Category Archives: Biblical Studies

Elect/Election in the Bible

The term “elect” simply means chosen, and “election” means to be chosen. In the Bible, these terms are used of:  1) Messiah/Christ, 2) the holy angels, and 3) the nation of Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ is perfect and without sin, so His election by God cannot have anything to do with personal salvation.  The holy angels are unfallen, such that they do not require salvation (and the fallen angels are not eligible for salvation).  However, by far the most common use of elect/election relates to the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel has always been comprised of both believing and unbelieving Jews (cf. Rom3:3; 9:6), so the election of Israel cannot pertain to the salvation of individual Jewish persons.

Biblical “election” is God’s choice of a person or persons for a particular purpose in His divine plan.  Christ was chosen by God to be the redeemer of believing humanity (Jn3:16).  The angels were chosen by God to be His governing and ministering spirits within the creation (Heb1:14).  And the nation of Israel was chosen by God for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to be His principal channel of revelation to fallen humanity, through which God brought forth both the Person of Messiah (Rom9:3-5) and the Holy Scriptures (Rom3:1-2).  These purposes have nothing to do with the personal salvation of the objects of God’s election.

Reformed theology’s notion that “election” is God’s choice of who He will save and who he will not, made before His work of creation and having nothing to do with faith on the part of its objects, finds no support in the Bible.

A full length article on this subject titled Biblical Election has been added under Biblical Studies.  God bless!


The Name of the LORD

The identification and etymology (and as a result the proper pronunciation) of the name of the one true God, Who has revealed Himself in the text of the Bible and in the Person of Jesus Christ, has long been disputed. The controversy appears to be shrouded in mystery, cloaked in myths and traditions, and largely propagated by various Jewish sects and a multitude of pseudo-Christian cults. However, when the Biblical record is consulted as the final authority on this matter (Isa8:20), the issue is not at all as ambiguous as many suggest. The identification and etymology of the name of God is clearly revealed in the Hebrew scriptures, and it’s proper pronunciation can be reliably inferred from their testimony.

A full length article on this subject titled The Name of the LORD has been added under Textual Studies.  God bless!


Hebrews: Press on to Spiritual Maturity in Christ

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“THEREFORE, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection . . .” (Hebrews 6:1)

The first generation of Hebrew Christians living in and around Jerusalem increasingly faced persecution from their unbelieving families, friends, and countrymen, tempting them to return to their former lives of Judaism, including adherence to Mosaic law and worship/sacrifice at the Temple. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a polemical tour-de-force expounding on why such a return is both logically and spiritually impossible. Because of the supremacy of the Person of Christ and the finality of His sacrificial work on man’s behalf that fully propitiated God, it is impossible for Jewish believers to return to the Mosaic system of worship (cf. Gal2:18; Heb10:38); but to do so would diminish the Person of Christ and make His unique, once-and-for-all sacrifice appear ineffectual (Heb10:9-10,18). Thus, the only course available for the believer is to press on to spiritual maturity in Christ (Heb6:1; 10:32-39; 12:1-2; Cp., Gal3:23-25).  In that light, it is even more inconsistent for Gentile Christianity, for whom the Old (i.e., Mosaic) Covenant never applied (cf. Eph2:11-12), to embrace elements of that now obsolete Jewish system (Heb8:13).

I began teaching a weekly class on the Epistle to the Hebrews in September 2018.  The notes and audio for this study are updated regularly.  You can find them under the Biblical Studies menu; check periodically to follow the study as it progresses.  God bless!


Not Apostasy, But Rapture!

Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians was written as a response to a query that church had sent to the Apostle. The Thessalonians were troubled by a letter they had received, purportedly from Paul (but actually a forgery), alleging that they had entered into “the day of the LORD” (2Thess2:2). They were troubled by this since Paul had previously taught them that the rapture of the Church would happen before the outpouring of God’s wrath during the Tribulation period (1Thess4:13-5:9); if this allegation were true, and the day of the LORD had indeed begun, that meant the believers in Thessalonica had been left behind! It should be noted that the believers in Thessalonica were undergoing intense (albeit local) persecution (1Thess3:2-4), so that it was no doubt tempting for them to believe that the Tribulation had begun.

Paul’s reply was to immediately remind them of what he had previously taught them (2Thess2:5); namely, that the Antichrist cannot even be “revealed”, which begins the Tribulation (Dan9:27), until after an event he calls “the falling away” (2Thess2:3). The Greek noun translated “falling away” is apostasia, transliterated as ‘apostasy’ in some English versions. The correct translation of apostasia is ‘departure’; exactly what kind of departure is in view depends upon context, and can just as likely mean a physical departure as it does a departure from the faith (i.e., apostasy). It is interesting that all English translations before the KJV rendered apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “departure”, whereas the KJV and most subsequent translations render it “falling away” or something which similarly implies the ‘departure’ is religious in nature. There is nothing in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, however, that demands (or even suggests) that the departure to which Paul refers be non-physical.

Furthermore, in the Greek text there is the definite article in conjunction with apostasia, so that the best translation is not “a falling away”, but “the departure”. The use of the definite article means that Paul is referring to a specific event that he expects is already known to the Thessalonians. Since Paul’s first epistle to them included the most detailed revelation of the rapture of the Church in the N.T., and in fact mentions the rapture in every chapter (1Thess1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11), while not one reference to a religious apostasy or departure from the faith occurs, context demands that the specific departure to which Paul refers is the rapture. The context of 2 Thessalonians 2 also supports this, since the rapture, referred to as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him”, introduces the chapter (2Thess2:1). Thus, the evidence is overwhelming that the departure Paul holds out as necessarily taking place before “the day of the LORD” and the revealing of the Antichrist is the rapture of the Church. Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the most explicit teaching of the Pre-Trib rapture in the Bible.


Significance of the Biblical Covenants

William F. Albright, the father of American Biblical archeology, made the sweeping observation in 1968 that “only the Hebrews, so far as we know, made covenants with their . . . God.” The fact that God deals with man by means of covenants is incredibly significant and immensely practical. The ancient pagan lived a life of fear and uncertainty, never sure of how to please his gods or how they would react to his actions; his gods were by their nature capricious and, therefore, unpredictable (e.g., this continues to be true today for the Hindu gods, the Allah of Islam, and even the god of Mormonism). In contrast, the Biblical Covenants establish a stable and predictable relationship between men and Jehovah. By infallibly recording the terms of the covenant in writing, which is supernaturally preserved throughout all of history (Psalm 12:6-7; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:24-25), the performance of both parties (i.e., Jehovah and men) with regard to the terms of the covenants can be objectively measured. The Biblical Covenants allow Jehovah to demonstrate His attributes of faithfulness and immutability to His creation, and the stable foundation they provide for man allow him to live a life free of fear and uncertainty regarding the future.


The Name of Jesus in the O.T.

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead … neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12)

The name of Jesus, as we have it in the New Testament by way of the Greek language, or Joshua (i.e., Yeshua) in Hebrew, means “Jehovah [i.e., the Lord] is salvation”. As the angel told Joseph, the child to be born of the virgin Mary was to be named “JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The child was also to be called “Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Matthew 1:23); that Jesus would be known as Immanuel (i.e., a manifestation of God Himself) is not uniquely a New Testament notion, but comes directly from the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14).

In a similar way, the name JESUS also comes from the Old Testament. Isaiah 62:11 reveals:

“Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”

In this verse given through the prophet Isaiah, “salvation” (Heb., Yesha) is a Person (note the masculine pronouns “his” and “him” used in the clauses that follow). A Person who will be known as “salvation” is said to be coming, bringing both his “reward” and his “work”; clearly, this is the Person of JESUS. Compare this verse with Isaiah 40:10, which reads:

“Behold, the Lord God will come … behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.”

Isaiah 40:10 asserts exactly the same truth, using exactly the same words, as Isaiah 62:11, but in this instance the Person known as “salvation” is identified as “the Lord God”. Thus, the Person known as “salvation”, that is Jesus, is equated with Divinity; Jesus and Jehovah are one (cf. John 10:30). Such equations of “Jesus” and “Jehovah”, which are implicit assertions of the Deity of Jesus Christ, are common between the New and Old Testaments (Cp., Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 45:6).

Finally, consider the words of Jesus Himself, spoken in the closing chapter of the Bible. Revelation 22:12 records Jesus as saying:

“… behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me …”

Jesus takes the words of “the Lord God” spoken in Isaiah 40:10, the very same words that in Isaiah 62:11 are ascribed to a Person known as “salvation”, for Himself. Jesus connects the dots for us. The name of “Jesus”, by which alone comes salvation, just like “Immanuel” comes straight out of the Old Testament!


Signs of the Second Coming

“And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:32-37)

The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for failing to recognize the signs of His First Coming (Matthew 16:1-3). Obvious signs they should have recognized included: 1) the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-14), 2) prophesied Messianic miracles (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21), and 3) Daniel’s prophecy of the 69 Weeks which gave the very day Messiah would present himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25; Luke 19:41-44).

During His ministry at His First Coming, Jesus taught there would also be signs that precede His Second Coming (Matthew 24:3ff; Luke 21:25-28). For these signs (Mark 13:4), Jesus commanded us all to “Watch” (Mark 13:32-37).

A new study titled Signs of the Second Coming has been added under Biblical Studies.


What on Earth is Satan Doing?

“. . . for we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.”  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Introduction. Each year as part of the Christmas season, believers traditionally read the gospel accounts from Matthew and Luke which record the events associated with the birth of Christ: the supernatural conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38), the decree of Caesar Augustus that providentially caused Joseph and the very pregnant Mary to travel to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5), the unlikely birth of Jesus in a stable (Luke 2:6-7), and the appearance of a host of angels to a group of shepherds leading them to visit the newborn babe and find him lying in a manger (Luke 2:8-20). Although most Christians are somewhat aware that the visit of the wise men (i.e., Magi) did not occur on the night of Christ’s birth, nor did their visit take place at the stable, the Biblical record of it is usually included in these Christmas readings (Matthew 2:1-12). In most cases the Christmas readings are concluded at this point, for the record immediately turns very dark if continued: Joseph is warned by an angel to flee into Egypt with Mary and the young Jesus to escape King Herod’s slaughter of all the babies up to two years old in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:13-18).

A wicked King Herod was the human instrument in the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, but Revelation 12:3 reveals that this event was diabolical in origin, being planned and perpetrated by the “dragon”, who is Satan himself (cf. Revelation 12:9). Apparently Satan believed that if he could murder Jesus, he could thwart the plan of God and perhaps somehow escape his own prophesied destruction by the Messiah (Genesis 3:15). Although this was Satan’s first direct attempt to destroy the Messiah, it was not his first attempt to prevent His coming—nor would it be his last attempt to prevent His coming again.

Satan’s Strategy. Immediately following God’s primeval prophecy of the destruction of the Serpent (i.e., Satan; cf. Revelation 12:6) by the seed of the woman (i.e., Messiah; Genesis 3:15), Satan began working to thwart the fulfillment of this prophecy. Initially, he worked to prevent the coming of Messiah; when Messiah came, he worked to destroy Him; and after Messiah’s death, resurrection and ascension, he worked (and continues to work) to prevent His return. Initially, Satan’s work was necessarily very broad in scope, since he had little information on which to act. However, as God progressively revealed more and more information regarding the nature of Messiah’s origin and coming, Satan’s attack became more narrowly focused. In the following sections, a few highlights from some of Satan’s activities undertaken in his attempt to thwart the plan of God and his own prophesied destruction are briefly surveyed in: 1) the Old Testament, 2) the New Testament, 3) the Church Age following the close of the canon of Scripture, and 4) the future Tribulation. As will be seen, the broad-based activities of Satan very quickly devolve into a narrow, focused persecution of Israel. The annihilation of the nation of Israel and extermination of all Jews is Satan’s only hope to avert his own destruction.

In the O.T. At first, Satan had to act on very little information. He only knew that his prophesied protagonist (hereafter referred to as the Messiah) would be a male descendent of Eve (Genesis 3:15). When Eve gave birth to Cain, she actually (albeit incorrectly) believed he was the Messiah (Genesis 4:1). Satan worked to sow discord between Cain and his brother Abel, resulting in Cain committing the first murder; apparently Satan believed the sin of murder would disqualify Cain as the Messiah—but Cain was not the Messiah.

A thousand years later, in the days of Noah, a new tactic of Satan surfaces. Satan had been working, apparently for centuries, to corrupt the human gene pool by the interbreeding of human women with his demonic horde (Genesis 6:1-2), which produced a race of “giants” (i.e., Nephilim; Genesis 6:4). As human-demon hybrids, the offspring of such giants would be unqualified to be a kinsman-redeemer for the human race (cf. Hebrews 2:14-16). So widespread was the scope of this Satanic attack, it required the destruction of the entire human race in the global flood of Noah in order to frustrate (Genesis 6:17); only Noah and his family were preserved through the flood in order to repopulate the earth, for Noah was “perfect in his generations” (i.e., his family’s genetic code was free of Nephilim corruption; Genesis 6:9).

Satan employed this same tactic again (note Genesis 6:4, “and also after that”), but on a much more limited scope. When the children of Israel first arrived at the Promised Land (i.e., Canaan), they found dwelling there the “sons of Anak”, a new race of “giants” (Numbers 13:33). Now knowing that God had chosen Abraham to be the progenitor of the Messiah (Genesis 12:3), and that four generations after Abraham God would give Abraham’s seed the land of Canaan as their inheritance (Genesis 15:16,18-21), Satan again began his work of corrupting the human gene pool from which Messiah must come. The elimination of all vestiges of Anakim genetic corruption from the Promised Land was at least one reason God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to “utterly destroy” all the indigenous people they found dwelling in Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).

The preparation of the Anakim in the Promised Land was a long-term (contingency) project of Satan while Jacob’s family was sojourning in Egypt for four generations, but he also engineered more direct attacks on the Hebrews using Pharaoh as his diabolical instrument. These included Pharaoh’s early command to the Hebrew midwives to kill all sons born to the Hebrew women (Exodus 1:15-16) as well as his ultimate attempt to destroy the fleeing Hebrews with the armies of Egypt (Exodus 14:5-9). In order to preserve the seed of Abraham, God destroyed Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt, to the very last man, in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28).

As time went on, and as the nation of Israel became established in their own land, God revealed that the Messiah would come from the line of King David (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). At this point, Satan could further focus his attacks on David and his family. Although Scripture records a myriad of such attacks, some subtle and some not so subtle, the most direct was Queen Athaliah’s attempt to completely exterminate the royal seed (2 Chronicles 22:10). In that instance, the only member of the royal seed to escape death was the infant Joash, being hidden for six years and installed as king at the age of seven after the death of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:11; 24:1).

Attention is called to a final instance from late in the Old Testament period. With the nation of Israel still in exile, dispersed throughout the Medo-Persian empire, Satan raises up an influential Amalekite named Haman in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus (i.e., Xerxes; Esther 3:1). Because of his hatred for Mordecai the Jew, “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:6). God foiled this diabolical attempt at Jewish genocide by providentially installing Esther as Xerxes’ queen, whose Jewish identity had been kept secret until after Haman’s plan was revealed (Esther 2:10; 7:3-6).

In the N.T. Satan’s many attempts recorded throughout the Old Testament to prevent the coming of Messiah all failed. The New Testament opens with the record of the prophesied birth of Messiah to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:16-25; Luke 2:1-20). The Messiah having been born, Satan moves King Herod to slaughter all the babies born in Bethlehem over a two year period in a desperate attempt to murder the Messiah (Matthew 2:13-18). When Jesus the Messiah begins His ministry, Satan immediately and directly confronts Him with multiple temptations to sin (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-14), since a sinful Messiah would be disqualified as “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19). Finally, Satan personally indwells Judas (John 13:26-27) in order to betray Jesus and move the Jewish people to demand His crucifixion (Matthew 27:22-26). Like Jesus’ own disciples on the road to Emmaus, Satan mistakenly believed that the crucifixion of Jesus meant the mission of Messiah had been thwarted (Luke 24:21).

During the Church Age. The close of the New Testament canon has not meant an end to Satan’s work. Indeed, throughout the Church Age, Satan has continued his work to destroy Israel and completely exterminate the Jewish race. Consider just two examples, one that began early in the Church Age and one that has occurred late: 1) the origin and ascendancy of Islam, a religion dogmatically devoted to the destruction of Israel (cf. Psalm 83), and whose consummation on earth cannot be accomplished until every last Jew has been killed; 2) Hitler’s holocaust, in which one out of every three Jews on earth was killed, and which required World War II (the greatest of all wars) to stop. But why, if Jesus (the Messiah) has already come and successfully completed His work of redemption, is Satan still working incessantly to destroy Israel? Because Scripture makes clear that it is only after Jesus’ return that He will destroy Satan (Revelation 20:1-10), and Jesus Himself revealed that He will not return until the nation of Israel repents of their rejection of Him and petitions His return (Matthew 23:37-39; cf. Hosea 5:15). Thus, even today, Satan believes that by exterminating the Jews he can prevent the return of Jesus (not the Rapture, but the second advent) and his own prophesied destruction.

In the Future Tribulation. Satan’s final and futile attempt to exterminate the Jews (and prevent the return of Jesus) will take place during the Tribulation (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week; defined in Daniel 9:27 and detailed in Revelation 6-19). It is during this period of time that Satan will be allowed (by God) to raise up his own seed, the seed of the Serpent (Genesis 3:15), which the Apostle John calls the “antichrist” in his epistles (1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and the “beast” in Revelation (e.g., Revelation 11:7; 13:1). “And the dragon [Satan] was wroth with the woman [Israel], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ [Jewish believers]” (Revelation 12:17).

Conclusion. What on Earth is Satan doing? The Apostle Paul testified that believers “are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). It is clear from the inspired and inerrant historical record preserved in the Bible that Satan worked throughout the Old Testament to prevent the coming of Messiah. Once God revealed that Messiah would come from Israel, Satan’s tactics centered on the destruction of the nation of Israel and the complete eradication of the Jewish race. Throughout the Church Age, even to this very day, Satan continues his work to destroy Israel and the Jews in the desperate hope of preventing the return of Messiah. The Word of God, however, is clear, and its promises are sure: all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-27), Jesus will return (Revelation 19:11-16), and Satan will be cast forever into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).

 


Israel’s Refuge in (the) Tribulation

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“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46:7,11)

Psalm 46 was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Although Luther cast his hymn from the perspective of the Church under assault by the Devil, Psalm 46 is written from the perspective of the believing Jewish remnant during the time of the Tribulation (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week). It appears to have been composed in the days of King Hezekiah when an attack by the Assyrian army on Jerusalem was imminent (Isaiah 36-37), at which time the city was miraculously delivered by divine intervention (Isaiah 37:36-37). The message of the psalm is that the omnipotent and omnipresent God will be present with His people (Israel) during their time of greatest peril; He is their refuge and strength, so they need not fear.

A repeated refrain in the Psalm (vv. 7, 11) is that the “LORD” (i.e., the God whose personal name is Yahweh) commands the “host” of heaven, an army of innumerable angelic warriors, a single one of which delivered Jerusalem from the army of Assyria in the days of King Hezekiah by destroying 185,000 soldiers on one night (Isaiah 37:36). The LORD, while being the one true God over all of creation, is uniquely “the God of Jacob”, the sure “refuge” of Israel. The thought impressed upon Israel in this psalm is also impressed upon the Church, which is promised persecution throughout the Church Age (John 15:18-20; 16:33; Romans 8:35-39; 2 Timothy 3:12); namely, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

A new set of notes commenting on Psalm 46 has been added under the Biblical Studies menu.


Romans: The Gospel of God

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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16-17)

The importance of the Book of Romans cannot be overstated. Perhaps the oldest question recorded in the Bible, and the most important, was asked by Job, “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2); Romans gives a clear answer to that ancient question, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, a quote from Habakkuk 2:4). The theme throughout Romans is the grace of God in general, with justification of the sinner by grace through faith emphasized in particular. In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, the apostle presents a systematic and exhaustive treatment of the theology that undergirds the gospel of grace, which allows God to save believing sinners without compromising His own righteousness (Romans 3:26).

I began teaching a weekly class on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in September 2014.  The notes for this study are updated regularly.  You can find them under the Biblical Studies menu; check periodically to follow the study as it progresses.  God bless!


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