Category Archives: THE NATION ISRAEL

Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?

WHY DID JESUS CURSE THE “POOR” FIG TREE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

A noted atheist once grumbled about the Bible account in which Jesus cursed the fig tree. Christ was allegedly wrong in causing that tree to wither away and never bear fruit again. Some dismiss the Lord as petulant, throwing a tantrum because He was hungry and had found nothing to eat. Others argue He destroyed public property. Beloved, this is such reckless and thoughtless slander, indisputable proof that man in all his “wisdom” cannot make sense of God’s holy words!

Oh, how unfair and mean Jesus was to that poor tree! Or was He? Friends, why do we not give the Lord the benefit of the doubt and actually do some Bible research before griping about things we are not qualified to discuss? If we must critique God’s Word, then the least we can do is actually read it first! Moreover, honestly, let us grow up and cease thinking childishly. Here is an example of how, if we approach the Scriptures irreverently, we will get nothing meaningful out of them. If we have the eyes of faith, the Holy Spirit will illuminate us so we see the many things the “natural man” cannot (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

WHO IS GOD (AND WHO IS NOT)

Before delving into the specifics of the Bible account under consideration, here is one fact we should never forget. Who are WE to dictate to GOD what HE can and cannot do? After all, it is His creation. “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). He owns everything because He made everything! What right do wepuny, weakly creatures that we are!—have attempting to control Almighty God? Do we go to someone’s house and command him or her to do as we want? Then, my friend, do not live in God’s universe and audaciously assume He needs your permission to act!

If you disagree with God, my friend, here is what you can do. Create your own universe, go live in it, and then you can make your own rules. In the event that you cannot create a universe—and this author suspects that to be the case!—then you must remain here in God’s world and powerlessly watch Him do what He wants. You may keep on throwing tantrums, whining, and screaming “Foul!,” but Almighty God will forever continue doing “His good pleasure!” (With that straightened out, my friend, we can get to addressing the cursing of the fig tree.)

THE CURSING OF THE FIG TREE

Of the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John), only Matthew and Mark record the account of the Lord Jesus cursing the fig tree. We provide those verses now for your consideration.

Matthew chapter 21: “[18] Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungred. [19] And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. [20] And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” (If you study the context, Matthew is not interested in chronology but rather lays out events around a common theme. Mark, on the other hand, follows a timeline. These facts account for the differences in the two Records.)

Mark chapter 11: “[12] And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: [13] And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. [14] And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it…. [20] And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. [21] And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.”

Friend, could there be a logical explanation to this bizarre narrative? Was Jesus punishing the fig tree? Had it displeased Him in some way? Why this tree of all plants? And, the greatest question of all… Why was this fig tree cursed forever? Why such severity? On the surface, it seems silly. To the aforementioned atheist, and those who agree with him, the things of God are indeed “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Such a “natural man,” one lacking interest in learning Divine truth, is completely unable to grasp the wonderful truths of God’s Word. Without any capacity to appreciate spiritual light, he will (with superficial awareness) immaturely complain about the matter. If he would only take God’s Word, submit to its authority (what he refuses to do because of sIn!), and allow the Holy Spirit to teach him, then he would learn concepts he would never imagine in a billion years!

As people who believe the Bible (do we?), we genuinely seek answers here (are we?). Something amazing is transpiring in this strange situation and we must search the Scriptures to discover it. Watch how God’s Word interprets itself. Here are a few preliminary observations we can make about the cursing of the fig tree. Firstly, it happened in Jerusalem. After spending the night in nearby Bethany, Jesus returned to Jerusalem in the morning to find the unproductive fig tree (cf. Matthew 21:12-19; Mark 11:11-15). Secondly, that fig tree is associated with Jesus cleansing the Jerusalem Temple that has been corrupted with false doctrine (cf. Matthew 21:12-23 [especially verses 12-13]; Mark 11:11-21 [especially verses 15-17]). These two points will prove quite useful in our study later. For now, we look for some verses… and (that “dreaded” word) study!!!

Why choose the fig tree? It is highly beneficial for us to see that Jesus did not randomly select the tree He cursed. Why not an olive tree, an almond tree, or a pomegranate tree? Why not a grapevine? These were growing in the region as well, but the Lord deliberately chose a fig tree because it has scriptural significance in this situation. Again, we will give the Bible a fair hearing and let it keep explaining itself.

Figs first appear in Scripture in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 7: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” If you are familiar with this passage, friend, you know this happened immediately after the Fall of Man, when Adam and Eve sinned against the LORD God by eating the forbidden fruit. Therefore, from that time onward, figs in the Bible carry the meaning of man attempting to cover his spiritual nakedness (sin problem). Thus, the fig tree in Scripture is indicative of religion.

Now, turn to Luke chapter 13: “[6] He [Jesus Christ] spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? [8] And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

This parable is quite simple, provided we remember our earlier comments. A certain man, really the LORD God, planted a fig tree (Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai, Judaism, the Jewish religion—Exodus chapter 19) in His vineyard (Israel—Isaiah 5:1-7). That system, because it was God’s perfect Law, should have generated faith and righteous deeds in Israel. Using the Law, Israel could have become the nation who could do, by faith, what JEHOVAH God wanted them to do.

However, when Jesus Christ came to Israel during His earthly ministry, He was disappointed. He spent three years looking for fruit—seeking faith and good works, righteous living, a people ready to work by faith in accomplishing God’s will. Sadly, the Lord found no such nation living in the Promised Land. That religious system could not make Israel God’s people because it always emphasized their performance. Since the Jews were sinners like all descendants of Adam, their performance was never enough to please God. Religion could not permanently deal with their sin problem any more than it could help the Gentiles in their sin. (This is made quite clear in the first three chapters of the Book of Romans.)

Romans 8:3 says, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh….” The Law cannot help the sinner do right because the sinner is by nature a failure! God’s Word says in Romans 3:19-20: “[19] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [20] Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Galatians 3:19 affirms, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” The Law was added to the promise (Abrahamic Covenant—Genesis 12:1-3) in order to prove to Israel their works would not result in the promise. In other words, the promise would be given completely by God’s grace, not by their efforts. The same is true today for us. If we want sin to reign in our lives, the Law will cause just that! First Corinthians 15:56 says, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (See also Romans chapter 7, and Romans 6:14-15.) No sinner needs a set of rules to follow to gain a right standing before God. That outcome is impossible. The sinner needs God to give him a right standing. (Hence, Romans chapter 3 outlines justification by faith alone in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone. It is all about what Christ did for us—grace—and not what we do for God!)

While tangential to our discussion, we must point this out in passing. Luke 13:8-9 talks about God permitting Israel a one-year extension to display faith and works: “[8] And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” This is the one-year period of mercy as recorded in Acts chapters 1–7. When that one-year ministry of the 12 Apostles resulted in more persecution and unbelief, not faith, God temporarily set national Israel aside. The ascended Lord Jesus Christ raised up Saul of Tarsus, saved him, and sent him out as Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). (See our related study on Acts 7:55-56, linked at the end of this article.)

Returning to the account of the cursing of the fig tree, we find the Lord Jesus “hungry” (Matthew 21:18; Mark 11:12). He desires faith and works in Israel: He wants Israel to function as His earthly people as He intended. Traveling from Bethany to the Temple in Jerusalem, He comes across a fig tree. Displaying a complete set of green leaves (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13), the tree is a very spectacular sight compared to the surrounding brownish, arid (desert) landscape. “And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.” That tree’s appearance was highly misleading. It looked promising in providing fruit to satisfy the hungry soul. Alas, it was nothing but leaves—completely fruitless!

The Palestinian fig tree yields leaves and small figs in early March. It was thus unexpected to find a fig tree with leaves but lacking fruit. The leaves obscured the tree’s barrenness. Even today, religion has a nice outward appearance but—on the inside—it abounds with spiritual death! “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28). Despite the “fair shew in the flesh” (Galatians 6:12-13), God was not impressed. That hypocritical nation was not what He intended. Israel’s perverted works-religious system did not fool the Lord! They pretended to be righteous, but it was all artificial. In fact, they worshipped the religious system instead of the God who gave it to them. Lastly, in their “religious goodness,” they will demand the Lord Jesus (God’s Son) be put to death!

Christ Jesus responded to Israel’s fruitless religion by pronouncing over the fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever” (Matthew 21:19). Mark 11:15 reports it this way: “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.” By the way, the tree was on the side of the road, making it public property. No one owned it; Jesus did not destroy “private property.” In making this decree, Christ was showing how He would one day end the Mosaic Law system (which was only temporary anyway—see Galatians 3:15-26). The Old Covenant will pass away so the New Covenant can be established. Rather than an arrangement that depends on Israel’s faithfulness (which will produce nothing that pleases God), the LORD God will institute a new system. This New Covenant will be entirely dependent upon Him causing Israel to obey His law. It will be His Spirit working in them to accomplish His end.

Notice Hebrews chapter 8: “[6] But now hath he [Jesus Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. [8] For finding fault with them, he saith [Jeremiah 31:31-34], Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: [9] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

“[10] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: [11] And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. [12] For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. [13] In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (The fig tree “withers” in verse 13.)

The New Covenant will be established at the Second Coming of Christ. For example, see Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you….” Also read Romans 11:25-27: “[25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

Based on the shed blood of Jesus Christ at Calvary (Hebrews chapters 9 and 10), the New Covenant will take care of Israel’s sins committed under the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law). Under the New Covenant, God will place His Holy Spirit into believing Jews to cause them to keep His laws. What religion could not do for Israel, what Israel could not do for herself, that is precisely what God will do for Israel. GRACE! They could not become His people in their own strength, but He can make them His people. GRACE! Ezekiel the Prophet wrote in chapter 36, over five centuries before Christ: “[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.” (This will fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3, allowing Israel to then be a blessing to all nations in the Millennial Reign of Christ.)

God will never again institute the Mosaic religious system (Old Covenant) in Israel. Instead, He will replace it with the New Covenant. Nevertheless, one person in the Bible will “resurrect” the Mosaic system—the satanic Antichrist. This man is future even from our time. In A.D. 70, the Romans overran Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple that existed during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Those Judaistic animal sacrifices, first instructed by Moses, have been suspended for nearly 2,000 years. The Antichrist will rebuild the Temple and resume its worship services (including the animal sacrifices). Daniel 9:27 says to this point: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

The Antichrist will restore the Mosaic system in Israel, before replacing it with the worship of himself (Daniel 11:36-39; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 13:1-18; cf. Romans 1:25). In other words, the Antichrist will restart the Mosaic system—the very system Jesus Christ already condemned forever by cursing the fig tree perpetually. God is not going to cause the Mosaic system to resume in Israel. Satan will be behind it, and he will use the Antichrist to do it!

SUPPLEMENTAL: JONAH AND THE GOURD

In an interesting parallel to any silly atheist carping about Almighty God cursing a fig tree, we find equally-clueless Jonah irritated that God killed a gourd plant.

The final chapter of the Book of Jonah says: “[6] And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. [7] But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. [8] And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. [9] And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. [10] Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: [11] And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

In other words, Jonah’s complaint was just as hollow as the atheist’s. Jonah did not create the gourd, God did. God, the plant’s owner, killed it. Thus, Jonah had no right to whine about it dying!

Also see:
» Was Jesus justified in “destroying private property?”
» What about the “Jewish Roots” Movement?
» Is Israel “fallen” or not? Is Israel “cast away” or not?

How did Eli honor his sons more than he honor God?

HOW DID ELI HONOR HIS SONS MORE THAN HE HONOR GOD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Priest-Judge Eli discouraged his priestly sons from following Satan (Baal worship), but they disregarded his words. Yet, God censures Eli for not doing more, accusing Eli of thus: “[thou] honourest thy sons above me” (1 Samuel 2:29). What did the LORD God expect Eli to do?

We start in verse 12: “[12] Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD…. [22] Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. [23] And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. [24] Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress. [25] If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them….

“[27] And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? [28] And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? [29] Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

“[30] Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. [31] Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. [32] And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever. [33] And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.

“[34] And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. [35] And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. [36] And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”

Verse 12 says Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are “sons of Belial.” This is a title of people under Satan’s control. The Law of Moses condemned such idolatrous individuals. God expected Israel to punish them, lest they pollute the whole nation with devil worship.

Deuteronomy chapter 13: “[6] If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; [7] Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; [8] Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: [9] But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. [10] And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. [11] And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

“[12] If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, [13] Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; [14] Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; [15] Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. [16] And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again. [17] And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; [18] When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.”

Perhaps Eli was late in his rebukes of his sons’ waywardness. He obviously should have barred them from the priesthood. Based on Deuteronomy chapter 13, he really should have executed them for their idolatry! Yet, he let them continue to live and serve as priests. Hence, God killed those two sons in battle, and promised to remove Eli’s other descendants from the priestly line. Samuel and his sons would form a new line of priests (see 1 Samuel 2:27-36; cf. 1 Samuel 4:1-22).

Also see:
» Why did God judge Nadab and Abihu so strictly?
» How do we identify false teachers?
» Why did the God of the Bible authorize genocide?

Why did multitudes follow Christ during His earthly ministry?

WHY DID MULTITUDES FOLLOW CHRIST DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Matthew 4:25 reports: “And there followed him [the Lord Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.” Why did “great multitudes” follow Christ?

Recently, a commentator argued that preachers and Bible teachers who attract large crowds are not necessarily false. After all, did not the Lord Jesus have massive groups coming to listen to Him? Doubtless, over 5,000 people heard Him preach (Matthew 14:14-21). Then, a group of more than 4,000 attended another one of His Bible classes (15:29-38). These were His two famous miracles of feeding the multitudes with few fishes and bread loaves. While we certainly do not desire to be cynical, we must be honest: Scripture indicates that most of these people did not really seek the truth.

Consider John chapter 2, the very beginning of Christ’s ministry: “[23] Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. [24] But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, [25] And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Why did Jesus “not commit himself unto them?” It would seem there was no genuine faith on their part here, just a superficial awe in response to His miracles.

Upon first glance, we would think Jesus had tens of thousands of followers throughout His earthly ministry. However, that is not an accurate portrayal. As time passed, the number of true believers dwindled. We see that in the opening chapter of the Book of Acts. In Acts 1:15, after three years of earthly ministry, there are approximately 120 followers of Christ in Jerusalem! What had become of the multitudes from the two miraculous multiplications of food? What about the “many” who believed in His name in John chapter 2? It was nothing but shallow faith—nothing genuine or lasting.

Again, we should be direct here. Our (human) nature loves to be impressed. This is not necessarily wrong, although it oftentimes is more harmful than beneficial. For example, some “faith healer” can hold tent meetings today and people flock to them by the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands. Wanting to be amused and fascinated, they come from afar to experience “gifted worship leaders,” stirring “anointed” music, emotional highs, “signs and wonders.” Maybe they too will receive a “blessing from God” (“miracle money,” a healing, a word of knowledge, a feeling, et cetera). However, is there genuine faith in God’s Word? Are they really seeking the truth? Human nature has not changed since John chapter 2. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”

Turn to John 6:26-28: “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Based on these verses, the crowds were interested in having a free meal. They labored for the meat that perishes (physical food is nothing in light of eternity—spiritual food, God’s Word, lasts forever).

They enjoyed seeing Jesus heal the sick of (deliver them from) all sorts of dismal medical and spiritual difficulties. To witness the blind seeing once again, to discover the deaf could now hear, to see the lame and paralytic moving about normally, and to observe the dead now alive and well, those were unforgettable sights! These were not the works of a charlatan: they were healed, instantaneously and fully. Jesus Christ completely recovered them all from whatever ailed them. That is downright spectacular, dear friends! But, when it came time to embrace the truth, the hard facts, the crowds turned away. Carefully read all of John chapter 6. John 6:66 is the climax: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

When persecution came, when Jesus was finally arrested, the remaining disciples fled in fear (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50-52). Even the Apostle Peter thrice denied knowing Him (Matthew 26:69-75). To side with Christ was to become Rome’s enemy. Pontius Pilate would take their lives. King Herod would kill them. It was too costly. John the Baptist had already been put to death.

Friends, large crowds at Bible meetings are not necessarily bad—but they are not necessarily good either. Multitudes followed the Lord Jesus, but most were not genuine believers. It was “head knowledge,” “free lunches,” and “entertainment-seeking,” but not God-honoring faith. Hence, they fell away when the offensives doctrines were preached. Never should we side with the majority concerning spiritual matters. Our goal is not to get large crowds: we “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15) to whomever comes, no matter how few. As more sound Bible doctrine is preached, we should expect the crowds to diminish. Multitudes upon multitudes continuing to attend services are problematic. Any preacher or Bible teacher attracting the majority is someone to be watched with great suspicion—doctrine is being sacrificed for “unity” and popularity!

Also see:
» If dispensational Bible study is true, why do so few believe it?
» Has God’s Word failed?
» What are “instant” Christians?

Why did the Samaritan believers not receive the Holy Spirit upon believing in Acts 8?

WHY DID THE SAMARITANS BELIEVERS NOT RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT UPON BELIEVING IN ACTS 8?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Absolutely, Acts 8:14-17 is most unusual: “[14] Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: [15] Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: [16] (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) [17] Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

Some today take these verses to teach that after we trust Christ, we must obtain a “second blessing.” They say there is a mysterious, hair-raising “Holy Ghost” encounter to be experienced after the moment of salvation. Others will even go so far as to say that the Holy Spirit does not always immediately come to the believer upon faith in the Gospel of Grace. We can avoid all this confusion and disagreement if we just handle the Book of Acts as God designed it.

The events in Acts are not the standard way God always dealt with anyone or even how He deals with us today. Never forget that Acts is a transitional Book. Anyone who reads it in its entirety can see how it begins one way (chapter 1) and ends totally different (chapter 28). Why? God is gradually moving from Israel’s prophetic program to our (the Body of Christ’s) mystery program. The Dispensation of Law is fading and the Dispensation of Grace is rising. As for Acts 8:14-17, it does not concern us. It has nothing to do with the Lord’s current dealings with man. Though it is terribly abused, we do not have to fear it. We can learn from it if we are willing to hear it!

In short, Acts 8:14-17 is proof that the Samaritans must submit to Jerusalem. Why is this reconciliation even necessary? Samaria—central/northern Israel—had broken away from Judah (and capital city Jerusalem) after King Solomon’s death. Over 900 years prior to Acts, Solomon’s idolatry brought about this second course of chastisement (Leviticus 26:18-20). Study carefully 1 Kings chapters 11–12. The Northern Kingdom (frequently called “Samaria” or “Ephraim”) forsook David’s royal line and formed new dynasties of kings. Those 10 northern tribes were ultimately taken into Assyrian Captivity circa 722 B.C. David’s house continued ruling the Southern Kingdom, Judah and Benjamin, until the Babylonian Captivity beginning in 606 B.C. The divided kingdom—Israel (north) and Judah (south)—will be reunited under the New Covenant.

Look at Ezekiel chapter 37, God prophesying of the day when Israel and Judah would both again be merged under the political authority of the house of David: “[15] The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, [16] Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions: [17] And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. [18] And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? [19] Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

“[20] And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. [21] And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: [22] And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. [23] Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. [24] And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” (Notice especially verses 22 and 24.)

Like the Jews, the Samaritans were descendants of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson (see John 4:4-6,12). However, the Samaritans were half Gentile by blood, the result of Jews and Assyrians intermarrying centuries before Christ. This explains the animosity between Jews and Samaritans that John chapter 4 highlights most vividly.

In Matthew chapter 10, when commissioning His 12 Apostles, the Lord Jesus said: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The 12 Apostles were instructed not to preach to Gentiles—and that included Samaritans. Later, in light of the Holy Spirit being poured out in Acts chapter 2, Jesus changed those orders: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

With Acts chapter 8 opening, believing Jew Philip visits Samaria. He preaches Jesus Christ to them before Apostles Peter and John come from Jerusalem (pointing back to our opening passage and question). Philip preaching to Samaria is a rebuke to unbelieving Israel. Here, the despised Samaritans are trusting Jesus Christ and yet the full-blooded Jews are not! The Jews looked down upon the Samaritans because the Samaritans were part Gentile by blood. Samaritans being converted to Christ was God the Holy Spirit’s way of signaling to Israel that they—the full-blooded Jews—were most wretched (unbelieving).

Focus now on Acts 8:14: “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:….” Peter and John were Apostles of the Jerusalem Church. They were to be (and will be) the rulers of Israel in the ages to come (see Matthew 19:27-28). Israel here is the Northern and Southern Kingdoms reunited (the second course of chastisement reversed). All Jews—even the Samaritans—must surrender to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is “the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35). The political revolt of the 10 northern tribes must be overturned. They will come back under the head of Jerusalem (the Davidic line). By the Samaritans allowing two of the chief Jerusalem Apostles to impart the Holy Spirit to them, the Samaritans demonstrate that they have returned to David. Here is a foretaste of the New Covenant, the agreement that will be inaugurated at Christ’s Second Coming (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:25-29; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 10:15-17; Ezekiel 36:21-38)!

Also see:
» Who will be Israel’s King in the Millennium—Jesus Christ or David?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» Could you explain Acts 19:1-7?

Why did Ezekiel, in Babylon, warn of Jerusalem’s fall?

WHY DID EZEKIEL, IN BABYLON, WARN OF JERUSALEM’S FALL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Ezekiel chapter 1 reports the Prophet-Priest Ezekiel is in Babylon. He, along with other Jews, had been taken from Jerusalem some four or five years prior: “[1] Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. [2] In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, [3] The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.”

Is it not bizarre that Ezekiel preached to Jews in Babylon about Jerusalem’s fall? His audience was not living in Jerusalem, so why did his ministry focus on its sacking? In other words, why did Ezekiel not go to Jerusalem and preach there? Why speak to Jews already in Babylon, who had left Jerusalem when he did years earlier? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

We find the answer in Jeremiah chapter 29. Jeremiah wrote this letter to those who left Jerusalem to go to Babylon with Ezekiel and King Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (cf. Ezekiel 1:2 and Jeremiah 29:1-2):

“[1] Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; [2] (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem; ) [3] By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,

“[4] Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; [5] Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; [6] Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.

“[7] And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. [8] For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. [9] For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. [10] For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”

False prophets active during the ministries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel lied that while some Jews had been taken to Babylon, the city Jerusalem would not fall or be destroyed. These deceivers also claimed it would not be long before the displaced Jews would return to Jerusalem. Jeremiah penned his letter (chapter 29)—and really his whole Book—to make sure God’s Word was fully known concerning the matter. The exiled Jews would spend “seventy years” in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10; cf. Jeremiah 25:11-12). They were encouraged to settle there, submit to the Babylonian government, and seek Babylon’s peace. It would be quite a long time before they would return to Jerusalem.

The false prophets claimed there would be no destruction of Jerusalem. They claimed “peace, peace” for Jerusalem. These claims were in stark contrast to what the Holy Spirit was proclaiming through His spokesmen Ezekiel and Jeremiah.

See Ezekiel chapter 13: “[10] Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:…. [16] To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the LORD God.” (You should read these verses in context to get their full impact.)

Also, Jeremiah 6:14: “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 8:11: “For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 14:13: “Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place [Jerusalem].” Jeremiah 23:17: “They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (You should read these verses in context as well.)

Ezekiel conducted his ministry in Babylon while Jeremiah’s latter ministry was underway in Jerusalem. Ezekiel had no reason to go teach God’s Word in Jerusalem because the LORD God already had Jeremiah there. God commissioned Ezekiel to preach to Jews in Babylon about Jerusalem’s fall to show them they would not be returning to Jerusalem anytime soon. The false prophets were exposed. Jerusalem would be destroyed (see Jeremiah chapter 52; cf. 2 Chronicles chapter 36; Ezekiel 24:1-2), and would be rebuilt many decades later. In fact, God through Jeremiah provided an exact timeframe of 70 years (Jeremiah 25:10-11; Jeremiah 29:11). Those 70 years are found in Daniel 9:2, terminating when Persian King Cyrus allowed the first group of Jews to leave Babylon to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:19-23; Ezra 1:1-4).

Also see:
» How did the Israeli patriarchs resist the Holy Ghost?
» Was King Nebuchadnezzar a saved man?
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church?!”

Was Jesus justified in destroying “private property?”

WAS JESUS JUSTIFIED IN DESTROYING “PRIVATE PROPERTY?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Read Matthew chapter 8: “[28] And when he [the Lord Jesus] was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. [29] And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? [30] And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

“[31] So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. [32] And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. [33] And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. [34] And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.”

The Lord Jesus has been faulted here for “destroying private property.” After all, when He cast out the devils, He granted them their request to enter the herd of swine. The swine, now devil-possessed, ran into the nearby sea and drowned. (Mark 5:13 gives the estimate of 2,000 pigs!) How could Jesus allow these animals to perish when they belonged to someone else?

Before we denounce Christ here, perhaps we should read the whole Bible. Notice Leviticus 11:7: “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.” And, Deuteronomy 14:8: “And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.” The Law of Moses demanded that Israel not eat pork or touch a dead pig’s body. In Christ’s earthly ministry, however, pigs are being kept in God’s land. Moses’ kosher food laws are being ignored. These devil-possessed pigs dying was one way of God purging His people and real estate of spiritual uncleanness. They should not have owned pigs anyway!

We must remember that, ultimately, Jesus Christ is the Creator God (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). Everything belongs to Him: “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). If He wants to do something with His creation, He does not have to ask anyone’s permission concerning anything… any creature… any place!

Also see:
» Why did Israel have to observe so many “strange” laws?
» How does Satan operate today?
» Should we use the word “demons?” Are they the same as devils?

How was Moses “very meek?”

HOW WAS MOSES “VERY MEEK?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

We have all heard about Numbers 12:3: “(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.).” How exactly was Moses very meek?

It would do us well to read the entire chapter before we comment: “[1] And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. [2] And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. [3] (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.) 

“[4] And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. [5] And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. [6] And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. [7] My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. [8] With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

“[9] And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. [10] And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. [11] And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. [12] Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb. [13] And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee. [14] And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

“[15] And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again. [16] And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.”

Moses’ meekness is juxtaposed with his siblings’ pride. His sister Miriam and their brother Aaron were self-willed. They wanted to lead God’s people with Moses, but God had not appointed them or suggested they assume that role. God Himself had ordained Moses: Moses had not taken it upon himself to lead Israel. Moses had not chosen to become God’s prophet to Israel. The LORD God had commissioned Moses as His prophet and leader of Israel (Exodus chapter 3), but Miriam and Aaron wanted to share in that capacity. (A similar rebellion will break out with Korah and his followers in chapter 16 of Numbers.) How awesome it would be to rule two million people! To Korah, Miriam, Aaron, and the other dissenters, such an office was irresistible!

However, we are not to suppose that Moses was sinless, or that he did not feel pride at times. He was just as human as we are, prone to sin. Nevertheless, he was God’s spokesman to Israel, and God had chosen him as His vessel. Moses grew impatient and lost his temper many times—and you would have too if you were dealing with two million sinners during a 40-year ministry! The most famous sin of Moses is when he smote the rock when God had instructed him to speak to it.

See chapter 20 of Numbers: “[2] And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. [3] And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!….

“[7] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [8] Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. [9] And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. [10] And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? [11] And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

“[12] And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. [13] This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.”

Also see:
» Is it permissible for us to be proud of our accomplishments?
» “Become as little children… to enter the kingdom of heaven?”
» Why did God want to kill Moses in Exodus 4:24?