Monthly Archives: October 2019

Does Matthew 1:12 contain an error?

DOES MATTHEW 1:12 CONTAIN AN ERROR?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in Matthew 1:12: “And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;….” (These are the Greek forms of the original Hebrew names below, thus accounting for the spelling differences.)

Everything looks fine in Matthew’s record until we compare it to 1 Chronicles 3:15-19: “[15] And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. [16] And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. [17] And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son, [18] Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. [19] And the sons of Pedaiah were, Zerubbabel, and Shimei: and the sons of Zerubbabel; Meshullam, and Hananiah, and Shelomith their sister:….”

According to 1 Chronicles 3:19, Zerubbabel was Pedaiah’s son, Pedaiah being King Jeconiah’s son. However, in Matthew 1:12, Zerubbabel is said to have been Salathiel’s son. Is Matthew mistaken? No.

Zerubbabel is usually called “the son of Shealtiel,” as we see here:

  • Ezra 3:2: “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.”
  • Nehemiah 12:1: “Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,….”
  • Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,….”

Shealtiel/Salathiel is Pedaiah’s brother (1 Chronicles 3:17-18), and Zerubbabel is said to be the son of both men. This seems impossible but it really is not. Yes, only one of these men was obviously his biological father—Pedaiah being the most likely candidate (1 Chronicles 3:19). But, he could have had a second father too. How?

Two potential situations solve this dilemma. Firstly, Shealtiel/Salathiel could have adopted his nephew Zerubbabel. Secondly, Zerubbabel could be the product of a levirate marriage (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If a man died childless, God in the Law of Moses instructed the man’s brother to marry the childless sister-in-law and father children with her in the name of the deceased man. This was done so the blood lines of the tribes would not be lost, that the land/inheritance remain with its respective tribes. In this case, Zerubbabel would have been Shealtiel’s biological son but was raised as though he were Pedaiah’s son. (There was already a levirate marriage in Matthew 1:5, wherein Ruth married her dead husband’s near-kinsman [Boaz] and bore him a son [Obed]. See the Book of Ruth, especially chapter 4. Having a second levirate marriage in Matthew’s record is not a far-fetched idea after all.)

Matthew 1:12 contains no mistake!

Also see:
» Does Matthew 1:8-9 contain errors?
» Does Matthew 1:11 contain errors?
» Is Matthew 27:9 a mistake?

Does Matthew 1:11 contain errors?

DOES MATTHEW 1:11 CONTAIN ERRORS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in Matthew 1:11-12: “[11] And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: [12] And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;….” (These are the Greek versions of the Hebrew names listed below. Hence, the spelling differences we see here.)

Now, we flip to 1 Chronicles 3:15-18: “[15] And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. [16] And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. [17] And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son, [18] Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.”

THE TEXTUAL CRITICS SPEAK

Using the Old Testament genealogical records, the “scholars” argue that the Apostle Matthew is twice mistaken. Firstly, Jeconiah was not Josiah’s son but rather Jehoiakim’s son. Secondly, Jeconiah’s brethren were really his father Jehoiakim’s brethren. How do we answer these charges laid against Matthew? Is there any way to reconcile his record with the Old Testament Scriptures?

THE BIBLE SPEAKS

Going back to 1 Chronicles 3:15-18, we read: “[15] And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. [16] And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. [17] And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son, [18] Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.”

According to verse 15, King Josiah fathered four sons—Johanan, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, and Shallum. Verse 16 says Jehoiakim had a son, Jeconiah, who had a son Zedekiah. All six of these men are descended from Josiah, the family’s patriarch. If Jehoiakim is Josiah’s son, then Jehoiakim’s son is (distantly) Josiah’s son—namely, his grandson. It is not immediate relation, of course, but it is blood relation nonetheless. Only someone pedantic will complain about this. No argument of substance can be made to dispute or discredit these passages.

Personally, this author deems it unfair to censure the Bible for claiming that men were brethren of Jeconiah when they were actually the brethren of his father Jehoiakim. “Brethren”—like “father”—can be used of close or distant relatives. For example, King David is declared to be Jesus’ “father” in Luke 1:32. Yet, this can only be understood in the sense of forefather, as David lived several centuries before Christ’s birth. Nebuchadnezzar is known as the “father” of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:2)—but he was actually Belshazzar’s grandfather. No one nitpicks at these titles, so they are not justified in their faultfinding of Matthew 1:11 either. If Josiah is the patriarch of a group of men, those men (broadly speaking) can rightly be called “brethren.” They share a forefather, so why is “brethren” inappropriate? It is not! There is nothing difficult here unless we have an agenda to be critical of the Bible.

We will throw in these assorted Bible facts as extras. Abraham is the “father” of the Jews (Acts 7:2; James 2:21). The word “father” is not always immediate ancestry; it could be a remote or distant relative or patriarch. Peter thus could call fellow Jews “brethren” (Acts 2:29). Israel could be called Moses’ “brethren” (Acts 7:23). All Jews are “children of the stock of Abraham” (Acts 13:26). Paul could rightly call them his “brethren” (Acts 13:38).

It is simplistic, but it bears pointing out. Abraham is rightly called the “father” of Isaac because Isaac is Abraham’s direct descendent (Genesis 22:7; Genesis 26:3). But, “father” can be extended beyond one generation. For instance, Abraham is the “father” of Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:13). This is “father” with respect to the third generation, a grandson being the son of the grandfather (just like Jeconiah and Josiah, the relationship in question here!).

We can introduce the word “forefather” into our discussion now. The term can span dozens, scores, and hundreds of generations. Look at Deuteronomy 1:8, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all appropriately titled “fathers” of Israel. Read Deuteronomy 9:5, Deuteronomy 29:13, Deuteronomy 30:20, 1 Chronicles 29:18, and Acts 3:13, to name a few. If no one has a problem here, then it necessarily means they are completely unjustified in complaining about Josiah/Josias, Jeconiah/Jeconias, and their relatives as described in Matthew 1:11.

There is no mistake in Matthew 1:11!

Also see:
» Does Matthew 1:8-9 contain errors?
» Does Matthew 1:12 contain an error?
» Is Matthew 27:9 a mistake?

Does Matthew 1:8-9 contain errors?

DOES MATTHEW 1:8-9 CONTAIN ERRORS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in Matthew 1:8-9: “[8] And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; [9] And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;….” Nothing appears unusual until we compare Matthew to the Old Testament family records. First Chronicles 3:11-12 lists the following genealogical data: “[11] Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, [12] Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son,….”

The discrepancies are obvious in that Matthew skipped names #2, #3, and #4:

  • CHRONICLES: “(#1) Joram, (#2) Ahaziah, (#3) Joash, (#4) Amaziah, (#5) Azariah*, (#6) Jotham.”
  • MATTHEW: “(#1) Joram, (#5) Ozias*, (#6) Joatham.”

*Note: Matthew did not omit Azariah. “Ozias” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Uzziah,” the alternate name of Azariah.

Why did the Apostle Matthew skip the names Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah—especially since the Old Testament record includes them? Does the Bible contain mistakes here? Have the critics at last inflicted the “death-blow” to the Scriptures? No!

THE TEXTUAL CRITICS SPEAK

The “scholar” or textual critic supposes that Matthew was mixed up, possibly confusing “Ochozias” (Greek form of the Hebrew “Ahaziah” [#2]) with “Ozias” (Greek form of the Hebrew “Uzziah” [#5]). Allegedly, Matthew, when copying the Old Testament genealogy (what they claim was the Greek Septuagint), he overlooked three names because the first name [#2] resembled the name that followed those three names [#5]. Glancing back and forth, his eyes landed on #5 when they should have landed on #2. Believing he had already written the names [#2–#4], when he had really written only #5, Matthew proceeded to copy #6 and never noticed his earlier omissions. Could this be plausible in accounting for the discrepancy between Matthew and the Old Testament prophet? We are not convinced.

Unfortunately, the “scholar” never gives Scripture the benefit of the doubt. This is because unbelief dominates “scholarly” Bible circles and “Christian” thought. Textual critics (seminary professors, Bible college graduates, et cetera) are not necessarily people who have trusted Jesus Christ alone as their personal Saviour. No doubt, they were trained in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, church history, theology, and denominational doctrinal statements, but none of that automatically qualifies them to be competent in understanding and explaining the things of God. Despite their formal education, if they do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit (the Bible’s Author), then they are unable to discern spiritual truths and avoid spiritual errors. They will be like the skillful Babylonian wise men, experts in worldly wisdom but utterly useless in interpreting God’s wisdom (Daniel 2:1-11,27-28; Daniel 5:5-9,15-16; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16).

THE FACTS AT A GLANCE

Just so we are clear, we will summarize the main points now:

  1. According to 1 Chronicles 3:11-12, the chronological, historical order was: (#1) Joram, (#2) Ahaziah, (#3) Joash, (#4) Amaziah, (#5) Azariah/Uzziah, (#6) Jotham.
  2. Textual critics claim the Apostle Matthew “should” have written this to be in perfect accordance with 1 Chronicles: “(#1) Ioram, (#2) Ochozias, (#3) Ioas, (#4) Amazias, (#5) Ozias, (#6) Joatham.” (Matthew was writing in Greek, remember, while the Old Testament names were originally Hebrew. This explains the spelling differences. Disagreeing with the scholars here, we do not believe Matthew was using the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint. His source was the Hebrew Old Testament.)
  3. For some reason, it is said, Matthew “carelessly” eliminated the second, third, and fourth names, penning instead in Matthew 1:8-9 in Greek: “(#1) Ioram, (#5) Ozias, (#6) Joatham” (in English, “Joram, Ozias, Joatham”).
  4. Matthew’s faultfinders appear to be correct—except for one problem. Had they read the context before passing judgment on God’s Holy Word, they would have learned Matthew’s goal was not to repeat the Old Testament genealogy verbatim! These three were deliberate omissions!!

THE BIBLE SPEAKS

Matthew 1:17 identifies the purpose of the genealogy given in this chapter: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” Since it is a shorthand or abbreviated record, some gaps or omissions are expected. Whether in Greek or English, we see that the Holy Spirit isolated these ancestors of Christ into three groups of 14 generations each:

  • Abraham to David (verses 2-6) — 14 generations.
  • David to Babylon (verses 6-11) — 14 generations.
  • Babylon to Christ (verses 12-16) — 14 generations.

The three omissions occur in the middle group of 14. Had the three absent names been included, the reckoning would increase to 17, destroying the harmony or symmetry. It would not be 14…14…14 but 14…17…14. The Holy Spirit intended three groups of 14, and those three names were the ones He elected in removing from the record. Matthew is not denying these men were historical characters; they were real people, just like you and me. It is merely that their names are not useful to his purpose in laying out this balanced family tree. Contrary to what the “Christian” (?) scholars tell us, the Holy Spirit knew what He was doing here in Matthew 1:8-9!!

Despite our foregoing observations, the question still nags us. Of all the names to disregard (and He could have edited out others), why did the Holy Spirit remove those three particular names? It is likely because of idolatry that Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah do not appear in Matthew’s record (Exodus 20:5 opposes idolaters up to the “third and fourth generations”).

AHAZIAH: King Ahaziah, the first name absent from Matthew’s record, was doubly evil. See 2 Kings 8:16-27. Firstly, since his father Jehoram King of Judah had intermarried with a daughter of King Ahab of Israel (verse 18), Ahaziah was grandson of King Omri of Israel. Omri and his son Ahab were both idolaters, Baal worshippers. Secondly, Ahaziah married into Ahab’s family, the woman being his cousin (see verse 27). Through Ahaziah, Baal worship was largely introduced into the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Consequently, God slew Ahaziah in battle. Ahaziah’s idolatrous mother Athaliah subsequently killed all her grandchildren but one, ultimately usurping David’s throne for seven years (2 Kings 9:27-29; 2 Kings 11:1-21; 2 Chronicles 22:1–23:21).

JOASH: This is the second name omitted from the family tree in Matthew chapter 1. See 2 Chronicles 24:1-27 for the historical records. After Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah seized David’s throne as queen for nearly seven years, she was executed for her idolatry. Her sole surviving grandson, Ahaziah’s son Joash (then only seven years old), was anointed to sit on his father David’s throne. Reigning for four decades, King Joash oversaw renovations of the Jerusalem Temple. However, he continued in his father’s ways and waxed idolatrous once his mentor Priest Jehoiada died. Joash’s servants conspired against and assassinated him when he was less than 50 years old.

AMAZIAH: He is the third King of Judah eliminated from Matthew’s genealogical reckoning. Refer to 2 Chronicles 25:1-28 for the historical account of his administration. Son of Joash, Amaziah was originally a believer in Israel’s God. Then, like his ancestors, he too forsook JEHOVAH God and engaged in idol worship. After reigning nearly 30 years, he was assassinated.

No, Matthew 1:8-9 does not contain errors! The Holy Spirit intentionally removed three names to serve His purposes—namely, to make a middle set of 14 names, and gloss over some of most corrupt rulers of Jerusalem and Judah. It may also be related to the promise of Exodus 20:5.

Also see:
» Does Matthew 1:11 contain errors?
» Does Matthew 1:12 contain an error?
» Is Matthew 2:23 a mistake?

Can an atheist be moral without any influence from any “higher power?”

CAN AN ATHEIST BE MORAL WITHOUT ANY INFLUENCE FROM ANY “HIGHER POWER?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Atheists assert they are able to be decent, moral, ethical people without the instruction or help of some “god.” They contend they have no need for a religious text to teach them how to live. In the exact words of one such individual: “I do not need a holy book or church to tell me that I need to do right. I can be a good person with good morals and ethics without needing the Bible. I do good for the sake of being good.” Is this a valid objection to believing in God? Atheists claim they can be good on their own. In that case, why should we be Christians? Is the Bible really necessary? Why believe in God at all? We will gladly answer these inquiries!

Here are three fundamental problems with the above statements:

  1. What objective evidence do atheists have that they are actually doing right and good anyway? They cannot say that they do “right” because they “feel” that particular course of action is right, or that they “think” that it is right. Feelings change; they are misleading. We can be mistaken in our thoughts. What authority do atheists have to go around and label what is wrong and what is right? Their opinions, feelings, and thoughts are just as valid as everyone else’s. If someone disagrees with atheists concerning whether something is good or bad, how will the conflict ever be resolved? Who will make the final determination to settle it? What is “right” or “moral” to atheists may, in fact, be “wrong” and “immoral” to numerous others (and vice versa). In fact, one atheist may disagree with another atheist about the same matter! Again, where is the objective standard to settle it all?
  2. Deep down inside, we all know we are not What will atheists do about all those times when they did not have good morals and ethics? Have they always done right when they knew they should have? No! Have they done wrong when they knew they should have done right? Yes! Like the religionists they despise, they answer with the qualifier, “Yeah, but I will do better next time.” Alas, there is no guarantee they will do better the next time, since they have already failed. They have a history of doing wrong! What will they do with their past failures… not to mention their future ones?
  3. Who are atheists ultimately attempting to glorify when they do “right” and “good?” Are they seeking attention or accolades? Is there any selfishness at all on their part? No one is entirely selfless, always thinking of the benefit of others, so even atheists are not always “good” in their thoughts and behaviors. Christian or non-Christian, none of us can ever boast that we have been wholly altruistic every moment of our lives. To say otherwise is empty arrogance—religious and non-religious alike!

Honestly, our dear atheist friends, you do not have a clue about spiritual matters, ethics, and morals. Really, you do not. It is better for you to be quiet, sit down, and listen to some counsel for once. For sake of argument, we will momentarily adopt your view. If there is any remote possibility that there happens to be a god though, he or she may be listening to you and watching what you are doing. We will say it advisedly: you would do well to choose your words wisely. Better yet, again, you should stop using your mouth and hands, and start using your ears and eyes. We say this in love, not malice.

Atheists, believe or not, are actually religionists themselves. The fact of the matter is that we are all worshipping something or someone. If we are not worshipping the God of the Bible, then we are, at minimum, worshipping ourselves. We are acting independently of Him: we are our own authority, believing whatever we want, saying whatever we want, doing whatever we want. Atheists can advertise all they want about being “irreligious” and “nonreligious” but they worship a god as well. That god is self. We will stop here, move on to a related topic, and return to it later.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the “conscience” is “a person’s moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one’s behaviour.” To wit, it is a system of standards and norms that we use to evaluate ourselves as we function in the world around us. (Our English word “conscience” is derived through Old French from Latin, with “con–” meaning “with” and “scire” meaning “know.” The conscience is basically a set of internal information or data, equipping us with a “compass” or “GPS” of sorts.) If something goes against our conscience, we will hesitate to think it or do it. “That is wrong, and I will not get involved with it.” Conversely, if it agrees with our conscience, we are more willing to think it or do it. “That is right, and I need to associate with it.” Moreover, it is possible to ignore our conscience; in this case, we dwell on a thought that we believe is wrong, or we do something that we know is wrong. Our conscience will thus bother us—at least to some degree—unless we have a “seared” or anesthetized conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

The Holy Bible says that we were created with a conscience, something to “accuse” us when we do wrong and something to “excuse” us when we do right. We turn to Romans chapter 2 and read: “[14] For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: [15] Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; ) [16] In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

In short, the Gentiles (non-Jews) did not have the written or codified Word of God as the Jews had during the Old Testament economy (see Romans 3:1-2). However, those Gentiles will be also held accountable to a holy, righteous God one day because they had some sense of right and wrong in their spiritual body. As the Word of God will condemn the lost Jews when they give account to the Lord at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), so the conscience of the unsaved Gentiles will testify against them when they are also judged for their sins. For example, they knew it was wrong to steal and kill because that knowledge is innate among all peoples. Any society cannot function and survive if there is disorder and death.

The Gentiles did not have it written down on scrolls or animal skins (as Israel did), but, even in their idolatrous state, they had a God-given conscience and thus had some insight into what actions were acceptable and what conduct was unacceptable. Romans chapter 2 is saying no sinner—Jew or Gentile—will escape the wrath of a just God. None will have an excuse, and none will be able to say, “Do not throw me into the Lake of Fire, God! I did not have a chance to know and believe the truth!”

However, there is a danger in having a conscience. The conscience is fallible, subject to sin, prone to error. Consequently, the Scriptures speak of a “weak/defiled conscience” (1 Corinthians 8:7). Here is a system of standards and norms lacking so much good information that not only is it feeble, it can be perverted or influenced by bad information. Then, there is the “good conscience” (Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:5,19; Hebrews 3:18; 1 Peter 3:16,21), a system of standards and norms abounding with the right information and not easily susceptible to being perverted by wrong knowledge.

Evolutionary scientists tell us that our universe is not the result of a Creator God deliberately causing everything to appear. According to them, the universe came about not because of something supernatural but because of the interaction of natural laws (which they themselves cannot explain with perfect knowledge). This naturalistic explanation reduces everything to the following: “Unless we can see, touch, taste, smell, or hear it, it is not real. We do not need any religion or ‘god’ to describe the origin of our universe. No religion or ‘god’ can be proven anyway. We can study the laws of physics and see how they formed the universe. If you want to call those laws ‘god,’ then that is the ‘god’ we will believe in. However, to say that there is a personal and intelligent God as described in the Christian Bible, that we will not accept!”

The above argument is quite clever. Unbelievers have used it ad nauseum to beat Christians into silence. On the surface, it sounds convincing. It falls apart upon closer inspection, however. The fact is, we cannot reduce everything in this universe to strictly naturalistic terms. After all, what can physics possibly tell us about the origins of reason/logic, love, hate, joy, sadness, anger, fear, morals, and ethics? These are feelings, emotions, and ideas—intangible and invisible faculties and yet nonetheless realities. Without any personal God whatsoever, how do we explain their existence or our possession of them?

Unless we are desperate enough to say the laws of physics are rational beings, capable of communicating knowledge and wisdom to us, we must look elsewhere to establish the origins of thought and emotion. Here is where the Bible believer’s position is more plausible than the atheist’s. The atheist is hard-pressed to define immaterial things with material laws!!!! His staunch dependence on naturalism—what he boasted as his impregnable bastion—is now his trap and ultimate downfall!!!!

Without the presence of a god—and this author, being a Bible believer, will restrict that to the Judeo-Christian God, the God of Holy Scripture—we will never truly know if what we believed and did were good or evil. All the “good” impact we had in this world will be meaningless. In fact, unless there is the God of the Bible to make a final evaluation, none of us will ever know one way or another. Some people criticize our efforts, and disagree with us. Others support our ideals. Without one standard to rate everything (all beliefs and all actions), the only thing on which we can fall back is “relative righteousness”—and there is nothing comforting or lasting here. We must look past subjective standards, something beyond ourselves and beings like us.

About 3,000 years ago, an ancient king of Israel, Solomon, penned: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The Bible Book of Ecclesiastes is his assessment of the world around him (us). Puzzles, contradictions, ironies, and uncertainties bothered him relentlessly. He saw evil unaddressed and unpunished. Greed, violence, and dishonesty abounded. He witnessed wise men dying like common fools. He observed the foolish destroying the accomplishments of the wise. (Friend, does this world sound even remotely like ours, 30 centuries later? Indeed!!)

Solomon’s final statement to close Ecclesiastes is chapter 12, verse 14: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” After making a careful investigation of the world, he still had a plethora of nagging questions. He did not fully understand everything like he wanted. Nevertheless, Solomon was absolutely sure of two things: (1) there most certainly is a God, and (2) one day He will evaluate everything in order to set right all that is wrong.

However, my friend, if you happen to be an atheist, you do not have Solomon’s hope. If you are correct and there is no god of any type, then what we are doing here is ultimately futile, pointless, wasted time and energy. Nothing will ever amount to anything. Nothing will ever be ultimately settled. It will not matter whether we do right or wrong anyway—so then why “do good for the sake of being good?!” There is no objective standard for you. All you have is your subjective hunches, opinions, and feelings. Christians, at least, have the Holy Bible as an objective standard, and the hope that whatever does not match the Bible will be corrected in due time. Evil will be dealt with at the appropriate time!! (How strange it is that precious souls use “logic” to dismiss the notion of any personal “god,” when the very logic they are using necessitates a logical God imparting such a faculty to them!)

My dear friend, if you are an atheist, you would do well to listen here. Maybe we have gotten your attention, but our message to you is not finished. You are a sinner, and your sin will be dealt with in one of two ways. If you so desire, the Bible says the one true God (the God of Christianity) will let you go to Hell so you can spend all of eternity paying your sin debt. It is a terrible reality, but I (as a Bible teacher) must warn you in love. You will suffer endlessly in those flames because God’s wrath against your sin will never be satisfied. Now, here is something equally important. The Bible also says you do not have to go to Hell. The God of Scripture loves you and has done everything to keep you from going to Hell. He took upon Himself our human flesh, and, as the Lord Jesus Christ, He died in our place. Where we failed, God the Son triumphed. He satisfied His Heavenly Father’s righteous demands.

I will be gentle but I will be frank, my friend. Your atheism will give you just as much a right standing before Almighty God as self-righteous religious works will for the religionists. None! The God of the Bible will accept neither your works apart from religion, nor the works of the religionists. Both classes are attempting to sidestep the righteousness found in Jesus Christ exclusively. He alone can live the “good” life, the moral life, the ethical life, the selfless life, the righteous life, the perfect (!) life. There are no substitutes whatsoever—in religion or atheism!!!!

Behold, the Gospel of the Grace of God! Believe it and be saved unto eternal life. You can join God’s family by faith and His grace will transform you from the inside out. Make note of these Scriptures, believe them, and never forget them!

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
  • Romans 4:1-5: “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Absolutely do not delay another second, friend. Place your faith in Jesus Christ alone as your personal Saviour now. He died to pay for everything that is wrong with you. He rose again to give you new life. Swallow your pride. You cannot offer Him anything but your sins. Once you trust Him exclusively, your faith resting in these simple Bible truths, you will be granted eternal life. God will then live His life in and through you as you walk by faith in His words to you. This is the only way whereby good will be accomplished in this lost and dying world. Start reading in Romans and go on through to Philemon; here is the Christian life described in great detail.

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Also see:
» How should we answer the argument, “If only I saw a miracle…?”
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?
» Why is the Bible Book of “Ecclesiastes” thus named?

The “judgment seat” or the “bema seat?”

THE “JUDGMENT SEAT” OR THE “BEMA SEAT?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Our King James Bible has come under heavy criticism with especial regards to its term “the Judgment Seat of Christ.” What exactly is the argument, and how much merit does it hold? As they scrutinize the Authorized Version, so we will take this opportunity to judge their line of reasoning.

Here are the two texts we must consider in this matter:

  • Romans 14:10: “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

Some “brethren” have expressed great disappointment in the 1611 King James translators. Allegedly, these scholars were remiss in handling the Greek New Testament text here. How “unfortunate” that they used the word “judgment” when translating these two verses! After all, the term strikes fear in the hearts of people, and Christians should never fear the judgment of God. Textual complaints such as this are unbelievably petty and shallow.

Critics of the Authorized Version have the following “advice” to pass along: “The Greek word for ‘judgment seat’ is ‘bema’ in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10. It should be left untranslated. A ‘better’ reading is ‘the bema of Christ.’” To be sure, “bema” is the Greek word. Nevertheless, does retaining the Greek (via a transliteration) really help the English reader?! No, it certainly does not. It makes the Bible intimidating.

One commentator rationalized, “I do not know why the King James translators used ‘judgment’ because that word frightens people!” While he meant well, the brother shows us that he is most unqualified in judging the 1611 scholars. Firstly, with all due respect, they were Holy Spirit-filled men more proficient in the Bible languages than he has ever been or will ever be. Secondly, the King James scholars properly translated the Greek “bema.” “Judgment seat” is a perfectly acceptable rendition. (We will say more about this later.) Lastly, the commentator’s replacement word is most ridiculous. He asserted the translators should have left it as “bema”—a meaningless or nonsensical expression to an English reader. Friends, it may seem bizarre, but this author believes an untranslated Greek word is more terrifying to the English Bible reader than that same mysterious Greek word translated “judgment seat!”

If the King James translators had not rendered it “judgment seat,” then the critics would have surely responded, “Why did they not render ‘bema’ as ‘judgment seat’ in Romans 10:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 like they did in most of the other passages it appears?!” See, the faultfinders are never satisfied. The King James scholars are treated most unfairly—and the critics are usually ignorant brethren masquerading themselves as “more qualified” expositors and teachers of the Scriptures. We have to beware of these people, and watch them with a great deal of suspicion.

The aforementioned commentator offered a most convoluted line of thinking. After carping about “judgment” being an inappropriate rendering of “bema” in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, he said “bema seat” was a superior reading. (Bema seat” is silly terminology because it is repetitious, literally meaning “judgment seat seat” [“bema” itself means “judgment seat,” remember].) He argued we should not look at the Judgment Seat of Christ as the Great White Throne Judgment (and we would agree those are two separate judgments, the first for Christians and the second for the unsaved). However, instead of changing the Bible, we teach and explain the Bible! No confusion will result if the teacher does his job… and the teacher’s job is teaching not retranslating!!!

Moreover, the commentator rightly clarified the “bema” was, historically, where the judges of the ancient Olympics sat to evaluate the performance of the athletes. We would ask him, “Sir, while you will call them ‘judges’ at the bema, you actually think ‘judgment’ is a poor translation in the King James. Exactly what do judges do? Does not their very name imply they make judgments?” Honestly, this is dumb… and he is one of the very people passing sentence on the King James translators for being incompetent!!!

“Bema” appears 12 times in the King James Greek New Testament. It was rendered “judgment seat” 10 times (see list below); the remaining instances are “set his foot on” (Acts 7:5) and “throne” (Acts 12:21).

  • Matthew 27:19: “When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
  • John 19:13: “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.”
  • Acts 18:12: “And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,….”
  • Acts 18:16: “And he drave them from the judgment seat.”
  • Acts 18:17: “Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.”
  • Acts 25:6: “And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.”
  • Acts 25:10: “Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.”
  • Acts 25:17: “Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.”
  • Romans 14:10: “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

Those first eight instances are places where human governmental officials hear cases, look at evidence, and make decisions or render verdicts. Of course, the last two examples are where Jesus Christ will one day sit to judge or evaluate our Christian service. Primarily, the quality of the doctrine we believed, which information motivated our service, will be reviewed and rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Colossians 3:23-25). For more information, please refer to our “fire” study linked at the end of this article.

We will add this entry from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:

“STRONGS NT 968: βῆμα
βῆμα, -τος, τό, (from ΒΑΩ, βαίνω) [from Homer (h. Merc.), Pindar down];

  1. a step, pace: βῆμα ποδός the space which the foot covers, a foot-breadth, Acts 7:5 (for כַּף־רֶגֶל, Deuteronomy 2:5, cf. Xenophon, an. 4, 7, 10; Cyril 7, 5, 6).
  2. a raised place mounted by steps; a platform, tribune: used of the official seat of a judge, Matthew 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 18:12, 16; Acts 25:6, 10, [Acts 25:17]; of the judgment-seat of Christ, Romans 14:10 (L T Tr WH τοῦ θεοῦ); 2 Corinthians 5:10; of the structure, resembling a throne, which Herod built in the theater at Cæsarea, and from which he used to view the games and make speeches to the people, Acts 12:21; (of an orator’s pulpit, 2 Macc. 13:26; Nehemiah 8:4. Xenophon, mem. 3, 6, 1; Herodian, 2, 10, 2 [1, Bekker edition]).”

In other words, “judgment seat” is a perfectly acceptable rendition of the Greek “bema” in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 as pertaining to the King James Bible. We should also highlight Thayer’s textual note. The Critical Text—the corrupt Greek text, the manuscript family underlying most modern English versions—reads “theou” (God) in Romans 14:10 where the King James Textus Receptus has “christou” (Christ). To wit, in modern English versions, the term is not “judgment seat of Christ but “judgment seat of God.” This seems innocuous at first, but upon closer examination, we discover it is quite destructive to the Person of Jesus Christ.

If we keep reading Romans chapter 14, we see the Apostle Paul here quotes Isaiah 45:23 in verses 11-12. The Prophet Isaiah was speaking of JEHOVAH God, but Paul applies the passage to “Christ” (read the King James): “[10] But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. [11] For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord [JEHOVAH], every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. [12] So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

However, the text in the modern Greek and modern English versions does not allow us to pair “Christ” with JEHOVAH. All we can do is pair “God” with JEHOVAH, for “Christ” (“christou”) never appears in Romans 14:10 in the modern Greek and its modern English translations! Ultimately, this textual alteration causes us to lose this fascinating reference to the Deity of Jesus Christ. We cannot use modern versions here to prove Jesus and JEHOVAH are one and the same. No one can honestly say this was a “minor mistake;” the editors of the modern Greek deliberately changed the Bible to mar the Person of Jesus Christ. (One final note worth mentioning: the “Jehovah’s Witness” New World Translation also follows the modern Greek reading in Romans 14:10—lest they too confess Jesus and JEHOVAH are equal!)

Also see:
» What is the “fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

Who or what are the 10 “toes” or “horns” or “crowns” associated with the Antichrist?

WHO OR WHAT ARE THE 10 “TOES” OR “HORNS” OR “CROWNS” ASSOCIATED WITH THE ANTICHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Revelation 13:1-2: “[1] And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. [2] And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.”

The “beast,” of course, is the Antichrist. He is bestial, animal-like, or cruel in character. Satan empowers him. His “ten horns” having “ten crowns” are of great importance to us here. Horns in the Bible symbolize kings; crowns symbolize kingdoms or nations. “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings” (Daniel 7:24—Antichrist will assume control over all 10 kings by first conquering the three most powerful kings). “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (Revelation 17:12).

It is commonly assumed the Antichrist’s 10 ally nations and 10 confederate kings are members of the European Union (EU, or European Common Market). At one time, this explanation seemed plausible—until the mid-1980s when the number of the EU members exceeded 10. Today, there are 28 countries in the EU (with the United Kingdom’s soon departure—“Brexit”—to bring the figure down to 27). In an attempt to salvage this position, some contend that the European Union membership will eventually return to 10. This is all dependent upon the hypothesis that “the Roman Empire and Western Europe” will form the Antichrist’s government. In fact, the introduction of the Euro currency in the late 1990s was heralded as the forerunner of the mark of the Beast, if not the mark itself. Again, this all stems from the misunderstanding that the Antichrist is tied to Western Europe.

A better way to look at these 10 toes (read about King Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Daniel chapter 2), these 10 horns, these 10 nations, these 10 crowns, and these 10 kings, is to reflect upon the Old Testament enemies of Israel. Upon studying those 39 Books (Genesis through Malachi), we realize that Europeans becoming those chief enemy nations is highly unlikely. We are convinced Psalm 83 identifies those 10 adversarial nations of Israel, and the list contains no surprises.

Let us start Psalm 83 at the beginning: “[1] Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. [2] For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. [3] They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. [4] They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. [5] For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

Here are the 10 nations against Israel: “[6] The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; [7] Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; [8] Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.” It is a bit tricky to identify all of them with exact precision, but we can offer some insight in that they are not European but Middle Eastern. Moreover, to some extent, we can grasp their modern forms:

  1. EDOM — descendants of Esau/Edom, Jacob’s twin brother, Jacob being father of the Jews (Genesis 25:19-26) (modern Palestinians and Southern Jordanians?) – see #7
  2. ISHMAELITES — sons of Abraham through Isaac’s older brother Ishmael, Ishmael being father of the Arabs (Genesis 16:1-6; Genesis 25:12-18) – fighting Israel because they believe, as per the Quran, they are the “true” heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant (modern Saudis?)
  3. MOAB — Moabites were sons of Lot via his incestuous relationship with his older daughter (Genesis 19:37) – antagonistic toward the Jews in Numbers 22–25, Judges chapter 3, during the reign of King Saul, 2 Chronicles 20:1, et cetera (modern Palestinians and Central Jordanians?) – see #6
  4. HAGARENES — people who lived in the land east of Palestine, near the Persian Gulf (modern Egyptians, named after Hagar the Egyptian [Genesis 16:1]?)
  5. GEBAL — land of Edomites, south of the Dead Sea and extending to Petra (modern Hezbollah and Northern Lebanese?)
  6. AMMON — Ammonites were sons of Lot via his incestuous relationship with his younger daughter (Genesis 19:38) (modern Palestinians and Northern Jordanians?) – Lot was Abraham’s nephew, Abraham being father of the Jews (Genesis 12:5) antagonistic toward the Jews in Judges chapters 10-11, during the reigns of Kings Saul and David, et cetera – see #3
  7. AMALEK — Amalek was an Edomite, a grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12,16) – Amalekites were the first Gentiles to fight against Israel after the Jews escaped Egypt and crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 17:8-16) (modern Arabs of Sinai Peninsula?) – see #1, Esau was Jacob’s twin brother, Jacob being father of the Jews (Genesis 25:19-26)
  8. PHILISTINES — ancient, bitter enemies of Israel in Isaac’s time (Genesis 26:1-33) and throughout the period of the judges and King Saul, lived along the Mediterranean Coast opposite the Dead Sea (modern Hamas of Gaza Strip?)
  9. TYRE — also called Tyrus, a city in the land of Phoenicia, north of Israel (modern Hezbollah and Southern Lebanese?)
  10. ASSUR — also known as Asshur or Assyria, the Assyrian Empire overcame and captured the northern 10 tribes of Israel some 700 years before Christ (2 Kings 17:1-23) (modern Syrians and Northern Iraqis?)

Also see:
» Is the Antichrist alive right now?
» Will the Antichrist be a Jew or a Gentile?
» What is “the mark of the Beast?”

Is the Antichrist alive right now?

IS THE ANTICHRIST ALIVE RIGHT NOW?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Is the Antichrist currently living among us somewhere in the world? It is a frequent question that stems from the repetitions of Bible-prophecy preachers and teachers. In their podcasts, online videos, television programs, radio shows, books, tracts, and magazines, they take current events—news headlines and reports—and try to match them to specific passages of Scripture. Dates associated with the year 1948 (when Israel became a modern state) and various conflicts in the Middle East are two of their favorite topics. Unfortunately, this can get out of hand quite easily. Verses wind up being wrested (distorted) to teach all sorts of odd ideas. It is similar to trying to find familiar shapes in cloud formations. You need a good imagination to discern them! Undoubtedly, man’s mind takes the preeminence as God’s Word is relegated to a back seat. Bible prophecy, while fascinating, can be dangerous if we do not handle it dispensationally.

For centuries, Bible believers have tried and failed to identify the Antichrist. The Protestant Reformers 500 years ago thought the pope was the Antichrist. Several United States Presidents—including Ronald Wilson Reagan (three names with six letters, 666)—were assumed or are still assumed to be the Antichrist. Any political or religious leader on the world stage does not seem to be above suspicion in this regard! Dear friends, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Christians desiring to see the Scriptures reach their culmination. We want to see all the Bible’s promises come to pass—especially within our lifetime. After all, we seek some validation that what we believe is true. People wondering if the Antichrist is alive today are looking to see just how close we are to witnessing all great Bible prophecies being fulfilled. However sincere we are, though, we should exercise great caution here.

Honestly, we do not know if the Antichrist is living today. There is nothing in the Scriptures to prove it one way or the other, and this is by God’s design. Nevertheless, even if the Antichrist were currently alive, we as Christians would never know it. We will not learn his identity because the Bible says he will be “revealed” after we are removed from Earth. Our mystery program must conclude before Israel’s prophetic program resumes. The Antichrist’s unveiling is prophecy instead of mystery. Until the mystery program finishes, the prophetic program cannot resume. It is impossible to see prophecy being fulfilled in mystery.

We will let 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 speak: “[6] And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. [7] For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. [8] And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:….”

If we were to answer in the affirmative—yes, the Antichrist is alive today—then that would introduce yet another question. Who exactly is he? Someone would say Pope Francis. Others speculate it is President Trump. Numerous others are assumed as well. If we would answer this question definitively (we cannot, but let us momentarily assume we can), then yet another question would arise. When is he going to make a covenant with Israel? Friends, the inquiries just never end and the speculations would never end either. There is nothing meaningful if we take this route to Bible prophecy. Here is a better way to view the Scriptures.

When we approach the Bible dispensationally, “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we discover that Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13), God’s spokesman to us in the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-2). Instead of looking for the Antichrist’s arrival, we should be anticipating Jesus Christ’s coming (the Rapture, “our gathering together unto Christ;” 2 Thessalonians 2:1). The Holy Spirit through Paul exhorts us with the following:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:7: “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:….”
  • Philippians 3:20: “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:….”
  • Philippians 4:5: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”
  • Titus 2:13: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;….”
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: “[9] For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; [10] And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Again, the Antichrist may or not be alive today. We cannot say dogmatically either way. Moreover, God has not revealed to us how long the Dispensation of Grace will last. Potentially, it could extend for another century. Or, it may close in the next few seconds. Paul’s epistles are silent as to an exact length. Regardless of the duration, the Antichrist will be not be revealed until after our dispensation has run its course. Our program must wind down before the Antichrist starts his political career.

Individuals who claim the Antichrist is living today then proceed to speculate who he might be and when he might act—and speculation is all it is. What we can say for a fact is that the Antichrist will not make his appearance until long after the Body of Christ is caught up into the heavenly places. We should not be looking for the mark of the Beast, we should not be fearful of taking that mark, and so on. If we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, then we should be looking for Jesus Christ to come. Let the lost people look and wait for the Antichrist, for they will be the ones left here to see him anyway!

Also see:
» Will the Antichrist be a Jew or a Gentile?
» What is “the mark of the Beast?”
» Why is “666” the number of the Beast?

Can you explain Isaiah 5:8, “Woe unto them that join house to house…?”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN ISAIAH 5:8, “WOE UNTO THEM THAT JOIN HOUSE TO HOUSE…?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in Isaiah 5:8: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” What is this all about?

Here is the first of six “woes” in Isaiah chapter 5 (cf. verses 11,18,20,21,22). In these verses, JEHOVAH God is pronouncing warnings to the Jews concerning their specific sins.

To “join house to house,” to “lay field to field,” is qualified by “till there be no place.” In other words, they have crammed into one plot of land as much as they possibly can. Think of massive apartment complexes or merged estates that have no vacant spaces between them. Avarice—extreme greed—has consumed the nations Israel and Judah. They are so materialistic and selfish: their purpose or intent in packing the land is “that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” They do not want neighbors; they want God’s land all for themselves.

Contemporaneous with the Prophet Isaiah, the Prophet Micah wrote in chapter 2 of his Book concerning the covetous Jews: “[1] Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. [2] And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. [3] Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil…. [8] Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war. [9] The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.

The Jews have perverted their own court systems so as to steal property from their fellow Israelites (thus making them poor and homeless). They purchase that land, disobeying the Law of Moses that said they were neither to sell the land nor let it fall into the hands of Jews from other tribes. Plots of land were to stay within the family.

Reading the Law of Moses in Leviticus 25:23-25: “[23] The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. [24] And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. [25] If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.”

With excessive greed driving the Jews of Isaiah and Micah’s day to buy up land and build houses, the LORD gives them a solemn promise. Let us go back to Isaiah chapter 5: “[8] Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! [9] In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. [10] Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.(Verse 10 is severe famine, extreme agricultural hardships.)

The houses they were so fixated on buying and building, the land they were so determined to purchase and keep for themselves, God would take it all away during the fifth course of judgment or chastisement. Gentiles (Assyrians and Babylonians) would enter the land of Palestine in the decades following Isaiah and Micah and take the Israelites (north and south) captive! Both Bible history and secular/world history testify to that fact that the Jews lost their land as they were scattered amongst the Gentiles’ lands.

Leviticus chapter 26: “[27] And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; [28] Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. [29] And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. [30] And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

“[31] And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. [32] And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. [33] And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. [34] Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. [35] As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.”

Also see:
» Why do Amos 4:4 and Amos 5:5 give opposite commands?
» Why did Ezekiel in Babylon warn of Jerusalem’s fall?
» How could God forbid Jeremiah to pray for His people?

Does the New Covenant take away Israel’s free will?

DOES THE NEW COVENANT TAKE AWAY ISRAEL’S FREE WILL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

No. The Bible verses about the New Covenant causes a Calvinist to say, “See, God’s grace cannot be resisted! He has chosen Israel and she must follow His will!” Indeed, while God has chosen the nation Israel to serve Him, individuals within the nation are given the free will to cooperate with Him by faith or rebel against Him in unbelief. Whoever in Israel trusts His Son automatically falls under the New Covenant.

The primary New Covenant passage is Jeremiah chapter 31: “[31] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: [32] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: [33] But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. [34] And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Now, Ezekiel 36:24-28: “[24] For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. [25] Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. [26] A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. [28] And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

The Jews under the New Covenant will have the indwelling Holy Spirit just as we Christians do today. After all, without the strengthening of the third Member of the Godhead, they are as powerless in doing God’s will as we would be powerless.

John chapter 14: “[16] And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [17] Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. [18] I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. [26] But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John chapter 16: “[13] Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [14] He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. [15] All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

Luke 24:49: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (See also Acts 1:4-5 and Acts chapter 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Israel’s Little Flock.)

As concerning Israel under the New Covenant (which is yet future from us), the individual Jews have already exercised faith in God’s Word to them. Redeemed Israelites (corporately, redeemed Israel) came to faith in Christ—already making a willful choice—prior to the inauguration of that covenant. They knew they would have their sin nature removed and they came by faith to God in order for Him to do just that for them. At the beginning of the Millennium and onward into eternity future, their sin nature will be removed. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, they will automatically and completely accomplish God’s will.

One day, friends, as members of the Church the Body of Christ, we will have our sin nature removed as well. When we get to Heaven, sin will no longer be an issue for us. Until then, we are exhorted in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.” We are also encouraged to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The implication here is we most definitely can (!) and do (!) refuse to let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts and lives. If we Christians were unable to sin, such instructions would be completely unnecessary. We have free will even now, after coming to Christ. We exercised volition when we trusted the Gospel of the Grace of God in order to pass from eternal death to eternal life. The difference between Israel and us is that we have a relationship with Almighty God through the blood of Jesus Christ apart from any covenants (Ephesians 2:13).

Historical, national Israel most surely can—and did—refuse Almighty God. Most individuals within the nation rejected Jesus Christ and demanded His crucifixion. The Lord Jesus declared in Matthew 23:37-39: “[37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! [38] Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. [39] For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” He also stated in John 5:43: I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (Since they rejected Jesus, they will receive Antichrist. Again, God gives them over to free will!) The Holy Spirit through Stephen accused Israel in Acts 7:51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”

Also see:
» How are we “able ministers of the new testament?”
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» What are the “sins that are past” in Romans 3:25?

Why did God let James die but deliver Peter?

WHY DID GOD LET JAMES DIE BUT DELIVER PETER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Acts 12, why did God spare the Apostle Peter but allow the Apostle James to be executed?

“[1] Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. [2] And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. [3] And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) [4] And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

“[5] Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. [6] And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. [7] And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. [8] And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

“[9] And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. [10] When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. [11] And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” (To find out the rest of the story, you should read verses 12-18 in your own study.)

As there were different Caesars, so there were various Herods in the New Testament. Both are titles (like “king”), not first names of people. The Herod of Acts chapter 12 is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great (the bloodthirsty king who attempted to kill the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2 some three decades earlier).

Herod Agrippa I successfully put the Apostle James to death by beheading (verse 2). Attempting to “score more political points” with the unbelieving Jews, he arrests and imprisons the Apostle Peter. Herod purposes to execute Peter, but the Messianic Church prays and Peter is delivered. As we read, the angel of the Lord spares Peter in a dramatic rescue operation. It is bizarre that Peter was allowed to live but James was allowed to die. Someone might reply, “That is the mysterious working of God, something inexplicable that we dare not try to answer!” Friends, it is our firm conviction that the Bible provides a reason as to why God spared Peter. There is precious little about James here in this chapter (a single verse—verse 2). However, there is so much more about Peter. Peter stands out in this passage, and for good reason. We will not learn about it until chapter 15.

Back in Acts chapter 9, Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ; he was saved unto eternal life and commissioned on the road to Damascus. At the time of chapter 12, this new apostle, the Apostle Paul, has been traveling for over a decade preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God. The Jerusalem Church—the Messianic Church—has met him back in Acts 9:26-29 (cf. Galatians 1:18-19). While Paul is in the early stages of his ministry amongst the Gentiles, the Lord directs Peter to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Gospel of the Circumcision) to some Gentiles—the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household (Acts chapter 10).

By the time of chapter 15, Paul has been preaching for about 20 years. Jews from the Jerusalem Church are telling his Gentile converts that they must follow Judaism. Paul and his ministry coworker Barnabas travel to Jerusalem to settle the matter. What right do Paul and his Gentile converts have in operating apart from Moses/Judaism? After all, Judaism had existed prior to Paul’s ministry. The 12 Apostles were all Judaistic in their theology. In order to straighten out the confusion, the Holy Spirit directs Paul to visit Jerusalem and confer with the Apostles (cf. Galatians chapter 2).

Read Acts chapter 15: “[1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. [2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 

“[4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. [6] And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

“[7] And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [8] And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [11] But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

“[12] Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. [13] And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: [14] Simeon [Simon Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. [15] And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, [16] After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [17] That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. [18] Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”

(NOTE: James here in chapter 15 is not the same as John’s brother James of chapter 12; remember, John’s brother James is already dead. The James of chapter 15 is the Lord’s brother [Galatians 1:19], the man referenced in Matthew 13:55, and an elder of the Jerusalem Church. As per Galatians, he is an apostle in a secondary sense.)

Peter’s firsthand testimony of his experience with Gentile Cornelius years earlier saved Paul’s Gentile ministry from being discredited and destroyed! God had Peter visit and evangelize the Gentile Cornelius in chapter 10 for a special purpose—but Peter would not realize it for another 15 years. At the Jerusalem Bible conference, Peter discovered his experience with Cornelius provided him and the Jerusalem Church with insight into Paul’s Gentile ministry.

Had Peter died with James in chapter 12, he would not have been present to come to Paul’s defense in chapter 15! (Peter was the leader of the 12 Apostles, as per Matthew 16:19—“thee” and “thou” is second-person singular, referring to Peter alone. It was thus more important that Peter bear witness rather than John’s brother James. This was why God selected Peter, not James, to visit Cornelius.) At the time of chapter 12, Peter had not yet publicly endorsed Paul’s ministry. God was not yet finished with Peter, which is why He spared Peter. Peter went on to publicly endorse Paul’s ministry in chapter 15, before fading off the scene from Acts.

SUPPLEMENTAL: ACTS 12 AND PROPHECY

Acts chapter 12 previews what will follow our Dispensation of Grace. As Herod was an apostate king reigning in Jerusalem, so Antichrist (yet future) will be another satanic king governing Jerusalem. Herod decapitated James; likewise, the Antichrist will behead believers in the Lord Jesus (Revelation 20:4). Some members of the Jewish Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant, will be spared, of which Peter’s escape and survival typifies (Revelation 12:1-17). Others, like James, will not be so fortunate. When Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming to destroy the Antichrist, He will bodily resurrect all those who died for His Word (Revelation 20:1-6). Herod’s gruesome demise in the closing verses of Acts chapter 12 pictures the Antichrist’s destruction.


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Also see:
» Will Israel’s Little Flock be put to death or not?
» Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry from Acts 7-15?
» What happened to the Gentiles of Acts 10?