on your radar. We’re going to see a lot more of him (pun intended). One of my favorite passages that features Yahweh made visible is 1 Samuel 3 , the story of the young soon-to-be prophet, Samuel….I was amazed the first time I saw this passage for what it was really saying. Yahweh “appeared” to Samuel with regularity in verse 21 . The first verse of the chapter makes a clear association between the Word of the Lord and a visionary experience—not a mere auditory event. The idea of the visible Word—the visible Yahweh—in human form is nailed down by the “standing” language. Some passages go beyond presenting Yahweh in visible, human form. Genesis 18 is perhaps the most startling example where Yahweh is not only visible, but embodied….One final example from the Old Testament of an embodied Yahweh who is the “Word” is far less known, but no less dramatic. In Jeremiah 1 the prophet is called to service. He writes that “The word of Yahweh” came to him and said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you came out from the womb I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah identifies this Word as Yahweh himself when he replies, “Ah, Lord Yahweh! I do not know how to speak, for I am a youth” (v. 6 ). Yahweh—the Word—tells him to not be afraid, and then something shocking happens. Jeremiah writes in verse 9 that Yahweh, the Word, “stretched out his hand and he touched my mouth.” Sounds don’t reach out and touch people. This is the language of a physical, embodied presence….What we’ve begun to uncover in this chapter are whispers of the idea of a Godhead—in the Old Testament, the Bible of Judaism. Those whispers will get much louder as we continue….The startling reality is that long before Jesus and the New Testament, careful readers of the Old Testament would not have been troubled by the notion of, essentially, two Yahwehs—one invisible and in heaven, the other manifest on earth in a variety of visible forms, including that of a man. In some instances the two Yahweh figures are found together in the same scene . In this and the chapter that follows, we’ll see that the “Word” was just one expression of a visible Yahweh in human form. 1 The concept of a Godhead in the Old Testament has many facets and layers….The first thing to notice is that when the angel of Yahweh speaks to Abraham, Abraham recognizes the voice. He does not ask the identity of the speaker, as though the voice is unfamiliar. He does not fear that he is harkening to the voice of another god. The reader, however, knows that the source is not Yahweh per se, but the angel of Yahweh. The word translated “angel” here is the Hebrew word mal’ak , which simply means “messenger.” The next observation is very important. The Angel speaks to Abraham in verse 11 , and so is distinguished from God. But immediately after doing so, he commends Abraham for not withholding Isaac “from me .” There is a switch to the first person which, given that God himself had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac ( Gen 22:1–2 ), seems to require seeing Yahweh as the speaker….Genesis 26:1–5 marks Yahweh’s first visible appearance to Isaac (“And Isaac went … to Gerar … and Yahweh appeared to him”)….In verse 15 Yahweh promises protection for Jacob and pledges to bring the man back to this location, the land promised to Abraham. Jacob names the place Bethel, “house of God” (v. 19 ), and erects a pillar to commemorate his conversation with Yahweh (vv. 18–19 ). Jacob saw the visible Yahweh at Bethel. Given what we’ve already seen in Genesis, this isn’t unusual….Genesis 32:28–29 makes it apparent that the “man” with whom Jacob wrestled was a divine being. The mysterious combatant himself says “you have striven with elohim ,” a term we know can be translated either “God” or “a god.” The narrative nowhere says Jacob’s encounter was only a vision. This elohim is tangible and corporeal. Hosea 12:3–4 confirms the divine identity of Jacob’s opponent—but then adds two surprising details. 5 Note the way Hosea uses parallelism to express the thought: 3 In the womb he [Jacob] deceived his brother, and in his manhood he struggled [Hebrew, sarah ] with God [ elohim ]. 4 He struggled [Hebrew, yasar ] with the angel and prevailed: he pleaded for his mercy. He met him at Bethel, and there he spoke with him. 6 Not only does Hosea describe Jacob’s elohim opponent as an angel, but the last line of this quotation identifies this angel with Bethel ….We’ve seen this “confusion” of God with an angel before. It is deliberate. The point is not that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is a mere angel. The reverse is the case. This angel is Yahweh . We have one more passage to consider. The way it fuses Yahweh and the angel is nothing short of amazing. Genesis 48 records Jacob’s deathbed words of blessing to Joseph’s children. The passage references the God who had appeared to him at Bethel, who, readers know from Genesis 31:13 , is called an angel. It’s all set up for the thunderbolt in the section in bold below (vv. 15–16 )…The parallel position of elohim and mal’ak (“angel”) is unmistakable. Since the Bible very clearly teaches that God is eternal and existed before all things, and that angels are created beings, the point of this explicit parallel is not to say that God is an angel. On the other hand, it affirms that this angel is God. 9 But the most striking feature is the verb (“may he bless”). In Hebrew, the verb “bless” in this passage is not grammatically plural , which would indicate two different persons are being asked to bless the boys. Rather, it is singular , thereby telegraphing a tight fusion of the two divine beings on the part of the author. In other words, the writer had a clear opportunity to distinguish the God of Israel from the angel, but instead merges their identities….When the biblical text does this, it pushes us to wonder whether there are two Yahwehs, one invisible in heaven and one visible on earth. We’ll see next that this is precisely the point. The God of Israel is God, but in more than one person.” (Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible, 2403-2617 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press) 

Other passages in the Old Testament also provide hints of plurality within the Godhead: 

Psalm 45:6-7-6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions. 

Psalm 110:1-A Psalm of David. The LORD said to my Lord,”Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

Isaiah 48:16-Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”

The Redeemer Who Lives

Notice that Job describes this Redeemer as the One Who “lives.” One of the characteristics of the God described in Scripture is His everlasting and eternal Nature. He is the “I AM (Exodus 3:14). He is the God Who always has lived, is living, and Who always will live. He is from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). Death can have no part of God; for He is the very Essence of life (John 1:1-5).  

The Redeemer Who Would Pay The Price 

Job did not understand why he was suffering, as he made clear throughout his Book. However, he had faith that one day, his Redeemer would pay the price for him and help him to understand the answers to the questions that he had. He did not understand the WHY at the time, but he knew (and further learned) that he could trust in God to help him understand and to take care of him.  

In this, we see another powerful lesson from the Book of God for us when we are suffering: we can trust in God to take care of us when we don’t understand the “why” in our struggles. As Paul wrote:

2 Timothy 1:12-For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

God promised Ezekiel the Prophet that one day, he would understand why God had brought such terrible punishments upon the people of Israel:

Ezekiel 14:23 (ERV)-You will see how they live and all the bad things they do. Then you will know that I had a good reason for punishing them.” This is what the Lord GOD said.

Let us, like Job, trust in our Redeemer. He came and paid the price for our sins to redeem us (2 Timothy 2:24-26). He was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Shouldn’t we respond to His Gospel today?  

To non-Christian believers, God’s Word declares: 

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

To Christians who have turned from the Lord, we are told:

1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Study Questions 

What are two Old Testament passages which clearly reference the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? _____________________________________________

List some passages which identify The Angel Of The Lord with God. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Regular angels of God do not accept __________________, but The ____________ ____ ______ _______________ does.  

What doesn’t a spirit have? ____________________________________

What is the meaning of the Hebrew word GO’AL? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer Partners: 

In what ways is Boaz an example of a redeemer? Discuss in particular the tragic situation of Ruth, and how Boaz “redeemer.

Interesting Facts From The Temple Of Serapis

 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

In the writings of Socrates, there is found a very interesting passage about the temple of Serapis.  

We read: 

“When the Temple of Serapis was torn down and laid bare, there were found in it, engraven on stones, certain characters which they call hieroglyphics, having the forms of crosses. Both the Christians and pagans on seeing them, appropriated and applied them to their respective religions: for the Christians who affirm that the cross is the sign of Christ’s saving passion, claimed this character as peculiarly theirs; but the pagans alleged that it might appertain to Christ and Serapis in common; for,’ said they, it symbolizes one thing to Christians and another to heathens.’ Whilst this point was controverted amongst them, some of the heathen converts to Christianity, who were conversant with these hieroglyphic characters, interpreted the form of a cross and said that it signifies Life to come.’ This the Christians exultingly laid hold of, as decidedly favorable to their religion. But after other hieroglyphics had been deciphered containing a prediction that When the cross should appear,’—for this was life to come,’—the Temple of Serapis would be destroyed,’ a very great number of the pagans embraced Christianity, and confessing their sins, were baptized. Such are the reports I have heard respecting the discovery of this symbol in form of a cross.” (AETERNA PRESS, The Ecclesiastical History Of Socrates, Scholasticus, 4156-4165 (Kindle Edition)) 

Several things about this predictions rom Serapis stand out and are worthy of our consideration.  

First, let’s look at the identity of this person “Serapis.” Who exactly was he?

One of the ancient church fathers, Melito, has given us a clue to the identity of Serapis when he writes: 

“The Egyptians worshipped Joseph the Hebrew, who was called Serapis, because he supplied them with corn during the years of famine. (Melito (c. 170, E), 8.752) 

One of the names of Joseph, therefore, was Serapis. This is corroborated, in fact, by several other “church fathers.”

Ken Johnson provides an excellent summary of how the Egyptians understood Serapis: 

“Who was Serapis and how was he able to accurately prophesy? The ancient church fathers relate that Serapis was one of the Egyptian names given to Joseph, son of Jacob. Joseph knew that in time the Egyptians would worship him as they did most of the ancestral kings. So he built a library to house the oracles of the one true God of the Hebrews, and carved the prophecy into the stone walls of the library. In time it was perverted into a pagan temple, and Sarapis became synonymous with the god O s iris. When worshiped under the figure of a bull , he is called Apis.” (Ken Johnson, Th.D., Ancient Prophecies Revealed: 500 Prophecies Listed In Order Of When They Were Fulfilled, 76 (Kindle Edition); BibleFacts.org) 

Second, this identification of Serapis with Joseph helps us to understand the powerful prophecy that was here manifest. Joseph was a Prophet of God through whom the Lord revealed the future. For example, we are told:

Genesis 41:25-Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do:

Joseph made it clear that his knowledge of the future and of interpreting dreams came from the Almighty, and not from Joseph himself:

Genesis 41:16-So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

Jospeh, the Prophet of God, was able to see into the future. This ability was given to the Prophets as an evidence to the people that they were truly serving the one true God:

Isaiah 41:21-24-21 “Present your case,” says the LORD. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob. 22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. 23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together. 24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.  

Amos 3:7-Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

The pagans often had knowledge of the Gospel of Christ (as reflected in their writings) because they incorporated the prophecies from the Hebrews.  

“The influence of ancient Judaism is evident throughout different cultures.85 Monotheism and the prophecies of a Savior, born of a virgin, sacrificed for sins, and resurrected can be found throughout the Old Testament documents. The first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, was recorded approximately 1446 BC (oral tradition likely preserving it for countless years prior to that date), and the entire Old Testament was translated into Greek around 250 BC, making it available in the common language of the Hellenistic empire that extended to the ends of the known world. Since the Old Testament prophesied of the virgin-born Messiah, it is not surprising that the story spread before Christ’s first advent. An Egyptian papyrus dated to 340 BC reveals, “Who is the author of Re-birth? The Son of God, the One Man, by God’s Will.”86 And from another source, dated to approximately the same time, “The Lord and maker of all . . . from himself made the second God, the Visible . . . whom he loved as his Son.” Although not in agreement with Christian doctrine as to the nature of the Son, these two writings predate Christianity and point to what can be considered a common knowledge. Old Testament history (both oral and written) provides a basis for the existence of mutual knowledge, since the cultural and religious practices of neighboring and distant nations is referenced several times by different authors. In light of these historical facts, the Savior myth can be seen as a common belief emerging from the similar nature of human beings, a diffusion of knowledge from a central base—the Middle East, and the direct result of the distortion of biblical prophecy. Common knowledge produced generally similar stories whose details were invariably different.” (Walter Martin, Jill Martin, Rische Kurt, Van Gorden, The Kingdom Of The Occult, 112-113 (Kindle Edition); Nashville,, Tn; Thomas Nelson)  

Third, this information about the temple of Serapis reveals to us the fact that Joseph had told the people long before the time of Christ about the religion that the Creator world bring to the world which would herald salvation. What would be the sign of this new religion?

The cross!  

It is important for us to realize that numerous events in the Bible pointed to what Jesus would accomplish at Calvary. It is no wonder that Paul reminds us:

1 Corinthians 1:18-For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

When Jesus died for the sins of mankind on the cross of Calvary, He was paving the way for us to be saved and redeemed.  

Colossians 1:20-and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

The Gospel (Good News) is primarily about the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). What incredibly good news this is for those who are being saved!  

Finally, please notice that the pagans responded in precisely the correct way to this knowledge. Having heard the Word of God, they as believers repented and were baptized into Christ. In Scripture, we are told:

Acts 2:41-Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 8:12-13-But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:38-So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Acts 9:18-Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

Acts 10:47-48-47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Acts 16:14-15-14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.  

Acts 16:33-And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Acts 18:8-Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

Acts 19:5-When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

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

Why not follow their example and turn your life to the Lord friends?  

Or if you are a child of God who has turned away from the Lord, why not repent today and confess your sins to the Lord in prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?  

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

What Are The Facts About 1 John 5:7?

 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Near the end of the Apostle John’s First Epistle, he makes a powerful statement about the Godhead: 

1 John 5:7-For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.  

What is tragic is that many versions of the Bible completely omit this passage of Scripture. Those Bible translations today which retain this passage (such as the New King James Version) usually have a footnote which says this verse was based on only a few very late manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. 

Well, what are the facts of this passage of Scripture? Please notice the following: 

“Only 300 of the 5, 300 plus manuscripts have 1 John. Of these 300 , only ten Greek manuscripts ranging from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth century, contain the Johannine Comma ; Manuscripts 61, 629, 918, 2318 , 2473, 88, 177, 221, 429, 636 . Ni n e Latin manuscripts , ranging from the 10th to 16th centuries include the Comma. These facts are used by some scholars to teach that the Comma was never in the original text of 1 John…..First John 5: 9 10 refer to the event recorded in Matthew 17:5 where God the Father spoke out of heaven and testified that Jesus was His Son. If we leave the Comma in , we have the witness of the Trinity and the witness of man in verses 7- 8 . Verse 9 contrasts the witness of men, describe in verses 6 and 8 with the witness of God in verse 7 and 10- 11 . If we leave out the Comma , we have verses 10- 11 referring back to a non- existent clause…Several ancient church fathers quote or allude to this passage. Cyprian says: The Lord says, ‘ I and the Father are one; ’ [ John 10:30 ] and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy S pirit, ‘a nd these three are one ’ [1 John 5:7- 8]. Cyprian, Unity of the Church 6 , AD 250…Jerome commented in his Latin Vulgate that the Greek church created a controversy when they decided to leave out the Johannine Comma . His Greek copies, now non- existent, contained the Johannine Comma and he refused to alter the Scriptures! The general epistles are not the same in the Greek Church a s they are for the Latin Church . .. The general epistles have been correctly understood and faithfully translated into Latin [from the Greek] in their entirety, without ambiguous or missing information; especially the verse about the unity of the Trinity found in 1 John . Unfaithful translators have created much controversy by omitting the phrase “ Father, Word, and Spirit , ” while leaving the phrase “water, blood and spirit , ” which only serves to strengthen our faith and show the Father , Son , and Holy Spirit are of the same substance. I do not fear those who call me a corrupter of Scriptures ; I refuse to deny the truth of Scripture to those who seek it. Jerome , Prologue to the Canonical Epistles , Codex Fuldensis , AD 541- 546…Tertullian stated that 1 John 5:7 is saying these three are one in substance, and this is what Jesus meant when He said that He and the Father are One in John 10:30. Jesus did not mean He was the Father. “‘These Three are one’ in essence, not one Person, as it is said, ‘I and M y Father are One,’ in respect of unity of substance , not singularity of number.” Tertullian Against Praxeas 25 , AD 200…We have 86,000 quotes of Scripture from the ancient church fathers (AD 32- 325). Here are just a few of the ones who either quoted , or alluded to , the Johannine Comma. 215, Tertullian, Against Praxeas 25 250 , Cyprian, Unity of the Church 6 250 , Cyprian, Epistle to Jubaianus 635, Athanasius, Books 1 & 10 , cited three times 380, Priscillian , Liber Apologeticus 385, Gregory of Nazianzus , Theological Orientations (Holy Spirit ) 390, Jerome, Prologue to the General Epistles 450, Author Unknown, De divinis Scripturis suie Spaculum 500, Jerome, Codex Freisingensis 527, Flugentius , De Trinitate.” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Word Of God: KJV Only Or Not? 112-117 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added M.T.))  

From this information, several conclusions may be drawn.  

First, from a contextual point of view, 1 John 5:6-9 implies the need for verse 7. Without verse 7, there is an obvious “vacuum” in the text.  

Second, the textual evidence for 1 John 5:7 is actually very strong. Not only is this verse found in several of the Greek manuscripts, it is included in several of the early versions of the New Testament and it is quoted by several of the early “church fathers.” With that in mind, it seems that there is good reason to include the Comma in the text of the Scripture.  

Third, it is interesting that Jerome points out that his manuscript copies of the Greek New Testament contained the Comma, and that it is inserted into every one of the Latin Vulgate manuscripts which contain 1 John.  

Fourth, it is possible that there were some in the early church who attempted to tamper with some of the manuscripts of the Bible, just as Jehoiakim tried to cut up and burn the scroll of the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36). Nevertheless, just as in the case mentioned above, the Word of God stands true. As God promised, He has preserved His Word (Psalm 12:6-7)!  

Fifth, it is important to realize that the truths taught in 1 John 5:7 are amply taught elsewhere in the Scripture. For example, the Old Testament makes several references to the Godhead (Genesis 1:26-27; Isaiah 6:8; 48:16; Psalm 45:6, etc.) as does the New Testament (John 1:1-5; 10:30; 20:28; Acts 5:1-3; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Corinthians 13:14, etc.). As such, I would not encourage a person to totally dismiss a Bible translation based on that translation’s treatment of this one verse. Instead, I would encourage a balanced view of regarding some translations as stronger and some as weaker.

It is important to remember that Jesus and His Apostles often quoted from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament and called it the Word of God, despite its’ obvious weaknesses.  

The entire Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) has made a tremendous sacrifice to save you from sin (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

Will you not today turn to the Son of God Who loved you, died for your sin, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)?

Will you not as a believer repent of your sin and be baptized by the authority of Christ for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:36-38)?

If you are an erring Christian, I plead with you today to be restored back to your relationship with Christ (Galatians 6:1-2) by repenting and praying (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  

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 And The Afterlife: The Descent Of Christ Into Hades #1 Ephesians 4:8-10 (Part One)

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Quotation For Contemplation 

“The most significant interpretational difficulty in this verse is in deciding what “the lower parts of the earth” refers to. The view of the early church fathers and the consensus view through the centuries has been that it refers to a descent of Christ to the underworld (or, Hades). Although a difficult issue, this view appears to have the greatest amount of evidence to support it.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Introduction 

In our studies of Job, we have learned a great deal about the subject of Hades. A brief summary will be helpful: 

The realm of departed spirits in the Old Testament was referred to as Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek).  

Sheol was a place of consciousness, memory, and various sensations.  

Sheol was divided into (at least) two sections.  

For The Saved: Sheol was a lush garden in which God’s people were reunited after death, and in which they enjoyed sweet fellowship and looked forward to being ransomed from this realm at the end of time by the Messiah.  

For The Unsaved: Sheol was a terrible place of suffering, of which the unsaved experienced pain and sorrow. This sorrow and pain, however, was borne from God’s desire to bring the wicked to repentance.  

Sheol was the world for (most) deceased humans, (some) fallen angels, and (many) of the nephilim.  

It is also clear that not all of humanity went to this realm (at least, not immediately); and that, for reasons unbeknownst to us, some were allowed to leave that realm.  

With these thoughts in mind, we will now turn to one of the most mysterious teachings of the Bible regarding this world of the dead: the teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus descended into Hades.  

There are five primary texts which set forth this teaching (Psalm 68:18; Romans 10:6-7; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6). As we will notice, however, there are other texts in the Bible which touch upon this theme.  

In the following two lessons, we will carefully examine Paul’s statement to the church of Ephesus (4:8-10). A study of this passage will also lead to a detailed analysis of Psalm 68:18 and Romans 10:6-7. These lessons will take the form of several “Questions And Answers” from the text.  

Let’s begin with a study of several different translations of the passage.  

Ephesians 4:8-10 (NKJV)-8 Therefore He says: “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”

9 (Now this, “HE ASCENDED”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

Ephesians 4:8-10 (CEV)-8 As the Scriptures say, “When he went up to the highest place, he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people.”

9 When it says, “he went up,” it means that Christ had been deep in the earth.

10 This also means that the one who went deep into the earth is the same one who went into the highest heaven, so that he would fill the whole universe.

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Young’s Literal Translation)-8 wherefore, he saith, ‘Having gone up on high he led captive captivity, and gave gifts to men,’ —

9 and that, he went up, what is it except that he also went down first to the lower parts of the earth?

10 he who went down is the same also who went up far above all the heavens, that He may fill all things—

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Amplified)-8 Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of  N1 vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men. [Psa 68:18]

9 [But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended, mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?

10 He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).

Let’s turn to a detailed study of this passage in the form of a series of Questions And Answers.  

QUESTION ONE: What Is The Context Of Paul’s Statement Regarding Christ’s Descent? 

ANSWER: Paul is encouraging the Christians to pursue unity and to remember the spiritual gifts which they have been given.  

The Book of Ephesians was written by Paul with a very specific purpose and theme: to expound upon the church of Christ. The prevailing phrase throughout the Book is “in Christ,” which was a designation which had reference to the church. Paul is adamant that the purpose for Creation, and for redemption, is the establishment of the church (Ephesians 1:4-7; 9-11; 3:9-11). Indeed, this central theme of God in creating the church was to bridge all the divisions of the universe, including those of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-16). Furthermore, the work of the church somehow involves preaching to the principalities and powers (Ephesians 3:9-11), which was Paul’s phrase to have reference to the angels (both those which are faithful to God and those which are opposed to Him). Evidence of this is found in the fact that the phrases “principalities and powers” were well-known Jewish terms of Paul’s day and age. As Clinton Arnold has pointed out: 

“While all three texts refer to the angelic hierarchy surrounding God’s throne, the Jews believed the same hierarchy existed in the kingdom of evil. Furthermore, many of these terms were commonly used to refer to various ranks of human leaders in governmental positions of authority. The angelic kingdom was widely believed to be structured in an analogous way to earthly political kingdoms….While “principalities” (archai) and “authorities” (exousiai) seem to be uniquely Jewish expressions for the unseen realm, many of the other words he used were also used by Gentiles to refer to the world of spirits and invisible powers. Words like “powers” (dynameis), “dominions” (kyriotetes), “thrones” (thronoi), “angels” (angeloi), “world rulers” (kosmokratores), “demons” (daimonia), “elemental spirits” (stoicheia) and “rulers” (archontes) were known and used by pagans, as evidenced in their magical and astrological texts.”” (Clinton E. Arnold, The Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 90-91 (Kindle Edition); Downers’ Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

Speaking specifically of the role that God has assigned to the church as described in Ephesians 3:10 (either in the present age or the age to come) in regard to the principalities and powers, another author has written: 

“The church’s task is articulated here as preaching to the Powers. It is engaged in a kind of spiritual warfare, but it also has a mission that carries the truth of the gospel into the very heart of power and expects some result. Are we then to envisage the conversion of the Powers? What is the church to tell them? Where are “the heavenly places,” and how is the church to have access to Powers there? None of these questions is easily answered.” (Walter Wink, Naming The Powers: The Language Of Power In The New Testament, 1017 (Kindle Edition); Philadelphia, PA; Fortress Books) 

What has brought all of God’s plans for the church to fruition is what Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary. This was the essence of God’s preordained plan to bring all things together, whether in Heaven or on Earth (Ephesians 1:9-11). It is by the Word of the Gospel the Ephesians had been redeemed from sin (Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is by that same Gospel that Christ has ascended far above the highest heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10) and taken His rightful place as the Head of the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).  

These mysteries had been hidden from the world at large before Christ came; yet now, through His New Testament revelation (Ephesians 3:1-4), we can have access to that wondrous knowledge and revelation of God. Because of what God has kept hidden, and now revealed, the world (both the physical world and the spiritual world) can come to fathom and understand the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). It is for these incredible truths that Paul prays the Christians will continue to grow and abound in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:14-23; 3:14-21), and which leads him to exhort the disciples to walk worthy of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). God has equipped His church with everything it will need to carry out its’ purpose of fellowship and preparation for eternity and the sharing of the Gospel message with the lost (Ephesians 6:10-20).  

Describing the fact that God has provided His church with everything which they need, Paul points out that He has given “gifts” to His church: 

Ephesians 4:11-12-11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

It is in this context that Paul is going to explain where these gifts came from, and why they are so important to the theme of Christ’s victory at Calvary.  

QUESTION TWO: Why Does Paul Quote Psalm 68:18 In This Context?  

ANSWER: To draw upon a commonly understood Jewish tradition regarding a victorious king presenting gifts to his subjects from the enemies that he had conquered.  

The Apostle Paul is going to join together three important themes.  

First, he has been elaborating on the incredible things that Jesus has done in creating the church. It was in His atoning death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day, and His continual work in the lives of His people, that Jesus carried out this incredible mission (Ephesians 2:10; 5:22-31).  

Second, Paul is going to quote a passage from the Book of Psalms which prophesied the far-reaching implications of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. Let’s carefully study the passage, and see how it applies to Paul’s point: 

Psalm 68:18-You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.

The passage in Psalms has reference to an ancient custom among the Hebrews (and other nations). When a king went out to fight some horrific battle and was victorious, he would capture the enemy soldiers and parade them behind him. Having his soldiers “loot” the enemy, the king would then lead the train back to his homeland. There, his citizens would be gathered together and would welcome him with shouts of adoration and glory. The king would then take the gifts he had taken from his enemies and shower them upon his faithful subjects.  

“As Paul quotes the passage, there is one noteworthy divergence from the Hebrew and Septuagint texts. Where they read “Thou hast received gifts among men,” he quotes the form “He … gave gifts unto men.” This reading is also attested in Jewish antiquity; it found its way into the Syriac version of the Old Testament (the Peshitta) and into the Targum or Aramaic paraphrase of the Psalter. The original picture is of a victorious king ascending the mountain of the Lord in triumphal procession, attended by a long train of captives, receiving tribute from his new subjects (according to the one reading) and bestowing largesse upon the crowds which line his processional route (according to the other reading). For Paul’s present purpose the reading which speaks of the conqueror as giving gifts is more appropriate than that which speaks of him as receiving them; but if this secondary reading had not been available to him the first would not have been unsuitable; the ascended Christ may well be pictured as receiving from His Father the gifts which he proceeds to bestow among men.” (The New F.F. Bruce, A New Presentation Of His Classic The Epistle To The Ephesians Verse-By-Verse Exposition-An Open Your Bible Project, 1346-1363 (Kindle Edition); Claverton Down, Bath BA2 6DT, UK; Creative Communications Ltd,) 

The differences between the quote in Psalm 68:18 and Paul’s quote of this passage is readily explained by the fact that Paul is quoting from a non-Hebrew translation of Psalms:

“A much more serious attempt to solve the dilemma takes its starting point from a variant form of the Old Testament textual tradition. The Syriac Peshitta rendering of Psalm 68: 18 is ‘you have given gifts’, and although there is difference of scholarly opinion as to its value as evidence, it may reflect a textual tradition different from that represented by the MT and the LXX. 1059 Furthermore, the paraphrase of Psalm 68: 18 in the Aramaic Targum is remarkable, for like the Peshitta it reads ‘you gave’ rather than ‘you received’ (as in the MT). It is unlikely that the New Testament wording of the passage has influenced the Targum, and although the Targum on the Psalms is late, it reflects a tradition and text form that are much earlier. 1060 M. Wilcox has cautiously concluded that the author of Ephesians ‘was here quoting either from, or in the light of, an Old Testament textual tradition resembling that of the Targum, but disagreeing with the tradition preserved in the LXX and MT at this point’.” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle To The Ephesians, 289-290 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

“First, there were other forms of the text current in Paul’s day that read “you/ he gave gifts” instead of “you received gifts.” One is the Aramaic Targum of Psalm 68: 18, which reads, “You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses, you took captives, you taught the words of the law, you gave them as gifts to the sons of man.” 17 Although it is doubtful that Paul is depending on the entire Targum paraphrase of this psalm (see the “In Depth” section for analysis), the Targum does represent an alternative form of the text, namely, “he gave gifts,” that Paul may have been familiar with when he was writing Ephesians. The Aramaic was not the only form of the Psalms text that spoke of the giving of gifts. The Syriac translation of the Psalms also agrees with the text form of Ephesians: “You ascended on high; and you led captivity captive; and you gave gifts to the sons of men.” 18 This is a far less interpretive translation than the Targum and, apart from the Septuagint, is one of the oldest translations of the OT. It is likely that this text form of Psalm 68 existed in the first century before Ephesians was written and was thus not influenced by Eph 4: 8.19 In addition to this, most manuscripts in the Sahidic and Bohairic dialects of Coptic also have “he gave.” Furthermore, one Old Latin manuscript contains the same third person singular reading.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6674 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Paul is going to tie this in with what Jesus has accomplished. By virtue of the fact that Jesus descended into Sheol, He was able to take power from the captives there and shower it upon the church which He would build.  

Third, because of what Jesus has accomplished, He has given these gifts to His people. What are they? In the context of Ephesians 4, these gifts are specifically the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). 

QUESTION THREE: Who Is “He” Who Ascended?

ANSWER: Jesus Christ 

There is a great deal of discussion about the original intent of Psalm 68. Messianic prophecy often is drawn from types and shadows. Chuck Missler has explained it well:

“In our culture, we tend to think of prophecy as a prediction with a future fulfillment. That’s what we think of as prophecy. That’s the Greek mindset, however. The Hebrew model is a little different. Hebrew prophecies about the future are based on patterns. As we study the Hebrew literature, we continually see patterns of the Messiah profiled in Israel….The Book of Ruth certainly has a historical application. The story describes a series of events that actually took place during the times of the Judges. We need to understand the historical period during which these events took place….We will also discover that Ruth has some prophetic applications. There are mystical revelations that might surprise us if we missed them at first glance. In Hebrew hermeneutics, the rabbis have what they call the remez –the hint of something deeper. We run across what appear to be small rabbit holes, but they open the door to another world of perspective.” (Dr. Chuck Missler, The Romance Of Redemption, 76-89 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

As such, the original context of Psalm 68 had reference to some battle in which God was victorious over His enemies. Some have suggested it was perhaps in reference to how David defeated some terrible king with the help of the Lord, or to how Moses himself ascended up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. The Jews have quite an interesting amount of traditions regarding this particular Psalm:

“The “therefore” clearly indicates that this parenthesis is related somehow to the giving of gifts. But what is that relationship? The problems begin with the citation of Psalm 68:18 itself, “You ascended the high mount, leading captives in your train and receiving gifts from people.” Psalm 68 is, according to the notes in the Oxford Annotated Bible, “the most difficult of the psalms to interpret.” The cited fragment, however, seems clearly to refer to God’s ascending to his throne in the temple and to a celebration of God’s victory over God’s enemies. The people, “even those who rebel against the LORD God’s abiding there” (as Ps. 68:18 continues), are forced to bring tribute to God. The victory may be a reference to some historical triumph during the time of David or to an anticipated eschatological triumph….Calvin knew of certain Jewish interpretations of this psalm that took it to refer not to God but to David, but he had less sympathy for those interpretations of Psalm 68 than he did for the reading of the psalm in Ephesians….There was evidently a tradition of interpretation that transferred to the son of David (whether to the current king or to the messianic king) attributes ascribed to God in the enthronement psalms. It was a small step from that transfer to understanding David to be the one who “ascended” in this psalm, going up “the high mountain” of Zion, in the aftermath of his triumph over his enemies to establish Jerusalem as a place for the throne of God, bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem. Psalm 68 does seem to invite liturgical celebration at the temple (see vs. 24–27), and worship at the temple would surely connect with the earlier image of the church as “a holy temple,” a “dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:21, 22). There was, however, another tradition of interpreting this psalm that transferred what was said of God to Moses. In this tradition Moses is the one who ascended the high mount, and the mount is Sinai.23 That was evidently the view of a number of ancient Jewish interpreters, in part because the passage was read at the Jewish festival of Pentecost, celebrating the gift of the law. It found its way into the Targum on Psalm 68 (an Aramaic translation or paraphrase that was read in synagogue worship). The Targum not only identified Moses as the one who “ascended,” it also paraphrased “received gifts” as “you have learned the words of the Tora, you gave them as gifts to the sons of men.”24”. (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 159-160 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 

Whether the Psalm originally referred to Moses or David, there were definitely Messianic overtones to it.  

“Verse 6 is very fascinating when one studies the individual words, though none of the regular translations seem to recognize this. The word for “solitary” is the same word translated “darling” in Psalm 22:20 and Psalm 35:17. In the Greek Septuagint, “darling” is rendered by monogenes , meaning literally “only begotten.” The Hebrew for “families” is translated many different ways, most often “home,” and frequently “temple” or “palace.” The word for “setteth” is really “sets down” or “sits down.” Putting all this together, the first part of verse 6 might read: “God sets down His only begotten in His own home (or heavenly temple).” Following our previous inference that verse 1 refers ultimately to Christ’s resurrection, this ties in beautifully with such Scriptures as Ephesians 1:20: “[God] raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Then the last part of verse 6 anticipates verse 18 (see below). When Christ rose from the dead, His Spirit returning from Sheol (or Hades), “He bringeth out those which are bound (that is, those who had died in faith, but had to remain in Hades until Christ became the sacrifice for their sins) into freedom.” The word for “chains” is actually “freedom” or “prosperity,” as many translations render it. In contrast, the ones who died still in rebellion against God must be left in the prison “a dry land” (literally, “parched land”; compare Luke 16:24).” (Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Treasures In The Psalms:1240-1252 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books) 

In Ephesians 4, Paul makes specific reference of this passage to Christ.  
“He” Who ascended is “Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 15).  

QUESTION FOUR: Where Did Christ “Ascend?”
 
ANSWER: Into Heaven

The text is very clear that Paul ascended to the highest Heaven. The Jews conceived of Heaven in at three different ways. There was the heavens in which the birds fly (Genesis 1:20), that is, our atmosphere. Second, there is the starry heavens (Psalm 19:1-5; 108:4). Finally, there is the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This is the very dwelling place of God, where Jesus ascended forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). In Scripture, this place is also referred to as the “heaven of heavens” (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33).  

QUESTION FIVE: Where Did Christ “Descend?” 

ANSWER: Christ Descended To The Realm Of Hades

Now, Paul is going to make the application that Christ not only ascended to the highest Heaven, but that He also descended to the “lower parts of the earth.” What does this phrase mean? Through the years, there have been three interpretations offered.  

First, some have suggested that the phrase “the lowest parts” of the earth refer simply to Earth itself. So, the idea is proposed that this passage is simply saying that Christ came to the Earth from Heaven and lived among humanity. This is certainly true, of course (Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 8:9), but as we shall see, this is not the meaning of the expression.  

Second, it has been suggested that this has reference very simply to His body being put in the grave at the time of His death. Again, this is certainly true (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), yet we will see that this is not the meaning of the phrase.  

The third interpretation which has been offered regarding this passage is that Paul is teaching that Jesus descended into Hades, the realm of the dead.

When we go back and study carefully, we see that this is the most obvious explanation.  

How do we know this?  

The Bible was not written in English. Instead, God gave His Word through the languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. By going back and studying the original languages of the Bible, we are able to better understand what the God of creation would have us to know.  

What we find is that, among the Jews of the first century (and long before),the phrase “lower parts of the earth” had specific reference to Hades.  

The first example of this evidence is seen in that the specific phrase “lower parts of the Earth” was used throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to Sheol.  

“To say Christ descended to the “lower parts of the earth” seems to us different than saying that he descended to the earth. The language (katōtera merē tēs gēs) resembles the language that the Septuagint used to refer to Sheol, to the “underworld,” the realm of the dead.25 The Messiah descended into the realm of the dead by his death. He “was buried” (as the ancient confession in 1 Cor. 15:3–4 put it). He had descended “into the abyss” of death (Rom. 10:7). That is the presupposition for his resurrection from the dead and for his exaltation, his ascent, to his place at God’s right hand, far above the powers, including the power of death. The Messiah was dead. He was in the realm of the dead. And he took even our captivity to death captive. Even the power of death can no longer hold us captive or separate us from God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24–26; Ps. 68:20). All those held captive by death find their release, their liberation, in this Jewish Messiah (Eph. 2:4–6).” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 161-162 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

In the footnoted reference mentioned in the aforementioned section (footnote 25), we have the following: 

“See, e.g., Gen. 44:29; Pss. 63:9 (LXX 62:10); 139:15 (LXX 138:15); etc. See Buchsel, TDNT 3:641 n. 10.” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 177 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

Second, the non-canonical writings of both the Jews and the Christians for centuries before and after the time of Christ used this phrase in the same way, e.g., to refer to Sheol.  

“The superlative adjective (), however, does appear a handful of times in the LXX, and its usage there does provide some helpful perspective for this passage. On three of the seven occasions of its use in the LXX, the genitive expression “of the earth” () modifies it. For instance, Ps 63: 9 [62: 10] reads, “those who seek my life … will go down to the depths of the earth ()” (see also Ps 139: 15 [138: 15]; Odes 12: 13 [= Prayer of Mannaseh 1: 13]). In none of these passages can the genitive be taken in apposition to “the lowest parts” as in views (1) and (3), “the lower parts, that is, the earth”; it can be viewed only as possessive or partitive, “the lower parts of the earth. The only place in Jewish literature where the comparative adjective () does appear is in the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, a document that may be a Christian composition incorporating earlier Jewish apocalyptic traditions. In this document, Ezra asks God to see “the lower parts of Tartarus” (, 4: 5). 28 A retinue of angels then leads Ezra into lower and lower parts of the Abyss. There is no sign that this document has been influenced by the words of Ephesians. The document suggests that the language of “lower parts” would be readily understood in Jewish circles familiar with an apocalyptic worldview as referring to Hades, Tartarus, or the Abyss….The “lower parts of the earth” makes the most sense in its first-century religious context if it is interpreted as an expression for the underworld or Hades.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714-6739 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan) 

So, Paul is telling us very clearly (in language used by both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testament, as well as the Jewish and Christian terminology of his day and age) that Christ, at some point, personally descended into Sheol.  

QUESTION SIX: When Did Christ “Descend” Into Hades?  

ANSWER: Between His Death And Resurrection 

There are many facts which show us that it was during the time of His death on Calvary and His resurrection from the dead that Jesus descended into Sheol.  

First, Jesus Himself declared that when He died, He would go to Hades. While on the cross, He spoke to one of the thieves who was being crucified with Him and who had shown true faith and repentance. Jesus told him:

Luke 23:43-And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Second, Hades is the realm of departed spirits, so of course, Christ went to Hades when He died.  

Third, in his Epistle to the Romans, Paul makes the point that Jesus descended into the deepest parts of Hades when He died:

Romans 10:6-7 (CEV)-6 But people whose faith makes them acceptable to God will never ask, “Who will go up to heaven to bring Christ down?”

7 Neither will they ask, “Who will go down into the world of the dead to raise him to life?”

Paul specifically ties together the time of Christ’s descent into the world of the dead with the timeframe of Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 10:9-10).  

Jesus, at the time of His death and up to the time of His resurrection three days later, descended in the spirit to Sheol, the realm of the dead.  

Conclusion 

From our study, we have learned the following: 

In Ephesians 4, while describing how the eternal purpose of God in the church has been brought to fruition by what Christ accomplished at Calvary, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that Jesus descended into Hades.  

Paul is clear that this descent of Christ to the lowest depths of Hades took place between the time of His death and resurrection three days later.  

The quotation of Paul from Psalms (68:18) shows that this Messianic prophecy had been fulfilled in what Christ accomplished in His descent into Hades and His ascension to Heaven; and that as a result of this, He had taken “captivity captive” and brought gifts to His church.  

Study Questions 

In Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 as saying that Christ “gave” gifts. Yet Psalm 68:18 actually reads that the Messiah “received” gifts. Why the different renderings? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the three possible interpretations of the phrase “the lower parts of the earth?” ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the meaning of the phrase, “the lower parts of the earth,” and how may we be certain of this? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the translations of the following Greek words?  

Archai: _______________________________

Exousiai: _____________________________

Dynameis: ____________________________

Kyriotetes: _____________________________

Thronoi: _______________________________

Angeloi: _______________________________

Kosmokratores: _________________________

Daimonia: _____________________________

Stoicheia: _____________________________

Archonetes: ____________________________

5. Which Scripture from the pen of Paul teaches that the church is somehow involved in preaching to angels? __________________________
For Prayer Partners: 
1. Consider the statement of Paul in Ephesians 4:8-10. Who did Christ preach to in Hades? What message did He preach?  

Teetotaler Timothy

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

In our world, many teach that is acceptable for children of God to socially drink.  

One good friend of mine had told me that for years he had a problem with the Bible because he did not see how Jesus could truly be God and teach (by example) that it is alright to use drugs recreationally.  

This was after I had told my friend about a conversation that I had overheard one day at a local restaurant where several priests of a prominent denomination were sitting around talking about which kind of beer to order for their church’s upcoming festival. Shame on these priests!

I would like for you to consider with me the fascinating role that Timothy has in this discussion.  

Paul had left Timothy at Ephesus, in order to preach and teach the Word of God to the people (2 Timothy 4:2-4). It was very important that Timothy not allow others to proclaim false doctrines unchallenged (1 Timothy 1:5). Paul expresses his admiration and confidence in Timothy on several occasions. Timothy was a “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1). Indeed, Paul declared that Timothy was one who would sincerely care for others, and that he had served with Paul as a son with his father (Philippians 2:19-22). He was a brother and minister of God, and a fellow laborer with Paul and others in the Gospel of Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Timothy had known Paul’s teachings, and the Apostle exhorted him to pay careful attention to hold the pattern of sound words that he had heard from him (2 Timothy 1:13), and to commit the Word of God to faithful men who would be able to teach it to others (2 Timothy 2:2).  

With these things in mind, it is fascinating to notice that Timothy was a total abstainer from alcoholic beverages; for Paul tells him: 

1 Timothy 5:23-No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Several things about this passage are worthy of notice.  

First, please observe that Timothy completely abstained from “wine.”

It is, of course possible that the “wine” here was simply unfermented grapejuice; after all, the recommendation of grapejuice for stomach ailments was well known in the ancient world.  For example: 

“It is generally assumed that the wine Paul recommended to Timothy was alcoholic. But this is by no means certain, for two reasons. First, because the term oinos (“ wine”), as we have shown, was used in a generic way to denote either fermented or unfermented wine. Second, because there are historical testimonies attesting the use of unfermented wine for medical purposes. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) recommends the use of a sweet grape juice, called glukus in Greek, because, he says, “though called wine [oinos], it has not the effect of wine . . . and does not intoxicate like ordinary wine.” 7 Athenaeus, the Grammarian (A.D. 280), specifically counsels the use of unfermented “sweet wine” (glukon oinon) for stomach disorders. He writes: “Let him take sweet wine, either mixed with water or warmed, especially that kind called protropos, the sweet Lesbian glukus, as being good for the stomach; for sweet wine [oinos] does not make the head heavy.” 8 Here we have advice which sounds strikingly similar to that of Paul, with the difference that Athenaeus qualifies the kind of wine recommended, namely, the sweet wine, called “lesbian” because its alcoholic potency had been removed. A similar advice regarding the medical use of wine is given by Pliny (A. D. 79), a contemporary of Paul and author of the celebrated Natural History. He recommends using a boiled, unfermented wine called adynamon for sick persons “for whom it is feared that wine may be harmful.” 9 He also recommends to avoid the side effects of alcohol by using wines whose alcohol content had been removed through filtration: “Wines are most beneficial when all their potency has been overcome by the strainer.”” (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine In The Bible: A Biblical Study On The Use Of Alcoholic Beverages, 920-935 (Kindle Edition))

My personal belief is that Paul here is talking about fermented wine, due to his  encouragement to Timothy to take a “little” wine. Why would he offer that encouragement if this was not alcoholic wine in content? Either way, however, it becomes clear that the Word authorizes the use of alcohol (and by implication other drugs) for legitimate medicinal reasons (see below).  

Second, Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is to take a “little” wine as a medicinal remedy. Speaking of the use of this phrase, one author informs us:

“This verse is a personal word to Timothy about his stomach and his frequent ailments that follows after the previous direct word to him (v. 22). It may have been prompted by Paul’s knowledge that Timothy was drinking only water (the implication of the first part of v. 23), so that he might not become addicted to wine (3:3), as part of his attempt to keep himself pure (cf. Lk. 1:15; he might also have been influenced by the Nazirite vow of Nu. 6:1-4). Paul does not criticize his practice per se, but does encourage Timothy not to forego a little wine for medicinal purposes….Uiyos means “little” in terms of quantity. Paul carefully qualifies his recommendation of wine here by this word so that neither Timothy, nor any one, may misunderstand or misuse this statement (see Calvin); three of the other four Pauline occurrences of olvos (see above) have the same spirit of caution, and the fourth, Rom. 14:21, says that not drinking wine is better than causing one’s fellow Christian to stumble.” (George W. Knight III, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles-A Commentary On The Greek Text, 4143-4155 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

Third, Paul pointed out that for Timothy to drink a “little” wine for his stomach’s sake was acceptable. The Bible has always authorized the legitimate medicinal use of drugs (cf. Isaiah 38:21-22; Luke 10:34; Colossians 4:14). Evaluating the commentary of the ancient Christians on this passage is beneficial.  

Chrysostom-“If one who had practiced fasting to such an extent and used only water, so long that he had brought on “infirmities” and “frequent infirmities,” is thus commanded to be chaste and does not refuse the admonition, much less ought we to be offended when we receive an admonition from anyone.… Paul does not however allow him to indulge freely in wine, but as much as was for health and not for luxury.”  (Homilies on 1 Timothy 16. [NPNF 1 13:464-65*. See also. ( Chrysostom Homilies on the Statues 1.5 (NPNF 1 9:332)

Amnbose-“And is not temperance in harmony with nature and that divine law which in the beginning of all things gave the springs for drink and the fruits of trees for food? After the flood, the just man found wine a source of temptation to him. [Gen 9:20-21.] Let us, then, use the natural food of temperance, and would that we all could do so! But, because not all are strong, the apostle therefore says, “Use a little wine for your frequent infirmities.” We must drink it not for our pleasure but for our infirmity, sparingly as a remedy, not excessively as a gratification.”  (Letters 59. [FC 26:330-31.])

Fourth, it is when people use drugs for recreational reasons that the Word of God offers strong rebuke. This has always been the case (cf. Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; Titus 2:11-14).

An interesting passage in this connection is found in the Book of Ephesians. The Apostle Paul declared:

Ephesians 5:18-And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

Recently, I have been blessed by a renewed study of this passage. The phrase “do not be drunk,” translates the Greek word methusko. Vine notes that this is an example of what is known as an incentive verb in the Greek New Testament.  

He writes: 

“methusko (3182) signifies “to make drunk, or to grow drunk” (an inceptive verb, marking the process or the state expressed in No. 1), “to become intoxicated,” Luke 12:45; Eph. 5:18; 1 Thess. 5:7a.¶” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 29568-29576 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Now, what is the significance of the use of the incentive verb in this passage? 

“2. Ingressive (Inceptive, Inchoative) Aorist…The aorist tense may be used to stress the beginning of an action or the entrance into a state.” (Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics Of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar, 5263 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)  

“The inceptive imperfect expresses the initiation of an action in the past (‘I began to loose’).” (David Alan Black, Learn To Read New Testament Greek,1145 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Academic)  

“inceptive…Giving emphasis to the beginning of the verbal action (Lat. inceptivus, ‘starting’). This term often appears in connection with the aorist (see 2 Cor 8:9) or imperfect-tense verbs (see Mt. 3:5). Also called inchoative, incipient or ingressive.” (Mathew S. Demoss, Pocket Dictionary For The Study Of New Testament Greek, 779 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)  

Thus, by using the incentive verb, Paul is telling the brethren, “Do not even begin the process of becoming intoxicated!” Or (as we might say), “Don’t even take the first drink in beginning the process of getting drunk!” 

One author has explained it this way:

“The phrase, “be not drunk,” is translated from the Greek root methusko. This word means: 1) “to begin to be softened,” Young’s Analytical Concordance; 2) “to moisten, or to be moistened with liquor, and in a figurative sense, to be saturated with drink,” S. T. Bloomfield; 3) “to grow drunk” (marking the beginning of methuo), E. W. Bullinger. Methusko is an inceptive verb. 9 It is a word that marks the process of becoming drunk. What Paul is actually saying in Ephesians 5 is, “Do not begin the process of becoming drunk.” When a person consumes alcohol, he is beginning to be softened and intoxicated. That’s why social drinking is condemned in the words drunk or drunkenness. The implication is that people begin to be drunk when they begin to drink….Science and medical studies also bear out the fact that when a person begins to drink, he is drunk to some degree. How much alcohol does a person have to consume in order to be affected? As early as the 1960s, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated, “There is no minimum (blood-alcohol concentration or BAC) which can be set, at which there will be absolutely no effect.”” (Don Blackwell, The Truth About Moral Issues, 399-405 (Kindle Edition); Maxwell, TX; World Video Bible School) 

Some people may argue that no one in the first century world would have so understood this prohibition.  

Yet then there is Timothy!  

The young preacher (a careful student of the Apostle Paul) was a total abstainer from alcohol-so much so that Paul had to encourage him to take a “little wine” for his stomach sake (notice-this allowance was for medicinal reasons, not recreational). 

Some may ask, “But isn’t it the case that the ancients didn’t know how to keep wine from fermenting?”  

In fact, the ancients had extremely detailed knowledge of how to keep wine from fermenting.  

“”Professor Donovan, in his work on Domestic Economy, mentions three methods by which all fermentation could be prevented: “1. Grape-juice will not ferment when the air is completely excluded. “2. By boiling down the juice, or, in other words, evaporating the water, the substance becomes a syrup, which if very thick will not ferment. “3. If the juice be filtered and deprived of its gluten, or ferment, the production of alcohol will be impossible”—Anti-Bacchus, p. 162. Dr. Ure, the eminent chemist, says that fermentation may be tempered or stopped: “1. By those means which render the yeast inoperative, particularly by the oils that contain sulphur, as oil of mustard, as also by the sulphurous and sulphuric acids. “2. By the separation of the yeast, either by the filter or subsidence. “3. By lowering the temperature to 45°. If the fermenting mass becomes clear at this temperature and be drawn off from the subsided yeast, it will not ferment again, though it should be heated to the proper pitch”—Anti-Bacchus, p. 225. Baron Liebig, in his Letters on Chemistry, says: “If a flask be filled with grape-juice and made air-tight, and then kept for a few hours in boiling water, the wine does not now ferment”—Bible Commentary, xxxvii. Here we have two of the preventives, viz., the exclusion of the air, and the raising of the temperature to the boiling point. The unalterable laws of nature, which are the laws of God, teach these stern facts: 1. That very sweet juices and thick syrups will not undergo the vinous fermentation….2. That the direct and inevitable fermentation of the sweet juices, in hot climates with the temperature above 75°, will be the acetous. 3. That to secure the vinous fermentation the temperature must be between 50° and 75°, and that the exact proportions of sugar and gluten and water must be secured. 4. That all fermentation may be prevented by excluding the air, by boiling, by filtration, by subsidence, and by the use of sulphur….Augustine Calmet, the learned author of the Dictionary of the Bible, born 1672, says: “The ancients possessed the secret of preserving wines sweet throughout the whole year.” If they were alcoholic, they would preserve themselves. The peculiarity was preserving them sweet. Chemistry tells us that the juice loses its sweetness when, by fermentation, the sugar is converted into alcohol. Preserving them sweet throughout the whole year meant preserving them unfermented. Chemical science instructs us that by reason of the great sweetness of the juice and the heat of the climate at the vintage, the vinous fermentation would be precluded, and that, unless by some method prevented, the acetous would certainly and speedily commence. Four modes were known and practised by the ancients which modern chemical science confirms.” (William Patton, D.D., Bible Wines Or The Laws Of Fermentation And The Wines Of The Ancients, 19-21 (IBooks Edition)). 

This is especially interesting when we consider the common argument that social drinking must be authorized by the Word of God since “Jesus Himself made wine in John 2!”

Of course, both Roman and Jewish tradition shows that the general custom was to use unfermented wine at festive occasions:

“The second assumption that the wine Jesus provided was pronounced “the good wine” (John 2: 10) by the master of the banquet because it was high in alcoholic content, is based on the taste of twentieth-century drinkers who define the goodness of wine in proportion to its alcoholic strength. But this was not necessarily true in the Roman world of New Testament times where the best wines were those whose alcoholic potency had been removed by boiling or filtration. Pliny, for example, says that “wines are most beneficial (utilissimum) when all their potency has been removed by the strainer.” 1 Similarly, Plutarch points out that wine is “much more pleasant to drink” when it “neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind or passions” 2 because its strength has been removed through frequent filtering. The Talmud indicates that drinking to the accompaniment of musical instruments on festive occasions such as a wedding was forbidden. 3 The latter is confirmed by later testimonies of rabbis. For example, Rabbi S. M. Isaac, an eminent nineteenth-century rabbi and editor of The Jewish Messen-ger, says: “The Jews do not, in their feasts for sacred purposes, including the marriage feast, ever use any kind of fermented drinks. In their oblations and libations, both private and public, they employ the fruit of the vine—that is, fresh grapes—unfermented grape-juice, and raisins, as the symbol of bene-diction. Fermentation is to them always a symbol of corruption.” 4 Though Rabbi Isaac’s statement is not quite accurate, since Jewish sources are not unanimous on the kind of wine to be used at sacred festivals, it still does indicate that some Jews used unfermented wine at wedding feasts.” (Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine In The Bible: A Biblical Study On The Use Of Alcoholic Beverages, 632-646 (Kindle Edition))

Friends, the simple truth is, Christians have no business in the recreational use of any drug.

Timothy was a “teetotaler,” and (except in cases of legitimate medical Need like Timothy), we should be also!

In fact, instead of trying to justify recreational drug use as children of God, we should instead “be filled with the Spirit,” as Paul encourages (Ephesians 5:18)! This is much better then the alternatives the world offers!  

Jesus Christ, the Son Of God, died for your sins, was buried and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). One day, He is coming back (Acts 17:30-31). Those who do not know God and who do not obey the Gospel of Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Why not today turn to the Lord and be saved?

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a Christian who has turned from the Lord, He invites you to come back to

Him in repentance and prayer.  

Revelation 2:5-Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

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