Today I am reading Jeremiah 11:1-8. The Lord is reminding Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, about the terms of their covenant. Right away I wondered what those terms were and for about the last two hours I have been making a blessings and curses list, (based on Deuteronomy 28) of what would happen to the Israelites if they obeyed God and what would happen if they didn't. And I have to say, the blessings were awesome! But the curses? Let's just say that I am more appreciative of Jesus' sacrifice for me because these curses are terrifying. They amplify the fact that the Jews would have to be completely ignorant of the laws of God, or a fool to willingly break them. I have created a list of all the blessings and curses for you to download if you like. It is available at the end of this post and it is fascinating.
Reading the list clearly shows the supremacy of God, His authority and His holiness. It also shows us how serious God was about the Jews being His people. They were to be an example to the nations of how people were supposed to live before a Holy God. In a day when other nations surrounding them worshipped idols of wood and stone, the "Jewish" God would be magnified and exalted above all false gods due largely in part by how His people were living and obeying Him. That was the original plan, but unfortunately God's chosen people disobeyed Him, broke their covenant with Him and the consequences were severe. But God had a plan for their redemption and ours by sending Jesus. Which leads to this question:
Did Jesus Abolish the Law?
This is an argument that never seems to go away amongst Christians. One group says, "We are saved by grace through Jesus' blood so we no longer need to obey the laws." The other group says, "Jesus never stopped obeying the laws, so they still apply to us." Which one is right? They both are. Jesus made it very clear that the Laws of God still stand. However, He also made it very clear that He fulfilled them.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20, NIV).
Jesus made it very clear, the laws God gave the Jews have not been abolished. In fact, He said that if anyone teaches others to set aside even the least of the commands, that person will be called "least" in the kingdom of heaven. An example of this kind of disobedience is when the Catholic church changed the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday and encouraged others to obey. They were deliberately breaking one of the ten commandments. Since that time the entire church body, both Catholic and Protestant, have followed in disobeying God by not keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day. However, some might say that if we were truly going to honour the Sabbath then we should also honour all the rules (laws) that the Sabbath brings with it. Changing the Sabbath to another day was a deliberate act to disobey God. Which requires repentance on the part of the church. Stumbling in the law or unintentionally sinning is completely different.Yet Jesus knew that whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). Deliberately sinning is not stumbling. It is a conscious decision to act against God. Stumbling implies not knowing all 613 laws. This is why Jesus said our righteousness had to surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to be able to get into heaven. Which would be impossible. This is why Jesus' sacrifice fulfilled the law and made it possible for all people to be saved (not just those who followed Jewish laws). Ephesians 2:14-16 explains it this way:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
There are approximately 613 laws in the Torah. A majority of them are commandments for priests, but there are laws on purity, cleanliness, how to come before God with an offering, what to eat, what not to eat, and because God knows the heart of a person, He even included laws on what to do if you sin unintentionally against Him. Sin is serious to God. The Laws help us to remember that and show us how holy God is and why He is to be revered. They also show us why Jesus' death was needed. We cannot on our own keep and remember 613 laws, only one man has ever done that and it is why He was the perfect sacrifice. Jesus never sinned and He obeyed all of God's laws thus becoming the fulfillment of them all. So are the laws abolished? No, they still stand and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Can I share with you an excerpt from my latest book? I am very excited about it because this Bible study is the first in my new Digging Deeper series. The Book of Daniel reveals a man (and his friends) who knew how to stand firm in their faith. But it is also a book that is historical and prophetic in nature.While writing it I stumbled upon something that I had taken for granted for years: that Daniel 9:25-26 was talking about Jesus, our Messiah. What I found however, sent me on a hunt to discover how such an innocent word like "mashiach" was so badly misinterpreted. The following is a snippet on what I found out.
Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince,
(Notice that the word Messiah is missing and replaced with “anointed” in the Jewish version of this verse. This is because the Jews never saw the word “Messiah” in their scriptures. They saw the word mashiach, which means “anointed.” It comes from the root word mashach, which means to “smear, rub, spread a liquid, or anoint.” It does not mean “Messiah” or “Saviour” as we Christians interpret it. It simply means “anointed,” nothing more. In addition, you will notice that the JPS has the word “one” before the word “anointed,” whereas, the NASB says “Messiah the Prince.” The NIV translates this part as “the Anointed One” and places the word “one” after anointed. Why is this important?
I go on to discuss this issue further in the book if you want to look at it further. One Amazon reviewer said:
"I gave this book five stars not because it is thoroughly researched, although it is very thorough indeed. It gets five stars not because it interprets Daniel in the light of scripture in its entirety from Genesis to Revelation, although it does that very well. It gets five stars because it is a theologically sound book you can hold in one hand with your Bible in the other hand and say, "Ah, now I see: I always wondered what that meant." This is not a book of Ms. Davis opinions. Every significant statement is backed up with proof - she lets scripture interpret scripture. - Dave F.
If you are interested in purchasing a paperback copy of Unlocking the Truth of Daniel visit www.amazon.com and let me know you purchased it. Why? Because I will send you a free ebook of my last book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today and I will also throw in an ebook of Unlocking the The Truth of Daniel so that you can read it on your tablet as well.
In my last post I talked about whether or not God was lifting His hand of restraint. One thing I learned from studying 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 was that the man of lawlessness (also called the son of perdition) could not come until apostasy began in the church. Now it was pointed out by one of my readers that there has always been apostasy in the church, even from the time of the Apostles (Galatians 1:6-10). So how is our time any different to the early church or the church in general, throughout the years? How do we determine if there has been more apostasy in this generation compared to others? Let's start by looking at the differences between apostasy and false doctrines.
Apostasy is the total departure from one's religion, principles or beliefs. False doctrine as it pertains to Christianity, are teachings that stray from the main message of the gospel - that salvation comes through Christ alone, by faith alone. False doctrines and their false teachers take the emphasis off the cross and add non-scriptural doctrines to what the Bible teaches about salvation, repentance, confession and redemption in Christ. False teachers twist scripture to suit their own agendas. They often take scripture out of context and lie and deceive to achieve a certain goal. In today's churches false doctrines like the prosperity gospel for example, take the focus off of Jesus' atoning sacrifice for us and instead place it on monetary gain and the health and welfare of the believer.
The key to understanding apostasy and false doctrines is that they go hand in hand. Without false teachers and false doctrines, there is no chance for the body of Christ to be deceived and turn from the truth to a lie. Unfortunately, there have ALWAYS been false doctrines and false teachers, that as Jesus warned, would deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
So what does Paul mean in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 when he says, "For that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first?" Clearly, he is talking about a massive apostasy within the church body. An apostasy so bad that the body of Christ as a whole turns from the truth to a lie. Until that happens, the man of lawlessness will not be revealed. So did that happen in the early church?
We know from Revelation, that false teachers infiltrated the church right from the beginning. In Pergamum for example, they encouraged the teachings of the Nicolaitans. These false teachers put themselves forward as believers in Jesus Christ and, at the same time, practised black magic, offered sacrifices to the numerous idols in Pergamum, were sexually immoral, and were teaching new believers that all this was okay with God. Yet the Pergamum believers allowed them to stay within the church. They turned a blind eye to what the Nicolaitans were doing and settled for a “peaceful” compromise with them rather than call them out on their wrong doctrine and sinful lifestyles and insist on repentance. So we can see that apostasy and false doctrines go hand in hand, because when people accept false doctrines, the danger of totally abandoning their previous beliefs becomes greater. This is why Jesus called the church of Pergamum out in Revelation 2:12-17 and threatened to spit them out of his mouth. (If you are interested in a study on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today goes into this further.)
Has apostasy increased in the church?
When you look at the horrific things that were taking place in the church of Pergamum we might confidently say the modern church has never been that bad. We don't worship idols. We are not encouraging sexual immorality. We never turn a blind eye to sin. Or do we? Is there idol worship in the church? Sadly, yes there is and it is shocking. Do we now have churches that say homosexuality is not a sin? Yes we do. Do we have well known believers in Christ encouraging Christians to disregard scripture in order to accept homosexuality? In other words - to turn a blind eye to sin? Yes, we do. In fact, I believe it is the issue of gay rights that will cause many of the faithful to turn away. Why? Because at heart, all Christians want gay people to feel accepted by the church. We want them to know Jesus loves them and that they are welcome in our churches. We want them to feel loved and we want to extend mercy and love in Jesus' name to them in any way we can. For some, that will mean compromising their beliefs that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, in order to be more open and accepting to the gay community. For others however, it will mean loving and accepting the gay community, but standing firm in their beliefs, which unfortunately, comes across as hate.
I didn't want this post to be about homosexuality. I wanted it to be about apostasy in the church. But unfortunately, I think this particular issue will play a part in the downfall of the church, paving the way for a massive apostasy. So how do we stand on the truth of God's Word and let the gay community know they are loved? First, we let them know that salvation is not dependant upon repentance. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). However, repentance is part of the Gospel message, in that once we make the decision to follow God, turning from our sin is a natural aspect of how we honour Him. To continue to sin therefore, would be to crucify Christ over and over again. Even Jesus Himself said, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). And there is the main problem - the gay community doesn't believe they are sinning, while the Bible says they are. And Bible believing Christians won't budge on their belief that the Bible is the Word of God.
But we live in an age where people are putting down their Bibles and ignoring them in favour of man's opinion. Eighty-two percent of Christians do not read their Bibles at all and these will be the people the apostasy begins with. They will be easily deceived and if possible, will deceive others. Just as Jesus warned (Matthew 24:24). If we continue on the course of favouring man's opinion over God's Word, the great "falling away" will continue to grow and the church, because she has not stood firm on the Word of God, will be the reason why the man of lawlessness will appear.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
I got an email today that sent me straight to my Bible. The author of the email wondered if it was possible that God was withdrawing His hand of restraint. I found the premise incredibly interesting and so, I am putting my Jeremiah study down for a bit to look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 to see what Scripture says about God's restraining hand, what that means, and what happens when it is lifted.
Let's talk first about why Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians. It is clear from the first two verses in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 that these people had received word or a letter of some kind, (not penned by an apostle), which was causing them to be anxious and worried that they had somehow missed the Lord's return. Paul is writing them to soothe those concerns and to basically let them know that if he has written them he will have personally signed the letter. In fact, he makes a point of mentioning at the end of the letter that all his epistles are signed by him (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
Paul then goes on to explain the signs of what will happen before Jesus returns. So let's look at those things one by one.
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God,
What Happens First?
What is holding back the man of sin?
I've read different commentaries on this and the following are some of the current theories. It is thought that:
One thing is clear, apostasy has begun in the church and that is the first sign. I'll look a little more at this next week, but for now, what do you think? Is God lifting His hand? Are we seeing the beginning of the end?