Sunday, April 27, 2014

What Does It Take?

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.  Mark 16:9-11  NKJV

“Persistent unbelief in light of contrary evidence is willful ignorance!”

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either  Mark 16:12-13  NKJV

Sooner or later the time comes where we do or say something that tends to date ourselves, and today will be my day.  Back when I was very little I can remember watching television with my parents as they enjoyed their favorite shows.  One of these was a program called “Perry Mason”.  It was centered around a criminal lawyer and the cases he took on to defend, and all the twists and turns you would expect from a criminal trial.  I never recall seeing him lose a case, yet what I remember the most is how hard he worked to build his case by seeking out and presenting the evidence which always led to the inescapable conclusion of his clients’ innocence. 

I would find it hard to believe that there are many believers today who have read the account of what transpired after Jesus death and resurrection and not wondered about the disciples’ response and their lack of understanding as well as their stubborn refusal to believe.  I use the term stubborn simply because the disciples chose to ignore an established principle in play since Old Testament times concerning the weight of evidence to be given to two or three witnesses.

“Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.  Deuteronomy 17:6  NKJV

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.  Deuteronomy 19:15  NKJV

Jesus also taught this very principle during His ministry when He discussed the subject of discipline within the Church.

“But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established  Matthew 18:16  NKJV

In the above passage from Mark we find that the disciples were presented with the testimony of at least three witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead in Mary, and then two of their own.  Yet for some reason they still chose not to believe what was being told to them.  Now maybe, just maybe I could understand how difficult the fact of the resurrection might be to believe if it were not for the fact that Jesus Himself had told them that this was exactly what was going to occur before it ever happened!

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”                     Luke 9:20-22  NKJV

So what would your reaction be to someone who refused to believe even though the evidence presented to support a position met all the criteria necessary by established legal principles?  I daresay your thoughts would be less than kind, and truthfully mine would refer back to all of the passages in Proverbs which describe fools.  Does that seem harsh?  Maybe it would help to look at Jesus’ reaction to the disciples and their stubborn refusal to believe the evidence.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  Mark 16:14  NKJV

So let us start with the word translated rebuke.  In the Greek it is the word oneidiz┼Ź which means to reproach, upbraid, revile.  Now I don’t think you have to be an English scholar to understand exactly what is being described here.  I believe what we see here are the disciples being taken to the proverbial woodshed for some serious correctional instruction.  Jesus is less than pleased at their actions and He lets them know it.  The phrase “hardness of heart” is the one I tend to focus on because to me, that describes perfectly someone who chooses not to believe even though the evidence proves them wrong.

Have you ever wondered about those alive today who choose to willfully ignore the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection?  Have you ever tried to share your faith with someone only to find they totally reject the entire idea of Jesus dying for their sins and rising from the dead?  This is “hardness of heart” and it has never been more prevalent than it is in the world today.  Although we who believe find it difficult to understand why someone would choose to ignore the evidence the Bible presents for us, it is a fact of life that many will simply choose not to believe.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.                       John 20:29-31  NKJV

The disciples had to see Jesus’ face in order to accept the reality of the resurrection, and they received the rebuke they deserved from Jesus Himself.  Yet look at the words of Jesus to Thomas which are a promise to those of us who choose to believe.  We are blessed, and will continue to be blessed, because we choose to believe the evidence of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep watching.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The First Day

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Matthew 28:1-9 NKJV

Rejoice indeed. Because of the resurrection, we all have the opportunity to share in His power over death. It is a gift, freely given to anyone who chooses to believe. Have you ever considered the fact that as a believer in Christ, you are immortal? Death has no hold over us for we have the promise of eternal life, and to prove it, Jesus rose from the dead to show us He alone has the power.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 NKJV

Do you believe?  This is the most important question that anyone will ever be asked.  If you can answer yes, your place in eternity in the presence of our Lord and Savior is guaranteed.   We can know this because God has promised us that all who believe will have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV

And it shall come to pass [That] whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.' Acts 2:21 NKJV

And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:30-31 NKJV

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 NKJV

My prayer is that if you have never made the decision to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again for you, you would decide to do it today. Invite Jesus to come into your life and forgive your sins, and begin to experience the joy that comes from having a relationship with a living God, and the knowledge that He has promised us eternal life with Him in Heaven if we only believe.

Have you made the decision in your own life to know the power of His resurrection? If not, you can right now by praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

He lives!

Keep watching.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Wedding Feast

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”      Revelation 19:7-9  NKJV

Like many of you, I have had the opportunity to attend a few weddings in my time as well as seeing two of my daughters walk down the aisle.  It follows then that over the years I have formed an opinion or two about what constitutes a good wedding.  While I have watched the inordinate amount of planning and angst that surrounds the efforts to present the perfect wedding ceremony, it occurs to me that my thoughts on the most important part of the whole day would probably not be shared by many or even most brides involved with the planning.  Why is that?  Well, in all honesty my favorite part of a wedding is not the ceremony but rather the food waiting in the reception hall.

Now it isn’t that I don’t appreciate the importance of the wedding vows, and making a public commitment before witnesses to love, honor, and forsake all others until death do you part.  In fact, as we all know the Bible holds marriage to be one of the most sacred and important commitments an individual can make.  Yet one thing I noticed when I began to study the elements of a Jewish Wedding many years ago was that even though the steps might be a little different than those we are familiar with, they do save the best for last just as we do with something they like to call the Wedding Feast. 

If you are not familiar with a Jewish Wedding, let me give you just a brief summary of the steps involved.  First of all the father pays for the bride and establishes the marriage covenant.  Second the son returns to his father’s house and prepares the bridal chamber.  Third at a time determined by the father, the groom fetches the bride to bring her to his father’s house.  Because the bride does not know when this might occur, the groom’s arrival was preceded by a shout, which forewarned the bride to be prepared for his arrival.  The bride then undergoes ritual cleansing prior to the wedding ceremony, the private wedding ceremony is held, and then in the privacy of the bridal chamber the bride and groom consummate the marriage.  It is after this time that the Wedding Feast is held where all who have been invited can join in celebration with the bride and groom.

By looking at this outline, it isn’t very hard to see the steps of a Jewish wedding are the same as those spelled out for the Church, the bride of Christ, and our covenant with Jesus.  Why is this important?  One reason takes us back to what we talked about last week concerning the Fourth Cup of Passover.  We know from what Jesus said that we will drink of this cup along with Him at some future time, but is it possible for us to know when exactly that might be?  Although most of us understand that it is virtually impossible to get everyone to agree, the majority of scholars I have studied believe this event will take place at the Wedding Feast that follows the ceremony of Christ taking His Church as His Bride.

I thought I would share the thoughts of just three of those individuals with you this morning who believe this is the proper interpretation of the scriptures.  Dr. John Walvoord, who served as president of Dallas Theological Seminary for many years said this about Jesus’ words at the Last Supper;

The new ceremony, instead of relating to the lamb slain in Egypt, now was referring to Christ as the new Passover Lamb, the one who would be slain on the cross. Although it was a new ceremony, it was also their last meal together, and He concluded the introduction of the Lord’s Supper with the words of verse 29, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Here He was referring to the millennial kingdom, when Christ will return to the earth with His resurrected disciples and participate once again in the earthly scene.

Dr. Thomas Ice, the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center at Liberty University writes;

We read in Luke 22:16-18 the following: "for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." This is called the Lord's Supper, which Jesus inaugurated for the soon to be born church to practice until His return to get His bride. Christ's promise not to not eat or drink again until He does it when the kingdom comes, means that He will not be celebrating His marriage supper in heaven before He descends at His second coming with His bride. Here He says the next time he eats and drinks will be at the coming of the kingdom, which will start at the beginning of the thousand years of His reign upon earth.

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, founder and Director of Ariel Ministries also agrees saying;

The resurrection of the Old Testament saints will take place following the Second Coming in preparation for the Messianic Kingdom. …the Old Testament saints are to be the friends of the bridegroom at the marriage feast, but the marriage feast will take place on earth as an inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom. It is the wedding ceremony that takes place in Heaven before the Second Coming, but the wedding feast itself will take place on earth and will kick off the Messianic Kingdom.

Weddings have always been the most happy of celebrations and a big part of that day is the opportunity to share a feast with the bride and groom as they begin their new life together.  Who can forget that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding feast when they ran out of wine?  It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that the Wedding Feast we are going to attend as the bride of Christ will be one we will never forget.  Especially when you consider we will finally get to drink the cup of acceptance, the fourth cup of Passover, with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.                                1 Corinthians 11:23-26  NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Fourth Cup of Passover

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”       Matthew 26:26-29  NKJV

As we have been looking at the coming spring feasts, and the interest in the occurrence of a blood moon eclipse on Passover, I have taken the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on what it might all mean.  Today I would like to talk for a moment concerning something often overlooked about the Passover dinner Jesus shared with His disciples.  Specifically, something Jesus said, and did, which differed from the norm of the Passover Seder that most people would not be aware of if not Jewish or knowledgeable about the rules regarding it.

First of all, in Israel this event is called the Pesach Seder.  Pesach is the Hebrew word for Passover, and Seder is derived from the Hebrew word for order.  The dinner is an intricate part of the Passover celebration in which the memory of the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt is recalled.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. ‘Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.      Exodus 12:12-14  NKJV

In the traditional Seder, there are fifteen steps, or observances which each signify and relate to the deliverance on that first Passover in Egypt.  I am not going to examine all of these today but will encourage you to do that on your own to better understand why this is such an important event.  What I am going to discuss today is four of those fifteen steps which I will call the Four Cups of Wine.  This is because during the entire Seder, there are four instances where the participants drink a cup of wine in remembrance of the promises God made to them when they were still in bondage in Egypt.

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’ ”             Exodus 6:6-8  NKJV

The four cups of wine are taken to recall the four promises made in this passage which are referred to as the “four I wills”.  The first cup is called the cup of Sanctification…”I will bring you out from under the the burdens of the Egyptians”.  The second is called the cup of Blessing…” I will rescue you from their bondage”.  The third is the cup of Redemtion…” I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”, and the fourth cup is the cup of Acceptance…”‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”

In the passage from Matthew 26, according to many scholars it is believed that when Jesus said “Drink from it, all of you. “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” during the Seder with His disciples, He was referring to the 3rd cup of the Passover, the Cup of Redemption.  Jesus was saying that by His shed blood we can be redeemed from our bondage to sin just as the Israelites were redeemed from their bondage in Egypt.  He then went on to say, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”     

Why?  In essence Jesus said He would not drink the Fourth Cup, the Cup of Acceptance, until He could do so with those who have chosen to believe in Him when we are together with Him in Heaven.  Since this will occur after the rapture of the Church, is Jesus somehow giving us a clue as to when the season of the rapture might happen?  Additionally, the fourteenth step in the order of the Seder is the recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals, followed by drinking the fourth cup of wine.  The Hallel is Psalms 113-118, with chapters 113-114 recited before the meal and chapters 115-118 recited now.  Take a closer look if you will at what we find in the last chapter;

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.               Psalms 118:19-23  NKJV

According to the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish oral laws and traditions, Jesus is waiting for the marriage feast before He drinks from this cup.  (Mishnah, Pesahim 7:13)  Since we know that the marriage feast takes place after the rapture, is it possible that Jesus’ statement to His disciples about waiting to drink the Fourth Cup of Passover is actually His way of telling us that we will drink this cup with Him on a future Feast of Passover?

With all of the attention being given to this upcoming Passover with its lunar eclipse, and also the fact that Jesus was rejected as the Messiah ending the sixty-ninth week of Daniel at this very time, is it possible there might be an even better reason to be excited about what could occur in the next couple of weeks?  As Passover approaches, and in consideration of what Jesus said, I think it might be an especially appropriate time for us to be watching.  Don’t you?

If you have never made the decision to accept the sacrifice Jesus made for you by dying on the cross for your sins, there is no better time than right now to do so.  Simply pray to the Father and ask Him to forgive you for your sins and tell Him you believe that Jesus died for you.  Accept the gift of salvation He has offered you and you too will drink of the cup of acceptance along with Jesus on that future day when He will invite all of His believers to join Him in drinking the Fourth Cup of Passover.

Keep watching.